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Gartner released it’s latest Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM) at the end of July, and once again Sitecore is in the leaders grouping of the software providers that were evaluated. This marks the 4th year in a row that Sitecore has achieved such an honor! Gartner describes the software in the Leader classification as having the highest combined scores for “Ability to Execute” and “Completeness of Vision”. What this means to me is that companies that are considering switching to a WCM platform, or are already on a WCM platform and want to be assured that they’re getting benefit from it can be comfortable with a software that Gartner has ranked as a Leader. Since Sitecore is consistently in this grouping, I think that just adds to the mountain of credibility that the company and software have already established.
It’s really an impressive feat when you consider that just 10-15 years ago, Sitecore was a very small player coming out of Denmark. In fact, back in the early Aughts, we had done a comparison of Sitecore and another CMS product for a client. Sitecore at the time had some really impressive features that were exciting to see and had great potential, but as my director puts it, it felt like it was “20 guys in a basement in Denmark”. The other CMS product was produced by a well-known, reputable software company that had proven enterprise software. At the time, while Sitecore was the more exciting product, we recommended the client go with what was thought to be the more stable choice for an enterprise. Fast forward 10 years or so, and Sitecore has seized that potential and turned itself into a leader, which is really impressive to me – I’m a real believer that potential is abundant in both individuals and companies everywhere, but the realization of that potential is rare indeed. Oh, and that other CMS? It’s long gone, only surviving in extreme legacy environments at this point. We’ve even helped that client to migrate from that old CMS to Sitecore as well, and now they can be comfortable that they’re now on a platform that is able to suit their current needs while also positioned to be a leader in the future as well.
I want to pull out a few comments from the Gartner report regarding Sitecore to highlight, though I recommend everyone who has any interest in the WCM market to download their own copy and read it in full. Gartner says some strengths of Sitecore are “Sitecore has progressed from focusing solely on WCM to providing multiple components required for a successful OCO [Online Channel Optimization] strategy, particularly in the area of digital marketing”. They also say that the strategic services Sitecore is offering “will be instrumental in enhancing customer satisfaction further and helping customers increase ROI”. Increasing ROI? Sign me up, am I right? After all, it’s important to remember that Sitecore is a software to suit business, and all businesses need to capitalize ROI, regardless of how large or small or for-profit / not-for-profit the organization is. In todays economy, the companies that are able to maximize that ROI will be the companies that do more than merely survive.
One last strength comment from Gartner: “Sitecore’s platform is able to deal with challenging issues, such as multilingual and multichannel needs. It also provides device simulation capabilities to preview or visualize how the delivered experiences will look on different devices over different channels, which is an added advantage.” I’ve seen firsthand how Sitecore handles multilingual / multichannel needs, and it really does handle those challenges well and in a manner that is easily learned by business users. The device simulation capabilities are new to Sitecore starting in version 6.6, and having recently done a demo where I could show how a non-public site would look on a mobile device, I can tell you that this is an awesome feature! In the past, as a developer, it was very difficult to gauge the output a site would have for different mobile devices until that site was live. Even after it was live, if you didn’t have access to a myriad of different devices, you may not be able to test all the different mobile options that are available to the market. With this device simulation capabilities, Sitecore has completely removed that issue and made it possible to know that you are going live with a truly mobile-optimized and stunning site on day 1 of your launch!
Along with strengths for each of the evaluated software providers, Gartner also lists some “cautions”. The first caution they list for Sitecore talks about a lack of balance between the OCO strategies with real world deployments. I think the easiest answer to that perceived weakness is for organizations that are implementing Sitecore to utilize a really strong implementation partner. A strong implementation partner for Sitecore is a company that’s done multiple implementations already for other clients, has certified Sitecore developers on staff and preferably is listed as a Specialized Partner by Sitecore. (Shameless plug time: Yes, Perficient has all of those qualities – plus the rest I’m about to list too!) Also, a Sitecore MVP on staff tells you that the partner is committed to implementing Sitecore and has put the software into its long term strategic plans. More so than those qualities, a good Sitecore implementation partner should be able to come in and talk to you about technical details of your implementation, strategies they’ve used in the past for Best Practice Sitecore architecture (both content and code), business user / marketing use cases they’ve implemented / trained on and preferably have a toolkit at their disposal to make your real world deployment be more efficient and effective. Once you find that partner, you should be past the “caution” that the software itself may pose, because your partner will navigate you in the right directions for your real world deployment, and avoid the obvious (and not-so obvious) pitfalls you may have run into on your own, or with a less experienced partner.
Gartner also has the following comment in the Sitecore cautions section: “Its popularity is likely to decline as SharePoint becomes less of a consideration.”, which is listed after pointing out that Sitecore is built upon .NET and can have strong ties into SharePoint because of that. My reaction to this is two-fold. First, I was unaware that SharePoint is becoming less of a consideration to anything – that’s certainly not the real world market I’m seeing out there. Second, I think they’re confusing that .NET is a framework that is completely independent of the software package that is SharePoint. Even in a world without SharePoint (which again, I don’t see as a realistic outcome in the near to mid-future), it’s hard to imagine .NET simply drying up and disappearing. Millions of websites, software packages and applications and “home-grown” applications are written on the .NET framework, and that’s not going to simply cease to be the case. With the relatively recent inclusion of MVC fundamentals into .NET, Microsoft clearly isn’t abandoning the framework either, but instead continuing to concentrate on enhancing it. Since Sitecore is built upon this strong framework, like SharePoint, it is easy to integrate the two together – that’s very true! But it’s also relatively easy, and quite powerful, to integrate Sitecore to any other .NET site / service as well. In fact, I’ve personally done a number of these integration’s to home-grown .NET applications and seen the clients get huge benefit from doing so. Thus, I personally don’t think it’s fair or accurate to directly tie Sitecore’s popularity (which I read as “ability to survive”) to SharePoint in any way. If you want to tie it to .NET, and want to make the claim that Sitecore is harder to implement for organizations who’s technology framework is Java / LAMP based (which Gartner does), then I think that’s certainly fair. Implementing a WCM system on the same framework that your organization has chosen strategically for other applications is certainly not necessary, but may be recommended. (That recommendation of course assumes that you can find software on your framework that delivers to your business requirements reliably.) But again, I don’t like the implication that Sitecore is somehow directly tied to SharePoint, because in my real world it is not.
Once again, I would highly recommend downloading and reading through the entire Gartner Magic Quadrant report and familiarizing yourself with all the players in the WCM market. I do think that it is accurate in positioning Sitecore as a leader in the market for the 4th year in a row, and am excited by what the future holds for Sitecore and its users! You can download a free copy of the report from here.