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2020 foresight. How will the New Year look for Tridion specialists?

Posted by Dominic Cronin at Dec 31, 2019 02:42 PM |

A year ago, I wrote a similar blog post about the year 2019 which we were then entering. Looking back, it wasn't a bad set of predictions. More Sites 9, more DXA, the end of vbScript, the beginning of GraphQL, more cloud computing and devops. OK - so I wasn't exactly making bizarre claims or strange predictions: something more akin to "more of the same", "keep up the good work" and generally keeping steadily on towards the projects and architectures of the future.

So I didn't get it too badly wrong. How well will I do this time? Well let me start with my first prediction. This coming year will really, really, definitely and for ever see the absolute, total and utter end of vbScript templating as part of what Tridion people have to do. Really. Truth be told, this is going to be a better prediction than it was last year. At my current customer, there are still one or two pockets of resistance, but the new architecture is in place, and a relatively straightforward implementation should see the job done.

For myself, I've seen a very welcome increase in the amount of DXA work and devops, including Java, Jenkins and OpenShift, combined with SDL's cloud offering. I've also had the chance to bring my front-end skills up to date, and to embrace the notion of being a "T-shaped" agile team member. The reality for Tridion specialists has always been that we are generalists too, and most of us have spent our days doing whatever it takes to get enterprise level web applications up and running. As we now see further shifts in architectural emphasis, there will be more going on in the browser, so we'll be there. I hesitate to say "full-stack", because that's a stereotype in itself, so perhaps the old term "n-tier" is closer. I expect in 2020 that we'll see further differentiation in front-end work, so that there'll perhaps be a clearer division between front-end-front-end and back-end-front-end. With modern frameworks, there's plenty for a programmer to do in the browser without getting intimately involved in the intricacies of the presentation layer.

Tridion itself is also steadily moving towards supporting these architectures, with the GraphQL API and expected architectural shifts towards getting a very efficient "publishing pipeline". It can be tempting to see things through the lens of how we'd build our current applications on the new architecture, but at the Tridion Developer Summit 2019, I was involved in a very interesting round-table discussion that was supposed to be about headless WCMS. We ended up discussing how new architectures could bring new possibilities to the kind of web sites people create, or want to create. The availability of advanced queries on a published data store opens the door to designs that part company with the "traditional" model of a hierarchy of web pages. Of course, these possibilities have been available for quite some time, but mostly for very big sites where search is a far more comfortable navigation paradigm than hierarchy. As it gets progressively easier to do, we'll see some shifts in what people expect. I'm not saying every site will end up as a single-page application, but we'll see variations on all the traditional themes, and some we've not seen yet. The future is out there. 

As the worlds of web site design and web application architecture morph into something new, Tridion's role is both the same and different. If you want headless, of course, Tridion can do that, but the reasons you'll want Tridion are much the same as they've always been: superb content management features, technical excellence, scalability, blueprinting, and the ability to integrate with anything. It's great to be able to take the new stuff for granted, but also the old stuff.

In 2020, I think we will see an acceptance in the industry that Tridion is back! In the early days, it was always pitched as a "best of breed" system that did what it did very well and integrated very well with other nearby systems. The typical Tridion customer didn't want it to be a document management system or a customer relations management system: they had those already. They also clearly didn't want it to become a pervasive platform that would be a one stop shop for a one size fits all. A few years ago, SDL departed from the "best of breed" identity that had served it so well, and in doing so, damaged its own performance in the market. Fortunately, these things were corrected, but it's like steering a super-tanker; it took some time to see the results of the correction, and then people wanted to just check the course for a little while longer. We're now far enough to be able to say that the good ship Tridion is on course and sailing for better weather.

2020 is going to be a good year!

Happy New Year.