4 Big #Sitecore Project Challenges (and How We Overcame Them) From Client’s Perspective

Oct 10, 2016MVP, Sitecore0 comments

I’ve been involved in almost a dozen Sitecore project launches, engaged with three agency partners and have worked with the platform for almost 5 years. These are the most common Sitecore challenges I’ve experienced when implementing the powerful CMS platform.

Sitecore is one of the most powerful digital marketing platforms available on the market today. But with all those capabilities comes the potential for challenging Sitecore project builds as well. Sitecore is an extremely extensible platform, but also one that doesn’t come with a lot of “out-of-the-box” functionality. These facts leave companies with a powerful platform that requires them to define their own vision for what it can do for them into the future.

The following are the biggest Sitecore challenges I’ve encountered in launching projects on the platform, along with a few tips to mitigate the risks of each challenge.

Sitecore Project Challenge #1 – Estimating Timelines and Level of Effort

This is one of the first challenges many Sitecore teams experience. Sitecore is a relatively new platform for many, and if you don’t have an experienced Sitecore architect leading your project, you’re likely to experience difficulty in estimating your project timelines and level of effort. This can lead to serious project and launch delays if left unchecked.

Implementing Sitecore isn’t for the faint of heart, but there are a few ways you can potentially mitigate scope creep and common project management issues:

  1. Hire a Sitecore Technology MVP to lead the development of your project. Sitecore MVP’s are designated into three different categories – Commerce, Technology and Strategy. Click here for a list of 2016 MVP’s.
  2. Enlist an experienced Sitecore agency partner to guide your project. Click here to search certified agency partners.
  3. Allow your project enough functional and technical discovery time to define feature requirements and functional behaviors.
  4. Set your project scope and stick to it. If you need to pivot, try to do so in an iterative way in a future release.
  5. Build time into your project plan to account for proper QA and issue remediation.

Related Post: Three easy ways to avoid scope creep in your next digital project.

An Introduction to my Sitecore Module & Product Idea.

I created this project to act as the "hub" for all posts related to my Sitecore MVP pursuit and my Sitecore product idea. My first post is an introduction to the series and is titled, "Pursuing Sitecore MVP - My Sitecore Product Idea". As I post more segments to this project, they will all be included here. You can follow along on my Sitecore MVP journey from start to finish.

Sitecore Project Challenge #2 – Integrations & Technology Stack

The Sitecore platform is extremely flexible, which means that you can setup any number of integrations with other platforms. You can integrate with CRM’s and webforms, 3rd party data sources & service layers, payment gateways and many other tools. While a few integrations have out-of-the-box solutions available, many of them involve custom implementations.

Again, to mitigate these risks, the best approach is to have a clear technology stack defined early, along with a roadmap to implementing those integrations. I’ve found that it can be a huge challenge to implement everything all at once, so don’t be afraid to phase your integration approach. Start with the integrations that are most mission-critical first (like CRM). Trying to launch everything at once is definitely possible, especially with careful planning, but it can also cause significant delays if your planning misses any key elements along the way.

Sitecore Project Challenge #3 – Sitecore’s xDB and the Potential for Hidden Costs

Understandably, many companies are sold on the impressive capabilities of the Sitecore platform. Many of those functionalities are predicated on the implementation of Experience Database (xDB) to support them, though. You can’t really implement personalization or even A/B testing without xDB. However, some don’t realize there are costs associated with this infrastructure.

The best way to mitigate the risks of hidden costs in a project is to consult with an expert. Careful planning should be made to understand the infrastructure and licensing costs associated with any current or future Sitecore implementation. You’re also wise to work with your Sitecore Account Manager to determine specific licensing and support costs related to the more advanced features as well.

Personalization isn’t free and it should be known that leveraging these advanced Sitecore functional capabilities will require additional an investment in your platform’s foundation before you can begin.

Sitecore Project Challenge #4 – The Sitecore Editor Experience

As of Sitecore 8.0, one of the biggest challenges of Sitecore by far is the editor experience. A solution for this is on the horizon with Sitecore 8.1 / 8.2 and the Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SxA), but this is an add-on option, again not available out-of-the-box. The experience a Sitecore editor has is entirely up to how the platform is implemented. That is both a positive and negative statement, potentially.

If the Sitecore editor experience isn’t accounted for during your project build, you will get what the developers give you. Depending on the experience level of your developers, that may be a great experience or a poor one.

The best way to mitigate the risk of a poor back-end experience in Sitecore is to either plan on a SxA implementation or specify editor experiences where they matter the most. If you need blog content entry to be streamlined, for example, then make sure the editor experience is just as throughly defined as the end-user experience. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from other Sitecore users is that the editor experience can be poor. With a little planning, a few functional specifications and the potential of SxA, those worries can go away.

The Story Behind the Photo

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
The featured image on this post was taken inside the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area while at Sitecore Symposium Las Vegas in September of 2014. A rare storm was in the area because of a tropical system that made its way all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the desert.

Red Rock Canyon - Las Vegas

The story behind the photo: The featured image on this post was taken inside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area while at Sitecore Symposium in Las Vegas in September of 2014. A rare storm was in the area because of a tropical system that made its way to the desert.

What are your biggest Sitecore challenges?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article about Sitecore implementation challenges. Have you experienced any challenges of your own you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.