the literal key to Sitecore
Sitecore customers shared best practices and tips from their experiences implementing the platform during Sitecore Symposium PHOTO: Frank Daugaard

When food, venue and hospitality company Delaware North Companies decided its former CMS was at the end of its lifecycle, it put out an request for proposal (RFP) seeking a replacement. Its needs were specific: it had a series of 60 plus websites at multiple locations around the U.S. and it wanted a solution that would turn a static website into more of a dynamic marketing tool. A strong focus on personalization and A/B testing also topped the list of requirements.

The RFP went out and Buffalo, NY-based Delaware North’s partner, Hero Digital helped cull the short list down to Sitecore and a few other heavy-hitters. “There are perhaps 600 plus content management technologies out there but just listening to the scale of Delaware North’s environment, the number of sites that needed to be addressed, there are very few technologies in the marketplace that would be suited for that task,” Dave Kilimnik, CEO of San Francisco-based Hero Digital told CMSWire.

Sitecore Customers Share Hard-Earned Tips 

Kilimnik and Delaware North’s ecommerce manager Maria Corrales attended the Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas last week, to hear the latest from the company. While Version 9 and Sitecore’s other major rollouts, such as Cortex and xConnect, held the crowd’s attention the first morning, conversations on the ground turned to more practical matters — such as how to get what their current installation to work they way they wanted. 

CMSWire spoke with a few customers at the event about their experiences implementing Sitecore. Generally, people were pleased with their choice. For instance, Sitecore was a particularly good fit for Delaware North because of its component-based model, Corrales told CMSWire. “Sometimes we win a bid and we get a new property and we need to get a site up very quickly. Sitecore gives us that framework to do that.”

None found the implementation process particularly easy — not that they had expected it to be — and in every case there were challenges that had to be met and overcome. Another common theme: the partners they choose for the implementation, such as Hero Digital, were as integral to a successful project as their choice of Sitecore.

Your Implementation Partner Matters

Which brings us to a pro tip from Bryan Hardman, director of Interactive Marketing for the Herschend Family, otherwise known as the owners of Dollywood.

Pick a partner with a lot of Sitecore experience. “When we first made the decision to use Sitecore we were with a different vendor partner than we have now,” Hardman told CMSWire. “While that vendor partner had implemented Sitecore before, they were not what I would call a Sitecore partner. They had done it one way in the past, and so that is the way they implemented it for us — the problem was it just wasn’t best practice. It was much more of a templated implementation where the templates were very inflexible.”

Expect your participation in the process to be very time-consuming. Whatever amount of time you expect to spend on the project, double it or triple it, according to Jamie Saunders, senior marketing communications manager with Neenah Paper. Also, while your partner is important, "it won’t be able to do the work that only you, the company, can do,” she told CMSWire. “I think you go into a process like this and you think you’ll be able to say, ‘build me a site,’ ‘design this for me,’ ‘make that for me’ and so on. But that is not how it works because the partner needs your information. I think it can be a little overwhelming and daunting the number of meetings you need to sit through to just get that information to your partner,” she said.

“But once you see that their questions are methodical and there’s a reason for them, it becomes worth it.”

Focus on Employee Buy In

Listen to — and assuage if possible — employees fears about the new system. For example, Corrales of Delaware North said that when the idea of using Sitecore was first introduced, employees had concerns that all of the various sites would look exactly the same and they wouldn’t have any individual brand identity. “At first you hear about a templated approach and a shared framework and people think it is all going to be the same.”

Build on Your Base

Unpack your data carefully. Tiffany Greenway, Customer Web Experience and Marketing Technology with Chick-fil-A Corporate had a moment when she looked at the site’s mobile download data and her heart skipped a beat. The downloads had zero impact on the engagement value score. Then she realized the reason: all they were doing was moving a customer from the web to a mobile app, that wouldn’t affect the engagement value score. 

“I think all of our ah-ha moments came from understanding how to unpack that data,” she told CMSWire.

The bigger point in this, she continued, was you need to look at the data and say, "‘What is the story that the data is telling me?’ ‘What do I understand about my customer differently than what I did now?’ And remember that this data will never replace the human thinking part.”

Know when to upgrade. Before implementing Sitecore, plumbing and indoor climate provider Uponor did not have a flexible, scalable web content management system that could support its business needs, according to Jon Orton, director, Marketing Operations. Perhaps that is why, after the company implemented Sitecore to support its aggressive “push-to-web” strategy to build brand awareness and generate leads, it continued to build on its original investment. 

Uponor made its first investment in 2007. In 2010, it launched a knowledge resource center on the Sitecore platform to support its trade partners. In 2012, it expanded once again by adding an online catalog feature to the digital experience. It began using the Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model in 2013 to measure its digital maturity.

Now it is planning to upgrade to version 9 for its improved reporting capabilities. “A move in this direction will help us on our quest for driving engagement with our customers and building lifelong advocates,” Orton said.