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Sitecore: Making the most of your CMS

From implementation expectations to best practices and maintenance, dive deep into Sitecore with two Sitecore MVPs.

Nov. 17, 2020 | By: Ethel Crosby and Mike Skutta

digital threads woven together

Together with One North, a long-time Sitecore partner and a TEKsystems company, we have built a deep bench of experienced Sitecore experts and consultants, all focused on helping companies maximize their Sitecore investment and ensure it works well with their full MarTech ecosystem. We sat down with two of these experts, our One North Sitecore MVPs Ethel Crosby and Mike Skutta, to give us the nitty-gritty on making the most of your Sitecore investment. From realistic expectations after implementation and hurdles to be on the lookout for to Sitecore best practices, we’ve got you covered.

Disclaimer: Every customer is different—please reach out if you’d like a second opinion on your specific strategy or a briefing with a Sitecore MVP.

First, we know a lot of organizations invest in Sitecore and then stick to the basics of the platform. How can they start to truly take advantage of the more advanced features?

One of the first things we look for with feature utilization is determining if a Sitecore upgrade is needed. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t upgrade your Sitecore CMS just to upgrade—some only contain general support changes. However, there are instances when an upgrade provides the opportunity to revisit your business strategy and determine which features you’d like to start using to move it forward. For example, let’s say you’re on the lower tier Sitecore Experience Manager (Sitecore XM) license. A Sitecore upgrade to the latest Sitecore 10 product version would allow you to start experimenting with the basic personalization features that come with the release. Another underrated reason to upgrade Sitecore? Compliance. It’ll be a lot easier to follow applicable compliance regulations like GDPR when your Sitecore instance allows for customizing useful consent management tools.

How can organizations use additional Sitecore features?

Our suggestion? Take small steps and optimize one page of your website at a time. Manage, learn and scale. From what we’ve heard in the Sitecore community, websites allow for manageable maintenance when you integrate one feature at a time. It’s important to note: Sitecore is not a “set it and forget it” platform. Taking small steps allows you to enhance and evolve slowly, but continuously. Build in regular checkpoints to confirm that you’re properly optimizing the experience for your customers.

What are some realistic initial expectations for those organizations eager to implement Sitecore?

You have the technology tools to create incredible digital experiences, and it’s worth the effort. You need the right approach and mindset to be successful. Successful Sitecore users spend a good amount of time in a discovery phase when planning for a Sitecore implementation. The discovery phase allows you to uncover goals and determine your roadmap. Are you properly staffed? Do you have the data to back your strategy?

What are your business drivers? What other technologies could Sitecore integrate with? These are just a few questions we ask when we work with clients during their discovery phase of implementing Sitecore.

What are some common Sitecore challenges and hurdles clients run into?

While some clients might not have the necessary initial understanding of the system, this can be resolved with Sitecore training up front and partnering with an experienced Sitecore Gold Solutions Partner. Another possible challenge is the upgrade process. Simply upgrading your platform and not leveraging this opportunity for a redesign or rebuild can be very costly without taking advantage of new features or functionality. Although the industry trend is moving toward a headless architecture—which makes upgrading easier—most of the time, we still find upgrades to be most effective and cost-efficient when they’re coupled with a redesign.

Hosting is another hurdle to be aware of with Sitecore. You may have a large IT department, but does it truly understand the ins and outs of properly hosting marquee sites? The reality is, you need to know how disaster recovery works, security safeguards, DevOps strategy, how to push quality code up in a standardized way to prevent human mistakes and errors, how to properly secure access, etc. A managed hosting and support team can eliminate these issues—providing 24/7 monitoring and support 365 days a year, ensuring applications are available and performing at their best.

Sitecore pegs itself as an “Experience Platform.” Can you describe what that means, and touch on how the software has evolved from simply being a CMS system?

With a traditional CMS platform, you’re just entering content into the system and (fingers crossed), it displays on your website. With Sitecore being an experience platform, all the extra marketing features are included. Think: personalization and omnichannel connections. Sitecore has been expanding into mobile apps, brick-and-mortar stores and enhancing the overall customer experience regardless of medium.

For more information on Sitecore, or if you are looking for an experienced Sitecore partner to offer a second opinion on your strategy, contact us for a briefing with a Sitecore MVP.

Ethel Crosby is director of technology operations and offerings at One North, a TEKsystems company. She is responsible for the management and execution of leading digital technology solutions and product management, continuously identifying new strategic technology opportunities for One North and its clients. Ethel is a Sitecore Ambassador MVP—one of 97 worldwide and has over 15 years of MarTech experience.

Mike Skutta is an architect within the technology labs group at One North. Mike works to research, test and integrate new technologies for both One North and its clients. He is also a Sitecore Technology MVP—a distinction received by only 217 people worldwide—and holds more than 15 years of MarTech experience.

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