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Digital Transformation

Sitecore vs. Custom Development Sites

Sometimes when introducing prospective clients to the awesome software that is Sitecore, we face a little bit of a pushback from the IT groups.  This is because a lot of those IT groups include developers who have been working very hard at creating custom applications to suit their companies.  As a developer who spent 5 years helping build a company intranet from the ground up, I completely understand that perspective.  In fact, I’m very much the type of developer who, when presented with a challenge, loves to come up with my own code as the solution – rather than relying on any third party solution.  I remember even a month into my own experience developing with Sitecore asking a coworker who had more CMS experience why a company would choose Sitecore over a custom- built, tailored admin if they had the developer resources available.

Fast forward 3 years, and I can absolutely answer my own question about why use Sitecore instead of trying to develop a custom solution.  The answer is clearly because Sitecore is such a polished product right now and offers so much different functionality out of the box that it would take years and years of competent development to even come close to being able to offer the same features that Sitecore does, and to do it in such a refined, slick manner that end users who are not technical can learn the system without difficulties.  Even if you only consider the CMS aspect of Sitecore, it alone is full of functionality that would not be easily replicated, whether that’s the WYSIWYG page editor, or the easy to implement multi-device / multi-language aspects, the version control and workflow processes that can be customized to any organization are just the tip of the iceberg.  Once you consider the power that Sitecore’s DMS gives marketers, then you’re really talking about functionality (content personalization, multi-variate testing, advanced analytics, etc.) that can only be delivered by a company solely devoted to releasing a software product – which of course is exactly what Sitecore the company is.  The time spent on engineering and architecting that software by a company who is not in the software business would be of a much higher opportunity cost than purchasing Sitecore and spending that same development time on other projects that will directly correlate to an advantage of some sort for the organization.

When I think about it a little further, I think we see IT pushback for two main reasons – the first being some fear that if a company purchases Sitecore, their developer resources may be seen as obsolete and thus job security is lowered.  I think the second reason is that developers often enjoy what they do (after all, if they don’t, they won’t be long for putting up with the requirements of the career) and they want to spend their time coding and providing a valuable asset to their company.

I can safely say that the first fear – that Sitecore will make me, as a developer, expendable to my company – is simply not going to be the case.  While Sitecore is a great product, it still requires development to tailor it to each particular customer who uses it.  My experience is that companies who already employ their own developers will do more tailoring than those who do not have their own development teams.  This is simply because those companies with developers are generally already more accustomed to relying on their developers for greater customization.  At Perficient, we’ve worked with clients who have their own development teams to implement a Sitecore solution, and the projects have been very successful.  We like to focus those projects not simply on delivering a final site as the solution, but on mentoring the in-house development teams in the thinking and processes we use as a Sitecore implementation partner so that they are able to continue doing Sitecore development after we’ve successfully completed our work.  These mentoring sessions really show us, and the developers we’re working with, that introducing Sitecore won’t be the end of their jobs but simply a slight shift in their focus.

That slight shift helps us answer the second reason we see pushback from IT – developers want to develop and want to feel that they’re providing a meaningful service to their company.  Luckily for those who have implemented Sitecore, they find this shift not only helps them to spend their time developing but to actually be able to focus more on the items that will provide higher value to their company.  Once Sitecore is implemented, developers don’t have to be involved in day-to-day maintenance of their site.  No more worrying about getting a press release page out on time (but not too early), or hurrying to fix a typo that has to be corrected – these are now handled by the stakeholders of such issues – the marketing team!  Here’s an insider secret – developers hate “fires” and hate having to put them out – especially ones that interrupt the cool process they were building because someone else made a mistake.  Fewer fires to put out means in-house developers have more time to focus on things they are the stakeholders for – transactional processes and business rule coding that not only makes their site unique to their company, but can allow the site to become a competitive differentiator!(Really, it makes me excited just writing it down!  I guess I’m a little bit of a geek…)

There’s one last reason that IT groups may push back against introducing Sitecore – a perceived loss of control.  I’ve written another blog post about what exactly Sitecore is – if you read through that, you should come away understanding among all the things that Sitecore is, a black box is certainly not one of them.  There’s nothing about implementing Sitecore that requires IT to have less control over their security, or their code, or the technical aspects of their site(s).  In fact, IT groups might often find that the workflows and security systems that Sitecore provides them out of the box actually give them a heightened sense of control vs. their own custom systems!

In conclusion, I can definitely say that, while I am a developer who loves nothing more than coding my own solutions to a problem, having Sitecore implemented by my own company makes things better!   If I were to create a new site or company on my own, I would definitely build it on top of Sitecore, and know that I’d be able to have a great foundation for that site from day 1 – leaving me to spend time on making my site the competitive advantage a website should be!

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Jamie Stump

My name is Jamie Stump, and I am a Senior Sitecore Consultant at Perficient. I was honored to be named one of only 42 2013 Sitecore MVP’s worldwide. I specialize in Sitecore Architecture and Development and my broad Sitecore experience includes Sitecore installation, configuration and CEP development, including custom DMS implementations for clients. I have implemented Sitecore solutions for a number of industry verticals including manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, advertising and retail. In addition to architecting and implementing Sitecore sites and eCommerce solutions, I also work with other Microsoft Technologies, including the .NET platform and SQL Server. You can read through my older Sitecore related blog posts here and my newer ones here. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Development from York College of PA. I am originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, and still reside there with my wife, son, English bulldog and 2 cats.

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