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Sitecore Symposium 2018: Buzzwords and product update highlights

by Ethel Crosby November 20, 2018
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Last month was Sitecore’s annual conference in Orlando, FL. The Symposium always brings a wealth of information and gives our team an opportunity to get at the pulse of where the Sitecore platform is heading and what’s going on in the Sitecore community. I had a fantastic time last month and shared my top 3 highlights here.

We find it valuable to attend the conference each year because it gives our team a sense of how people are really using the platform. It also inspires us to explore how our professional services clients can get the most out of Sitecore, stay in tune with their customers and remain competitive in their industries.

If you didn’t attend the Sitecore Symposium, or you did attend but want more assistance with actionable follow-ups you can take, this post provides a high-level overview of what you missed and what you should be thinking about.

Sitecore buzzwords quick guide

Before diving into the product details, I think it’s helpful to get a level-set understanding on all the new buzzwords floating around.

  • JSS (Sitecore JavaScript Services): Modern JavaScript open-source SDK (software development kit) that supports a headless architecture with the ability to also support personalization
  • Headless (Headless CMS, Decoupled CMS, API first CMS): Centralized content management that is distributed in a universal format that can be shared across different front-end presentations and channels; the content, or the body, is separated from the front-end presentation, or the head of a website
  • Sitecore (Omni Sitecore Headless Solution): Sitecore’s headless solution made up of different components (JSS, GraphQL, Sitecore Services, SXA, Universal Tracker) that provide the ability to deliver Sitecore’s advanced marketing features
  • .NET Core: Free and open-source managed software framework that shares a subset of the traditional .NET framework that is supported by Microsoft and works across different operating systems – Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX
  • Sitecore Host: Sitecore’s .NET Core based service architecture that has core services of the platform including logging, caching, and configuration management
  • Sitecore Identity (Identity): New login page with enhanced security features that supports single sign-on (SSO), which allows users the ability to use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications
  • Cortex (Sitecore Machine Learning): Sitecore experience data with machine learning / AI processing engine for things like content tagging and suggested personalization
  • xConnect: Integrates external applications (Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, ERP) between xDB and client applications
  • Horizon (Sitecore’s New UI): Improved back-end user interface providing a more modern user experience with dashboards and a focus on content creation and workflow
  • SXA (Sitecore Experience Accelerator, Sitecore Accelerator Framework): Reusable components, layouts, and templates to build out sites
  • Universal Tracker: Tracks large amounts of mobile data

 

What’s new with Sitecore?

Now that we’ve gone through the new terminology, let’s talk about the key product updates and enhancements that will be included in the new release, Sitecore XP 9.1. Although it is currently only available as a tech preview for Sitecore MVPs, Sitecore mentioned during the Symposium that it plans to release it to the public in the near future.

 

Platform and infrastructure improvements

Sitecore 9.1 architecture built in .NET Core

What it is:

  • Architecture improvements to the back-end of Sitecore break down key functionality into smaller, testable components.
  • “Sitecore on a diet”

Value:

  • This makes the resulting application’s new architectural components more stable and maintainable as your sites evolve to include new enhancements and integrations over time.
  • In theory, future Sitecore upgrades should be easier, as future applications will follow the universal standards and be backward compatible.

 

Investments in content improvements

Sitecore’s acquisition of Stylelabs

What it is:

  • Sitecore’s intent to acquire Stylelabs was announced at the Symposium, and last week the acquisition was complete.
  • Sitecore integrates Stylelabs’ capabilities in digital asset management (DAM), marketing resource management (MRM), product information management (PIM) and Web-to-Print services into a single platform.

Value:

  • DAM and content workflow features help marketers be more productive and efficient in their digital content creation, production and delivery efforts.
  • Sitecore customers are now better able to manage their content updates within internal groups and reuse that content across different channels.

 

Sitecore’s headless solution

Sitecore Omni – Sitecore JSS, GraphQL, Universal Tracker

What it is:

  • Sitecore offers a true headless solution that doesn’t require users to sacrifice the ability to take advantage of other advanced marketing features available in the Sitecore platform.

Value:

  • Web development frameworks and technology continue to evolve every day; Sitecore’s new solution allows marketers to keep up with the growing trends of modern JavaScript frameworks and headless approaches.
  • Headless solutions speed up implementation by allowing separate front-end and back-end development teams to work at the same time without interference. Other benefits include additional flexibility and lower development costs down the road when updating or enhancing the website in the future.

 

Better login access security

Sitecore Identity

What it is:

  • Sitecore 9.1 will come with a new login page that has enhanced security features for login access to Sitecore.

Value:

  • Secure access to your applications is critical to maintaining the integrity and security of your data. New SSO options make it easier for content administrators and marketers to leverage their secure enterprise logins across all of the applications they use.

 

Machine learning and artificial intelligence features

Sitecore Cortex

What it is:

  • Sitecore Cortex applies intelligent algorithms to Sitecore experience data from xDB and xConnect, utilizing machine learning and an AI processing engine for things like content tagging and suggested personalization.

Value:

  • This provides automation opportunities for testing and personalization, and makes it easier to adapt advanced marketing features, gain better insight on your visitors and serve up content that is useful and relevant. 

 

Other improvements

Salesforce and Sitecore Integrations

  • Sitecore and Salesforce have strengthened their partnership together and invested more in bi-directional integrations. For Sitecore customers that already have Salesforce, this is an area to watch to see how you can better leverage the new integrations.

SXA

  • Sitecore is releasing a newer version of SXA that has feature improvements and an overall more polished user interface. With the new changes, SXA may start getting more use for reusable templated sites.
  • Accessibility support for industry standard WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines is also included in the new release.

Horizon

  • In Sitecore 9.1, Horizon will be available as a preview alongside the Experience Editor to offer another way of managing content.
  • The new user interface is modern and includes helpful dashboards and workflows to help content editors and marketers efficiently work through their content and marketing objectives.

 

The new release brings with it some exciting features, and it’s clear that Sitecore is making investments in key areas to ensure its technology and its users remain competitive. However, there are also some limitations to be mindful of. One example revolves around licensing – if you currently have a perpetual license, you may want to consider making the switch to a subscription license in order to take advantage of some of the features described above.

If you aren’t at least on Sitecore XP 8.2 (update 7), there are also some valuable GDPR features you may be missing out on. We know that navigating through the new updates and upgrade considerations can be daunting. We’re here to help you contextualize them to your firm’s unique needs and goals. For more information, reach out to your account manager or visit www.onenorth.com/sitecore.

Ethel Crosby

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 hobby: I love to cook. Delicious food makes everything better!

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