If you’re paying any attention, you can’t have helped noticing that Sitecore have been on a bit of a spending spree recently. They’ve acquired three new companies, and hence there’s a lot of talk in the community about what this might mean for the future of “being a Sitecore developer”. This topic came up on the US Sitecore Lunch recently, and that prompted me to think about it a bit more…
So what have Sitecore acquired?
Well if you’ve been hiding under a rock, what they’ve done is to acquire three SaaS products that fit in with their overall market space:
Boxever sell a product aimed at decision making for personalising content. It combines a customer data storage tool (where user interactions and events can be logged) with a decision-making framework for choosing “the best thing to show” based on your business rules.
Four51 have a product called OrderCloud which is a e-commerce framework. It provides tools for managing the organisations involved in your sales processes, plus the catalogues of products on sale. And it lets you manage the creation of orders through your sales process and the flows for fulfilling them.
And last week they announced the intention to add Moosend to their list. This product is focused on email marketing. Most obviously it provides tools for designing, sending and tracking emails. And it also provides things like campaign landing pages, marketing automation tooling and reporting.
All three of these are API-focused products. While they’ll have management and reporting UIs, they all offer strong REST-based APIs for connecting the tools into your projects.
What’s the obvious path for using these things?
I think the key use case here is the CaaS stack? Given the breadth and depth of Sitecore’s DXP offering with the Experience platform, CaaS looked a bit weak in comparison with its initial launch. But this collection of acquisitions looks like it could fill a big part of that gap.
Boxever provides a personalisation and XConnect features for a CaaS site, OrderCloud provides a way to add commerce and Moosend gives you EXM and Marketing Automation behaviours. And because they offer REST APIs for their features they are well suited to the idea of connecting everything together. Both connecting these tools to your JAMStack-style site, and connecting Content Hub to these tools to integrate the content you’re producing.
But on top of these uses of the products, remember that Sitecore also gets to use the companies they’re purchasing too. It’s noticeable they’ve quickly put senior staff from Boxever and Four51 into leadership roles inside Sitecore. I’d not be surprised to see similar things happen with people from Moosend over the coming weeks.
But isn’t there some product overlap here?
Yes, absolutely. All three of these products overlap with existing Sitecore XP technology. Boxever covers bits of XConnect and the personalisation stack, OrderCloud covers Experience Commerce, and Moosend matches up with EXM and Marketing Automation.
So how might that pan out?
Well this is where it gets interesting, I think – and hence where a lot of speculation is happening:
Could these products be used with your traditional Experience Platform sites? Yes – I’m pretty sure they could. You could certainly make use of them in the front-end of your site in a similar manner to how you’d used them in a JAMStack site. And there’s potential for integrating into the back-end of a site too. Maybe Boxever’s model doesn’t fit too well with the technical implementation of Sitecore’s traditional approach to personalisation, but they probably could be brought together.
Now if we can do this, would it be part of Sitecore’s plan? Well that’s interesting:
On one hand that makes a lot of sense – why have two development teams working on similar features long term? If the behaviour matches well enough then there’s certainly a financial argument for bringing the two systems together and replacing one set of tech with the other. And you’d assume at this point that the more likely choice would be to replace XP’s tech with the purchased products – because turning the old XP tech into a SaaS product set seems unlikely.
But on the other hand, this would significantly restrict the flexibility of their offering… At symposium last year they discussed the idea of three tiers of delivery: “client deals with hosting” (traditional XP), “Sitecore hosts your site in Azure” (XP under Managed Services) and “Experience Edge hosts your site” (CaaS). They said specifically they wanted you to be able to pick which of these suits your project best. So replacing classic XP components with SaaS services does tend to mess up that approach. And I’m aware I’ve worked with a few clients over the years who, because of internal politics or security would not want to use SaaS services for their websites. Pretty sure I’m not the only one there – though whether that quantity of clients would be sufficient to sway a decision isn’t clear.
Now at this point, to be honest we don’t know much official detail about Sitecore’s real plans here. And to be honest, this is a bit of a frustrating thing for the community at large – people are excited and interested, and hence they’re hungry for details. I’m expecting there to be a flurry of announcements for Symposium later this year. It seems like a long time to wait for the details, but they probably need to let the dust settle after the changes of management, and traditionally Symposium is where the big announcements occur. My gut feel is that we’re not going to hear anything about replacing XP features with these tools for a few years though…
We’ve heard a bit about some potential plans informally, however. What we hear they are considering right now is the approach to making these new purchases fit into the CaaS ecosystem. There’s a recognition that one of the key issues is the need for a shared authentication and authorisation system between all the SaaS products. So it seems likely we’ll here some discussion of how that can be brought about. Relatedly, there’s been mention of a common approach to config (and maybe licensing?) across the products, in order to make working with them as a group simpler. And at the “less important” end of the spectrum there’s also been mention of how the products will all end up with some sort of common look and feel – supposedly inspired by Horizon.
The other thing that’s being said informally is that the things we’ve been told previously about the likely drivers for why you’d pick XP or CaaS remain true. They describe XP as the “full feature” system for people who need all the features and flexibility, and they describe CaaS as appropriate for organisations who need smaller, faster content delivery across a wide variety of channels. And that’s another reason why it seems unlikely we’ll see any dramatic changes to the XP stack for some time.
But we certainly live in interesting times…