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Business & Strategy

Sitecore Implementation 101

Nov 12, 2020

Content is the ultimate differentiator. In a world where every organization has tons of internal and external content, choosing a CMS to manage that content is seen as one of the most important decisions that an organization can make.

Factors such as usability for content authors, architecture and flexibility for developers, integration abilities and the capacity to build personalized digital experiences for their customers are what companies weigh when trying to make a decision.

According to Gartner, leaders in the area of web content management are drivers of market transformation and have the capacity to innovate and execute out their visions. Even with the move towards a complete digital experience platform (DXP), these factors remain just as critical.

Yet, after choosing the DXP for their needs, many companies underestimate the next step in the process — implementation.

Getting Started with Sitecore

Sitecore has been one of the leaders in the web content management and digital experience platform space for over a decade and helps brands deliver memorable experiences. Sitecore and its associated modules like Sitecore Experience Platform and Sitecore Commerce enables brands to nurture consumers through the customer journey by providing personalized content in real-time across channels, combining customer data, marketing automation, and analytics along the way.

Personalization is one of the pillars of the customer experience journey and Sitecore uses several features, including Sitecore AI, to create personalized omnichannel experiences that customers adore.

However, realizing all the benefits Sitecore has to offer requires implementing it in a way that’s aligned with your business needs.

If implemented correctly, the possibilities you imagined when you first decided on your DXP platform are well within your grasp. Unfortunately, failure to implement things correctly can lead to headaches and a poorly functioning system.

Ultimately, the implementation phase makes it or breaks it. Here are some things to consider as part of the implementation process.

Implementation Starting Points

A Sitecore implementation, like with any software implementation, can be a long and potentially cost-intensive process, depending on your current situation. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. Here are the critical starting points as part of the implementation process.

Determine Implementation Type

A CMS implementation can either be a complete redesign or simply a replatforming. A meeting with your stakeholders can determine which is most appropriate for your business before the implementation even begins.

Create an Implementation Document

All implementations are different and to avoid issues you should begin with a comprehensive Sitecore architecture document that outlines your requirements and gives every stakeholder visibility over what the implementation will entail so as to avoid nasty surprises in the future.

For a successful implementation to work, you need to establish the timeline by meeting with key stakeholders. This may also include your implementation partner. The timeline can provide a rough estimate of how long the project is going to take and can help you to plan for potential downtime where software may be unavailable.

Establish a Timeline

To successfully implement Sitecore, you need to establish the timeline by meeting with key stakeholders. This may also include your implementation partner. The timeline can provide a rough estimate of how long the project is going to take and can help you to plan for potential downtime where software may be unavailable.

Outline Expectations

In conjunction with a timeline, your implementation partner will likely outline what you should expect as part of the implementation process. Implementing a CMS like Sitecore won’t immediately solve all the problems your business may have been facing before. You also won’t necessarily be able to use every feature of Sitecore when just getting started. Understanding what to expect when starting, and the limitations you might face can help tremendously.

Understand Costs

Implementing Sitecore can be potentially cost-intensive. Understanding the costs of the project and determining the features that are most crucial for your business will be necessary to avoid surprises.

Implementation Process

Finally, your implementation partner will work with you to give an overview of the entire implementation process. The process won’t be limited to just the timeline and costs, but also any additional resources and personnel that may be required. It will also outline the steps for teams working together and the project management style that will be used for the implementation, whether that be agile or waterfall.

The Different Types of Sitecore Implementation

The Sitecore platform is composed of many different parts and it is possible to implement some of these solutions modularly. Let’s take a look at all the different types of implementation you can leverage in your next Sitecore project:

Workflow Implementation

Workflows give you control over the approval and publishing processes, making sure that only the content you’ve approved gets published. Our expert Sitecore developers can help you improve your website’s workflow and gain a better understanding of your content publishing process, empowering your content editors.

Experience Analytics Implementation

Sitecore Experience Analytics provides dashboards and reports to marketers so they can identify patterns and trends in all the data Sitecore CMS collects from their website. With the help of a certified Sitecore developer, you can harness the power of Sitecore analytics to analyze, optimize, and gauge user experience and interest.

Localization and Multi-language Implementation

Localization is a must for sites with visitors from different countries and cultures. Sitecore experts can help you set up your localization engine so you can start creating and deploying content to visitors from different countries and cultures.

Security Implementation

Proper security should be the backbone of your Sitecore website. Sitecore experts have the tools to help implement security certificates, data security best practices, DevOps pipelines, and better ways of collecting customer data.

How To Mitigate Risks During Sitecore Implementation

Risk mitigation refers to the process of identifying, evaluating and prioritizing risks that could derail your project and setting up strategies to deal with those risks before or when they arise.

Risk mitigation helps you to get things done faster since you don’t have to return to the drawing board every time you run into an obstacle during the implementation process. Instead, you can focus on solving those problems and getting the implementation back on track.

Mitigation is a key step before you get to your launch strategy, begin migrating content to your new CMS or initiate any of the creative pilot projects you had planned. In fact, identifying risk can be difficult because at times since many stakeholders end up focusing too much on the end result and what will happen once the new system is set up, ignoring the actual setup process.

Here are some ways you can mitigate risks during implementation:

  1. Make Risk Mitigation A Priority

    If you don’t have a plan for mitigating risks, then if any issues crop up, it will be difficult to cope with them. Make sure that all stakeholders are aware of the ongoing implementation and outline ways for them to communicate their questions and raise their concerns to prevent problems down the road.

  2. Add a Testing Environment

    Poorly tested software products wreak havoc on both the bottom line and the user experience. Before deploying something to your main website, it’s important that you test it somewhere where you can’t harm your actual deployment.

  3. Check Features and Functionality

    The best way to know if everything is functioning properly is by testing it out separately. Starting with your primary features, check that things like content authoring, connectors, integrations and any APIs you need to use are working the way you want. If a problem does arise during the implementation process, it will be easier to diagnose one specific area as opposed to ripping up everything else and starting over.

  4. Test Scalability and Recovery

    As you scale your project, you might realize that the way you set it up initially isn’t sufficient to handle your current needs. Test your ability to scale and determine potential weak points in your infrastructure before you begin implementation. Also, problems that can cause your DXP to crash can arise at any moment. Determine some potential failure points and outline plans for how to recover data and functionality as quickly as possible.

Now that you understand how to mitigate risks let’s focus on some tips for a successful implementation.

7 Tips for Sitecore Implementation

  1. Determine Your Business Needs

    Every business will have different priorities when it comes to choosing a CMS or DXP (or indeed, any one of Sitecore’s products). The first step to implementation is to determine which features you need from your platform. Sitecore has a plethora of features and products related to digital experiences, commerce, personalization, developer applications and more. Focus on the area that will help drive the most business value and then include the others as needed.

  2. Rank Features in Order of Importance, and Prioritize Accordingly

    Once you’ve determined which features matter the most to your business, the next step is to rank and prioritize implementation of the features. The implementation process can sometimes take a few weeks from outlining your mitigation plan to implementing features and migrating your content. While you are working on other features, you may want to begin using your DXP in some capacity. By prioritizing, you can decide which features matter most to your business and get those up and running first.

  3. Get Employee Buy-in

    Multiple departments and personnel will use your DXP within your organization. If you haven’t used Sitecore CMS before, or if you have and you’re just upgrading to a newer version, make sure that you have the support of everyone who will be using the system. Also, it’s a good idea to discuss with your employees how Sitecore can be used to solve the problems they are currently facing or how they will need to adjust to doing things they once did in a previous DXP.

  4. Simplify The Process

    The design and development process for Sitecore can include some hurdles. During implementation, you need to consider factors such as workflows and editing granularity on the design stage and content load times, code and content deployment and editor training on the development stage.

    Sitecore has out-of-the-box connectors that help you extend its functionality. Instead of altering your entire martech stack after you’ve completed implementation, consider which connectors can be used with the other systems such as marketing automation and analytics you already have in use so that you can maximize your existing infrastructure.

  5. Follow Best Practices

    Implementing Sitecore can be a challenging process. One way to make things easier is to follow the best practices outlined in Sitecore Helix for Sitecore Development. Following these guidelines will help you get to market faster, make implementation easier and more stable.

  6. User Acceptance Testing

    Knowing whether or not your users accept, like, and will use your solution is must before deploying a new digital experience. Running a test gives the client or customer the opportunity to check that what you built meets the scope and requirements that you expected.

  7. Choose An Implementation Partner

    Transforming Sitecore from a content management system to the fully operational system your business needs isn’t a simple process on your own. Carefully choosing an implementation partner to make the transition to Sitecore or to upgrade your existing site is probably the most important step and is actually recommended by Sitecore. A Sitecore implementation partner can help guide you in the process of implementing your new DXP and help you get the most out of it.

Oshyn and NEAMB: Redesigning and Implementing a Sitecore Site

National Education Association Member Benefits (NEAMB), a subsidiary of the National Education Association (NEA), needed to migrate its OpenText website to a modern CMS that aligned with their digital strategy and offered more advanced functionality.

Oshyn, a Sitecore partner that works with brands to create amazing digital experiences, helped NEAMB set up and upgrade their new Sitecore site. Oshyn spearheaded a redesign and implementation of a new website. The process utilized a plan for website development and included a migration plan for the existing functionalities and connections to external systems.

The new website was developed using Sitecore Helix and other Sitecore best practices to build a better Sitecore project. The newly-launched website provided NEAMB with a refreshed—and personalized—experience for their users, which resulted in more website visits and an increase in conversions.

A successful implementation strategy will help lead you to success with Sitecore. View our ebook, Sitecore 9.x Implementation Best Practices for some insight into the best practices you should be following regarding scalability, templates, development, and more.

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