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What’s Up Magento?

The Association’s executive director, Mathias Schreiber, has given a presentation called “What’s Up Magento?” at some recent events. This presentation covers MA’s past, present and future. In this article I’m going to share my perspective on that same topic.

Our Past

Way back in 2017, before Magento Inc was acquired by Adobe, several executives and leaders at Magento Inc studied the Drupal Association as a model of a not-for-profit trade association organizing an open source community. At the same time, the organizers of the Meet Magento Association, a European based organization that had been the sublicensee of the Meet Magento trademark from Magento Inc, entered into discussions with Magento Inc about winding down the Meet Magento Association and transferring their assets and events to a new group. Based on all of this, the executives at Magento Inc. engaged an association management company, SmithBucklin, to aid in the creation of the Magento Association. Many of those executives at Magento Inc then stepped back and asked two of the Magento leaders that had been involved in the process (Brittany Mosquera and Ben Marks) to work with SmithBucklin to involve the Magento community in the launch of the Magento Association. 

At this point we’re in 2018 and this is when the founding task force was formed - a group of volunteers who responded to an open call for help to build the Association. With SmithBucklin’s help, the task force wrote the bylaws, filed the incorporating paperwork, wrote a three year plan for the Association and selected the initial Board of Directors for the Magento Association. The Directors were selected based on their past community involvement with the Magento community with an eye towards representing as many types of members of our community as possible. It’s important to remember that halfway through 2018, there was a massive change in the Magento ecosystem – Adobe announced that they had entered into an agreement to purchase Magento Inc. In many ways, the work integrating Magento Inc into Adobe did not complete until the 2020’s. 

In 2019, the Board was formally seated and began working on an initial set of tasks with SmithBucklin based on the three year plan that the Task Force had built with input from SmithBucklin. Over the next couple of years, the Board discovered several items that complicated our work and the launch of the Magento Association:

  • The revenue models built in 2017 based on assumptions about events, event organizers and community support were overly optimistic.
  • The expense models built in 2017 based on volunteer efforts and intellectual property donations were overly optimistic. 
  • These models as well as the initial three year strategic plan were built before Adobe’s acquisition of Magento and that acquisition changed some of the assumptions.
  • During the selection process, the Board was told that they would be operating as a Board – i.e., approving major decisions. Instead, they found themselves being asked to work more like managing directors – going much deeper into the operations of the Association than just approving major decisions. Several Board members had to step down when this became apparent. 
  • While SmithBucklin at the time was a 70 year old company with many, many successful associations under their management, they were not as experienced with open source communities or with launching an association like ours from scratch. 

As we discovered these items, the Board worked to correct them, but some were incredibly challenging - for instance, the plans and budgets built in 2017 and 2018 assumed that the community would volunteer a high level of effort to the Association and that SmithBucklin would simply fill in any gaps with their staffing. When the level of effort volunteered from the community turned out to be lower than what was in the plans we were unable to have SmithBucklin’s staff fill in the gaps because we also didn’t have the level of revenue that those plans assumed. 

As a Board, we were building and implementing plans to solve these challenges when COVID struck. The one element that was working the best - Meet Magento events - were quickly sidelined and the entire Magento ecosystem experienced quite a bit of disruption. Through this, we also managed through turnover on the Board, turnover at sponsors, turnover at Adobe and turnover at SmithBucklin – it seems like the pandemic was when everyone changed jobs! However, we got our feet back under us and curated and produced content for the community on our blog, organized and produced the Magento Association Connect virtual event series, launched a podcast, held elections, launched a paid membership program, organized and supported the Magento Open Source Taskforce and more. 

By 2022, we heard loud and clear from the community, though, that this was not enough. It was clear we were operating in a new world - both on a large scale (as humanity adjusted to COVID-19 and the “new normal” became clear) and on a smaller scale (as most of the last Magento Inc leaders left Adobe). This is when I took my ongoing meetings with the leadership at SmithBucklin and turned it to a very specific, very challenging topic - if SmithBucklin and the association management company approach was the right approach for the future of the Magento Association. Through those conversations, it became clear that the Magento Association needed a full-time, paid professional with experience managing open source communities. That wasn’t something that SmithBucklin could provide, so we worked with SmithBucklin to wind our cooperation down and part ways amicably, which we completed at the end of 2022.

Our Present

As we wound down our cooperation with SmithBucklin, we searched for our first full-time employee. We realized that as unpaid Board members we needed to step back into the role that was originally designed for the Board - individuals who approve major decisions but leave the day to day operations of the Association to a paid staff member. Given our budget and the amount of work needed for the operations of the Association, this called for someone who had a proven track record working with and leading open source communities but also someone who wasn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and do anything and everything that needed to be done to move the Association forward. A leader who could also execute on tasks and was humble enough and would work hard enough to do the work that previously was being done by eight Board members and countless paid staffers. That was when we found Mathias Schreiber and realized with his experience and attitude he was the person that the Association needed. 

After hiring Mathias, he quickly dove in and organized the materials that SmithBucklin had given us during our wind-down with them, established our independent US bank account, found and hired our new accountants and even migrated our website over from the paid platform that SmithBucklin had been hosting it on to an open-source CMS. Mathias has helped reignite our committees, finding ways for them to be more autonomous and accomplish more with less back-and-forth with the Board and others. One of the biggest accomplishments, however, is that Mathias has worked with our Adobe-appointed Board member, Ritesh Somani, to formalize and sign an agreement between Adobe and the Magento Association. This signed agreement outlines the goals that Adobe and the Magento Association are pursuring together, including the continued marketing and growth of the Magento brand. 

In addition to this formal legal agreement specifying Adobe’s commitment to supporting the Magento Association and the Magento ecosystem (which includes Magento open source), I can share that in my one on one conversations, messages and other communications from Adobe employees acting in both official and unofficial capacities, there’s a desire to understand Magento and the open source community and to find ways to benefit each other. Adobe has not been immune to the turnover that has occurred since the pandemic began, and we’re finding ourselves interacting with a whole new set of Adobe employees - either newer hires or long-time Adobe employees that have shifted from other products to the Magento product after long-time Magento Inc employees have left. I am having to continually tell our story, the story of the Magento ecosystem and how Adobe benefits every day from the efforts of open source contributors. As I share that story and then also share how some of Adobe’s actions in the past had inadvertently hurt the Magento ecosystem, including Magento Open Source, I’m met with a desire to understand what happened and ensure that going forward we’re working in a way that benefits all involved and avoids harm. Efforts like Adobe’s launch of Payment Services (which has the full title of Payment Services for Adobe Commerce and Magento Open Source, acknowledging Magento Open Source’s continued growth) have provided a concrete example for our colleagues working at Adobe to provide to the Adobe executive team to see how Magento Open Source can generate revenue for Adobe - a majority of the sites using Payment Services are Magento Open Source sites. This has put finding ways to grow Magento Open Source on the agenda at the highest levels within Adobe.

Our Future

We have a lot planned for the future – I always discourage our Board and Mathias from making “coming soon” announcements because I acknowledge that the main message the community heard about the Magento Association in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020+ was “coming soon”. I prefer that we announce things when they’re actually happening, not a teaser of what might happen in the future. There are a few items that we have shared, though, because we know these things will be completed soon. Those are  revisions to our paid membership structure, migrating paid memberships off of Patreon and onto our own ecommerce platform and then using this new platform to offer localized pricing to ensure our pricing is fair and accessible in all countries. 

We’re also working to restore mutual trust and communication between the community, the association and Adobe. We are building new connections between existing and emerging members of the community and leaders at Adobe. We’ve helped raise awareness at Adobe of the backlog of pull requests that formed around the Magento Open Source repository during the transition from Magento Inc to Adobe, and now we’re assisting with the prioritization of that backlog so that the community and Adobe can work together to merge those open source contributions into the Magento Open Source and Adobe Commerce codebase. 

Your Future

If you’ve read this far, you’re passionate about Magento. Please consider directing that passion into volunteering in some way with the Magento Association. We’re looking for help on our content committee, events committee, marketing and even Magento development – we’ve got that ecommerce site to launch for our paid memberships! We’re also still looking for passionate open source contributors (or people who desire to become a contributor) to join the Community Council. This council is a new addition to the community engineering approach you may be familiar with from the past. The council guides the community priorization process for existing pull requests. This council also will build a roadmap for future contributions to Magento Open Source, prioritized based on capacity, dependencies, and maintainability. This council will also ensure we have enough Magento Open Source community maintainers and guide those maintainers efforts to ensure Magento Open Source continues to grow and thrive. Keep an eye on the Magento DevBlog at where Adobe has been posting updates to the community priortization process to learn more.