Monday, October 26, 2015

Sitecore MVP Summit, looking back

I was introduced to Sitecore in 2010. At first, I approached the product as a developer, but as the product and our digital agency The Reference have since evolved, and so has my understanding of and collaboration with Sitecore and its platform.
I now no longer perceive Sitecore simply as a means to implement our customers’ needs but rather as a system that helps shape business requirements and define desired future business outcomes, based on out of the box possibilities and custom work.
My role has therefore broadened a lot: I often act as a trainer, technical consultant and presales consultant. This implies that figuring out the limitations of system capabilities, studying the product roadmap as well as all third party integration systems are part of my set of responsibilities.
To keep that knowledge up to par, the technical team of Sitecore developers (20 and growing) at The Reference has gone through every Sitecore training imaginable and we are constantly on the lookout for new insights, best approaches and knowledge intakes. Luckily, our varied pool of customers have kept us on our toes by challenging us repeatedly through a wide range of requirements. These challenges resulted in extreme Sitecore security hardenings, global translation handling as well as touching at every aspect of the Sitecore system.


Sitecore has created numerous channels to inform its valuable partners such as The Reference: countless webinars, partner summits, the various online community platforms and the Sitecore marketplace.
That being said, these channels are relatively one-way as they do not allow the Sitecore community to give back and share insights, questions and answers, experiences, best practices and even frustrations. As a very active Sitecore partner, we will always need things to be solved and we want to share our experiences and knowledge. But perhaps more importantly, there are considerable cost-savings in collaboration with peers, savings that will benefit the customer.


Enter the Sitecore Symposium, held in Barcelona last year. This three day event was the first that I came back from feeling entirely pumped to use Sitecore to its full potential. The symposium was packed with retrospectives on the product, roadmaps, technical sessions and their overlapping business cases. An ideal environment to find out what the ecosystem behind Sitecore was actually comprised of. It indicated to us that Sitecore was a strong and able “Experience” vendor. Sitecore had shifted its focus from a CMS vendor to helping customers achieve their business goals; thereby exceeding their expectations and executive capabilities.
This symposium worked as a jumping board for myself and the entire organization, as we became fully versed in applying the Sitecore toolset to fully align with our core focus: improving our clients’ businesses through digital. New partnerships were created and many R&D projects were done internally to assert the new solutions and integration partners that we had come across. We participated in the Sitecore Hackaton organized by the community and kept on investing time and effort into the newly created Sitecore user group (SUGBELUX).
All these efforts helped spread best practices, knowledge and insights of the Sitecore platform. We took the time to start blogging, so that we could share our knowledge and experiences and find more likeminded people to share with and learn from.


Early this year, Sitecore announced the list of MVP’s for 2015. This year the honour of becoming MVP was bestowed on myself and my colleague Henri De Roeck. Where MVP stands for Most Valuable Professional, in Sitecore’s context it means more. It is that segment of their user and developer base that not only recognize the value of the product but also help to improve it through active commentary, discussions and feedback.
Sitecore rewards their MVP’s through numerous channels, early releases and information, a personal license, private discussion boards, and a yearly MVP Summit. Since the Sitecore MVP’s make up for 0.53% (168 MVP’s in total) of the total Sitecore community members, Sitecore is very aware of the value and visibility this very select group of people creates. Since this group provides 50% of the contributions to the platform: resolving or detecting bugs, releasing code on the marketplace and other improvements to the Sitecore platform.
The 2015 summit took place in the warm and damp confines of New Orleans. Two days packed of insights on what Sitecore is implementing technically, how the company is approaching technical challenges and an overall insight on the product roadmap.
But that is not where the summit ended. This MVP Summit focused exactly on what had been missing thus far with regards to creating an open communication and feedback loop. It went above and beyond by providing a number of open discussions and round-table meetings that allowed us to provide feedback to Sitecore on their current product. The round-table sessions allowed us to pick out a specific segment of the product and have an open, peer-to-peer (Sitecore employees included) conversation on issues, requests and so much more.


The actual subjects discussed on the summit cannot be disclosed but I can safely say that big changes are awaiting us.
Sitecore is proving to be very productive and are audacious enough to challenge themselves while working on an ever improving (both through new and existing functionalities) product. Everything that was presented showed proof of great ambition and the will to move into the future with both customers and partners. Sitecore is setting very high standards for itself; and we as partners to Sitecore and customers, should do no different.
To sum up the above, The Reference has covered and trodden down most of the ground that Sitecore was built on. And we are convinced of what Sitecore has to offer in the long run, since they are not taking their current product and position for granted. They see the need for continuing improvement and innovation and are determined to do so. As it turns out, they are that living product that can look out of the box, while handling any type of feedback and using it to their own advantage.
Combine this strength and drive of Sitecore as well as my fellow 167 MVP’s and you get a very strong community that is fully devoted to providing the best Experience as possible. I am proud to be a Sitecore MVP and hope to be part of it for many years to come!

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