Highlights from Sitecore Symposium 2017, Las Vegas

Sitecore 9 has evolved over the past 12 months and emerged as a PaaS enabled product, pitting it against the big players as a web platform contender. With a partner’s perspective, Liquid’s Technical Director was on hand in Las Vegas to see what the new version had under the hood.

Conferences staged by large technology organisations typically adopt a tried and true formula. First, you craft a keynote that reminds the audience of your previous successful keynotes. Then, you carefully weave your new products messaging into the keynote’s narrative to build excitement. Post-keynote, you offer sessions that dig into the messaging provided at the keynote. These sessions should feel natural and not overly stage-managed, with a mix of both company employees and community partners. Simple!

When I worked at Microsoft, this formula was used every year to launch .NET. Adobe, Google and similar large technology hubs also use the formula because it works.

Sitecore turned to this trusted formula at the recent Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas. Their execution of the keynote appeared to be flawless, but I was left a little confused.  Sitecore isn’t a technology hub, it’s a content management system. How can a software company act and behave like the one of the big boys? Does Sitecore really have potential as a serious contender in the web platform community?

As I checked through the features of the upcoming Sitecore 9, it became clear that Sitecore product management has taken a ‘calm breath’. They’ve reached consensus on a more mature outlook going beyond the next two to five years. There’s now breadth to both their partner network and feature matrix. It’s become less about enabling content curators to publish web pages, and more about building cognitive intelligence through machine learning. Sitecore 9 isn't just a content management system, it's a platform that enables sophisticated content management and personalisation.

Products take a number of versions before they reach feature maturity - when features stop growing horizontally and start to stack vertically. Sitecore 9 has reached this maturity. Of course, there are new features, but most noticeable to me is the increased strength and intelligence of the core features.

Sitecore 9 is now more Platform as a Service (PaaS) enabled than before. At Liquid Interactive, my number one pain point is hosting. I want to avoid allocating company resources to ensuring virtual machines stay upright during waves of customer traffic. Having the ability to vertically and horizontally scale within cloud providers, such as Microsoft Azure, not only removes my dependency on virtual machines, but provides increased accuracy when forecasting cost models for our clients.

Sitecore Experience CloudTM applies machine learning to personalisation.Sitecore CortexTM analyses every website interaction and provides automated guideposts on how to optimise content to match goals and customer expectations. The aim is to remove manual and semi-automated approaches currently used with website personalisation. This feature is early days but for me, this was the part where the content management system outgrew its category and shifted towards a legitimate cloud platform.

Sitecore 9 contains many features that will add value to our growth as a company and enable our clients to advance their customer’s experience. As Liquid’s Technical Director, my comfort with positioning Sitecore 9 as a solution comes not just from its features, but from the obvious presence of that calm mature breath. I can see the product managers are making deep investments in areas that transcend the content management system category.

Scott Barnes
Scott Barnes