Sitecore CMS getting started

As a marketing business user and digital strategist

It is quite possible, in my experience, to quickly acquire the knowledge and skills required to confidently utilise the Sitecore digital experience platform. In 4 months I have learnt a great deal and achieved a lot working with Sitecore, across both the composable and integrated platforms. 

The following are the resources and approaches to learning and up-skilling that I have found most effective:

Sitecore White papers

Unfortunately there is not an easy way that I can find to browse all White Papers. However here is a list of specific resources that I have found useful. As you will see, most of these gravitate around the topic of Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies.

Sitecore Learning

https://www.sitecore.com/knowledge-center/getting-started/training/learning-subscriptions

There are free and subscription-based learning options. The free Essentials courses are good for a foundational overview. However, the new on-demand learning plans for the composable products are excellent as they go into a lot of detail and include quizzes and other practical exercises as you progress.

According to the Statistics screen within the Sitecore Learning Home portal, I have spent a total of just under 31 hours across 46 active courses in the last 4 months, with a peak period in July where I accessed 66 different training materials.

Sitecore user group events

https://www.reddit.com/r/sitecore/wiki/user-groups/

Luckily for me, the ANZ Sitecore User Group Conference 2022 (SUGCON) happened in my city the month after I started working with Sitecore. Attending this event was very impactful in accelerating my familiarity with the overall Sitecore ecosystem, including getting to meet many Sitecore clients, vendors, and other representatives.

Since then, Melbourne had its own User Group night, which was another great chance to further establish relationships across the Sitecore network, as well as giving me the opportunity to present to my peers some of the work we have been doing in the Composable space.

Many of the Sitecore User Groups post videos of their presentations on YouTube. You can find some gold when searching for a specific topic. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of content from User Groups over the last 3 years as many were conducted remotely.

YouTube videos

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sitecore

Speaking of YouTube, what was learning like before YouTube and 1.5x playback speed? Learning certainly took a lot longer, and was a whol lot less convenient.

I have found the Discover Sitecore channel in particular to have some high quality and instructive content –https://www.youtube.com/@DiscoverSitecore. This channel is also good very learning the very basics – https://www.youtube.com/@unofficialsitecoremarketin680/videos

Sitecore Slack

https://sitecore.chat/

To be honest, the Slack forum has not been as valuable in my learning as the other options above. The reality is that there are not as many people in the Sitecore world doing digital strategy and optimisation as there are Developers and other technical people. Subsequently, most Sitecore Slack channels don’t discuss topics relevant to me (or that I can understand!)

The ‘Learning-at-Sitecore’ channel is good for keeping up with frequent learning updates. And on the occasions where I have asked a question, responses have been relatively speedy and helpful.

Getting on the tools

The learning options above assume you have access to Sitecore products. Whilst this may be difficult for people without a Sitecore licence or who is not a partner, there is nothing stopping anyone from signing up for Sitecore Send (Moosend). It’s free to create an account and start working with the software. https://www.sitecore.com/products/send and https://moosend.com/

Of course, there is nothing like learning ‘on the job’. For all the hours I’ve spent in Sitecore Learning and watching YouTube videos, working with real clients and implementing real optimisation use cases is the quickest and most effective way to accelerate from a newbie to a confident Sitecore digital strategist.

Sitecore – Say Hello to the Composable Future

This blog post title borrows from the name of a series of Sitecore events that were held in Sydney and Melbourne during November 2022. The events were designed as a smaller, more informal version of Symposium. Presentations covered

  • the recent and upcoming Sitecore product innovations
  • a deep dive into some of the latest solutions, and
  • some example-based presentations that spoke to the application of these solutions in the real world.

It was great to see a focus throughout on customer experience, including topics of data-driven marketing, and privacy and personalisation, all whilst delivering on business outcomes. These are all topics of interest to me.

What follows below is a collection of my notes and reflections.

Customer context

Thanks to the Uber and Amazon’s of the world, our customers expect fast, frictionless, and flawless experiences. All commercial businesses are under this increasing pressure to transform the experience they can offer. Very few brands can fully meet their customers expectation. This creates an opportunity for businesses that can ‘get it right’. To get it right, transformation is required across 3 dimensions – people, technology, and strategy.

Enter ‘composable’ – an approach that addresses the technology and strategy elements in a significant way.  A composable approach enables you to adjust your technology in a fast and flexible way. The Gartner quote doing the rounds indicates that those with a composable strategy can expect an 80% faster speed to market for new features. A composable strategy also allows the flexibility to pick and choose the combination of solutions that are right for the unique characteristics of each business.

Composable strategy

Dave O’Flanagan, Sitecore’s Chief Product Officer, spoke in some detail on Sitecore’s composable strategy.  He acknowledged the challenge of keeping up with Sitecore over the last little while as it has expanded the breadth of its product offering. Sitecore itself has also struggled at times to effectively communicate its strategy.

The big idea is that Sitecore has built its composable DXP as a broad suite of capabilities based on a combination of product acquisitions and new product development. The acquisition strategy was to build a differentiated composable proposition based on products that were ‘born composable’, like Boxever. Essentially, Sitecore’s current composable DXP is an unbundling and expansion of its previous all-in-one platform approach. Sitecore is now pretty bought in to composable – it bought 4 companies to prove it!

According to Dave, Sitecore is committed to delivering composable products that can work standalone, or, operate as friendly-neighbours in a mixed technology and vendor ecosystem. The aspiration is that each product can compete for best-of-breed in its each product category, as well as work very well together as an integrated stack. The reality is that few businesses are faced with a martech greenfield, and so Sitecore is positioning itself to be able to offer options to all.

New solution deep dive

It’s not all composable though. Sitecore continues to invest in its all-in-one XP platform. Release planning for version 10.4 is underway. Dave reiterated that this platform offering remains part of Sitecore’s strategy for similar reasons to the above, as it provides an alternative offering for customers that can’t go composable. For example, there are industries and geographies that cannot at this point utilise a public cloud offering.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, Sitecore has simplified it’s composable offering into 3 clouds: Content, Engagement and Commerce. You can read more about that here. Sitecore’s ambition in this space is to be #1 leader in content, and a disruptor in engagement and commerce clouds.

A focus on content products remains the core and centre of Sitecore. Sitecore intends to continue to be best known for its market-leading CMS, but also wants to offer comprehensive end-to-end content products. Content experience is the customer experience, after all. 3 of the 4 new product announcements relate to the Content cloud offering.

XM Cloud

  • Flagship enterprise headless CMS product rearchitected for cloud.
  • This will be the core thrust of Sitecore’s GTM. Examples were referenced of complete implementations in 6 weeks.
  • The product is at 90% feature parity with XM.
  • Advantages of cloud are well-known but the big one worth repeating is that upgrades just happen.
  • Comes with embedded personalisation and real-time analytics built in. These features utilise IP from the composable Personalize & CDP (Boxever) products. Here’s the good news: to upgrade from the lightweight built-in XM Cloud personalisation and analytics features, it is just a ‘click of a button’ to export and activate in Sitecore CDP & Personalize.
  • Completely new UI focussed on developer and marketer productivity
  • All the ease-of-use of some of the best-of-breed SME tools in an enterprise product, including the ability to visually build components in a drag-and-drop interface to assemble into pages and sites.
  • There are also DevOps improvements through tooling and APIs baked into XM Cloud to optimise developer productivity.

Content Hub One

  • This is a new product build of a headless CMS
  • Features simple functionality for content authoring, modelling, and delivery.
  • Fundamentally different from full enterprise CMS, and much simpler than anything Sitecore has done before
  • Built on capabilities of Content Hub engine, with simple interface and API options.
  • Really simple content authoring focussing on developer productivity, all content delivered by APIs.
  • Part of Content Hub family, with easy upgrade path to full Content Hub suite with enterprise capability

Sitecore Search

  • New content search product, built using the technology of Sitecore Discover
  • Incorporates predictive real-time AI
  • Provides tooling for marketers to boost, tailor results, tune etc.
  • Can index content any number of sites and federate results into single search interface.
  • Another product that is easy and quick to implement.
  • This is a critical new offering for Sitecore
  • Commerce and Content search will remain as separate products for the next 9 months or so, but are on a pathway to being more integrated and unified

Connect

  • Part of engagement cloud
  • Integrate products in no/low code environment
  • Comes with thousands of connectors e.g., Salesforce, Marketo
  • Addresses the additional integration cost that comes with a composable approach
  • An acquisition of a market leader in iPaaS solutions
  • Note the intention is Connect would not be required for integration between Sitecore products, as this should be enabled OOTB. However, there are some limited use cases where Connect could work within a Sitecore ecosystem as well

Future direction

A few final notes on where Sitecore is going. Sitecore’s key product investment areas are in improving product performance, cost effectiveness, and privacy and security.

The composable DXP strategy will required strategic decisions about where to unify and integrate their products where it adds value, whilst maintaining a commitment to an overarching composable approach. A good example of this is the introduction of a unified tracking capability via a single script for all Sitecore products.

There are initial steps underway to rearchitect Sitecore Forms into a headless cloud offering

Sitecore pricing model has been redefined, but not made public yet. The model should feature more usage-based pricing bundled into tiers. More information to come.