Symposium 2018 takeaways

Technology Top strategic takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2018

Sitecore’s annual customer conference can feel like a family reunion for those of us who have been attending since the inaugural “Dreamcore” event. The company and community have come a long way since the comparably small gathering eight years ago in Boston.

The 2018 edition in Orlando this month packed thousands of customers, partners, developers, and marketers into Walt Disney’s Swan and Dolphin property.

There have already been some insightful conference recaps published covering overall event highlights, the inspiring focus on empowering women in technology, and a rundown of the new features in Sitecore 9.1.

I came away with three key strategic takeaways after reflecting on the week-long event which included my first Sitecore MVP Summit.

1. Sitecore is doubling down on its strengths around content and integration

doubling down - Symposium 2018

Image credit: Alison Sainsbury

The day one Stylelabs acquisition announcement and content hub product vision (pictured above) was confirmation to me that Sitecore is continuing to expand upon its strengths in enterprise content management and delivery and has a focused product direction that includes playing a larger role in the end-to-end content lifecycle.

More than just “bolting on a Digital Asset Management solution,” the role of Sitecore as an enterprise content hub is moving toward integrating asset management, product management and marketing resource management in potentially new and different ways.

This broader role of a content hub, coupled with the announcements expanding headless and multi-channel content delivery capabilities, helps Sitecore both operate in scenarios as a stand-alone digital experience platform with native digital marketing capabilities, as well as an integrated part of a larger MarTech ecosystem with complex multi-channel content delivery scenarios. ;

Notably, Sitecore didn’t announce many other new “RFP checkbox” marketing features, instead emphasizing improvements (primarily around machine learning) to its existing personalization and marketing automation capabilities, as well as deeper product integration with Salesforce.

This is a positive development, in my opinion, as there has been somewhat of a “features arms race” recently with vendors building shiny new marketing capabilities that perform well in product demos well but lag in end-user adoption. Core content management and delivery capabilities are far from a “solved problem” and there’s a clear leadership role for Sitecore to play here.  

A key area of Sitecore’s differentiation has always been around its enterprise integration flexibility and ability to serve as a hub for both content management and personalized multi-channel content delivery.

The announcements coming out of Symposium reinforced that Sitecore is doubling down on these strengths and positions the solution in a different way than Adobe’s expanding Experience Cloud which continues to integrate new acquisitions like Marketo and cater toward organizations that choose to go “all in” with the suite.

2. Author Experience is Trending

symposium 2018 takeaways bicycle 

Image credit: Akshay Sura

It’s a not so hidden secret that enterprise software, in general, lacks good usability and author experience. Software gets bloated over the years with expanding feature sets and products that are built more for the buyers, not the end users.

It was refreshing to see Sitecore’s commitment to building new and improved authoring experiences. More than just an updated user interface, Sitecore is rolling out a completely new paradigm for managing and editing content—a significant rethink of its current Experience Editor. This new approach was previewed on stage (pictured above) and in sessions and will be included in the coming releases of the product sometime in 2019 (likely, but no firm dates announced yet).

I was able to take part in some user testing on the new capabilities and was encouraged to see user research and design closely partnered with product management in advancing the usability of the platform. Sitecore also has an opportunity to rethink author experience for headless scenarios as its Content Editor, while flexible, has its origins based on primarily supporting website content management. I suspect the Stylelabs acquisition can greatly influence (and accelerate) where Sitecore can take the product in these areas.

All of this is a tremendous product and engineering undertaking and seemingly won’t be rolled out immediately (it was actually previewed at least year’s event). I’m pleased Sitecore is committed to advancing the way authors manage and deliver content, and it was encouraging to see it as such a large and recurring theme throughout the conference.

3. The Community is one of Sitecore’s Most Important “Features”

Symposium 2018 Women in Technology

Image credit: Bernie Driscoll

A final thought from the conference was an observation on how the Sitecore community has grown and evolved alongside the product. I’ve always believed the supporting developer, partner and community ecosystem has been one of Sitecore’s less talked about competitive advantages.

Mark Frost’s first remark in the day one keynote was letting the audience know “Sitecore Symposium is our way to show appreciation to the community.” Page O’Neil, who recently joined as CMO, also remarked on stage that “one of the best surprises of joining Sitecore was the passion of the community.”

This passion manifests itself in the commitment and contributions from individuals and organizations alongside Sitecore, as well as the depth of the partner network Sitecore has spent the last decade-plus cultivating (and, importantly, not competing with) into a thriving global community. This ecosystem has, in turn, responded with meaningful contributions and commitments back into the platform.

I’ve been involved in many technology partnerships over the years and rarely seen such an engaged, passionate, and committed community surrounding and supporting the product.

Sitecore has also done an admirable job cultivating its MVP network of developers, strategists, and ambassadors that help evangelize the platform but also give valuable feedback into the product roadmap and vision. Thursday afternoon and Friday at Symposium were devoted to connecting with these MVPs and better understanding what’s important to them and their organizations.

I would love to compare notes with you on Sitecore and discuss any questions you have on where the platform and company are going. Connect with me LinkedInor Twitter if you would like to discuss further. And I hope to see you at the next Sitecore Symposium or User Group Meeting in New England or Portland, Oregon.

 

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