At this year’s annual Sitecore Symposium in Orlando, Florida, the CMS and marketing services platform made product announcements focused on SaaS, AI, and content, as well as enhancements to the Experience Platform.
It may seem late in the day to be talking about SaaS, but Sitecore, founded in Denmark in 2001, does not have a cloud legacy (although it of course has cloud options). It also has many long-term customers with established on-premise Sitecore instances. The Sitecore cloud journey is still underway.
I reached out to Desta Price, EVP product management for the company, to learn more.
The SaaS Journey
A new SaaS offering will make it easier to deliver, manage, and build developments on Sitecore software. Customers on this platform will always have the current version of the product, with automatic upgrades. The solution is planned to be available Summer 2020.
“We’re in the middle of the journey,” Price told me. “We have a fair number of customers on a Sitecore managed cloud that was introduced in March, I believe. But we also have many that are running in Azure or AWS, and then we still have a lot of larger customers who have chosen to self-host.” The new product will provide marketers with a low- or no-code environment to do simple things like set up micro-sites. It will also offer partners a space to develop and build on the product for their brand clients while preserving the core Sitecore products.
“The goal is to allow brands and partners to grow with us, as we grow in functionality.” Smaller brands, who don’t yet require the full power of Sitecore’s solutions will be able to more easily stay within the “Sitecore umbrella” without the overhead of extensive inhouse or outsourced IT support.
Experience Platform 9.3
Planned as a winter release around the end of the year, this will offer a new editing environment, Horizon, which has been in development for some months. Everything, said Price, “will be just a click away. It will be an easy-to-use platform which still has the power behind what we’re doing.” The intention is to offer an intuitive, contextual interface, surfacing real-time performance insights, as content is created and published.
In addition, Sitecore announced enhancements to out-of-box forms, and email automation. “We’re also ramping up for what we’ll do in summer of next year, which is a whole new developer experience, which actually ties back to the developer experience in SaaS.”
The overarching theme of this year’s Symposium was making human connections in a digital world, and of course connections happen primarily through content. “Content is key, and being able to serve the same piece of content in different forms and through different channels, is really critical. As we’ve seen Content Hub come into the Sitecore family of products, it enables us to leverage it as the heart of the system, to drive the content into whatever those channels are.”
Work has been underway to integrate Content Hub fully with the Experience Platform. “As we go into SaaS, we’re building Content Hub in as the core of content management,” said Price. “It also ties into what we’re seeing with AI and auto-personalization. We’ve heard from every design partner that it’s easier to personalize, but they don’t have the content they need for all of the segments. The content idea is what’s going to drive the future, and we’ve got some opportunities there.”
Sitecore AI, Content AI
“We’re going to start with something like content similarity, which is simply taking an image and looking for things of like color. We’ll help marketers figure out what they have in their portfolio that they can re-use. We see that growing over time into ultimately be able to predict how a piece of content will work for a certain segment.”
AI isn’t new to Sitecore. Sitecore Cortex allows customers to deploy their own machine learning models for personalization within the platform. “The reality is that every company doesn’t have a data science team, and the ability to build machine learning models” said Price. “That’s what put Sitecore on the path of taking on that burden. As much as everyone talks about personalization, a lot of companies struggle with the strategy of how to make it happen.”
Sitecore AI, planned to be available next month, with Auto Personalization as a key service, available as an add-on for the Experience Platform. This will permit automated identification of visitor trends, segmentation, and delivery of modified content; and it will do so at scale.
Content AI, for predictive performance metrics and monitoring will follow in 2020. “Every time you take a layer of the onion off,” said Price, “you find something else that needs to be solved.”
Sitecore covered DMN’s expenses to attend Symposium