As OutSystems VP of People, Alexandra, mentioned in her opening keynote remarks this was the 16th edition of NextStep. I personally cannot recall all sixteen but I’m pretty sure I’ve been to all of them. As such, I want to share with you my thoughts and insights on why this was the most anticipated and largest OutSystems event to date.
This was definitely a highly anticipated NextStep event since, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it forced OutSystems to a completely new format, a virtual one. And, I wondered, with so many sessions and all the exciting content that was being announced could this virtual format truly deliver? Let’s dig into it! Let’s review these two days across 3 time zones and try to answer that Million Dollar Question. In case you were wondering, with the help of a lot of coffee, I was online during the entire conference in all time zones!
Started strong! Right after a short welcoming message it was time to recognize the most relevant projects and announce the 2020 Innovation Awards winners. Eleven customers across the globe were awarded and it was interesting to note that almost every project was implemented with the support of an OutSystems partner. Next, Paulo Rosado took the stage and set the tone to what was to come. The three ‘Build’ pillars were introduced - Build Fast, Build Right and Build for the Future - and these were going to be repeated several times during the conference and define the strategy going forward for the OutSystems platform and their Product team.
The VP of Product, Gonçalo Gaiolas, nailed a brilliant presentation going through all the new features of the platform. GG (as he was nicknamed on the after-party event) uncovered all the new builders (workflow, experience, integration and machine learning) and set the ambitious goal of making teams using the OutSystems platform 100x more productive. He, and an extensive team went through a series of engaging role play type demos that, taking advantage of the virtual setting, made us almost forget the ‘bald’ presenters of previous editions that we have become accustomed to hearing from.
Still part of the keynote “Pete” Peterson jumped in to provide an update on the extraordinary digital transformation journey that the City of Oakland is going through leveraging the OutSystems low-code platform. For those of you that are new to the event, Pete is a recurrent speaker at NextStep, and it is always very interesting to hear what he has to share.
As we moved on to the track sessions, it was time to check the business sessions, and the presentation from Rukesh Patel, CTO at Edelweiss, is one that deserves to be revisited. Rukesh provided a detailed description on how they decided to move to OutSystems. Then explained their failed start due to lack of expertise on the technology and the complexity of the business to finally their success supported by the technology experience of their partner and the full engagement of their business team. It was a true delight to listen in.
On the technical track the ‘Let’s Go Full-Stack’ session gave a very good introduction to the development tools of the platform. Sezen spoke about bringing Citizen Developers (the only reference I heard of them throughout the entire conference) and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) into the delivery process using the new builders for prototyping. And for the Professional Developers (yes, this was the name used in this session and also used by Paulo Rosado on the opening keynote) there’s Service Studio to do the ‘hard-core’ work both on back and front-end. The ‘Road to Value’ session was also very relevant since it focused on one of OutSystems and its partners main challenges, how to bring value to the customer as early as possible.
To close the day, I had the opportunity to join a restricted Q&A session with Innovation Award winner Pokémon. Unfortunately the session content cannot be disclosed neither will it be available on-demand but you can watch the video by Dylan “Exobyte” Mayo, Game Design Manager, where the Trading Card Game (TCG) winning app is described and where you can learn how almost all of the departments of the company collaborate using the application. This video is still available in the Innovation Award winners Lounge area at NextStep, check it out here.
Started slowly with a session by Gartner’s Senior Analyst, Paul Vincent. His ‘Code is a Liability’ statement focused on security at the enterprises was the most important topic in my opinion. After that, It was time for (more) coffee as the engines were also heating up in preparation for Leland’s keynote. Former NFL player and astronaut, Leland D. Melvin, gave an enthusiastic and inspiring presentation on failures, comebacks and lifetime achievements based on resilience and perseverance. Just the type of motivational speech we all need in these strange times we’re living in...
The rest of the day delivered, in my opinion, a set of very good product sessions. Most of these sessions were live webinars giving the conference a sense of reality and proximity in contrast with most of the pre-recorded sessions of the day before. The session on the ‘Next Service Studio’ brought the most anticipated dark-mode feature (yes, I have a geeky side too and we cannot forget that this event is also for the huge OutSystems Developer Community and was very well represented by Jen Lopez on the opening keynote) and also the native Mac version.
But, let’s not forget that, the power of future versions of Service Studio will come from the use of AI and the work done by António Alegria and his team was perfectly translated to one of the best technical presentations, if not the best, of the entire event! Check out the session “AI-powered Development”. This is definitely how the platform will be able to deliver on the very ambitious goal mentioned by Gaiolas - 100x more productive. Alegria’s team had one more session on ‘Infusing AI in your Apps’ which provided great insights into how to take advantage of the new Machine Learning Builder and leveraging AI on any App without needing to be an AI expert or having to add data scientists to your team.
Still on the product sessions I would also like to mention the one on the new ‘App Shield’ component. Yes, it is a component to be used on mobile apps to increase its security. Yes, it can be used together with other components like the ‘Keystore’ or the ‘Cyphered Local Storage’. Yes, it is available on the Forge like the other components; however, to use it, you will need a paid license from OutSystems. (I wasn’t expecting that, were you?)
Shifting gears to the business side of the conference, I had the opportunity to hear from Kelsey Hartigan Go, VP of IT, about the ongoing process of digital transformation in SM Prime that runs for more than 10 years and their recent adoption of OutSystems that allowed them to drastically reduce time to market. Another awesome session was done by Lawrence Benson where he presented how Chevron is taking advantage of the low-code platform to cope with the challenges of delivering applications to support their upstream oil and gas business in Canada.
To finalize the event, the Innovation Awards’ Q&A sessions were extremely helpful to understand how Certis, Monadelphous and Union Bank, in the APAC region, and Shawcor in North America managed to achieve excellence and innovation leading them to win these awards. Note, three out of these four winners are supported by OutSystems partners and most probably this is one of the reasons for their success.
There were a lot more sessions and extensive content shared during these two (long) days so I invite you to check it out. All sessions are available on-demand and will remain available awhile longer. You can find it here.
I hope to see you all next year! As much as I enjoyed this format, I have to say that I hope we all get to meet in person once again. In the meantime, stay healthy and stay safe!