Sitecore User Group Conference (SUGCON) ANZ 2022 – Reflections and key takeaways

First things first, I am a Sitecore noob. My first login to Sitecore was last month, in July 2022. Since then, I’ve played with Content and Experience Editor, Experience Analytics, Experience Optimisation, and the Marketing Control Panel. Most of my time over the last few weeks was spent outside Sitecore, learning and delivering Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies with various Aceik clients (remotely), and getting to know my new Aceik A-Team (also remotely). Whilst I have worked in all things digital for a long time, the Sitecore solutions (both the integrated and composable flavours) are all new to me.

In this context, it was great that my Sitecore strategy mentor, the gregarious Greg Baxter was the first to kick things off. An engaged and expectant tone was suitably set, and Colin te Kempel didn’t disappoint. He went straight into addressing the big question(s) that I knew was hanging in the air coming into SUGCON; with all the talk about the new composable Sitecore stack, what is the future for Sitecore’s Platform DXP? The answer, as I understood it at least, is that whilst the future is composable, most customers should expect to keep rolling with Platform DXP for now. This is particularly appropriate if XP is working well and/or showing potential to deliver business value. To back this up, Colin talked through the various software enhancements, fixes, and service improvements scheduled for v10.3. Sitecore Symposium in October seems a likely release date. Beyond this year, Colin was keen to unpack a number of themes that would guide the further enhancements of the platform offering through to 2024. The introduction of a stand-alone SaaS content search solution was one item that particularly piqued my interest.

Andy Cohen worked through a demo of XM Cloud. A fair bit of the technical content in this session went beyond me, particularly all the stuff that involved pumping out commands in the CLI. However, it was good to get eyes on the new Cloud portal launchpad where all the composable apps can be accessed. I also noted the mention of Pages, a replacement for Horizon editor. Andy was clear, XM Cloud is headless only, so to be clear, it is headless only. XM Cloud does come with some kind of analytics built-in, as well as some kind of trimmed down personalisation and testing capability (a subset of features from CDP/Personalize?). I am keen to explore this.

Anthony Hook encouraged us all to read about the 2nd Age of Martech by Scott Brinker. I’ve googled his stuff and will follow this up as well.

My brain was getting pretty full by the afternoon tea break, but I’m glad I rallied for John King’s session on the Data puzzle. He threw down an impressively comprehensive playbook for getting the data strategy right. Mirk Roettgers then spoke about the need to move from transaction-centred to people-centric engagement. This is enabled through a deep understanding of the customer lifecycle combined with integrated and connected technology to bring the data, operations and reporting together effectively. 

It hit 5pm on Day 1 but surprisingly the talks kept coming! Andy Parry finished the day with some detail on what delivering good Sitecore headless solutions looks like. He graciously answered my question and offered a couple of good ways to deliver personalisation using a headless XP setup.

On Friday morning there were 2 sessions delivered by the Aceik A-Team. Both were based on a POC website we built to show how we can deliver effective customer experiences using the new composable Sitecore tools. These sessions were so good that they deserve a post on their own 😉 Another notable session from Friday AM was Mike Marquette who talked through a framework for delivering optimised customer experiences through personalisation. Vincent Lui’s presentation was notable as a client-side example of delivering digital transformation initiatives using a blend of Sitecore and non-Sitecore solutions.

My final takeaways came from a session on the Sitecore community and the history of SUGCON. It was great to hear about the various ways that the community supports Sitecore users through forums, Slack channels and a MVP program. I got a strong sense that there is a network of Sitecore employees, partners, vendors, and users who are passionate about contributing value to their community and driving improvement in the practice of delivering digital solutions using Sitecore products.

All-in-all, an insightful and useful couple of days. It has accelerated my engagement with the community, built some solid knowledge about where the product suite is heading, and provided a healthy dose of inspiration for helping our client partners deliver some awesome digital experiences.