The Sitecore Symposium 2016 global conference is an exponentially growing industry event that brought over two thousand Sitecore experts, digital marketers, technologists, partners and customers from around the world to learn from the best and share experiences.
A few weeks ago, our CEO, John Simpson and several senior One North leaders attended the Sitecore Symposium in New Orleans. After hearing from our Sitecore MVP, Mike Skutta, about the MVP Summit just days before, we knew there would be a lot to look forward to at the Symposium.
Sitecore put on an excellent conference. As a Sitecore Platinum Implementation and Hosting Partner, this was an opportunity to engage and network with the ever-growing Sitecore community of customers, partners and Sitecore experts.
One of our favorite quotes was from Jane McGonigal’s Keynote:
"There is one thing which gives radiance to everything. It is the idea of something around the corner."
To us, Sitecore’s Experience Platform is that, “something around the corner.” Sitecore’s advanced features, including personalization and marketing automation, allows companies to better connect with their customers to provide more relevant and engaging experiences.
Our Top 4 Conference Takeaways
At the Symposium, topics like xConnect, Path Analyzer, NuGet updates, Express Migrations and Sitecore’s partnership with Microsoft made for inspiring and constructive sessions. Here are our top four takeaways from our time at the symposium:
1. Helix and Habitat
This year, Sitecore published recommendations for developing sites on Sitecore using Helix, a set of recommended patterns and practices for Sitecore development, and Habitat, an example Sitecore site built on those principals. Prior to this, developers and architects were on their own to come up with the approach to develop and implement a site.
- There are many benefits of following the Helix design principals in conjunction with Habitat including:
- Developers can look at Habitat to see the Helix design principals in action.
- The examples and patterns can reduce implementation costs.
- Developers familiar with Helix conventions will be able to more easily move from one project based on Helix to the next. Less training will be involved.
- Sitecore Product Support will have an easier understanding of projects built on Helix, possibly solving reported issues quicker.
- The patterns and practices are compatible with many of the frameworks already out there.
At the symposium sessions, Sitecore dispelled the myth that sites should be built on Habitat. Many developers were under the impression that Habitat provided best practices for Sitecore development, but it should instead be used as an example and reference.
You can find more on Helix here.
2. Rapid Publishing
A very insightful session was, “Now in Top Gear: How We Turbocharged Sitecore Publishing with .Net Core”. Up until now, publishing in Sitecore could take a while, because of factors like the number of items being published, number of languages and the target.
Sitecore released the Publishing Service in Sitecore 8.2. The Publishing Service addresses many of the performance issues and now publishing is significantly – 10 times, in fact – faster.
This is especially important when publishing multiple items. Steven Pope talked about how Sitecore achieved such a substantial increase in performance after contrasting current publishing processes and discussing how the internals of Sitecore work.
The new publishing system, released alongside Sitecore 8.2, is meant to simplify the user experience by reducing options for end-users. It’s based on .NET Core, allowing users to deploy the program without Sitecore itself. Publishing also has safer fault handling, to give publishing a sense of transaction for curators. You can read more about the system here.
3. Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA or XA)
Sitecore Experience Accelerator (XA) is a new feature from Sitecore that was created with the intent of helping Sitecore sites get up and running faster and reduce the time to market.
XA is an alternative way for front-end developers or technical content authors to create Sitecore websites in a nontraditional developer coding way by using a drag-and-drop wireframe toolset and pre-built components. XA is based on Helix recommended best practices.
From what we’ve heard about XA so far, this is an alternative option for certain types of site designs and for those websites not yet on Sitecore. While this was released with Sitecore XP 8.2, it’s important to be aware that this feature requires separate licensing and additional cost from your Sitecore XP license.
You can find more information on XA here.
4. General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP) and the EU
The engaging, hot-topic session, "Suddenly Sexy: Privacy and Data Governance" covered how laws like Europe's new GDPR can, and will, impact businesses (and anyone with a website, for that matter.)
As data security and privacy grow in significance for consumers, GDPR becomes especially important for businesses to understand and for technicians to develop solutions for.
According to a panel discussion between Digital Clarity group, Russell Investments, XCentium and Sitecore, consent must be obtained from everyone for any PII in a clear way, defining what’s being captured, how long the information will be held on to and the needs behind the data capture.
Just as importantly, end users can ask for information to be expunged, as well as request reports on any data a company has captured. They then have permission to share this information with other users, including competitors.
With the GDPR going into effect in 2018, it’s necessary for companies to prepare. There’s a lot to this upcoming law, including a clause that necessitates proof of consent and a review of site activity going back seven years, so companies need to think critically in order to strategically maneuver through any changes that comes their way.
An attendee shared a helpful 12-Step Guide from the ICO that helps you prepare for the GDPR.
Sitecore's response to GDPR is xDB. Using xDB to store personal information allows you to have a better understanding of where the data is, the rules and when to use it. Your first step? If you can strip away personal identifying factors, do it as soon as possible.
The Sitecore Symposium truly was a conference of innovation, inspiration and lessons rich in real-world applicability.
We are excited to continue working with all the new features of Sitecore. Thanks Sitecore and the Sitecore community for another great symposium! If you didn’t see us at Sitecore Symposium 2016, we hope to see you next year. We look forward to next year’s Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas!