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Sitecore Symposium 2018: My Elevated Experience.
The theme for Symposium 2018, this year in Orlando, Florida, was Elevate the Experience and, hurricane Michael aside, once again Sitecore delivered to me a properly elevated experience. As a Strategy MVP my experience this year was five days of Sitecore goodness: updates on the platform, case studies and best practice surrounded by expert friends and colleagues, all sharing the latest and greatest in digital customer experiences.
The big news, as revealed by Sitecore CEO, Mark Frost, was the intent to acquire StyleLabs – a complete Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Media Resource Management (MRM) platform. This was big news for two reasons, firstly, it does add forrester magic quadrant asset management and workflow management capabilities into the functional, but somewhat basic, media library and content workflow capabilities of Sitecore. More interestingly though, this is the first time that Sitecore has publically acquired another SaaS platform to fully integrate into the Sitecore Experience Cloud platform. Whilst Sitecore have not made any further noises about this, we (i.e. Sagittarius and I) believe that this could set a precedent for further expansion of the platform through acquisition and integration. Whilst some purists argue this might take Sitecore away from it’s ‘one stop shop’ integrated proposition, it does allow for it to keep pace with its main rival who is literally buying and bolting on new technologies every couple of months at the time of writing!
Further big news was the deeper integration with Salesforce, cementing Sitecore’s partnership with the Salesforce product and giving deeper two way insights and data exchanges between the two platforms. Under the latest release contact data, analytics and behavioural data will be seamlessly exchanged between the two platforms.
Coming back to Cortex, we now know that from Sitecore 9.1, available now, Cortex is a badge added to any new functionality that leverages Machine Learning throughout the platform. The first ‘use cases’ being added in 9.1 include personalisation insights based on ML, with an updated personalisation and testing UI that will highlight opportunities based on successful user journeys to date. Also, further ML capabilities will be available through the integration of Open Calais, the intelligent content structure and tagging platform, is now integrated into Sitecore’s own tagging functionality, allowing CMS users to create structured content and tags automatically.
Future use cases for Cortex, being released in 9.2 and 9.3 (2019) include integration with the new Horizon user interface whereby CMS users will be shown a variety of potential audience segments who are likely to be highly engaged and higher converters. These real time insights, added into the content editing experience, will allow content editors to select segments/audiences/profiles (pick your preferred term) and then personalise the on-page experience for these users. When you then couple this with JSS, you can then deliver automatically optimised customer experiences for audiences that you didn’t necessarily know you had!
Other highlights include:
- A new Universal Tracker – allowing all flavours of developers to track everything, everywhere into the Experience Database (xDB)
- Further enhancements to the Testing Module, including new Historic Tests reports
- Updates to all third party embedded technologies including Telerik for HTML/Rich Text editing, .NET Core and Solr
For some people Sitecore Symposium was a little underwhelming following the razz-matazz of Vegas and headline grabbing Sitecore 9.0 headlines of Headless, Cortex and the Experience Cloud. However, for those of us that love the platform and work with it everyday it was really great to see Sitecore maturing these features and not trying to release the next big thing. In machine learning, integrated insights with Horizon and JSS we now have a version of 9.1 that can deliver on the promise of Sitecore 9.x and that, to me, is the most exciting thing; the prospect of multiple apps on web, mobile and native, all using xDB, via JSS and xConnect, sharing insights, building data and using AI and ML to automatically personalise the individual experience and now supported by a first rate DAM and MRM system allowing brands to get better content made and out to their customers in a fast and efficient way.