Three Digital Trends from Our Sitecore MVPs

Last month, Sitecore officially opened registration for the 2019 Sitecore Symposium, Human Connections in a Digital World. Our team cannot wait until November! The Symposium has always proved to be an excellent forum for connecting with the Sitecore community of developers, partners and clients, as well as educating ourselves on what’s to come, both within the platform and in the overall marketplace.

As we anxiously await our trip to Orlando, we sat down with our Sitecore MVPs – Ethel Crosby, director of technology operations and offerings; Mike Skutta, architect; and Amitabh Vyas, technical architect – to discuss recent trends and challenges in the digital space: cybersecurity, headless architecture and personalization. Our MVPs also revealed an “insider view” of Sitecore’s latest offerings and how to best take advantage of the platform.

Q: As a Sitecore MVP, you are tasked with sharing this unique knowledge among clients and peers. What does being a Sitecore MVP mean to you, and how do you help others grow their understanding of the platform?

EC: Sitecore MVPs can better guide their clients on the experience management software and its various offerings. We know our clients’ businesses and can help them maximize their Sitecore investment. We also regularly engage in the Sitecore community and read information from a wide range of contributors: MVPs, developers and everyday folks. For example, I recently contributed a Women of Sitecore blog series on inspirational books, videos and podcasts around professional development and leadership.

MS: MVPs have an “insider” opportunity to preview upcoming software releases and updates and provide feedback to Sitecore. At the office, I lead a week-long Sitecore apprenticeship program for our new developers and pair each with an experienced mentor for ample hands-on experience. We also host bootcamps for developers and content editors on the client side.

AV: We host user training, presentations and live demos with clients to demonstrate, for example, how Sitecore analytics can help meet personalization and marketing automation goals. With access to local user groups, in-person and online training, and special events like Virtual Developer Day, we are in a unique position to build our expertise within Sitecore and share that expertise with clients.

Q: What’s the latest on cybersecurity and compliance for professional services organizations?

EC: As head of security at One North, I’ve noticed cybersecurity continues to be a hot topic for our clients, especially with increasing privacy and compliance concerns. Sitecore’s updates over the past several years have helped improve security. We’ve been advising our clients on how to prepare for recent data regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which will become effective January 1, 2020. Fortunately, Sitecore considers these regulations during product development and introduces features to help clients comply and improve data transparency.

MS: Regarding Sitecore’s security enhancements, the platform has now made it much easier for users to find and delete specific data points. GDPR allows European citizens to request their personal data from a company’s database; this request previously required a lot of time and work to sift through data to find the relevant information. Now, with Sitecore’s new back-end functionality, users can easily pull all relevant data. Another security feature is Sitecore Identity, which allows for a Single Sign-On (SSO) across services and applications. Users input their single ID and password across multiple platforms to access several related systems.

AV: Along with security, clients also prioritize accessibility. Many follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are international standards that ensure web content is accessible to people regardless of disability or age. In the past, we used multiple plug-ins to help them meet these guidelines. Now, with latest version of Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA), the content is automatically compliant.

Q: Sitecore now offers headless CMS. What are the benefits of headless architecture?

MS: Headless CMS allows a company to develop the front-end of its website separately from its back-end, which provides increased flexibility and personalization. Sitecore Omni, its headless solution, allows websites to deliver Sitecore’s advanced marketing features while also hooking into third-party systems, such as HubSpot and Salesforce, to create more bespoke experiences. The Sitecore Omni headless offering will become even more important as the technology ecosystem continues to evolve.

EC: The headless solution has multiple components. Developers have several frameworks available within Sitecore JavaScript Services (JSS) that include a software development kit (SDK). It is completely disconnected during development and deploys to any platform in a headless configuration.

AV: We previewed Headless CMS at the 2017 Sitecore Symposium as part of its unofficial launch. Later, as MVPs, we’ve also accessed additional content to learn more about Sitecore’s headless offering. Further, we’re able to develop a headless website with JSS – a complete SDK for JavaScript developers that enables you to build full-fledged solutions using Sitecore and modern JavaScript UI libraries and frameworks. JSS makes it possible to quickly implement a website and serves as a good solution for professional services organizations that want to build a microsite or blog.

Q: How can professional services organizations personalize their content?

AV: If a company is creating a new website, personalization should take place first, during the design phase – before user experience or user interface. Companies should understand the rationale behind why they want to implement personalization. This allows them to seamlessly incorporate personalization into the website design and deliver content much more intentionally.

EC: Personalization can be a good opportunity for professional services organizations, but they need to start small and make changes as they go along. For example, marketers can track where web traffic is coming from and serve relevant content based on that data. Sitecore Analytics has tracking built into the platform; users can be served personalized content based on their information such as geography or industry. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when it comes to personalization, so it’s up to us to educate our clients on the opportunities and benefits. It all comes down to knowing your client’s customers.

MS: From a technical standpoint, we need to ensure the website can support personalization. Companies also must be sure to turn “on” Sitecore analytics tracking prior to beginning a campaign. Sitecore provides a central platform with marketing automation enhancements for multiple services and functionalities. The platform can connect with other analytics platforms, such as a CRM system or Google Analytics, to create an even more personalized experience. For example, if a user enters their email address to download a white paper, companies can use third-party analytics to see that this user frequently visits a specific service page and then tailor content related to that service to the user. Companies can also connect this user with their profile in Salesforce to track this service interest and any related outreach.

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Ethel Crosby Director of Technology Operations & Offerings

As Director of Technology Operations and Offerings at One North, Ethel is responsible for the management and execution of leading digital technology solutions and product management, continuously identifying new strategic technology opportunities for One North and its clients. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Ethel once zip-lined, upside down, in a rain forest in Costa Rica.

  • Favorite movie quote: "With great power comes great responsibility." - Spiderman
  • Favorite vending machine snack: Reese's Pieces
Mike Skutta Architect

As an Architect within the Technology Labs group at One North, Mike works to research, test and integrate new technologies for both One North and its clients. He is also a Sitecore Technology MVP – a distinction received by only 217 people worldwide – and holds more than 14 years of experience architecting, designing, developing software and leading technology teams. Based in Florida, Mike is often seen wheeling around the office via our robot.

  • Favorite vending machine snack: Doritos
  • Most unusual job: Working as a Serf at Medieval Times
Amitabh Vyas Sitecore Technical Architect

As a 2019 Sitecore Technology MVP and Technical Architect Consultant at TEKSystems, Amitabh is responsible for designing, developing, upgrading and architecting various web applications on Sitecore. With 13+ years of IT experience, he has been working on Sitecore since 2012. Amitabh is based in Rhode Island; he loves singing, dancing, blogging and is a big Bollywood fan.

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