The Sitecore User Group Conference (SUGCON) Europe March 2022 Recap

Konabos Inc. - Konabos

8 Apr 2022

Akshay Sura, Kamruz Jaman, and Matthew McQueeny recap the announcements and happenings from The Sitecore User Group Conference (SUGCON) Europe in March 2022.


Note: The following is the transcription of the video produced by an automated transcription system. 

Matthew McQueeny: Welcome. This is Matt McQueeny with Akshay and Kamruz who are freshly back from SUGCON Europe 2022 and Kam liked it so much that he's still over on the well, I guess. Is Britain still Europe? I'm not sure...

Kamruz Jaman: It's Europe, it's just not the EU.

Matthew McQueeny: just not the EU. So Kam first off, what was it like? I think that was the first in-person event in three years. What was that like?

Kamruz Jaman: Yeah, let's see, the last in person event was in symposium 2019, right? That was in Florida was it? I can't remember was so long ago, where it was, but it was, I think it was Florida. Yeah, it felt a bit strange, it felt really great to see a lot of faces, it felt great to speak with people. But it was just getting back into the swing of things. And obviously, at the tail end of hopefully, the pandemic, it did feel a bit strange going from all the restrictions, we had to, to actually, you know, socializing.

Matthew McQueeny: Actually, I keep thinking about the fact of how much the marketplace has shifted in those three years. And I know that Sitecore has had virtual events. But when you're looking at the 2019, in person, and then what came out in 2022, it's almost emblematic of the change, right? Like you needed that that gap of time, because there's been such a change in the marketplace. Was that a big part of the event?

Akshay Sura: Yeah, no, I think one is it was the first in-person event. SUGCONs are a little bit different. They're very developer and partner focused. But it's also a free time for Sitecore to test out their presentations leading up to the symposium right. So it was, yes, they've been really busy, they announced quite a few things which are very, in a composable way, playing nice with their neighbors and things. And also they were they were a lot of announcements that were kind of nice, the best part of the SUGCON is you can actually spend time with the product teams talk to them, they're more than willing to share their information with you. So it was nice.

Matthew McQueeny: So Kamruz, when when I think of this, I've been thinking of the things I love, like Apple products, right? And they have like the worldwide developer conference, and then they have product launches. This seemed equivalent to almost a developer conference a little bit. And then also, what the things that come out, tend to be the company's sense on the progress and and what they're promoting. And then you kind of have the shows after where people say, Oh, no, it's really like this. What, what parts really stuck out to you that you think are kind of lasting announcements?

Kamruz Jaman: Well, SUGCONs I've always been a bit different to like, say, the, with the Apple equipment or the apples, there have been more of the Developer Focus, the Community Focus, right. It's a community organized event, as opposed to symposium, which is the official company event, right. So I think there is a bit of a different take, we obviously have the keynotes and the direction from the company, which is, which is really, really great that they get so involved with these community events. I think unless somebody's been living under under a rock for the last like, two, three years, the biggest takeaway is just composable, like the full on focus on composable. But I think they're really interesting from our we've been in the composable game for a long time, right? Since before, it was a thing in the Sitecore space. But I think the interesting thing from cycles take is how they're trying to bring the different products of composable. And kind of bring those together, so they work more seamlessly, and almost like a single product, but still remaining headless SaaS and separate products still.

Matthew McQueeny: Akshay, is that a difficult line to toe? Trying to be headless while kind of being all the products in one place?

Akshay Sura: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's a different mindset, right? Like I think it was Kamruz, and I did our talk, which kind of addresses some of these where you're going from a monolith to a composable and how does it affect an architect and a developer and I don't think it's any different to a marketer or another professional is how do you look at things? How are things you know, the best of breed or reusability or how things get affected. So it is a it is a challenge for companies to move from monolith to composable for sure, but, you know, Sitecore mounts quite a few things. And with all of these previous acquisitions, right, Sitecore send, Sitecore Personalize, OrderCloud, and now with Reflektion and stuff, there's so many other composable pieces they're adding, which, you know, you could buy one or all of them, it really depends on your needs.

Matthew McQueeny: Kamruz, both from the mainstage talk that you and Akshay gave, and then from the messaging of composability, that was throughout the conference, what were you hearing from some of the, the other tacticians of Sitecore? I mean, Konabos, has been, you know, working in the headless world in other ways through this all so it's probably not as much of a shock. Were you finding shock? Are you finding comfort and understanding?

Kamruz Jaman: I think the shock factor has kind of subsided a bit I think now it's more of a how do we go about this new world? How do we work in this new world? How do we replicate some of the things we were doing? And what do we not replicate? Because it just didn't work? So well? Yeah. So I think that shock factor has subsided a bit and Sitecore and the community at large and hopefully ourselves have done some good jobs in evangelizing the headless approach the jamstack approach. And, you know, the different ways of working. I think there still are, obviously, it's still a lot more to do this. There's so many ways you can work with headless and obviously, different teams will work differently. So I think that's what people are trying to figure out right now is how does that work for us? How will it work for our customers? How will those integration pieces work? What do we keep? What do we not keep? How do we build up that knowledge? How do we build up the capabilities?

Matthew McQueeny: Akshay, when when you look at Sitecore announcements, acquisitions, there's some elements that are maybe more headless, there's some that are still kind of monolith? Do you think that the education piece that Kamruz raised is still going to be extremely crucial for months and years to come about what this is evolution as well? And did they do kind of a good job of explaining that, do you think?

Akshay Sura: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, from experience, right, it takes months to educate leaders and industry professionals on composable. It's just a different way of thinking, why do we have to make the change? from an education perspective I think it's a start. It's a never-ending process. So education, for me means educating not just the customers, but also the salespeople, the marketing people, everyone who deals with the customer directly or indirectly, right. And I don't think it can be done in a short period of time. It's the number of people you reach, the turnover. reeducating will take years, but it's a start for sure.

Matthew McQueeny: And Kam, is there maybe still potentially a place for not to say a full monolith, but a less headless world for the immediate couple of years?

Kamruz Jaman: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I don't think the monolith or the traditional CMS is going to disappear overnight. For some customers, it makes a lot of sense to, to keep those systems. So you know, they're well versed in those systems, it works extremely well, they have a lot of integrations and their dev teams are working well, these systems. But for others, they're just not using all of the features. Or it's difficult for their dev teams to work with those systems. So it really will depend customer to customer and project your project even. And it's just as safe as composable. Because one composable stack is going to work for one specific customer and it might not necessarily work for another right. So I think it really will depend customer to customer. But, you know from a Sitecore perspective, they are obviously full full force forward into headless and these new systems that they've built, but equally they are. They know that there are customers on those on the traditional system on the traditional XP or XM. And they are bringing updates and cloud versions of Sitecore XM, right they are launching something called Cloud XM, which will provide a SaaS based XM instance. There was demos of this where how easy it was to spin up. Fortunately, Demo gods were a little bit unforgiving, and therefore demo didn't work. But you know, they could spin up a cloud instance of XM, which you could then use as a headless, headless CMS. There's GraphQL endpoints that they're adding to a lot of their systems. The cloud versions are adding web hooks, for example, as well, which their traditional CMS didn't didn't use. They've got different eventing systems and API's for, for controlling some some of that management API, which is a traditional system and ended and so I think there will be these dual tracks that the traditional customers will be able to utilize for. And it's at least it's an upgrade path for them, or slower migration path if that if they need it. If they can't jump on to a fully headless SaaS instance.

Matthew McQueeny: You've both been very involved in the Sitecore community over a decade now. Akshay, you always want people to be your friends, what was? What was it like for you? Because I ask him at the beginning, but what was like for you with the three year difference? Did it feel like putting on an old pair of shoes again?

Akshay Sura: Yeah, I mean, a lot of familiar faces, right. So I think I was telling someone in the, in the company yesterday, it was like an unlimited amount of hugs. So we haven't seen each other in so long, it was really nice to just hang out with a bunch of friends. And that's what the Sitecore community is, right? We just, it's different than any other community. I will say that every single day. It was nice to be amongst friends, we had a lot of fun. We ate some good food, we talked about a lot of things. It was a really good, get together.

Matthew McQueeny: And I want to ask you both this I'll start with Kam. I saw the pictures. And I know we'll see the video that was a pretty cool big looking stage with an enormous hashtag SUGCON thing behind it and like an amphitheater. I'm interested from going from this remote thing. I mean, always remote company, but to not speak in front of people like that. Forget seeing people, but to speak in front of people was that? Was that an easy transition back into that? Or was that a little like striking.

Kamruz Jaman: It's always striking, especially being up on the big stage. Speaking in front of people, is always so it was weird. I'm not a natural extrovert. Always struggle. But, you know, we rehearse we practice and we just kind of head focus head down. What does help, of course, is the community being so tight, you go to these events, it is meeting up with old friends. So that really starts to put you at ease. And it's not then giving a talk at a conference. It's just talking with friends.

Matthew McQueeny: Akshay, I know that with the innovations within this company that they've already gotten emojis out of your dance thing on the stage. But how did it feel being up there again?

Akshay Sura: No, it was good. Yeah. And it's always like, scary, right? You want to deliver your talk. But at the same time, you don't know what's gonna happen, what's gonna fail. So until you're done with the talk, you're always pressured in a way. But once you're done with the talk, you're like, Okay, I'm done. Now I can relax. But it was nice. It was. It was good. There was a lot of like, Dave, the CTO guy was in our talk all the all of our friends who love to give us trouble with questions. Were in the talks. It was kind of nice. It was good to get out there and give the presentation. We got a lot of good feedback from everyone who was there.

Kamruz Jaman: Yeah, I that was one of the great highlights for me as I was on the evening of the first or the first day it was in at the reception. And Dave O'Flanagan, who's the CTO was out there and just got chatting to him. And so that was that your talk? That was really great. Really enjoyed it. Oh, okay. I'm glad I didn't see you out there. While we were giving the talk. And I found out afterwards, but yeah, that was that was fantastic. I don't think I've ever had that people show. Fantastic.

Matthew McQueeny: Yeah. To that, to that point. When you're putting it together, is there always is there a concern that something you're going to say might be taken the wrong way on a main stage? Or? Or do you do work with them a little bit on it? Akshay, how do you feel about that?

Akshay Sura: When you speak the truth, you don't have to worry about things. No, it's always trying to be kind, right? Like you're trying to represent your fellow developers, fellow architects, the community itself. And people depend on you to share the true honest, you know, opinion of what you do based on the experience you have and I think being we've been doing composable stuff for the past couple of years. So we had a leg up on a good number of people. So people did come to the talk, because they were very curious as to what our take is because we've been doing Sitecore for a long time, and then we've gone composable. So I think it's just giving the information, being factual, very objective, as well as being kind in doing so without putting someone down. I think people, people have an appreciation for that.

Kamruz Jaman: I think as long as you can present the good, the bad, the ugly, you know, it's, the people appreciate it. If you're just presenting all the positives, or you're taking a very bad take on it and presenting all the negatives. It's not a it's not a good look, right. We tried to be fair, we tried to be objective. We know there's positives, and we know there's negatives, and we try to present those in a factual manner. I think people appreciate it.

Matthew McQueeny: Well, in to finish the, the mission to keep exploring, right. I mean, it must have felt good to be on stage, having taken a little bit of a pivot a dual track there into the headless world, maybe before Sitecore quite did, it must have been cool to be on stage to be in a position where that's somewhat rewarded by doing that, and that you can still be friends...

Kamruz Jaman: there was a lot of nice stuff coming out from Sitecore's presentation, roadmap, I think that was, that was quite interesting for me, they've got some really neat stuff coming up. They have a portal coming up, which kind of ties together all their products. So you're not trying to scramble, scramble around trying to find different bits, Content Hub, there's a content hub headless version, that content hub, lite coming out. And speaking with the team there, they they've kind of taken a UX first approach to that content hub is great, but it's for headless CMS, it's a little bit clunky. So they took a different approach to it and went for a UX first approach, and then built a UI, a UI, on top of content hub, using the the existing API's. And that looks more like what we're used to as a headless CMS. Similar to something like Contentful, for example, right? That looks really interesting. I think that is going to be a real contender in this headless CMS. Basically, if, from what we saw that if that's what they ended up with, there was some talk of a Sitecore pages, which is, which will allow users to go in and compose pages using their symphony tool, which is a new front end as a service tool they're building, which will be neat, because it's like the equivalent of the experience editor, which everybody from the Sitecore world is, is so used. There was a bunch of other things on there around personalization, personalization at the edge, especially, which will mean that you'll get like lightning fast personalization. Globally scaled. Sitecore components was another interesting one, right? So you got again, drag and drop kind of experience builder, allowing you to collaborate across different projects, reuse with reusability of components. I think the most interesting thing was a slide I think, actually tweeted this out as well, right? They have a slide on there saying, we are composable from any dataset. And on that slide, it actually had logos of obviously Sitecore but also Contentful and Kontent by Kentico. Yeah. Which makes sense, right? All of these systems are purely API driven. It doesn't really matter which system you are getting the data from. If I was building this in NextJS, for example, I could bake that logic into my code and pull from those different systems but Sitecore is saying 'We're just going to open the system up and hey, you know, you're using composable. We know you're going to be using different systems, maybe using multiple headless services. And we will play nice with all of them.' And I think that's probably one of the first times I've had Sitecore take such an open approach to to their products.

Akshay Sura: Yeah, no, I also have to mention is reflektion. So the search experience and also the identity service that we're talking about. So yeah, there's a lot of announcements. So there's a lot to unpack but I think at symposium, you'll have enough time to spread that across and get enough knowledge about all of them.

Matthew McQueeny: Awesome. Well, thanks for jumping on and talking about it, guys. We'll have lots of content about it, I imagine in the next couple of months and then culminating with symposium in Chicago in October.

Kamruz Jaman: Yeah. I'm super excited to actually get my hands on some of these previews and start playing with them. It's really, really exciting stuff.

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