How To Choose a Sitecore Partner
In the right hands, Sitecore is a powerful tool. And while experienced Sitecore implementers and Sitecore partners aren’t exactly hard to come by, in a world of headless CMS, MACH architecture, and Jamstack-driven development, you need a Sitecore agency that understands your brand’s vision.
Sitecore has plenty of advantages for both content editors and developers, making it an ideal choice for businesses of all kinds, with or without a dedicated IT team. However, implementing Sitecore on your own can be a daunting task that can end up consuming more time that could be used elsewhere.
The thing is, Sitecore partners come in all shapes and sizes, which can make it difficult to differentiate the pros from the amateurs. In this article, we give you some pointers on what to expect from a partner, as well as a checklist of questions to ask when deciding on your next Sitecore implementer.
What is a Sitecore Partner or Sitecore Implementer?
A Sitecore implementer is any digital agency that can help you strategize and launch your Sitecore-powered project, whether that’s a set of websites, a single page application, or an ecommerce experience.
A Sitecore partner, on the other hand, is also a Sitecore implementer, with officially recognized expertise. In order to use the term “Sitecore Partner”,a digital agency must have worked closely with Sitecore itself, and it must have been given an official Sitecore stamp of approval.
Oshyn, for example, is a longstanding Sitecore Partner, with over 30 Sitecore-specific certifications.
When Do You Need A Sitecore Partner?
There are many headless CMS and DXPs on the market, and every year new software vendors add more integrations, services, and features to the headless ecosystem. This increase represents an opportunity for businesses looking to stay current in the ever-changing tech ecosystem, making DXPs like Sitecore a reliable option for a centralized hub to drive your content operations.
Unless you have adequate development expertise in-house, it’s not practical for a business to build and maintain a CMS implementation on their own. Plus, if you’re thinking about implementing Sitecore as your headless CMS of choice, you need a partner to make sure you’re reaping 100% of the benefits Sitecore has to offer.
If any of the following situations are happening to you, you need a Sitecore Partner:
Your site is slow to load: This is the most obvious problem of an iffy Sitecore implementation. Also, if your vendor or partner has done all it can to fix the problem and it persists, it’s better to try with a certified Sitecore partner.
Your deployments have bugs: If you implemented Sitecore on your own or hired a subpar partner, your deployment may have bugs, especially if it wasn’t tested before deployment.
Your team isn’t trained to use your site: If you haven’t really communicated how your website works or what it does, chances are your team won’t be able to fully leverage its capabilities.
You have issues when personalizing components: If you can’t handle personalization, it’s better to talk to an implementation partner to help you configure your personalization rules and all the associated content.
You can’t build or update the website on your own: If you can’t manage content on your own, you won’t be able to deliver the right content for your customers. A partner can help you manage your content on your own and enhance your productivity.
You don’t have the expertise to conduct A/B testing: With Sitecore, you can conduct A/B testing, but there is a bit of a learning curve. A recognized Sitecore partner will train you and show you how to run tests.
You feel frustrated when trying to publish and edit content: It’s more than possible that you’re taking more time than usual when editing content. If that happens, it’s better to call a partner to help you, especially if what you’re doing doesn’t reflect your brand.
Your site was created without a Sitecore Architecture Document: This document is fundamental because it spells every detail about your Sitecore implementation. How content will look and how it will be structured.
You can’t manage content using the Sitecore Experience Editor interface: The experience editor lets you edit your CLI as you browse through the site. The thing is that sometimes partners either don’t integrate the experience editor or don’t teach users how to use it.
What to Expect from the Right Sitecore Partner
Not all Sitecore tech partners are created equal; each have their own specialities. To get the full value out of Sitecore, you need a partner you can trust. Here are five signs that you’ve selected the right Sitecore partner.
1. Experience with the platform
A partner is a company that’s been recognized by Sitecore as one of the best implementation agencies and can help you navigate the waters of CMS implementation. Be careful about choosing an agency based only on an impressive portfolio. Be sure to take into account their years of experience, case studies, certifications, technical team, and in-depth Sitecore knowledge. An experienced agency will also have your business’s needs in mind and guide you to the best outcomes.
Furthermore, they should actively participate in the Sitecore community, contributing ideas and suggestions to improve Sitecore development.
2. There’s a clear plan and you’re all sticking to it
A clearly defined plan is essential for a successful implementation. In order to create a plan that fits your needs, an experienced Sitecore partner will begin with a technical audit and in-depth discovery process. They’ll take the time to understand your business, your goals for your Sitecore implementation, and the way various members of your team plan to edit and publish content within Sitecore.
Next, they’ll kick things off with a thorough Sitecore Architecture Document.
This vital piece of documentation will provide a clear plan for your Sitecore implementation and the project as a whole. It will be comprehensive and in-depth, including details for how you want the content to be structured, what modules you’ll need, and what editing permissions will be required. During this stage of the process, you’ll agree on the implementation design and the processes and workflows.
Your partner will also take this time to structure a plan for executing the implementation, using Sitecore best practices. They’ll determine how best to achieve your goals, while still ensuring high-performance from the technical perspective. They’ll define the server configuration requirements for front-end performance features, and construct a plan for implementing things in a way that optimizes your page load time and code efficiency. They’ll also establish which performance monitoring and benchmarking tools you’ll be using to ensure deployments go according to plan.
This planning stage is critical for ensuring that you, the Sitecore partner, and your entire team are on the same page. That’s a formula for ensuring your Sitecore implementation is completed exactly to spec, on time, and on budget.
3. Your deployments go smoothly
During the planning stage, your Sitecore partner will also have outlined and secured your approval for a QA process they’ll follow for all deployments.
Like everything else, this will be detailed. It will clearly define which stakeholders need to be involved for approval at various stages, and how to advance the code from a staging to a live environment, step by step.
Well before a deployment ever reaches you for approval, the code will have been comprehensively tested and verified by your Sitecore partner. They’ll work diligently to catch all potential bugs, so once it reaches the staging environment, your feedback should be mostly cosmetic.
Then, your Sitecore partner will implement your changes, and repeat the rigorous testing process once more. Once you feel fully satisfied with how things look and function, they’ll publish to a live environment.
Building a Sitecore implementation is a complex process with many moving parts. Bugs can always come up, but the key to reducing their frequency and minimizing their impact is having a solid QA process that’s consistently followed every time.
A reliable Sitecore partner won’t rush implementations or deployments. They’ll follow a detailed QA process to prevent bugs from interfering with you or your visitors’ site experience.
4. You’ll receive training and coherent documentation
Sitecore sites aren’t one-size-fits-all. Your Sitecore partner will have implemented a Sitecore site that’s unique to your business needs, content management requirements, customer experience, and information architecture.
The key to self-sufficiency is receiving personalized training from the Sitecore vendor who architected and built your site. They want you to feel fully satisfied with your Sitecore implementation. That means giving you all the necessary training and documentation you need to complete your job confidently and in a headache-free manner.
An empathic Sitecore partner will work with you to understand the unique learning styles of your team, the job functions of each team member, and how they’ll be expected to use Sitecore.
Some Sitecore partners go the extra distance, providing recordings of online training that you can keep for posterity to share with future team members.
5. You’ll feel confidence in your next steps
If your Sitecore implementation was built by a knowledgeable partner who follows Sitecore best practices, it should be easy and intuitive to use—especially if you invested in training. A successful Sitecore implementation ends when a client feels completely self-sufficient to create, manage, edit, and otherwise make changes to their site. Here’s what that looks like:
Adding or editing content is a simple, painless process.
Everyone has the right permissions to adjust the content they’re responsible for.
You’re comfortable creating new sections of the site, and managing content modules all on your own.
You delight in using the Sitecore Experience Editor interface, which lets you edit content in-line and preview exactly what the page will look like while you’re working on it.
- If you requested the ability to run A/B and multivariate tests, you’ll be able to quickly set these up and optimize content.
Sitecore is designed to give marketers and content managers the freedom and flexibility to build out new sections of your site, any way you like, all on your own. It’s as simple as selecting a layout and assigning a variety of reusable modules.
Of course, due to the number of things you can do with Sitecore and its extensive personalization capabilities, you may forget how to do things from time to time. That’s where having a Sitecore partner you can trust comes in. You’ll want to be able to call up your Sitecore partner whenever you’re having an issue, and feel welcome to ask them any questions.
Ongoing Support and Long-time Relationship
When selecting a Sitecore partner, ensure to pick one for the long-term; you don’t want to encounter an issue with no one to fix it. A good partner should guarantee ongoing support throughout the implementation process and beyond.
That’s why you should be sure to find out if they provide ongoing support after implementation is complete and the project is launched.
What Does a Great Sitecore Implementer Do?
Having an experienced Sitecore implementer lead the way isn’t just highly recommended, it’s crucial to the success of your Sitecore implementation. The Sitecore implementer has to ensure that you have the right package, technology stack, and support for the long-term growth of your project.
A Great Partner Will:
- Have a complete understanding of Sitecore’s ecosystem: A Sitecore implementer should be recognized and certified by Sitecore to guide you through the entire project lifecycle. However, you shouldn’t just settle for a company with a massive portfolio but rather one that understands your business needs and can guide you towards the best solution.
- Have numerous Sitecore-powered case studies: Looking through case studies is a good way to assess the experience of a Sitecore implementer. A Sitecore implementer will have an extensive portfolio and experience working with numerous enterprises.
- Provide training and documentation: A great Sitecore implementer will have training resources, materials, and blog content related to Sitecore.
- Practice proactive risk management: Having strategies and procedures that help in mitigating risks and solving problems is a hallmark of a good Sitecore implementer.
- Establish a clear plan: From the get-go, an effective Sitecore implementation partner will have laid out procedures for performing technical audits to understand your business goals, identifying your IT strengths and weaknesses. This will inform them on a clear line of action on the best Sitecore solutions to have and what steps to take.
A Great Partner Will NOT:
Put your brand’s long-term vision at risk: Some implementation partners may not care about your company’s long-term growth, only its short-term prospects. This can substantially hamper your business as it scales in the future. Identifying Sitecore implementers that align with your short and long-term vision and goals is crucial.
Put in custom functionality that makes it more difficult to upgrade: Sitecore is a powerful platform with features that cater to almost all enterprise needs. No matter what the solution is, it must be scalable and upgradeable. If not, you’ll be stuck with a custom solution that fails to meet your needs while limiting the business’ future growth.
Expect the first launch to be the last: An implementation process does not end with the first launch. For this reason, the best partner will be the one that guarantees support even after the deployment, implementing upgrades, providing support and training, monitoring performance, and ultimately ensuring the project’s success.
Lack tools for monitoring and controlling quality over time: Ensuring the utmost quality in an IT infrastructure should be a priority. For this reason, they should have the right tools and software to track performance and proffer solutions that help to maintain quality over time.
Ignore best practices such as using Docker and Kubernetes: A great Sitecore implementer won’t just build a solution for the sake of it. They should follow the best practices to ensure you have a scalable, flexible, and reliable platform. Following these practices will help you take your product to market faster, simplify implementation, and make it more reliable.
Fail to inform customers of potential dead ends and trouble spots: The implementer may discover technical debts or potential problem spots without informing you during a technical audit or maintenance. Failing to do so will result in future problems that may be quite challenging to solve.
10 Questions to Ask Before Partnering With Any Sitecore Agency
How much work do you currently outsource?
Do you have Sitecore MVPs in your company?
Do you have any Sitecore certified employees?
How long have you been a Sitecore Partner?
How many Sitecore projects have you completed?
How active is your team in the Sitecore community?
What is your level of certification and what does it entail?
Besides Sitecore, which other technologies do you work with?
Do you have Sitecore libraries or templates that could speed up the work?
How do you make sure your clients stay current on Sitecore best practices?
Oshyn: An Experienced Sitecore Partner
Sitecore is a DXP created to elevate your operations and empower your teams. It has plenty of features that can improve your business outcomes and enable you to create omnichannel digital experiences. However, when poorly implemented, it does more harm than good.
That’s when calling a Sitecore partner like Oshyn can help. Oshyn is a certified Sitecore Partner. Our implementation process starts with a comprehensive technical audit to gain a full understanding of your business and create personalized recommendations for the next steps.
The best Sitecore partner will start the journey with you by listening to what you have to say, and make recommendations about your particular use case. Then a complete assessment of your site’s status to uncover hidden issues and determine the best course of action to help you meet your goals.
Are you ready to kickstart your Sitecore implementation? Contact us, and let’s get started.