While I pre-ordered my copy of John West’s Professional Sitecore Development book, and received it from Amazon pretty much on the earliest possible date, I’m just now finding the time to get into it. I hope to write a few blog posts detailing my thoughts on the book and passages I think are especially important, with this being the first such post.
I think the Introduction and Chapter 1 of the book both do an admirable job of introducing the reader to CMS as well as to Sitecore the company/product. John is very clear in pointing out early in the book that the target market of Professional Sitecore Development is in fact developers who have already attended the Sitecore .NET Developer Training officially offered by Sitecore. While the intro and a majority of the first chapter are written in terms I think non-developers could grasp and understand, the end of the first chapter definitely does get into concepts and verbiage that would be over the head of any non-technical users. Further on in the intro, John writes that a lot of the content of the book is available through Sitecore training, official documentation and “on the web at large”, but that he hopes the book can serve as a comprehensive resource to help new Sitecore developers become familiar with the software. As a seasoned Sitecore developer, I have to admit I was hoping for this book to help extend my knowledge of the software beyond the existing white papers and blog posts found on the SDN. However, I certainly appreciate what John is doing by compiling many sources of information into one spot, and the book does a great job of providing links to further reading that can be found on the web. Additionally, as I wrote in a previous blog post, I think just the presence of a Sitecore book helps legitimatize the software as a whole. I also still have hope that I will certainly learn something I haven’t already read about in other Sitecore documentation.
One sentence from the book’s Intro that I thought was very important, but possibly easily overlooked is: “All web content management solutions involve two major components: a mechanism for representing data and a system of rules to present that data as part of one or more managed websites.” I recently wrote another blog post about the main components of Sitecore that describes in a non-technical way what companies get when they purchase the Sitecore software. Personally, I think it’s quite important for even non-technical users of software to have at least a cursory understanding of the software they’re paying for and implementing. Sentences like the above certainly do a good job breaking CMS software down into understandable pieces.
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Oftentimes when engaging clients doing a Sitecore implementation, if the client is moving into the CMS world for the first time, we have to explain to them that, while it’s awesome to have the ability to fully control your websites content, it’s also a lot of responsibility. (After all, Uncle Ben taught us “With great power comes great responsibility”, right Spider Man fans?) I think John sums this up well at the very beginning of Chapter 1 when he says “No web content management system delivers the solution you need without some level of input, whether in the form of entering content and choosing predefined presentation components or building an entire solution.”
My favorite portion of the Introduction and Chapter 1 was definitely this sentence, found on page 2: “Consider a CMS as a development platform or framework rather than a canned solution. Think of CMS implementation as an ongoing program, not a project with a fixed duration.” I can’t tell you how much I agree with this sentence. The biggest thing regarding this sentence is that technically John isn’t even talking about Sitecore specifically, just CMS in general. I think when you realize that on top of Sitecore being a great CMS tool, a huge selling point for Sitecore is its Digital Marketing Suite (DMS). DMS takes that above statement and really magnifies it to the Nth degree. Oftentimes Perficient is approached by clients who want Soup-to-Nuts regarding a Sitecore CMS and DMS implementation in one Statement of Work. While we certainly appreciate the clients’ desires of being able to budget a single amount and not have to “go back to the well” for more money, there are certain situations where the client will benefit from having the entire scope split into different phases.
Now, before I continue with that thought, let me make something clear – an “ongoing program” as John puts it does not mean that your implementation partner has an excuse to simply elongate the implementation to whatever they feel like, charging you more while they do so. What he means is, to have a truly effective CMS and website built on that CMS, customers will most likely always be expanding and tinkering with their website. Especially in this day and age, the minute a company walks away from any public facing website, CMS powered or not, and considers it “complete”, is the minute that the site is going to start to go stale. This is why Perficient, using our Enable Methodolgy, will sometimes stage its Sitecore implementations into multiple phases. Each phase of our implementations always has a clear and defined deliverable for the client to ensure that we’re providing them with real value along every step of the “ongoing program”. By breaking the implementation down into different phases, we have natural “break points” that allow the client to reevaluate exactly where they’re at in the implementation and reconfirm that their targeted goals are still the same. If they decide the goals have changed, then we are able to adjust the next phase of the implementation quickly to realign with their new goals. At the end of all of our phases, we also have a great project framework to continue expanding the implementation in whatever ways the client decides. Below is an image that better defines Perficient’s Enable Methodology that I mentioned above, and how it will help ensure a successful Sitecore implementation.
So far I’m really enjoying Professional Sitecore Development, I can’t wait to jump into the further chapters to deepen my own knowledge of an awesome piece of software!