October 17, 2018 by Hedgehog

Takeaways and Trends from Sitecore Symposium 2018: A Hedgehog Live Chat

Welcome to our Hedgehog live chat. The following transcript has been lightly edited.

Jackie (Jacqueline Baxter, Digital Strategist): Welcome to our latest live chat. Today we'll be talking Sitecore Symposium, which took place last week in Orlando, Florida. Did everybody enjoy themselves?

Leticia (Leticia Shene, Marketing Manager): Still recovering

Una (Una Verhoeven, Senior Solutions Developer): It was a great fun and experience though my legs tend to disagree

Sean (Sean Holmesby, Solutions Architect): It was fan-bloody-tastic!

Leticia: Shin splints

Michael (Michael Greenberg, CFO): Yeah, I was going to say everything but my feet enjoyed the event.

Leticia: Compression socks for a giveaway

Una: Foot massage pillow?

Jackie: If you're not exhausted at the end, you didn't get the most out of the conference. New tagline for Symposium

Una: That is why we are all sick now...

Leticia: YES

Michael: But seriously, it was another insight-filled week of seeing where this industry is going.

Jackie: Couldn't agree more. Symposium is always educational as well as fun, and there are always patterns and trends that emerge from so many people getting together and talking about the field. What trends did you notice this year?

Una: Diversity!

Sean: Definitely the idea that there's too much to know, learn, and do to do it all yourself. Content editors need AI for the massive amounts of content and marketing they need to do, developers need to be more efficient with how they work, teams need to be deploying more often... but now, you can't know it all, or do it all....so get the right teams together, know your specialty, and dominate with everyone playing their role.

Michael: Some real movement towards Sitecore playing nice with the marketing ecosystem. JSS to work with JS frameworks in headless implementations, and a more mature Salesforce solution point to real progress.

Una: Many new exciting things, integration being the key, looking forward to see what the acquisition of StyleLabs will bring

Michael: There were also a lot more marketing people there, continuing the trend from last year.

Leticia: Since it was my first Symposium (newbie here) I expected it to be more way developer focused- i was pleasantly surprised with how many marketers were walking around

Una: Booo, more devs needed :D

Michael: I would guess that every dev who is allowed to travel is already going to Symposium. So attendee growth will be on the marketing side.

Jackie: I also noticed an interesting shift toward making tech presentations more accessible to marketers and marketing presentations focusing a bit more on the 'under the hood' action

Michael: You could really see it in the session topics. This year there were too many good non-technical talks to choose between. +1 for Jackie's point.

Jackie: I think we're moving toward a balance of the two fields. Which is as it should be! Not being able to pick between topics is a great problem to have for the non-tech folks

Leticia: I love loved loved the women in tech sessions

Jackie: YES couldn't agree more with Tish. Wednesday especially was a fabulous day for that

Leticia: And I got an awesome pin!

Jackie: I hope they intend to build on that for next year. It was very well received by the community. This will sound a little like bragging, since I was one of the 'community' people in question, but I was also glad that it didn't just come from Sitecore corporate

Leticia: Seriously I would love to see a whole woman in tech day

Una: It was a great event. Right call from Sitecore

Jackie: We've talked overall trends, but were there specific sessions that stood out?

Una: I really liked Martina's session. She made GDPR interesting and that is no way easy. Jason St-Cyr had a great talk. And of course, hedgies.

Sean: While it was great to hear about the new features coming in Sitecore 9.1, I found I got the most out of the general development talks instead of the brand new, flashy stuff. 'Take your Sitecore project to the next level with NodeJS' by Anastaysia Flynn from Arke, took us on a fantastic journey from solution setup, to Helix-style front end code, working headlessly without JSS. It was a perfect presentation show-casing some of Arke's fantastic scripts and processes, that detailed how efficient you can be with Node. Raul Jimenez's talk on containers excited me about how quickly and reliably the local developer environment could be setup. Yeah, containers ARE new(ish) and flashy, but Raul's presentation showed just how simple it can be to have your developer's all on the same page, without bloating their on development machines.

Michael: The one that stood out for me was seeing Alex Shyba do an end-to-end demo on JSS. I hadn't seen the experience editor working with JS code before, which is the JSS promise, now delivered. Of course, now we need to see if it works on real projects, but that'll be next year's Symposium talks.

Jackie: I also really enjoyed Jason St Cyr's talk. There was a lot of (renewed) chatter around Cortex, and my concern has always been that people will see AI as a silver bullet with no questions asked. Jason pointed out some major flaws in that line of thinking.

Michael: Yeah AI="magic fix for everything" is not a good strategy. Wish I'd seen that presentation.

Charlie (Charles Turano, Solutions Architect): I agree with Michael - AI and ML are really neat tools, but it feels like everyone thinks it is magic. When it works well, it is a bit magical, but I think it is hard to figure out when/if it is going to work well in any given scenario.

Una: If you don't know how to use it, better not use it at all...

Charlie: I agree

Jackie: I feel the same about AI and ML that I do about personalization. It's a great addition to your toolbox, but it requires foundational principles, continuous assessment, and strategic implementation. It's not a 'set it and forget it' functionality that will fix all your problems.

Michael: Charlie, what did you find most interesting? I'm always curious about your perspective.

Charlie: I was trying to learn about Azure and Sitecore and didn't have much luck. I wanted to find out what Sitecore was doing with Azure and where TDS can go as a product to help the Sitecore community deploy to Azure.

Jackie: I'm going to broaden the field to "what I learned at Sitecore Symposium" because I learned a lot by walking the Partner Pavilion. And was very inspired by the number of bricks that went into the SickKids 'hospital' - that wall was taller than I am!

Greg (Gregory Charles, Head of Product): We spend so much time behind a desk and a screen, for me, it was nice to interact with the community, put faces with names, and invest some time in enhancing the relationships we build throughout the year.

Charles: The thing I liked best was connecting with our customers. There are always a few people who I have had email conversations with who come up to us and chat. It's really nice to put faces to email addresses, and Symposium is really great for that. It's also nice to re-connect with customers and people in the community. I really enjoyed the presentation Una did. She absolutely nailed it!! 

Michael: Yeah we can't let our home team bias cloud our judgement here...her preso was great.

Jackie: Absolutely it was! Understanding how personalization interacts with your content and the user experience is SO important, and then she went several steps further by showing the integration of social media and data to illustrate how you can really get to know your customers. Fascinating stuff. 

Leticia: I loved having an opportunity to talk to other marketers/content editors that feel some of the same "pains" I do.

Jackie: I freely admit that I was excited to talk about Avtor - not because it's our product but because it has saved me so much time. It's a GOOD product, and one that I think people will get a lot of use from. Being able to share that and see the enthusiasm was very fun

Greg: It was nice to see so much interest in our products, especially Avtor. It was received well and shows a lot of promise based the community feedback.

Michael: Author/marketer tools is fertile ground for innovation. I just wish I could tap my heels 3 times and have everyone on Sitecore 9. Can we talk StyleLabs for a minute? What does everyone see as the impact?

Jackie: It has the potential to move the content life cycle into an early stage in the creation process, which I have incredibly strong opinions about and am excited to see.

Charlie: Well, I think it is something sorely needed by Sitecore. The media library isn't really up to the task of managing/creating binary resources. Also, serving large binary data through Sitecore is a really bad design decision. It makes the bytes really expensive. Putting them on a CDN is cheap. Using a DAM fronted by a CDN is a really good idea.

Michael: Totally agree. And I think those not using an MRM/DAM solution don't realize how much extra work they are doing.

Leticia: On the content side managing assets is a PIA so anything that can make that easier makes me do a happy dance

Michael: I think the acronym is PITA.

Leticia: Ohhhh that explains a lot, LOL.

Michael: My last question for the group - over/under on Horizon GA?

Una: Seems promising, looking forward to seeing what will be released

Charlie: I'm trying to install 9.1 now. I'm hoping to see something neat in there

Jackie: We're into the final few minutes so…best overall memory of Sitecore Symposium?

Una: The Women in Tech panel, Move the Dial, catching up with everyone

Michael: (Jackie, look away for a minute). My best memory was Jackie's total command of the stage in her presentation. She was fantastic up there.

Leticia: Universal Party, the lobby bar, hanging with Hedgies.

Jackie: Roller coasters, the Women in Tech panel, and putting faces to names. The picture of all of us on the Jurassic Park ride is up there too.

Leticia: As important as the conference is - I think the camaraderie and the talks with prospects and customers in a more relaxed environment is definitely a highlight. Just plopping down at a random table during lunch and breakfast and chatting with someone random was great.

Sean: Taking Charlie Turano's advice to ride the Hulk at the back to maximize the G-force on the turns. That thing was FAST!

Leticia: Yeah--- second time was not a charm for me

Jackie: Agreed. Halfway through the second ride I was questioning my life and my choices. Final question, inspired by the survey currently making the rounds...where would you like to see Symposium held next year?

Michael: San Francisco. With zero bias

Leticia: NYC

Una: I for one would love a cold place with plenty of snow! I can just ski into the presentation. All that heat and humidity...yuck. Plus, who doesn't love a good snowball fight?

Leticia: Bite your tongue, Una

Jackie: Toronto or Chicago are on my wishlist

Una: Both good, all the above are 1 flight away

Michael: I think the keys for a good location are a) where all sessions/food/keynote/partner pavilion are near each other and b) where 3000 people can go to a good party

Una: And what Michael said, 1 building please. My legs cannot handle 2 buildings

Michael: Maybe Nashville?

Leticia: Preferably someplace that it isn't hurricane season

Jackie: I'm seeing Austin crop up as a suggestion

Michael: We can do an event at the Salt Lick!

Sean: YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! I would love for it to be Austin, TX....but also Nashville or Maui

Michael: I could also see Denver.

Jackie: There are lots of options. I for one am looking forward the big, splashy campaign when Sitecore decides on a location. And on that note, we conclude our live chat. Thanks everyone!

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