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Can you differentiate between a definite buyer, a potential buyer, and a window shopper just by looking at their CCTV footage? Well, it may now be possible with video analytics, which can recognize spatial and temporal data of an object and analyze its actions or particular activities based on its movements. Deep North caters to this segment of the analytics industry by facilitating companies to implement real-time insights through video analytics. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Azhaan Merchant, SVP of Strategy & Business Development, Deep North.1. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company?
We exist because we believe data and deep learning can have a humanizing effect on real-world experiences. Our mission is to empower enterprises that operate in the physical world with accurate, real-time, decision-making insights so that they can create richer real-life experiences and better business outcomes.
After rebranding in 2023, Deep North expanded the availability of its computer vision and video analytics products, to a variety of markets including retailers, grocers, airports, shopping malls, restaurants, and events.2. Tell us how your company is contributing to the AI/Big Data Analytics /Cloud Computing industry of the nation and how the company is benefiting the clients.
We are pushing the frontiers in intelligent video analytics and have partnered with tech giants such as Nvidia and Dell to ingest massive amounts of video data and run our proprietary computer vision algorithms using both on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure. Our systems architecture has OCI-compliant containers running on VMWare with GPU virtualization on top of Dell edge servers. In addition, we have recently migrated to NVIDIA’s Ampere microarchitecture which will allow us to increase the volume of cameras we can use for each GPU card available.3. What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors?
A majority of the existing video analytics vendors use facial recognition to track a consumer’s behaviour across physical environments – however, with privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA it is not possible to utilise such software without the consent of the consumer as it is stores personally identifiable information (PII). As a result, a majority of vendors deployed in the West focus on analysing and identifying objects from a single point of views such as the entrance doorway or check-out counter.4. How is your company helping customers deliver relevant business outcomes through the adoption of the company’s technology innovations?
Currently, most operators only have access to point-of-sale data within their brick & mortar stores and there is an entire black hole of information on what a customer does from the time they enter the store to the time they exit. Deep North helps operators unlock several new tranches of data relating to what the customer is doing at every point- What demographics are predominantly coming into the store? Where exactly did they spend time? Which products did they touch? Was there a sales associate present to help them? Was there a long line at the check-out? Getting access to this information allows operators to understand the customer funnel more clearly so they pro-actively improve the in-store experience for each of their stores.
After this data is unlocked, Deep North’s algorithm optimizes perpetually over time and its predictive analytics engine pro-actively guides enterprises on how they should run their stores. Invaluable suggestions are provided such as – What is the ideal store layout? How many labor hours are required in the front and back-off house? Where should you place your sales associates? What is the ideal product mix relating to the customer demographics entering that store?5. How do you see the company and the industry in the future ahead? 6. Which industry verticals are you currently focusing on? And what is your go-to-market strategy for the same?
A majority of our revenue today comes from big box retail, supermarkets, and shopping centres. We are also deployed with some airports, QSRs, and warehouses. Our go-to-market strategy is to find an anchor Global 2,000 customer in each of sector who has a voracious appetite to ingest new pockets of data as an accelerant to change the way they run their stores. We work with these anchor clients to understand what business outcomes our video analytics solution can help them solve and once we understand their goals, we can re-purpose our core computer vision algorithms to help them unlock data from their existing video assets in their brick & mortar stores. After identifying the immediate pathways towards ROI, we also create a road map of unique algorithms and features that we can develop to further enhance their in-store experience. After successfully validating our thesis across multiple stores and formats, we then roll out a blueprint across their entire format. We can then build a case study and white paper that will help us approach similar clients in different geographies who are mostly facing the same problems.
You're reading Exclusive Interview With Azhaan Merchant, Svp Of Strategy & Business Development, Deep North
The consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail industry faces major challenges globally with an uncertain economy, digital competition, and a new generation of customers who are highly demanding and informed. Today’s disruptive innovations have opened up avenues for CPG and retail companies to improve market share and margins. Analytics Insights spoke to Anthony Kilili, Head of dunnhumby India to understand how insights related to sales, inventory and customers are extremely crucial and how the company offers solutions which help retailers and CPG companies drive significant decision-making. Analytics Insight: Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization and the services that your company offers? The existence of a Media Business alongside our Retail Analytics tools & consulting makes our offering and competitive positioning rather special: we have a unique product and service portfolio for retailers and CPGs. In order to fully harness the benefits of customer analytics, a clear and comprehensive customer focused strategy is required supported by appropriate team structure. The first step in this process is to ensure data management and utilisation is optimised in secure fashion. dunnhumby can support both the development of customer data management and optimisation all the way through to execution of customer and media strategy. We can both enhance and execute a retailer’s customer-focused strategy, whilst developing collaborative relationships with CPGs. dunnhumby can effectively, and quantitatively elevate & demonstrate marketing effectiveness, whether it be a new product launch, or a branded media campaign online or instore. Analytics Insight: What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors? Anthony: dunnhumby has more than 30 years’ experience in customer data science, with presence in 27 countries, analysing insights from more than 800 million shoppers globally and delivering almost 5 billion personalised shopping offers. It uses customer data science to deliver exceptional customer experiences in-store, offline, and online. dunnhumby has arguably the best science in the world. When we apply our IP to transactional data, we can build a powerful picture of what people are actually purchasing and work with retailers and suppliers to make good business decisions that put the customer first. Grocery is our primary specialisation. Our first priority when working with a retailer is to look at what products they sell, and what store they should sell them in. Our next step is to organise the approach to promotions We look at • Who are your customers • Why they come to store • What they buy and when We create revenue for retailers by offering services to manufacturers as data is valuable insight. Analytics Insight: Please brief us about the products and services you provide to your customers and how do they get value out of it. Anthony: dunnhumby partners with both retailers as well as manufacturers. The retailer engagement model works either as a long-term joint venture or as a small to medium term contract. We work with retailers like Tesco, COOP, Homeplus etc. Our engagement with manufacturers works either as small to medium term contract for SHOP and/or through custom insight solutions that dunnhumby offers to its manufacturer partners across a broad spectrum. We also work closely with CPGs like Pepsi, Coke, P&G, Unilever, Cadbury, Nestle etc. dunnhumby always puts the customer first. We work with retailers and CPGs to build long-term loyalty and drive incremental sales by delivering the most relevant and personalised experience for Customers. We build foundations of: • Customer Insights • Audiences • Channels • Propositions We use our science to help you see, engage and serve your customers in a more effective way that brings commercial benefit to your business. Our Customer Centricity Study shows that customer – led businesses outperform their competition with the top 25% achieve +3% growth in L4L sales and 7% growth in market share This underpinning of prescriptive analytics and machine-learning forecasting means we have learned how to uncover and unlock opportunities to find wasted investments in Customers, to conserve and optimize only those investments that work to grow loyalty and sales, and to commercialise your data assets. And the areas where we can help?
Analytics Insight: What’s your growth plans for the next 12 months? Anthony: In the last 12 months we grew our client base by 25% which we will continue to nurture. We have significant growth plans as we explore new industries and geographies as well as deepen our work with Retail where there is still incremental opportunity. For example, we have recently launched in Australia and New Zealand where we hope to build into one of our top 5 markets globally in the next 3-5 years. We have also launched a new media business where our operating model (OM) combines media, science and partnership capabilities to build connected media plans. These bring together offline and online customer experiences, resulting in seamless, personalised campaigns with measurable and actionable results that businesses will be able to benefit from. Analytics Insight: What is the size of analytics team at dunnhumby? Anthony: 25% of our workforce are data scientists and analysts. Analytics Insight: How does your company’s strategy facilitate the transformation of an enterprise? Anthony: Strategically we have evolved our offering to be able to work with retailers in many ways to ensure that we can be flexible in our offer. Some just need software if they have their own talent pool and established team and some need a whole dedicated dh team to work for the retailer specifically. This means we are flexible in how we work and who we can work with. We bring our long-standing knowledge from 30 years of experience and our world leading science to businesses but applying the theory of putting the customer at the heart of every decision, which ultimately transforms results for the business. Many companies have a huge amount of data these days. But knowing what to do with it, having the science to apply to it along with the knowledge to create insights and capability to action is rare. That is the value dunnhumby can bring. Few case studies • Kroger achieved 53 quarters of L4L growth even throughout the recession when all other grocery retailers declined. • Our Customer Centricity Study shows that customer – led businesses outperform their competition with the top 25% achieve +3% growth in L4L sales and 7% growth in market share. • Shoprite achieved margin and revenue growth of +1.5% by partnering with dunnhumby including +19% profit from analysis of core product assortment and 2-8% category sales uplifts. • Coop Norge achieved +24% sales and shelf improvements in 13 weeks and +8% more baskets – +61% customers buying front page items and+1% L4L growth with new promo flyers. Analytics Insight: What is the reason that organisations are using analytics/big data/AI/ML/Big Data Analytics? Anthony: Big data analytics have taken a predominant spot in the corporate world as numerous case studies arise on how businesses have been positively transformed through data-driven decisioning. Big data analytics enable companies to make more informed decisions, a crucial point in competitive differentiation. Application of analytics provides gains in terms of cost reduction (e.g. by using predictive models to optimize marketing budgets), faster time to action (e.g. by using real-time data streaming analytics for online product recommendations) and innovation (e.g. by understanding customer needs and personalizing offerings to meet those needs). To remain relevant, organizations across all economic sectors will need to mine through the vast amounts of available data to find actionable insights needed in an era where customer demands are rapidly changing and the competition is continuously innovating. Analytics Insight: How are disruptive technologies like Big Data analytics/AI/Machine Learning/Cloud Computing impacting today’s innovation? Analytics Insight: What have been the most significant challenges that you have faced at the forefront of analytics? Anthony: One of the big challenges is a shortage of talent. The demand for data science professionals continues to increase as more organizations switch to big data strategies. Successful data scientists are proficient in Advanced Analytics methods such as Machine Learning, they are savvy programmers and can quickly understand the business context. This combination of skills is not easily found at scale. This can be mitigated by working with specialized third-party data science partners. Analytics Insight: What are business benefits of handling data analytics & implementing a real time decisioning platform? Analytics Insight: Can you throw light on the latest employment trends in big data and analytics industry?
Education technology has the opportunity to improve learning outcomes for hundreds of millions of children and adults worldwide. Edufiq is a Delhi-based ed-tech startup that specializes in imparting Artificial Intelligence learning through game-based & experiential teaching techniques for students of classes 5th-10th. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Swati Ganguly, Co-founder ofKindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company?
Our company’s core aim is to make students future-ready and bridge the digital-learning gap. Since its inception in (2023-20), Edufiq has redefined the learning program by inculcating new age and immersive technology in the understanding of Artificial Intelligence. The course offered by our program imbibe critical thinking amongst students & challenges their cognitive skills. Schools are looking forward to teaching AI as a subject, but there is a scarcity of skilled educators, equipped with new-age technology tools. Edufiq’s CESP (Comprehensive Experiential School Program) is a complete managed program, enabling schools to envisage the new teaching methodology, or Education 3.0Brief us about the proactive Founder/CEO of the company and his/her contributions towards the company and the industry.
Swati Ganguly, the prolific co-founder of Edufiq, adheres to 25 plus years of rich scholarly and administrative experience. She is the educational catalyst who derived the modern learning techniques by giving the Indian education a technology angle. She has lived a spectacular journey as an educationist, from being a school teacher, Principal, special educator and now one of the most prominent co-founders of Edufiq. Her patience & ambitious attitude distinguish her as one of the leading women in education technology in the country. Recognised as the “Women Education Entrepreneur of the Year 2023” by AICRA, she believes that teachers must adhere to modern teaching styles.Kindly mention some of the major challenges the company has faced till now.
Edufiq has a unique pedagogy, the Game-Based & experiential learning techniques are very new to India. So finding relevant human resources for creation and delivery has been a challenge. Edufiq has had to build a team of trainers and curriculum creators from the scratch. All our educators & trainers are full-time employees, unlike other tech companies. We have collaborated with domain specialists globally to create courses that are mapped to global standards of ISTE & CSTA. Finding the right talent has been a challenge and we are on a continuous search for educators who understand the technology and want to make a difference in the Education space of India.What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors?
One of our biggest USPs is pedagogy. Experiential Learning techniques make learning Artificial Intelligence for our students a unique experience. We create an engaging learning ambiance for students which generates the willingness & curiosity amongst students to learn and adopt new things, chapters, sessions, co-curricular & technology. Our children already have screen time, we strive to make the same screen time productive and rewarding. When we use games and a project-based approach to teach concepts, kids are more engaged and have a higher retention value. Edufiq’s CESP (Comprehensive Experiential School Program) for Schools, is a complete managed program, enabling schools to envisage the new teaching methodology.How do you see the company and the industry in the future ahead?
Since the education industry has faced massive disruption during the pandemic, our goal is to assist the “Digital India Initiative” initiated by the Prime Minister. Edufiq has successfully partnered with select few schools and is planning to expand its count by the next academic year. The future ed-tech industry is about personalized learning. Each child is unique with unique capabilities, hence education should be personalized to curb learning issues like- student engagement & understanding. Since the future of education will be driven by a large part of technology, Edufiq ensures that the new teaching tools are well understood so that we enhance the tech skills of both students as well as the teachers. Thus, contributing to a brighter future ahead.Which industry verticals are you currently focusing on? And what is your go-to-market strategy for the same?
Edufiq’s parent organisation, Juana Technology, has been working closely with schools for over 8 years now. We strongly believe that education can be transformed the best when we collaborate with schools to bring a holistic learning approach. Edufiq’s CESP (Comprehensive Experiential School Program) is a complete managed program, enabling schools to envisage the new teaching methodology. We are adopting the traditional IT labs and trforming them into AI Labs, enabling new-age learning. From creating an intelligent learning environment to developing the professional development of educators and finally delivering the experiential curriculum of Artificial Intelligence, the CESP is a complete solution for schools to adopt the Education Trformation. Edufiq does not have a mass approach, we are working with a few handpicked schools, who share the vision and passion for information. The CESP is a very niche program and we look at bringing trformation bit by bit.What is your Leadership Mantra?
1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers. 2. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company?
Before co-founding Xceedance, I served as CEO for Berkshire Hathaway India. When Berkshire Hathaway decided to exit their India operations, I saw an opportunity to float a new idea to the management team – to set up a company that could provide technology and consulting services to the multiple insurance and reinsurance companies within the Berkshire Hathaway group.
Manish Khetan, Vice President, Berkshire India, and Amit Tiwari, Vice President and Head of Technology, Berkshire India, joined me in founding this new venture, and Xceedance was launched in 2013. To this day our mission remains singularly focused on leveraging deep-rooted insurance domain knowledge to support all facets of the insurance lifecycle. Xceedance prides itself on having in-depth expertise in how the industry operates and having people who’ve faced challenges themselves 70% of our team comes to Xceedance with an insurance industry background.3. Brief us about you and your contributions to the company and the industry.
I have 15 years of experience building startups, running companies as a CEO, and promoting startups as an investor. I have an entrepreneurial focus and have been involved with a series of early-stage startups, including building one of them, Xceedance, into a 100M USD ARR business in about 9 years, with no external funding. In my role as CEO at Xceedance, I manage a team of close to 2,600 professionals across multiple offices that caters to 138+ insurance industry clients across North America, Europe, and Australia.4. Kindly mention some of the major challenges the company has faced till now.
As we’ve grown over the past nine years there have been many challenges, the pandemic being the most recent one. However, as a team, we’ve always viewed challenges from the lens of opportunities. As an example, I’ve never seen as much capital flowing into the insurance business as there is right now, especially at a startup stage. This presents some exciting opportunities for us, not just as a partner but also as an investor. The last two years have been high-growth years for Xceedance, and that wave is continuing. That’s one area we are looking forward to from a market opportunity point of view.
The insurance sector, like many industries, faces a unique set of challenges. The team at Xceedance understands the insurance marketplace and works closely with clients within the market to adopt technology and be more data-driven in their strategies. The biggest hurdle for Xceedance is to ensure profitability without compromising on our growth rate. With that goal in mind, the company’s leadership had the clarity and strength of purpose to rebuff suitors from private equity wishing to invest in Xceedance. Rather, we have grown on the expertise of our people and a track record of client satisfaction to build profitably and organically.5. What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors?
We are different because we focus on a single industry – insurance. We know this industry our clients, and we look at the challenges and opportunities in this space through three distinct lenses – people, process, and technology. We want to enable technology, enhance processes, and allow people to do more and be more efficient and effective in their roles. This approach, combined with our industry specialty, truly sets us apart from our competitors.6. What are your growth plans for the next 12 months?
Our growth plan for the next 4-5 years is to grow to 3 times our current size in terms of revenue. To date, we have experienced a healthy growth rate of 40% year-over-year, and are focused on growing that rate in the coming years. Xceedance has a significant presence in major insurance markets across the globe, from North America and Europe to Australia, and we are looking to expand our footprint in each of those markets.7. What does your technology and business roadmap look like for the rest of the year?
We are building an organization that will outlive all of us – one that will be operating 100-200 years from now. When you start thinking in those terms it doesn’t matter quite as much what you are doing over the next 1-2 years or even the next 5 years. The insurance industry that we are part of was here 300 years ago, and it will be here 300 years from now. While the market has always evolved and grown, the foundation of insurance remains. Our role at Xceedance is to provide value and insights to insurance organizations no matter their specific role within the industry. As such, we’ll need to continue to flex and adapt as the industry changes in the years to come.”8. What is your Leadership Mantra?
Technology, for sure has changed the way businesses are run. It has become an omnipresent and inevitable part of business operations, that span a wide range of devices and networks. It has, in a way made it cumbersome to efficiently manage the distributed tasks, requiring external help to sail through the day-to-day logistics all while being able to make strategic decisions. XenonStack is a technology service provider whose services range from designing cloud-native applications to providing big data analytics. It’s AI and data-centric solutions have won many laurels, including awards like Best Product of the Year 2023 by Software Technology Parks of India (STPI). Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Navdeep Gill, Founder & CEO, of XenonStack.What does XenonStack do and how are digital experience platforms like Xenonstack using data-driven decision analytics?
We are a Cloud Native and Data Intelligence Company and provide technology consulting and services that digitize and futurize businesses by leveraging cloud-native and AI to deliver data-centric experiences. Our services include Technology Consulting and Digital Platform Strategy, Assessment and Remediations, Development and Implementation, and Digital Operations (Managed Services, SRE, Observability).
We are an industry-agnostic company and the services we offer can help most sectors scale up and transform digitally. Currently, we have a strong presence in USA and UAE. Our team comprises 120+ employees with an analytic approach while focusing on enterprise agility and security. With Xenonstack, organizations get end-to-end solutions that are driven by data and outcomes. We help develop holistic priorities, underpinned by scorecards and metrics, that cover organizational health, talent, and culture, as well as data quality. Data and analytics are central for any business to reach a set of goals in a world driven by technology. We use Data Analytics as a Catalyst for Innovations, Services, and Product Development.
Making the most out of consumer patterns with Personalized customer experiences and Augmented analytics, we help businesses become more digitally strong, robust, and agile.Give us an insight into how XenonStack is using modern technology in providing its never seen services.
We are a tech-savvy brand that helps companies gain a strong foothold in the digital world. We use Cloud-Native, Cloud Platform Engineering, Data Engineering, IoT, Real-Time Analytics, Computer Vision, and EDGE AI to offer solutions to our clients. We serve Cloud Security and Observability to help make businesses more secure and insulated. We use SRE and Managed Services to help our clients with Metaverse, 5G, Metadata, Composable Data, and Analytics.How is XenonStack enabling CIOs to work towards a tech-services ecosystem for agility and resiliency?
We help CIOs by reinventing technology delivery and aim to Future-proofing the foundation to build a digital, tech-savvy vertical that is immune to or adapts easily to the ever-changing technology.
We create an integrated plan for risk management to insulate the business in case of unforeseen digital threats, leveraging technology to not only augment the business but also create value for the business. The aim is to accelerate digital transformation but to do so in a way that strengthens the bones of the business. We enhance business composability by rendering them with the right mindset, technologies, and set of operating capabilities to innovate and adapt quickly to changing business needs.What are the five challenges in the sector for implementing a digital strategy?
Digital transformation is in its nascent stage. Sprouting majorly after the pandemic, digital transformation is still at the stage of trial and error. Some hurdles need to be overcome before we can transcend into a wholesome digital era. Five of these key challenges are:
ii. Following a security-first approach – With enhanced AI-powered solutions, cybersecurity has become a concern. For most visionaries, having their operations online and depending on AI also increases their apprehension of cybersecurity and the complexity that digital transformation brings with it.
iii. Evolving Customer Needs – The democratization of information and the multiple channels for dissemination of information has made the consumer smart, aware, and demanding. With laptops and smartphones becoming like extended limbs, customer is looking for the best experience they can avail themselves of. As tech solutions grow so does consumer behavior, making it imperative for companies to stay agile, alert, and responsive. This requires reassessing digital strategy periodically to identify gaps and implement solutions.
iv. Lack of IT Resources and Management – Digital transformation requires a skilled and dedicated team. However, with the technologies changing and evolving ever so often, it is getting harder to hire trained personnel. Advanced data analytics, cyber security, and a sound digital strategy required trained personnel to tackle small and big problems at every step.
v. The challenge of agility – Digital transformation tends to be disruptive on account of changing processes in a company. Bifurcating a big process into two and navigating them in short-duration increments help in increased agility and flexibility, aiding transformation. Digital Transformation changes the way businesses operate and interact with their consumers. Integration of AI, technology, and machine learning tools is a complex but necessary process and a cookie-cutter approach is not the way. Without a response-based system in place, companies tend to fail during the initial transformation phase. Agile transformation, therefore, is a key factor that determines the success of digital transformations.Why is account-based marketing important for SaaS-based startups?
Account-based marketing makes sure that the brand language and your connection with the consumer are personalized and targeted. It helps you define your business coherently for your customer and sets you apart from your competition. Besides this, driving a broad brand name could be expensive. Account-based marketing enhances targeted ABM and high-quality nurture. It helps in shortening the sales cycle and synergizes the sales and marketing efforts.
This year, at WordCamp Porto, I had an opportunity to interview Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Executive Director of WordPress.
She gave us some very in-depth answers about what is happening in the world of WordPress, and what we can expect from the top CMS in the future.
WordPress powers nearly half of the web. What challenges does WordPress face as a CMS in the coming year, and how does it plan to overcome them?
Chomphosy: “WordPress in the next year … One of the biggest difficulties we face in general is the fact that we are rewriting our entire codebase as we also continue to move forward as a functioning piece of software.
In a lot of cases, you would see a software stop every contribution from their community and rebuild everything while no one else is in it and just kind of use a closed model of re-envisioning how their software would work.
We are five years into this probably ten-year project, and so the next year, as with all of the years in a project like that, is making sure we are still as stable and capable as a CMS as people have come to expect while also still pushing forward with a newer more modern way to manage your content online.
No big deal. Small problems.”
I know about Matt [Mullenweg]’s “Five for the Future” initiative, which aims to solve the challenges of supporting WordPress as it grows. How do you see that working? Do you see enough response rates from the community?
It funds the project from a time perspective so that it’s easy for individual contributors to say what they are interested in, it’s easier for contributor teams to see who is interested in them. And recently, we also have expanded that program to include what’s considered a Five for the Future team.
I think that major corporations in the WordPress ecosystem should give back substantially to the WordPress project, especially if they make a substantial amount of money or revenue using WordPress.
Overall I would say that we have had a good response from both our community of contributors and our economic partners in the ecosystem. I do think we’ve had a good response, but we can always use more.
The WordPress CMS is used all over the place and is maintained by less than 1% of the people who get a benefit from that and people in corporations who get a benefit from that and so I always want more people to be involved and responding, but we do have good response to it.”
Do you foresee any changes like WordPress becoming paid, for example?
Chomphosy: “It’s hard to predict the future, but I don’t see any way for that to happen, no.
Free, open-source software, I’m sure you know, but many people get confused about whether that means it’s free, as in, not any money, or free, as in, provides freedom to people.
We like to remind everyone all the time that it’s free, as in, freedom to people, but also making the software freely available is incredibly important to WordPress. So I can’t see a future where we’d be like, ‘just kidding, pay for licenses.’”
What’s going to make WordPress continue to stand out/above its peers and competitors? How is WordPress future-proofing?
Chomphosy: “I think that the thing that makes WordPress as a project stands out from its competitors is the strength of the community that’s around us and, interestingly enough, the thing that makes our community stand out compared to other open-source projects that also have communities is our in-person event series and so not having those for the last two and a half years certainly has been a struggle for us.
And so this flagship event is the first in-person flagship event since we had to cancel WordCamp Asia in 2023, and we’re very excited to have everyone back together.
There were 800 people at the contributor day, and that is the biggest contributor day at a flagship event that we’ve ever had. And so, you can see in not only the number of people who are coming to this event but also in the number of people who showed up to learn how to give back to WordPress, the project, the CMS, and the ecosystem. The strength of what we are and how we will sustain ourselves into the future lies in that group of people that just wants to be here and continuing to make it better.
I think that’s how we set ourselves apart. And also, from a future-proofing standpoint, in the way that we invest in those contributors, the way that we bring them into the space, and how they can make it better if that’s what they want. I hope that’s what they want. That is certainly how we’re future-proofing things.
A little side note from a leadership perspective. It’s always important for me to look at how we can make sure the organization outlasts anyone who’s leading right now. Outlasts me, outlasts Matt, because everyone is one … catastrophic event away from not being able to do what they used to do.
That’s always a very important part of this for me. I’m constantly training people who are with us in this work toward WordPress. I’m always training them to do what I know how to do because it’s never appropriate for me to be the only person who knows how to do anything that is vital to WordPress’s success.”
The CMS market is becoming competitive day by day. Do you see a decline in WordPress’s market share, or is it growing?
Chomphosy: “There was, in the WordPress community recently, a bit of a discussion about W3Tech’s market share and usage numbers. There was a small decline. It’s publicly available, and we had discussions around it. There’s no point in saying there wasn’t a decline there.
However, I don’t think that there’s anything to be worried about. With W3Techs, as they are working toward deprecating one of its major datasets, it will always change what we’re seeing there. We can’t be sure what they’re doing and not doing; it’s very closed, very proprietary.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s basically level at the moment as far as I’m concerned there.”
There were complaints from users that WordPress, by the introduction of full site editing, now does change too frequently and drastically, and they now have to spend a lot of time/resources to learn it again and fix broken parts of websites, when it used to work for them just great. What will be your message to those users?
Chomphosy: “I know that it is frustrating to have to relearn something that you spent so much time learning, but that is the way that we have chosen to do that rework of WordPress — as kind of a phased evolution over time, as opposed to a single point of a revolution — was so that people could learn gradually over time, based on what they found in small places.
As we make the editing interfaces of the CMS more and more similar, they’ll only have to learn they can use the same type of user flow, the same type of interaction pattern across the CMS. And so, the basic understanding of all of the mechanisms should start to translate into the rest of the CMS as well.
Every open-source software builds everything in public, and it is people who are telling us, “This is hard to learn. This is hard for me to use.”
It’s that sort of feedback that helps us to make it better, but it has been for many, many people seeing full site editing right now, a long time since WordPress do such big changes in public, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily faster than we expected.
If you’re following the Beta and in the plugin, you get a new release in every two weeks, but if you’re not following the Beta and the plugin, you get three releases a year, and that is, I think, a pretty fast pace, but tolerable as well if you are keeping track as you go.
So I guess my message is to make sure that you don’t just wait until every ten releases to update because then you are going to have a lot that you do to have to learn.”
There are classic editor plugins around for those who want to use the old style of WordPress. Do you think you will maintain the plugins for a long time? Do you think you will deprecate them?
Chomphosy: “We have been taking that year by year as we see people’s need for it and as we end up with something much more robust in the CMS itself.
I don’t see any future where we just remove it from the repo or any of the directories. I don’t think we’re planning on deprecating it and having it be gone forever. But it is always better to try to keep up with things as it’s coming out slowly, so you are not overwhelmed by all of the things at one go.”
How do you decide what features to ship in new versions? What does the process look like?
Chomphosy: “That’s all a very public process. Fortunately, we get by with a little help from our friends on that one.
So we have core chats every week, and every major component — most major components — inside core have public chats where people talk about the tickets they’re working on, the features they are working on, the bugs they can’t quite solve, and prioritize based on what is the most impactful for users and what is feasible, based on the timeframe we’re working on for any given release.
The decision is based on what is ready at that moment, but also certainly but also what the general impact is.”
What is one major fix you would like to see WordPress make?
Chomphosy: “Our next big need is to focus a lot on the menus and navigation, and that is a very complicated thing. That is hard, even in the best of moments. No one would disagree that spending a lot of time on that and getting a good solid fix that is user tested and approved is the right way to head next.”
Almost all WordPress users complain about built-in internal search. Do you have plans to improve it? For example, giving website owners decide which articles to exclude from search or adding customizable search indexing weighing factors?
Chomphosy: “The short answer is: Yes, there are thoughts around how to fix it, and there is a lot of research that is being done by contributors.
I don’t think that anyone has found a solution that we all agree is as functional as we want it to be while also being as elegant and performant as we need it to be. We have not figured out what the proper solution is to that. But yes, absolutely, it is something the community discusses frequently and does ongoing research on.”
Gutenberg has Full Site Editing (FSE), but is said to still be in Beta. Is there an ETA for that label coming off?
Chomphosy: “I don’t know that there is an ETA for it coming off. It is true that in the WordPress project, we use those terms of it differently, just like we do sequential ordering as opposed to semantic versioning.
It’s Beta in that it is going to keep moving and iterating; it’s not beta in that it is unstable. It will be in Beta at least through the current phase, but not because it’s generally dangerous to use. Just because it will change frequently.”
I think it’s fantastic that WordPress has a performance team working on improving the core, so it has fast performance. But no matter how fast you make the core, it seems like all it takes is a sloppy theme to undo all the good work the core had put into it. So it seems like the next step is to get theme and plugin developers on board. Is that something on the horizon?
Chomphosy: “Themes are particular. Themes are essentially a core issue.
I have not run into many people in the world, many users in the world who feel like their theme was not WordPress. No one has got WordPress, the CMS, and then also a theme, and they think, “I had a bad experience theme, I’ll switch out that theme.”
I shouldn’t say ‘no one,’ but regardless, themes are considered such an inextricable part of WordPress that we have to consider them almost as a part of the core sometimes. And so, do we want themes and plugins to also make some effort around performance? Yes, absolutely. But do we have any rules in place at the moment? Not really.
Themes has been undergoing a bit of a transformation along with the core because we have offered new functionality. And we’re trying to reshuffle whether you’ve got functionality or just the visual representations in themes. As that moves forward, probably we will have to move forward with some of the ways we guide all of the contributors.
That’s true for plugins, as well as features in plugins, kind of move with the way core is able to support them, in that it makes sense that we would have to have some sort of refreshed guidelines down the road. But at the moment, no one is discussing them because they’re still trying to figure out how to make everything work well with Gutenberg.”
Do you have plans to introduce badges like “WordPress Certified?” Like Google Certified Partners, but Certified WordPress Developers. Like team developers can get those by passing a test or an interview with the WordPress core team to get those pages, and whenever they are developing, have those badges in place, so everyone knows that those teams have skills like the WordPress core team.
Chomphosy: “It’s interesting that you ask because questions of certifications are coming up in the community right now. I’ve had so many conversations with attendees at this particular WordCamp. It’s on everyone’s mind.
Historically we’ve never offered any certifications. The logistics of it are hard. The documentation we have is not always easy to keep up to date. There were some logistical hurdles to it; there were some philosophical questions around open source and certifications and what that would mean for how we could help our community stay together with each other through their learning and through improving the CMS.
The conversation has come back up because we have started to provide some training via chúng tôi It’s getting more and more true that you can get a lot of information that you need about how to use the WordPress CMS not only through written documentation but now also through workshops and social learning spaces.
As we are providing more of that, [there’s] the question of how we can give some indication that people went through those workshops and went through those training and succeeded at them. So it’s a new old question back on the table.”
The Redirection plugin is installed on over 2 million websites. Clearly, there’s a need for that, so is there any chance you will integrate a redirection function similar to the plugin into the core? And if not, why not? Does it bump up against WP’s goal of keeping it simple for everyone to use?
Chomphosy: “I don’t think that better native features and functionality ever make WordPress hard to use. It shouldn’t, and if it does, we shouldn’t put it in there. But there is currently not a discussion about that.
There is a feature plugin proposal process where people can say that this plugin is basically used everywhere; we would like to propose that we find a way for it to be included in core. No one has brought that up. No one has brought that to the table.
I was talking to the performance working group about that yesterday. Not about that particular plugin, but about the feature plugin approval process. The documentation around that needs some updating, but it’s certainly a thing we have always done in the WordPress project and would be the first step in including something like that in the core.”Conclusion
We hope you’ve enjoyed these insights into the current and future plans for WordPress. Remember that the WordPress project continues to improve based on the contributions of its users. Be sure to learn more about the many ways you can contribute to and give back to the WordPress community.
For more on WordPress from WordCamp Porto, don’t miss our interview with Ivan Popov of Vipe Studio on Headless WordPress SEO.
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