Put Updates on Autopilot: Limited Availability is Here

Building on our foundational principle of putting customers first, we’ve entered into our Limited Availability of Autopilot, where we're beginning to invite larger volumes of customers and agencies to gain access to this invaluable tool that automates vital CMS updates. 

Autopilot puts CMS updates on cruise control, so your dev team can free up valuable time to focus on what matters most.

*Since published, Autopilot is now ready for general availability — meaning any one of our customers can implement this solution to automatically find and deploy updates for their Drupal or WordPress CMS. 

Recently, Nathan Tyler, Pantheon Product Manager, and Founder of StagingPilot/Autopilot, and Alex Vasquez, Co-Founder of agency DigiSavvy, hosted a joint webinar on the importance of having an updated Content Management Systems (CMS).

It was an action-packed event going over product demonstrations, real-world implementation, and a reflection on the evolution of StagingPilot into Pantheon Autopilot, as well as the roadmap to come. For more information and valuable insights from this webinar, check out  Put CMS Updates on Cruise Control with Autopilot

Autopilot Backstory 

In 2018, Nathan Tyler was a Founder of StagingPilot, which created a solution designed to assist developers in the management of WordPress’s CMS by keeping it up to date with the latest updates. StagingPilot was a dream come true, not only going through the detection of updates but performing and testing them so developers could assess their implementation before applying these updates to the live environment. 

Updates are a daunting process, to say the least. Manual hours applied throughout this process can take hours of work with meticulous review through various workstreams, all before an organization can decide to move forward with the said update. 

But lo and behold, a specific tool built for developers trying to streamline this time-consuming process arises. The journey of detection-performing, testing, and deploying becomes automated.  And what was once tedious and tiresome for developers is now a robot's job — freeing up hours to work on new projects and drive high-level initiatives. 

Bringing New Levels of Automation to CMS 

At Pantheon, we know the developer and build solutions for their everyday workflow to enhance productivity. StagingPilot, now referred to as Autopilot, comes to Pantheon by way of acquisition, where we leverage structured agile workflows with automation for end-to-end CMS updates for both WordPress and Drupal. Updates are hosted within a multidev environment with applied visual regression testing (VRT) reporting giving teams additional assurance in applying updates. 

A recent article from Josh Koenig Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Autopilot Makes Open Source CMS a Reality at Scale communicates the value that Autopilot brings to our solutions. Our vision has always been to build the WebOps (Website Operations) Platform that empowers marketers, developers, and designers to take control of their websites. Using technology to enhance and optimize teams, you can innovate and iterate to develop great digital experiences for your customers. Building a tool like Autopilot into our stack assists with our continued vision of making best-in-class Open Source CMS and WebOps solutions. 

Success for Early Adopters of Autopilot

 "When I think about what we get out of Autopilot it's really time. Time back as an agency owner, [time] to focus on new priorities for my customers, [time] to build on my portfolio of services I can offer, and time back to my employees so they can focus on initiatives that matter to them."

- Alex Vasquez, Principle, and Co-Founder of DigiSavvy, on Autopilot's ability to save valuable time 

Through our beginning release of Autopilot into the market, we invited several customers and agencies to participate in the review of our newest product and help us shape the user experience and roadmap. 

Alex Vasquez, Principle and Co-Founder of DigiSavvy, is an early adopter of Autopilot. For more context, DigiSavvy is an LA-based digital, creative, and web services agency, specializing in custom WordPress development and B2B email automation and marketing.  They partner with clients to accelerate their growth. 

Recently we hosted an interview with Alex and Nathan Tyler where they had a chance to catch up and discuss adopting Autopilot. Check it out below.

Nathan Tyler, Product Manager, Pantheon (NT):

When I met Alex he was just the guy running the WordPress Meetup group in Pasadena and working in his job. And I've watched him go through the journey of quitting his job, venturing out there on his own as a freelancer, then steadily building an incredible business, fine-tuning his workflow, and growing a team to scale his business. These days, he's working on some pretty impressive projects for Reebok, The City of Chicago, and Huntington Hospital.

Alex Vasquez, Co-Founder, Digisavvy (AV): 

Thanks Nathan! Digisavvy has been around since 2010, and I’ve enormously enjoyed it every step of the way. As I think about my day-to-day, I think of two of the fundamental challenges that a lot of agencies focus on: Growing a business and providing excellent customer service. 

When I think about what we get out of Autopilot it's really time. Time back as an agency owner, [time] to focus on new priorities for my customers, [time] to build on my portfolio of services I can offer, and time back to my employees so they can focus on initiatives that matter to them. 

It saved on resources too, so that's something I feel is a really big win that Autopilot provides So yeah, it's a solid product, and I love the updates they've made with it. So I think from that perspective, it's a solid solution to utilize. 

NT: Thanks Alex, that’s really great to hear. I have a couple of things you wanted to cover kind of before Autopilot and after Autopilot.  Let’s start with before ... what was running updates like?

AV:  There are a few tools on the market that you can use to update numerous WordPress websites. The problem with some of those tools is that they don't leverage version control, so it makes it really difficult to figure out where something broke. So obviously that's not great, especially if it's an update that crashes your client’s website. And, you know, each website might take 10 minutes, depending on how simple it is. Or it could take as much as 30 minutes, again, depending on the complexity of the website. 

NT: Sounds like you had a lot to manage. 

AV:  I was at a point where I was doing a lot of this myself, and I needed to bring in help to start getting some of that backlog of updates out of the way. And it takes time to train people — to really get up to speed with what it is they needed to do. When you introduced me to this automating updating tool, it's like when everything just clicked because this was something built for ease of use and smooth DevOps. And what I mean by that is just making sure we're able to run products and/or run updates in a safe manner. 

NT:  How has your process improved or changed with Autopilot?

AV: We’ve always deployed updates using best practices, but now we can scale faster and be able to track them with version controls. So, I think with that, being able to use the products I could see right away how this could save my agency money and billable hours. Because then, we can refocus on the things that mattered most — whether that's business development or just doing production work, like actually building things. So, I think we saved like over 50 hours, over the course of a month. 

NT:  Thanks for sharing how you are using Autopilot. That’s great you are getting its value right out of the box. I think you are using all the features Pantheon has to offer. 

AV: I definitely appreciate Autopilot and having Pantheon kind of as the backbone of the development services that we offer makes a huge difference.

NT: You are managing some big brands and projects with your teams today. What’s some of the value you are able to communicate to your clients?

AV: Most of our stakeholders want to make sure they are secure and able to not have downtime on their sites, and ultimately, have great experiences for their customers. Using Pantheon, this is something that I am able to confidently communicate — that they are safe while also having a standardized approach to helping build their brands with a robust solution. We can deliver this at scale. 

NV: Where does most of your team's time go, for either building new projects or working for iterating on existing projects with using more automation in practice? Is there more time going into development sprints, like building on new things and features, or for existing website properties?

AV: Much less time is spent on the maintenance side of things, which is good, because if more time was dedicated to that, then I would get to a point where I would to bring on more help. We are elevating the levels of performance at which we can bring value to my customers today. There is a lot more room to grow, besides offering site speed and security, and doubling down on the delivery across their digital experiences. 

Expanding Value for Web Teams

Autopilot is a new feature bringing added value to the Pantheon WebOps Platform, and we are actively rolling out our access to interested customers and agencies. Currently launched in Limited Availability, this allows us to develop robust functionality and overall, a better user experience.

Autopilot will be available to all Gold account holders and above, so contact your account manager to find out when you can get access or request a demo. For more information on Autopilot, check us out here.

Hero image by Sangga Rima Roman Selia via Unsplash

You might also like: 

Topics Development, Drupal, Security, Speed & Performance, WordPress