By Geoff Harden, Lead Consultant
I’m very excited to say that I just attended my first Sitecore Symposium. This year Paragon Consulting took a solid team of 11 people, 6 developers and 5 marketing/sales to the event.
What happened in Vegas fortunately doesn’t have to stay in Vegas, at least around the Sitecore Symposium. Sitecore Symposium is the yearly event where you can connect with Sitecore experts, marketers, developers, partners, and customers from around the world for two full days of education, inspiration and so much more. This year was a record for attendance almost 3000 attendees, almost doubling from last year, and there was a sense of excitement for what was on the roadmap for the coming year.
So, what are the conclusions - what did I learn from this trip? There are 5 main themes that stand out from a developer’s point of view:
In the opening keynote, we learn about the Cortex, a coming soon technology that brings AI to Sitecore. Essentially, Cortex can take all the data that you have been collecting on customer behavior, demographics, campaigns, data collected from other sources, etc. and crunch it to find relationships that no human would be able to find (yes Skynet jokes here). This is all accessible from the new Experience Editor that allows you to see the recommendations and act on them either automatically or manually. These are, of course, ideas that are in the road map and not available in Sitecore 9. However, some of the foundation has been laid in this release to help the marketers like omni-channel marketing automation, centralizing of analytic data with xConnect and Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) see more below.
Sitecore is putting a huge push behind commerce. They initially bought into the game when they purchased CommerceServer.net in 2013 as a “bolt-on” product. Since then, Sitecore has realized they need to have a better integration between the two systems. After a two-year effort, they have built a new commerce product from the ground up, this one being totally native to Sitecore. Sitecore Commerce 9 is totally PAAS compliant whereas the current Commerce Server must be run on cloud VMs. Commerce 9 also uses no-SQL storage for schema extensibility and the schema is based on a standard commerce schema to allow easier integration with other platforms. While we won’t be seeing this until January 2018, it will come with a fully supported storefront built using SXA. This will allow a business to get up and running quickly with 40+ out-of-the-box commerce specific components.
One thing that was inferred was that Helix was here to stay. In Sitecore context, Helix is a component based architecture principals that will allow development and deployments go faster and easier. Sitecore has integrated Helix principals into all the code around Sitecore 9. Most of the developer session sample code and all the source code in the SDKs are all using Helix.
Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) allows content editors to start adding pages and content from day one while the UX team builds wireframes and front-end developers start theming and building components with little effort from back-end developers. This could streamline the build process. SXA gives the content editor a toolbox or drag and drop components to build pages as needed separating HTML structure from CSS.
Overall, Sitecore Symposium 2017 introduced a lot of exciting information. It was a great experience both from a training aspect but also getting a sense of the growing Sitecore community. And, of course, the parties were pretty good too.