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Sitecore Symposium 2021

  • By 3chillies

Sitecore’s SaaS strategy and the rise of the composable DXP

Each year at the Symposium - the annual conference run by Sitecore - there are a range of different strategic announcements, product updates, expert sessions and case studies. At the 2021 event, held online for the second year running, the main themes were undoubtedly Sitecore’s evolution towards offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, and the related support for the “composable” Digital Experience Platform (DXP). In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at Sitecore’s SaaS model, explore just what a composable DXP is and consider what this means for existing Sitecore customers.

Sitecore’s strategic move to SaaS

Sitecore’s big announcement at Symposium was the launch of Sitecore Experience Manager Cloud, marketed as “the first entirely cloud-native CMS offering the design flexibility, integration-friendliness, and authoring experience for business users to create and deliver personalised digital experiences”.

Sitecore’s strategic move towards a SaaS offering is certainly not a bolt out of the blue. It has been promised in various strategic updates from leadership; as we have previously observed, the launch of a SaaS offering was one of the likely outcomes of the substantial financial injection ($USD 1.2 billion) that Sitecore received in early-2021.

More significantly, Sitecore’s recent acquisitions of tech providers and niche service offerings have predominantly been of pre-existing services and products, all available on a SaaS basis which Sitecore has continued to offer. The most significant of these was the acquisition of Stylelabs, resulting in the rebranding to Sitecore Content Hub, which has been available on a SaaS basis.

More recently, Sitecore has made a brace of acquisitions, all of whom offer a range of different SaaS services and are helping Sitecore achieve the company’s aggressive ambitions for growth:

  • Boxever: a Customer Data Platform (CDP) dedicated to customer experience optimisation
  • Four51: a headless e-commerce solution that allows more flexibility to drive powerful customer experiences
  • Moosend: a marketing automation platform provider that supports better email marketing campaigns
  • Reflektion: an AI-powered digital search platform focusing on e-commerce.

While these niche acquisitions provide some different capabilities to the core Sitecore platform, there is also considerable overlap, and on first glance, they don’t necessarily provide the obvious complementary fit that the Stylelabs acquisition made. However, they make far more sense in the context of Sitecore’s move to support a composable DXP.

What is a composable DXP?

A composable DXP is essentially a digital experience platform or ecosystem that consists of a series of different best-of-breed solutions that work together through APIs, opposed to a traditional DXP which is a single, integrated platform - the model that the existing Sitecore platform is based upon. A composable DXP might feature different solutions from multiple vendors that deliver different features of your overall DXP solution, including:

  • A core Content Management System (CMS)
  • Front-end experiences
  • Analytics
  • E-commerce
  • Search
  • Personalisation
  • Marketing automation
  • A Digital Asset Management system
  • Security and a CDN layer
  • And more!

In a sense, a composable DXP is more of a digital ecosystem, with each element available on a SaaS basis and working together by exchanging data via APIs, avoiding many of the dependencies that can come with an integrated, “monolithic” solution.

What are the benefits of a composable DXP?

Sitecore themselves list some of the benefits for customers moving to a composable DXP model. These include the ability to:

  • Follow a best-of-breed approach
  • Use preferred tools and existing solutions across your digital marketing stack
  • Have less vendor lock-in and reliance on one “monolithic” solution and integrated platform that you might not use all the time
  • Implement far greater flexibility, scalability and agility to create customer experiences in a fast-moving world
  • Achieve faster time-to-market when delivering new digital projects
  • Introduce an omni-channel environment with support for headless publishing, decoupling the front-end experiences from the back-end content management system
  • And more.

How does Sitecore’s SaaS offering support a composable DXP?

Although there is a lot more detail to come, Sitecore’s vision appears to be based on supplying multiple services, each available as an individual SaaS offering – cloud-native and API-first – that can make up the individual parts of a composable DXP. This includes the existing cloud offerings from its recent acquisitions, as well as existing products like Sitecore Content Hub.

Of course, the main missing pieces in this are currently the core CMS and front-end elements that constitute most customers’ use of the platform. However, a useful article from CMSWire states that the cloud-versions of Experience Manager, Sitecore Symphony (“Front-End-as-a Service”) and Sitecore Search are expected to be commercially available in the first half of 2022, with beta versions coming soon.

What does this mean for current Sitecore customers?

Although there is a strong emphasis on the new cloud-based offerings and the composable DXP which represents a considerable shift from the tightly integrated Sitecore platform that most customers already use, there is no indication that the latter is going to be discontinued or no longer supported. In fact, Sitecore have referred to future releases Sitecore 10.2 and 10.3 releases in the new plan, and positioning the “traditional” DXP as an alternative model to the composable DXP. However, both new and existing customers may want more clarity about Sitecore’s longer-term plans to inform investment decisions.

It’s early in the composable journey

We think Sitecore’s new strategy and commitment to the composable DXP is an intriguing development that provides more options for digital marketing teams and their IT colleagues. Having more choice going forward can only be a good thing.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s still very early in the overall composable DXP journey. Although a composable DXP can provide value, we believe introducing one with multiple different systems could prove to be a learning curve for most digital teams without access to the right technical expertise. You may need help in order to set it up and continue to make it work, and the initial costs, although hard to predict, will need to be carefully considered to assess value for small- and medium-sized organisations.

There is also more clarity required on how the core SaaS offerings from Sitecore covering the back-end CMS and the front-end experience are going to work in practice, although we will know far more in the coming months.

As the composable DXP model starts to attract more organisations, the maturing of practices and emergence of potential products that tie different composable DXP elements together, will almost certainly lower barriers to entry for the composable DXP model. We think this is an exciting space to watch.

Get in touch

If you’d like to discuss Sitecore SaaS, the composable DXP or the future of Sitecore, then get in touch!

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