Last year leading research firm Gartner released their latest Magic Quadrant for web content management, which ranks software vendors according to their ability to execute along with the completeness of their vision. Sitecore continues to impress, having been identified as a “Leader” for the fifth year running; however, the report also highlighted that the “increasing complexity of deployments and digital strategies” has introduced challenges when it comes to implementation. Often this complexity is integral to Sitecore’s power and performance, and if it’s not identified and managed effectively you may not be able to realise the full potential of the platform. So what measures do you need to take when embarking on a Sitecore project to make sure you end up with a solution that supports your organisation’s processes and goals?
The first thing you should ask yourself is whether Sitecore is the right platform for you. This is a question that can often be overlooked, but there’s no denying that Sitecore is a complex system and while everybody might like the idea of almost limitless configurability, what is thought to be needed can often differ from what is actually needed.
Sitecore’s object-oriented architecture, personalisation capabilities and market-leading search indexing make it highly suited to organisations that have a wealth of content and a wide user base (membership organisations, for example) and need to surface the right content to the right people at the right time. Even if it’s this kind of enterprise-level solution you’re looking for though, it’s still vitally important that you know exactly what you want. The platform’s size, flexibility and feature set makes it easy to become overwhelmed, attempting to focus on all functionality at once, but this can lead to wasted investment and even hinder you from achieving your desired outcomes.
Requirements gathering is therefore vital in the early stages of your project. Enabling you to research, define and prioritise the functionality needed to support the objectives of your stakeholders and users, this is a great way to get to the heart of what matters to your business. Picking a Sitecore Partner with a strong business analysis function will also help ensure you get the most out of this phase, as by combining expertise in discovery activities with a strong understanding of Sitecore they’ll be able to identify how the platform should be configured to suit your specific requirements. A good partner can also determine which features are and aren’t relevant to helping you achieve your business goals, leaving you with only those truly valuable tools to remove unnecessary complexity where possible.
Of course, you don’t want to undo all this upfront work through the poor execution of your vision, and the development phase of your project should be just as considered as your requirements gathering. Sitecore’s capabilities mean it’s the ideal platform from which to grow and diversify your business, but this brings with it its own complexity. When you’re planning to evolve your platform in line with changing business requirements, having a robust, reliable and secure foundation is incredibly important. This is where best practices come into play. Failing to adhere to Sitecore and general development best practice can leave you with a beautiful yet underperforming site; one that’s difficult to maintain and even more difficult to build upon. Make sure, therefore, that your chosen partner follows industry-recognised coding standards and has clearly defined quality assurance processes.
You also need to effectively handle any changes that may arise during the course of development, so that they don’t have a negative impact on the successful implementation of Sitecore’s more complex functionality. A detailed requirements gathering phase should significantly reduce the likelihood of these changes being required, but it’s almost inevitable that shifting market conditions or user needs will make it desirable to update elements of your solution.
In this case, it’s crucial that this is highlighted at the earliest possible opportunity, and here an Agile way of working can be beneficial. Working in short sprints provides the opportunity for regular feedback, enabling you to not only make decisions about what is and isn’t working but also identify further opportunities to reduce unnecessary complexity by getting guidance on why certain features may be required. Be sure to keep a business analyst involved throughout though, to advise on the best way to manage any changes so that your solution remains aligned with your overall vision.
By following these guidelines, you should end up with a high-performance Sitecore platform that’s been designed to support your specific business goals. But do you know exactly what’s going to be delivered?
Being component-based, Sitecore provides you with the building blocks you need to create and configure your own site, defining what functionality and content will go where. This is all down to the separation of data and presentation that is the key to Sitecore’s power. While this can mean a more complex set-up process, this is more than made up for by the incredible benefits on offer. For example, content can be reused, with the same information delivered via desktop, mobile and any other channels you can think of, in an optimised format, without any additional effort required. (This practice is also known as COPE, or “Create Once, Publish Everywhere.)
The separation of data and presentation is also the force behind Sitecore’s amazing personalisation capabilities, allowing you to define what’s displayed in a particular area according to a number of rules. To remove the guesswork when creating these rules, make sure you have a clear understanding of the content contained within your website and the different personas you’re targeting. This enables you to look past the complexity inherent in a near-infinite set of conditions and focus instead on delivering the most relevant content possible to your site visitors.
There’s a reason why Sitecore’s recognised as a market leader by Gartner, and features the likes of EasyJet, Revlon and American Express on its client list: it’s an incredibly powerful platform that helps organisations create meaningful connections with prospects and customers. By taking a strategic approach to its implementation, necessary complexity can be managed, and you can start reaping the rewards in the form of more, better quality and faster-converting leads. Just remember to define what you need at the outset, take care choosing your supplier… and consider going on one of Sitecore’s own training courses too!
As a Silver Sitecore Implementation Partner, Box UK can support you in getting the most out of your Sitecore project, while our team of bespoke software consultants have two decades of bespoke software development experience, to help address any digital challenge you’re facing. If you’re interested in finding out more about how we can help you, contact us on +44 (0)20 7439 1900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.