My First Sitecore Symposium


November 15, 2017

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:

Better understanding of the customer

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 Commerce

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.

Helix

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.

Cloud Support

Cloud support isn’t a new thing, but Sitecore is continuing to push the envelope. They are working with the Microsoft Azure team to make sure that all the new features are fully cloud compatible and scalable. Sitecore is adopting micro-services architecture in many of the services. This allows these services to run own their own in separate process, giving flexibility on how the application scales. This coupled with the JavaScript Services (JSS) will allow developers to build full-fledged applications using modern JS frameworks that are completely unplugged from Sitecore in a decoupled manner. This means these applications won’t be tied to Microsoft servers which could lower costs and make deployments easier.

SXA

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.