The content management system that drives a website or customer portal has a huge impact on the overall experience. At Habanero, we’ve been building our expertise in Sitecore to complement our customer and member portals practice.

Sitecore enables us to create incredible digital experiences and support any aspect of the customer lifecycle. Its digital marketing suite, integration capabilities, and overall potential make it an exciting and compelling platform for organizations to consider when building a public website.

Our team is incredibly passionate about working with Sitecore! We wanted to share the perspectives and opinions our team has about the platform and how it can benefit organizations.

Why do you love working with Sitecore?

First of all, it’s an enterprise-level platform - it’s not an entry-level product. Instead, it’s aligned with the middle and upper segments of the market, which also happens to be Habanero’s sweet spot.

Second, it appeals to the marketing and communications side of a business, as opposed to being purely an IT play. This helps these teams within organizations get more value from both the content management system and the website as a whole. Sitecore helps to expose valuable information about user behaviour to inform design and business decisions.

Sitecore is also a .NET suite with good support and a great community. It integrates well with most line-of-business systems, and the ecosystem of third-party products around Sitecore make it even stronger. Coveo for Sitecore, for example, is a product that helps us create a compelling enterprise search experience for Sitecore.

Plus, if you’re picking a platform and want to be strategic, just look at the Gartner quadrant. Sitecore always ranks super high. If you have a need as part of your digital strategy for digital marketing, Sitecore is the big player in that space.

How is Sitecore different from other enterprise-level content management systems?

The personalization capabilities in Sitecore are incredible. I really like being able to craft a more personalized experience based on known behaviours or known attributes of a visitor to try and deliver a more customized and relevant experience. It’s not always appropriate, but when it is, it’s really nice to be able to do it.

The best part? This type of action is in the hands of content editors. IT and developers don’t need to be involved when content editors and authors want to do this, which is different than other systems. Sitecore really is a marketing tool, and marketing and communications should be involved in using and evaluating this kind of tool.

Other content management systems have a lot out-of-the-box components, whereas Sitecore focuses more on the core authoring experience. It’s intended for you to extend and customize. It’s always going to need to be customized and built on top of the basic framework that they give you. That’s what I like about it. It doesn’t get in the way of the best way to do things. You’re not weighing out-of-the-box with how much to customize.

The level of control and the constraints in Sitecore are also different, but in a good way. This is especially evident in the way the authoring experience works. You can set up the experience in a way that enables people to start writing and placing content in the right parts of the site quickly and confidently. Authors can focus on getting content where they need it, instead of getting bogged down in other considerations and layers that are common with other CMS platforms.

What other technical strengths does Sitecore have compared to other platforms?

As a development platform, it’s nice to be able to write in a CMS using ASP.NET MVC. It’s incredibly extensible; you name it, you can change it.

And because it’s an ASP.NET application, just like SharePoint, you can write anything custom to integrate with other systems. There are some products out that will have connectors to negate the need for customization, but you have the ability to build whatever you need.

Overall, it’s flexibility that Sitecore gives to developers. It provides just the right amount of framework to allow you to customize it the way you want to.

When you start with a Sitecore project and you have a space that you’re working in—say a portion of a site like the team directory—the first thing you do is define your data schema. It’s not working in Visual Studio. It’s going into the content editor in Sitecore and working on these data templates, figuring out which fields and functionality a content author needs.

From a developer’s point of view, this is fantastic because it forces you to have very structural content and the ability to separate content authoring and design which can otherwise cost you a lot of time. Instead, we can focus on developing and deploying higher value parts of a site, such as the digital marketing suite or integrating with existing systems.

What can the Sitecore digital marketing suite do for organizations?

Sitecore’s digital marketing capabilities can do a lot for clients. In fact, I think it’s what sets Sitecore apart. Personalization is one thing, but geotargeting also adds a lot of value. Without a developer, a content editor or author can calibrate a site to roll up geographically relevant content ahead of other items. Imagine if you were a company doing in business in Alberta and B.C. You could highlight the B.C. content for visitors coming from that province to ensure that the site’s most relevant messages are prioritized and delivered right in front of them.

The analytics built-in to Sitecore provide good insight into how the site is performing. You can still use Google Analytics or another tool, but Sitecore has enough data depth to guide decision-making and give feedback on strategies and activities.

Aside from the functionality within the digital marketing suite, it’s important to remember that Sitecore is platform. There are so many features and packages within Sitecore 8, for example, that it really makes sense to prioritize the components of the digital marketing suite before the first release. This way, teams invest in the most high-value areas first and gradually build up competencies with each aspect of Sitecore before moving onto the next feature set.

How easy is it to get started with authoring and managing a Sitecore website?

As we’re building out a solution, we’re able to put things into production a lot faster than other platforms. This speeds up the authoring process, even though the site is still in development. Content authors often appreciate the option to start working as soon as possible, too.

As an end-user, the visual nature of the authoring experience is fantastic. Everything is laid out in the content navigation tree, which makes it easy to see the entire site and find the right pages without much effort.

Plus, with the help of a developer or site owner, it’s easy to set up the right permissions to manage the authoring process. Content creators can write copy for a page, submit it for approval, and I can go in and check it before publishing it. All of these activities happen right in Sitecore, which saves having to manage draft and published content across multiple places.

Finally, what gets you most excited about Sitecore?

I’m always learning new stuff that fascinates me at Sitecore, like the rules engine. It’s super powerful! Overall, I love the flexibility and the organization. The developer and authoring experiences are so structured, which makes it easy to work with and manage every part of a website.

I like it because it’s intended for you to extend and customize. They give you a robust framework, and then you have the ability to go beyond that and determine the best customizations for your website and organization as a whole.

I’m excited because our team loves to work on these kinds of projects. It’s fun and challenging, but also easy to work with Sitecore. There’s so much we can do to improve digital customer experiences with this platform!