Sitecore 8 is Here!

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Sitecore has just announced the official release of Sitecore Experience Platform 8 and it’s one of the most ambitious releases to date.
Many of us who were at Sitecore Symposium 2014 this past September were able to catch glimpses of the new features and the new look of Sitecore 8. Needless to say, everyone was impressed by the sorely needed facelift and a bevy of features for not only content managers but a strong focus on the needs of marketers.
You’ll notice that Sitecore has tweaked the name of the product – there are no longer disparate Sitecore CMS and Sitecore DMS products but rather the two have been fully integrated into what Sitecore calls an “Experience Platform”. “Experience” has been the main word that Sitecore has been conveying with the new release of the platform and the updates in the product revolve all around the experience of the user, whether that be a content manager, a marketer, or most importantly, the customer.
There is an impressive list of new features that come with Sitecore 8 but I’d like to point out a few of my favorites:

  • Visual Updates – This one was big for me. The biggest hang-up I had with Sitecore was how dated and somewhat cheesy the backend looked. It might have been cool when Windows Vista was a big deal (in fact, an anecdote got brought up in one of the sessions at Sitecore Symposium about Sitecore “leaking” Vista) but it was very much due for a visual refresh. Thankfully, Sitecore has stepped up to the plate and updated the backend experience with a flatter and more modern visual design that looks fantastic. They’ve also added a new dashboard view called Launch Pad as an alternative to their Desktop mode for an improved user experience for administrators.
  • Experience Profile – The Sitecore Experience Profile gathers data about a user from a variety of integration sources including CRM to provide valuable insights about a user as they engage with your site. This provides a deeper and richer view into who is doing what on your site and initiates opportunities to connect to customers in new and interesting ways.
  • Predictive Analytics – Sitecore 8’s digital marketing suite can be trained to analyze patterns in user data and use that as a foundation to predict customer behavior and trends. Sitecore takes advantage of Microsoft Azure’s Machine Learning platform to process large amounts of user data gathered from Sitecore sites as well as other sources (a la the new Federated Experience Manager) to provide the user with the most relevant targeted content tailored to them. If you’re thinking this sounds a little too much like Skynet and a machine takeover, you weren’t the only one – Sitecore’s code name for this project was indeed Project Skynet.

XP8 brings the new vision of where Sitecore is planning on taking this product and it’s definitely very exciting. From a developer point-of-view, the updates to the underlying architecture, the enhancements to the SPEAK framework, and the use of MongoDB for xDB are cutting-edge. For marketers and end users, the improved user experience and new digital marketing features can help revolutionize how you engage with your customers in the digital world and crossing over into the physical.

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