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What’s new in Sitecore 9 - Report from Sitecore Symposium 2017

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Well, what a week we had at Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas last week - inspiring talks, great company, amazing food but best of all some incredibly exciting product announcements from Sitecore themselves.

Sitecore CMO Scott Anderson was excited to launch “Sitecore Experience Cloud” which represents Sitecore’s entire marketing suite, now available as a platform as a service (PaaS) offering on Microsoft Azure.

New features of Sitecore 9

Sitecore Experience Cloud has some great new features, here’s our top picks:

1. Sitecore Experience Commerce

The long-awaited addition of a fully integrated, enterprise-level commerce platform provides Sitecore marketers with the ultimate solution for driving the end-to-end customer experience across all channels.

Several years in the making, Sitecore Experience Commerce is a full rebuild of their commerce engine on .NET Core and this latest release waves goodbye to the final remnants of Commerce Server which powered early versions of the product.

Fully integrated with Sitecore’s rules engine and their new Marketing Automation tool, Sitecore Experience Commerce enables marketers to deliver highly engaging, contextual commerce experiences and to weave commerce into content led journeys to drive higher conversion.

With proven performance at 24,000 requests a second and a microservices based architecture, Sitecore Experience Commerce is a highly scalable, enterprise grade commerce offering. Expect to see a plethora of third party plugins appear over the year ahead as Sitecore makes a name for itself in this new arena.

2. Sitecore xConnect

In simple terms, xConnect is a fully extendable, customer centric API built on top of Sitecore’s Experience Database (xDB). The xConnect API allows seamless integration of third party datasources that can be used to develop rich user profiles, with all fields exposed to Sitecore’s rules engine. xConnect also features out-of-the-box connectors for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

All data in xConnect can be indexed and searched using SOLR and it supports real-time analysis of contacts when used for an automated marketing campaign. It’s powerful stuff!

3. Sitecore Cortex

A marketers dream in the making, Sitecore Cortex is a Machine Learning engine for generating real-time insights across native and third party customer data.

Plumbed in to xDB and Sitecore’s rules engine, Cortex can be used to discover new audience segments, score content tests, run continuous multi-variant testing and soon automate personalisation.

4. Sitecore Headless & Javascript Services

Sitecore’s new headless and javascript services entirely decouple content creation and content delivery whilst maintaining engagement analytics and give frontend developers total flexibility to build highly engaging user experience without the constraints of the underlying CMS. These methods can be adopted by developers with limited knowledge of Sitecore which expands the Sitecore developer pool on headless projects.

5. Sitecore Cloud

In addition to classic cloud deployment, Sitecore Experience Cloud is now available on a PaaS model. This enables you to build your hosting infrastructure and specify your data centre locations in a matter of minutes. You can also scale your Sitecore environment automatically based on rules configured up front. And because it’s a PaaS offering, there’s less ongoing management required in terms of the hosting.

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At the heart of the Sitecore Experience Cloud sits the Sitecore Experience Manager (content management) and Sitecore Experience Platform (marketing and customer experience management) and the latest versions ship with some notable enhancements:

  • Sitecore Forms

When I heard Web Forms for Marketers had undergone a full rebuild from the ground up, it was music to my ears!

Redesigned with the marketer in mind, Sitecore Forms now allows you to drag and drop fields to the canvas. Multi-step forms can be created supporting easy creation of surveys and questionnaires. Forms built using the new Sitecore Forms module are also reusable and re-skinnable.

Additionally, data entered into the forms is captured and managed in xDB in real-time. Granular form performance insights and reporting is also out-of-the-box.

  • Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SxA)

    Sitecore has continued its commitment to SxA which is increasingly used by partners as a starting point for typical website design and build projects to increase speed to market.

    SxA has 90+ pre-built and extendable components with headless support. Added to the page via a clean drag & drop interface. SxA can be used in wireframing mode for building sites before the design layer has been applied.

    All components are mobile first with both responsive and adaptive options. A number of grid frameworks are now supported too, including Bootstrap, Zurb Foundation, Grid 960.

    Other notable features include dynamic placeholders and theming capability with support for shared content, data sources and presentation.

  • Federated Authentication

Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) and Azure Active Directory (AD) are now supported out-of-the-box.

Login in to Sitecore via Azure AD, Social Login or any other OpenID Connect/SAML single-sign on authentication provider.

  • Marketing Automation

    Sitecore 9 features a brand new Marketing Automation visual campaign builder tool that includes some sample engagement plans to get you up and running quickly. The drag and drop interface makes it easy to nurture prospects through highly personalised messaging, offers and emails to boost conversion rates.

  • Express updates

    Sitecore 9 has an upgrade tool facilitating an easy upgrade from Sitecore 7 & 8.

  • GDPR support

    Data Controllers will be pleased to hear that Sitecore has added some features to help with GDPR compliancy. Sitecore 9 has greater privacy measures around personal identifiable information data to support the new regulations.

    For instance, the right to be forgotten can be achieved with a single call of xConnect.ExecuteRightToBeForgotten() which will destroy the reference data and anonymise the contact.

These are just a few of the new features, there’s lots more of them. If you’re thinking of upgrading to Sitecore 9 or want to find out more about what it could offer your organisation, please get in touch.

So what’s next for Sitecore?

Content Editing to be reinvented in Sitecore 9.1

Possibly, the most exciting announcement at Symposium 2017 came during the closing keynote when Sitecore Director of User Experience, Niels Handberg, showcased the Future of Sitecore Content Management.

Sitecore EVP Product, Ryan Donovan announces “Zenith” and “Horizon” at Symposium

Content Editor and Experience Editor will soon be a thing of the past as Sitecore 9.1 will feature a whole new editing experience that is combined with realtime insights. The codename for this project is “Horizon”. 

Horizon

Horizon is all about create amazing experiences powered by insights.  You will be working in a creative and intuitive interface and at the same time being able to get the realtime insights you need when you need them. No matter what you are working on insights will always be just one click away.

The Horizon interface will be clean and contextual with a true drag and drop interface. It will be highly intuitive, e.g. as you add a component the system will ask what you want to do next and prompt you to run experiments. At first glance, this could be the editing experience we’ve all been waiting for.

A click of the mouse will flip the page to Horizon view which provides realtime page insights. Zoom out to see your page tree Another click of the mouse provides you page performance insights

Zenith

Zenith is headless and all you need to store, manage and distribute content. Zenith is basically designed for dynamic changes in one simple interface and includes all the advanced headless features and capabilities you will ever need. It’s ready for any purpose, making it the central tool in your headless setup.

Niels explained that whilst some of the above features are still in concept phase, a first release of these features is scheduled with Sitecore 9.1 (expected around June 2018) with the rest on the roadmap for future releases. Rest assured Sitecore have listened to user feedback and addressed their weaknesses with this upcoming release - it’s groundbreaking stuff!

SxA Commerce

Sitecore 9.1 will also bring an enhanced Habitat starter site with a suite of pre-built SxA commerce components to speed up development on standard commerce projects.

Armed with all these early insights, Delete developers are hard at work in our labs exploring Sitecore’s new features and prototyping new applications for these technologies. We’ll be sharing our findings soon, so watch this space.

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