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5 takeaways from the 2020 Sitecore Symposium

Each year the Cylogy team attend the Sitecore Symposium, the annual conference that connects the global Sitecore community to hear strategic platform announcements, knowledge-sharing sessions, case studies, thought-provoking keynotes are more. It’s an important part of our team’s professional learning, an opportunity to network, and always a highlight in our professional year.

Of course, COVID-19 meant this year’s Symposium was rather different. Although I can’t pretend that I didn’t miss the physical conference – let’s hope it is back next year – this virtual version was a strong replacement and an opportunity to be immersed in all things Sitecore.

Here’s five key takeaways from the 2020 Sitecore Symposium.

1.      The future requires even more customer-centric and granular approaches

As a platform, Sitecore excels in creating targeted and personalized experiences that are centered around customers and their needs; naturally customer-centric approaches and concepts feature in some of the Symposium sessions. One concept covered was the idea of “moment to moment CX” where timing and audience attributes are factors in crafting ever more granular and impactful customer experiences.

Paige O’Neill, Sitecore CMO, delivered an interesting keynote that looked at three key areas of focus to drive these “moments”:

·        Empathy – a “brand imperative” during the pandemic and what will hopefully soon be a post-pandemic world

·        Content – with a need for a robust content strategy to connect you to customers and demonstrates understanding and empathy

·        Agility – the real focus for being able to move from moment to moment, reacting quickly with shorter planning cycles, although this can be challenging and requires a corresponding cultural change.

Many of us will recognise that agility and empathy have been important principles put into practice during 2020, and I’m sure this will be true of 2021 too.

2.      Content Hub is going to be a big focus for 2021

At the Symposium there were quite a few sessions that covered content, in particular in reference to Content Hub, Sitecore’s DAM and content management offering launched after Sitecore’s Stylelabs acquisition

This fact that sessions are showcasing a range of Content Hub capabilities suggests that the product will get a push in 2021, particularly as it continues to be fully integrated into the platform. The fact that Tom de Ridder, Sitecore’s CTO, co-founded Stylelabs, may have something to do with this focus. It also makes good sense for Sitecore as effectively makes the platform a whole digital marketing and content ecosystem.

3.      Automation lowers the barriers to personalization

Personalization has always been a core strength of Sitecore but there has been an issue with some marketing teams not leveraging this capability due to a variety of factors such as resourcing, expertise and confidence. To their credit, Sitecore has worked to lower the barriers to personalization and here it’s clear that AI and automation have the potential to make a real difference.

We saw this explored at the Symposium with a demo of the auto-personalization standard for Sitecore 10, as well as a relevant session with Microsoft. It will be fascinating to see the take-up of this feature with teams who have previously felt personalization was out of reach, and also how they actually use it in practice. I think we can expect Sitecore to make some noise about this in 2021.   

4. SaaS is happening, eventually…

The introduction of the SaaS model for Sitecore has been discussed for quite a while now; it was being talked about at the 2019 Symposium and it’s still being talked about today. Naturally, COVID-19 has slowed down any roll-out plans, but we did get a reminder that SaaS is still very much on the cards, with Sitecore CEO Steve Tzikakis confirming  that the ultimate aim was to have the entire platform available as “pure SaaS”. He also suggested a 12- to 18-month timetable for launch was realistic. That might be quite an ambitious timescale and is likely dependent on multiple factors; perhaps an announcement at the 2021 Symposium will be on the cards?

When it does eventually arrive, SaaS will represent a landmark change in the evolution of the Sitecore platform and will impact licensing, site management, upgrades, development processes, the partner network and more.

5.      Sitecore leaders have strong ambitions for the platform and the partner network

The Symposium was an opportunity to hear from Steve Tzikakis, the new Sitecore CEO as well as other new members of the leadership team such as Paige O’Neill, the new CMO. It was good to hear that Tzikakis has strong ambitions for the platform, wanting Sitecore to be the “#1 digital experience company in the world” and the “undisputed leader in the content to commerce market.” On the ground, getting to this position includes continuing to accelerate the pace of innovation but also ensuring that there is a strong local presence across different global markets by increasing field staff in key locations around the world.

Here, two things stuck out for me that bode well for the future. Firstly, Tzikaki wasn’t pretending that everything had been perfect, acknowledging that things could have been done better and warning against complacency. Secondly, he saw a strong continuing role for a partner ecosystem that was experienced, certified and had opportunities to upskill across all key solutions, but with some new vertical “flavor” to match partner interest and focus. He also reiterated that Sitecore didn’t want to compete with partners, recognizing the strength of the network.  

Here’s to 2021!

The Sitecore Symposium is always a great event that drives the global Sitecore community and ecosystem. Whether next year is in person or online, perhaps we’ll meet you there?

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