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How to build an AEM team from scratch

Senior Digital Project Manager, Team AEM
Valtech Denmark

December 15, 2017

How do you set up a new team of experts from scratch, to provide clients with services that are still completely new to your regional market? This is the story of how we went from no AEM expertise to being a market leader in Denmark in less than two years’ time.

We’re a global digital agency. We can see trends coming, both regional and global. While the AEM platform has been in high demand on the German and French markets for a long time, the demand has only recently started to develop in the Nordics. Because we take pride in offering local services while benefiting from our global setting, this called for a regional center of AEM expertise in Denmark. Read on for a quick insight into our journey – from having zero local AEM insights to being a regional leader.

The evolution of demand for the AEM platform

Adobe Experience Manager is one of the premium content management frameworks. For seven years running, it has been listed as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant of Web Content Management.
Not surprisingly, our offices in Germany and France have experienced a great demand for the AEM platform for the past 10 years. Brands such as BMW demanded precisely what AEM can offer: the ability to scale internationally with ease and deliver premium marketing experiences. Meanwhile, the demand in the Nordic markets is beginning to grow exponentially: enterprise level businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the functionalities that AEM can offer.

This was a grand opportunity for our Danish office to design even better digital experiences for some of the biggest companies on the Danish market.

The question: hire global or establish local?

As a global digital agency, the easy way out would be to make use of our colleagues in other offices. Set up a series of Skype meetings and you’re good to go. Or, well, maybe not. We believe in actually knowing our customers. Being close to them. Understanding the way their business works. That’s where we think the best customer experiences come from. So we went for regional experts for regional projects. A Danish AEM team was about to be born.

Transfer and train

So how do you start an AEM team from scratch? The short answer is: you transfer and you train. The long answer is a bit more complex but starts with our motto of getting ‘the right people on the bus’. For us, recruitment is a huge part of developing a successful team. However, with AEM being relatively new to the Danish market it was unlikely that we would find a huge number of AEM developers in Copenhagen. To combat this problem, we looked internationally.

Luckily, one of our senior AEM Developers was willing to transfer himself and his expertise from Italy to Denmark. Upon arrival at Copenhagen Airport, he was the very first AEM Developer in the Copenhagen office. He was supported by experienced Front-enders and a skilled Project Manager, and got great support from the AEM Senior Developers in the Munich office.
But one developer doesn’t make a team just yet, so we needed to do more. Hence, Valtech launched an International talent program to find enthusiastic and talented Java developers who could be trained to work with the quirks and complexities of AEM. This team was made up of Swedes, Icelanders, Italians, Danes and Malaysians.

With the right training and structure the team began to deliver its first major projects for a large pharmaceutical company. It was such a success that the following year 5 new talents were added to the team.

Good things come to those who wait (and train)

The first AEM project for our Danish team quickly revealed that this approach had resulted in a team that would be ready and able to take on any AEM challenge. We now have produced high quality work for 4 major clients and thanks to a culture of continuous improvement we are constantly challenging ourselves and raising the bar. And once again we are looking to expand the team, as the demand for our AEM expertise is exploding.

No success without a few bumps

We all know that there is a polished, official version and then there’s the unpolished, unofficial version. In all honesty: there were many bumps and challenges along the way. We have had to build up systems and processes from scratch in order to be able to create workflows specific to AEM. Likewise, we have had to help, educate and train designers, SEO specialists and testers on how best to work with AEM and what each discipline can gain from working with it.

Another challenge has been the dynamics of an international team: running such a diverse group means flexibility is essential. Furthermore, we had to strike the balance between our desire to be completely self-sufficient to deliver projects in Denmark whilst also acknowledging that one of Valtech’ strengths is our ability to work with international experts. It was a steep learning curve in embracing all the experience we have under the Valtech umbrella.

Transfer, train, repeat

For us, the golden formula was transfer and train. To that mix, we added quite a bit of sparring with our global colleagues, and what we got was a team that managed to establish itself as one of the go-to teams for AEM. In less than two years. The most interesting part is that our team is now also supporting on global projects for e.g. French luxury brands.

We look back on our AEM journey as a huge success and we hope to replicate this model as we establish our new team in South America. This will enable us to accommodate the need for technical assistance at all time in all time zones.

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