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Sitecore Symposium 2014: Sharing the experience

The theme of the conference was “experience” and how leveraging Sitecore can truly enhance the customer experience. Now, having never having been to a Sitecore conference before, the event afforded me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the platform, its strengths, and its position in the market. It also allowed me to meet people from outside of the SharePoint world, a world I’ve known for some time now.

So without further adieu, consider this post a hodgepodge of observations and insights I picked up while I was in Las Vegas.

Size doesn’t matter

Firstly, it was really nice to be at an event that was more manageable in size. It allowed me to meet/chat up practically everyone I wanted to without much trouble. Also, the wifi was better. While I can’t prove it, I can only assume this is due to the fact the Symposium wasn’t as big an event.

The Sitecore vendor ecosystem is tight-knit. There were roughly 20 vendors. This made it easier to talk to each of them to understand their offering. I didn’t have to traipse through an entire convention centre to get the lay of the land. My legs thanked me.

Sitecore has its own world of world class (and very popular) MVPs.  I, of course, had no idea who these people were and so it made me more aware than ever that each technology has its unique bevy of superstars.  Of course, they are all very personable and smart people. I’m glad the experience was intimate enough that I got to chat with the MVPs – an idea that would be somewhat absurd at many of the larger conferences I’ve attended.

Lots of new features, lots of release dates

The theme of the Symposium was “experience.” This was certainly notable in the keynote and sessions I attended. There was a lot of discussion on what the client experience should be and how Sitecore, through many of its new and improved feature sets, helps to enhance this experience.

So what are the new and improved features? Well, there are a few: improved analytics engine, better-integrated A/B testing functionality, and an improved predictability engine. While there may have been more, these were the features that were really showcased in the keynote.

What was odd was that as the week progressed I understood from a number of attendees that Sitecore releases are odd in that there are typically a few releases a year: one technical, the other that’s more marketing focused. The company does major releases (like version 6 or 7) and have minor releases (.4, .5, etc.). What was even stranger to me given my background and the fact I was an outsider was that this conference didn’t necessarily correlate with an immediate release. From what I understood, version 7.6 would be released later this year, and so would version 8. I can see how this could be a bit confusing for clients.

Free Coveo? YES.

On the partner front, the biggest news was that Coveo is now offering a freemium service for Sitecore. This service is likely a way for Coveo to increase its market share through a freemium service and then charge for the more full-fledged product.

The freemium service has its limitations including a lack of search rankings, functionality only within the Sitecore platform (won’t be able to search outside of Sitecore), and no free support service. Still, it’s a great way for the market to realize the power of Coveo. 

Experiencing the experience

On a personal angle, the “experience” motto really hit home. Not just within the context of Sitecore, but within my own personal career journey as well. The concept was making the experience with a website truly delightful. Seamless. Easy. Of course, these can simply be catchy buzzwords or they can carry real meaning.

The meaning I took away from this was that not only can Sitecore really impact the experiences customers have when they visit websites, but that the experiences we provide for our clients (or our client’s clients!) is exceptionally important. We should continually strive to make this experience easier, more valuable, and more connected. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth considering at all times.

All in all, the Sitecore Symposium was a great way to dive deeper into the customer portal space. I learned a lot, met some great people, and came away with a better understanding of what the Sitecore “experience” really is.