Mapping your Sitecore destiny

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Mapping your Sitecore destiny

by Dave Michela


Anyone who has struggled with the option of fries vs. onion rings (or shawarma vs. shish tawook) knows that choices can be wonderful and difficult at the same time. And here you are, a digital leader, perhaps having come away from Sitecore’s recent Symposium with a host of ideas for using their newest suite of composable products. But wait – they’ve formally released version 10.3 of their flagship DXP, Sitecore XP. Now what? 

The correct response to the first question is – objectively and indisputably – onion rings and shawarma. Your answer to the second question will depend on a variety of factors, but we’re here to help make the matter easier by sharing a few key decision criteria. For any company currently using Sitecore XP, the question of migrating to a more modern technology paradigm is not “if,” but “when.” And for many, the current fork in the road points in one direction toward XP v10.3, and toward XM Cloud in the other. 

Before we tell you which path to choose, here’s a quick scene-setter to orient you on how you got to this fork in the first place. It’s a -- dare I use the ancient buzzword -- “paradigm shift.” (No, it really is.) 

For the last decade-plus, Sitecore and other digital experience technology leaders have provided all-in-one digital experience platforms (DXPs) that unify content management with analytics, testing, personalization, automation and other digital marketing capabilities. They built these “monolithic” solutions because it was expensive and time consuming for technologists to try to make a bunch of separate systems talk to one another: integration of systems and technology capabilities was “The Problem” that roadblocked your ability to advance your digital experiences. To avoid that problem, Sitecore and the other martech leaders gave you one system that could do it all. 

Fast forward to today, and the technology paradigm has shifted: Advances in application programming interfaces (APIs), microservices and headless delivery have greatly reduced the time, effort and cost required to make separate technologies exchange data or otherwise interact with one another. So that integration problem from back in the day is no longer The Problem. You can now mix-and-match best-in-class capabilities via any variety of SaaS-based solutions to build a martech stack highly specific to your use cases and your spot on the digital maturity curve. Sitecore and other long-term leaders in the space have focused their forward-looking product strategy on this new mix-and-match, or “composable” paradigm. And now we’re at that fork: do you stick with the monolithic XP solution you already have, or do you head in the composable direction?

“Composable is the future.” 

Sitecore plastered that sentence on every available surface at their October Symposium. I would argue that composable is actually “now,” and that’s the first consideration in your decision about how best to invest in Sitecore’s DXP technology. Sitecore has been abundantly clear that their product strategy focuses on their newer, composable options. So, your investment decision is less of an “if” question and more of a “when.” 

Here, in early 2023, there are as many good reasons to stay on the XP road – and to upgrade to v10.3 – as there are to migrate to something composable. (Helpful hint: that XP road is going to lead you back to composable at some point – whether in six months or three years.) Here are the questions and criteria you need to consider to make a decision that’s informed by your specific circumstances, that is ROI-driven, and that sets you up for what’s next in your digital evolution. 

What version of Sitecore XP do you use today?

  • XP v9.3 or older: You’re behind on important digital experience capabilities; you may be violating internal compliance standards and external regulations – particularly important in highly regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare; and you will face limited options if something were to go wrong.  
  • XP v10.0 or newer: You’re not missing out on hypercritical features, and your software is still supported by Sitecore. Read on for more on how to narrow down your options for staying at or ahead of the digital experience curve. 

For you laggards… 

If you’re on v9.3 or older, it’s time to take a good hard look in the mirror and question the value your organization places on digital experience. You probably already recognize that you’re missing out on a lot of features that would make your digital experience management faster, easier and more effective. While you’re pausing to admire that problem, let me also note that XP versions 9.2 and 9.3 just went out of mainstream support. If you’re running version 9.3 or older, you’re putting your capabilities at risk in terms of getting help (if and when) something breaks. Running unsupported software also creates serious angst in most enterprise compliance departments, so if you need help getting your internal stakeholders and budget approvers to invest in best-in-class digital, your compliance team might provide just the motivation your leadership needs to get off the dime. 

Digital leaders stay current on technology so they can continuously evolve and enhance their capabilities in service to ever-improving experiences and outcomes. That said: struggling to keep up with software upgrades provides all the more reason to skip an upgrade to v10.3, migrating instead to XM Cloud and Sitecore’s other SaaS offerings. With SaaS, expensive and time-consuming upgrades are a thing of the past; the latest and greatest features just kind of appear (mostly) automagically. 

The aforementioned fork in the road is your golden opportunity to take a big leap toward being the digital leader you always wanted to be. Sitecore XP, while still powerfully innovative, is not the future. With a few exceptions noted below, companies currently running Sitecore XP v9.3 or older should be planning a migration to Sitecore’s composable suite as their next move. And soon! 
If you meet the above criteria, there are two (ok, two and a half) factors that could cause you to plan a different migration path:

  1. Sitecore XM Cloud is not (yet) SOC 2 compliant. SOC 2 is a voluntary set of standards related to the collection and storage of data: what’s collected, how it’s stored, secured and used, etc. Sitecore is in the process of obtaining that certification and it would surprise me if they don’t have it in hand within the next year at most. But if it’s a prerequisite for your IT, infosec and/or compliance team(s) you’ll want to hold off until Sitecore hits that mark. Until then, you can stick with XP, or consider Sitecore’s XM with Managed Cloud as a potential interim step to the fully SaaS XM Cloud. 
  2. Migration might not be a small undertaking. This is a short-term issue, but an issue for some nonetheless. Getting from Sitecore XP to a newer solution is not a switch-flip.
  • The older your current version of Sitecore, the more complex your migration is likely to be. (You should have kept up when you had the  chance!)
  • If you’re already making substantial use of XP’s analytics, personalization and testing capabilities, you’ll need a plan to complete your migration without having to start over from scratch with those tactics. We know that the majority of Sitecore XP clients make relatively limited use of those features, which should streamline their migration path. 

3. Consider how a migration fits into your broader digital roadmap. You should always look at the bigger picture when planning a digital project of any scale. On one end, you could look at the project as a one-for-one technology migration, focused exclusively on swapping out the old in favor of the new with no major changes. On the other, you could consider options to combine the technology migration with a revisit of your end-user-facing digital experiences, and/or with significant new feature builds or integrations with other systems like CRM or a commerce solution.  

If, for any of the above reasons, you determine you’re not quite ready to move to a full SaaS solution, you do have the options of XP v10.3, or XM/Managed Cloud as interim steps. But “interim” is the operative word: a full composable, SaaS-forward solution is where you’re going to want to end up. 

But why XP v10.3? 

The list of what’s new in XP v10.3 might not inspire business decision-makers with groundbreaking new features; the updates are written to appeal mostly to technologists. So what’s the business value in an upgrade? You might be surprised: 

  1. Setting yourself up for what’s next: I mentioned above that moving your user data from old to new is a not-trivial undertaking. But it will be a lot easier with the new xConnect Data Export Tool, which will be the first step in ensuring a smooth migration from xDB (old) to Personalize, CDP and/or other systems which need that data to continue and enhance your delivery of personalized experiences and journeys. The points to the value of 10.3 as a solid interim step on your path to composable.
  2. SEO: The 10.3 feature list includes several additions that will help beef up your SEO performance: configuring sitemaps and robots.txt for headless implementations, and optimizing a bunch of JavaScript-related stuff that will make sites perform faster – an increasingly critical component of SEO success as well as end-user satisfaction. 
  3. SXA for headless: If you were blocked from going headless due to your use of Sitecore Experience Accelerator, dry your tears! SXA can work in a headless paradigm now, which is good for current SXA users both in terms of “now” and “next”: This change would help simplify the path for an SXA user to a future in XM Cloud. 

TLDR: Most Sitecore XP clients who are running on XP 9.3 or older should already be making a plan to move straight to a composable solution. Horizontal can help you figure out how to fit that move into your broader digital roadmap. Those already running an earlier version of v10 have time to consider their options, one of which is to realize the material benefits of v10.3 as an interim path to your composable future. Again, let Horizontal’s experts guide you on that path! 


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