If you’re planning a Sitecore upgrade, you should seriously consider whether you want to upgrade to the latest version of Sitecore XP or “downgrade” to the latest version of Sitecore XM. The last year of Sitecore acquisitions have led to major architectural shifts in the platform and the Sitecore ecosystem, so you should not take for granted that just upgrading what you have is the best decision. Here are some reasons to consider ditching XP for XM:
1. You’re not using Sitecore Analytics and Marketing features
If you haven’t looked at any Sitecore Analytics dashboards in months, never configured an Engagement Value scale, or setup any Path Analyzer Maps, you’re not really getting the full value of the XP platform. Maybe using these tools are in the roadmap somewhere, and maybe it’s been there for a while, but when it comes to an upgrade, you really should be thinking about the cost of upgrading these capabilities, as well as maintaining them and supporting them.
Sitecore’s a complicated platform. Adding xDB and all the services needed to support XP marketing features is not a trivial setup. In the past it was better to have it ready to go so when your marketing team was ready they could start using the features, as it would be too disruptive to add it later.
But with today’s composable architectures and Software as a Service offerings, the barrier to adding features like Sitecore Personalize, Sitecore CDP & Sitecore Send are much lower, allowing you to integrate without much effort, saving you costs on licensing until you’re actually ready to use those features.
2. xDB is Expensive
Speaking of costs, it’s not just licensing costs that are higher with XP. A typical scaled implementation can have up to 11 databases and 12 app services. When you multiply that across environments (prod, staging, QA, Dev, etc) there are significant Azure resources to pay for. That’s why lower environments typically combine roles into services to save money. It’s a lot of horsepower that is only worth it if you’re actually using the features that it needs.
And that’s just hosting costs. Add the cost of monitoring and maintaining the environments, not to mention the extra effort to configure and deploy the environments in the first place. Compare that to XM, which just requires three roles: Identity Server, Content Management and Content Delivery.
3. Your Site will Perform Better without XP
In order to support all those marketing features of Sitecore, XP does a number of things to load contact details and save contact details and analytics data at the beginning of a session and on page loads when needed. Sitecore has done a great job trying to optimize those things as much as possible, but they still take time. That’s why when you’re having performance problems with your site, one of the first things you typically do is disable xDB, which more often than not, usually helps.
And that’s without making no other changes to your application. If you remove dependencies on server side personalization, you actually have a number of opportunities to increase performance even further. Technique’s like Static Site Generation, whether with Uniform or other custom JAMstack architectures become very appealing.
And if you’re willing to rewrite your application to take more of a headless approach, you can look at XM’s Experience Edge which will help your application perform even faster by publishing content and layout configuration to edge cached CDN GraphQL endpoints.
4. Personalize has a lower barrier for first time use
Designing, building, and implementing top-notch experiences not only requires a great deal of planning, strategy, and time – it also requires the right digital experience platform (DXP) and the right development approach for your business needs.
Sitecore’s Business Optimization Services (SBOS) team had a great methodology for maximizing the value you get out of Sitecore XP. It involved workshops and exercises that built on top of each other, designed to help an organization mature it’s digital marketing capability on top using XP features. The result were that few customers actually got very far and weren’t able to actually use all the features they paid for.
Compare that with Sitecore Personalize, which allows a non-technical marketer to configure a modal Call to action to popup on pages with a few mouse clicks. They could target defined segments, test different messages and easily get results, without a lot of up front planning.
When it comes to Personalization and AB Testing, Inertia is very powerful. Lowering the barrier to getting people to actually use the tool will help them get to the point where they want to do more advanced things, which leads to needing better data to drive the experience.
5. CDP provides a better architecture for Integrations and Analytics
Integrating with xDB is not easy or straightforward. There are connectors for Salesforce and Dynamics, and you can build your own using the Data Exchange Framework, but rarely are your requirements so simple that you could get by without significant development effort. And if you need to extend the contact data model, you need to add a number of classes and configuration files and get them deployed across all the services and roles that need to use them.
And just having the data loaded was usually not enough. If you wanted to personalize with it, you needed to create a custom personalization rule, which involved even more code and configuration. And if you want to personalize as part of a marketing automation plan, well you need to build and deployment a completely different set of classes and configuration.
And if you ever wanted to view the data or report on it, you had a lot more work to do. Extending the Experience profile involved getting your hands dirty extending their SPEAK User interface. And if you just wanted to report, you were better off extracting the data using their Odata API’s or the custom open source “Experience Extractor” module and then connecting Power BI to the extracted data. Setting this up is not a simple proposition.
Sitecore CDP on the other hand is built for integration. It provides Streaming API’s, Rest API’s and batch API’s giving you multiple options for getting data in and out. And extending the schema with custom Json objects with guest data extensions is straightforward with all the API’s.
And once you have loaded the data, analyzing it is much more straightforward. You can run SQL queries using the provisioned Looker interface, or export all the data to a S3 bucket for additional analysis.
6. Composable is the Future of Sitecore
Sitecore Personalize and CDP are just the beginning of Sitecore’s new Composable strategy. Although Sitecore will continue to support and extend XP for years to come, I expect most of the innovation will occur in XM and Sitecore’s new SaaS offerings.
Sitecore Send will grow in capabilities as it integrates with other composable solutions, while Email Experience Manager maintains its existing feature set. Order cloud will integrate with Sitecore CDP & Sitecore Search and Discovery for a more complete commerce solution, while Sitecore Experience Commerce will maintain its feature set.
And that’s the advantage of the SasS model: The platforms will get better over time, with better integrations and more features with little disruption as you won’t have to manage the upgrade lifecycle yourself.
7. It’s an easier Upgrade
If you’re not leveraging Sitecore’s more advanced features, the good news is that upgrading to XM is actually easier than upgrading to the latest version of XP. You won’t have to deploy all those additional databases and services, worry about configuration and tuning. Just stand up a new simpler XM environment, Update your Solution to leverage the proper XM nu get packages and deploy to the new environment.
If you did build out some custom personalization rules or extended xDB, there could be some work to remove those dependencies from your code base, and plan how to support those requirements using Sitecore Personalize and Sitecore CDP.