My Sitecore MVP Summit + SUGCON NA 2023 highlights

It's been a year and a half since I last attended a SUGCON event. That was back in early 2022 in Budapest. That's when XM Cloud was announced, and it became clear that Sitecore was moving more towards Composable DXP. This was evident again this week with all the products and announcements discussed. Since I became a Sitecore MVP for the first time this year, this was also the first time I got to attend the Sitecore MVP Summit. In this blog, I will discuss some personal highlights.

MVP Summit - Opening

Our flight landed 2 hours before it started, so we arrived just in time. I can't share too much about it because many topics during the MVP Summit are under NDA and can't be shared yet. However, what can be shared now is the announcement of XM Cloud Plus. With this, you get a standard XM Cloud solution but also additional features like Sitecore Search, Sitecore CDP, Sitecore Personalize, and Sitecore Connect. This should make it easier for customers currently on Sitecore XP to transition to XM Cloud. It was great that this was announced during the MVP Summit so all MVPs could immediately discuss it.

MVP Summit - Round table + MVP awards

After the opening, it was time for various round table sessions. These were also very valuable as there was a discussion between MVPs and Sitecore employees like Andy Cohen (Principal Architect) and Gary Wu (Director of Product Management). After the round table sessions, the MVP awards were presented. It's an honor to finally receive my first MVP award, and Rob Habraken received his 8th award! After the awards, it was time for the MVP party where we could network, but there was also time for go-karting and karaoke.

MVP Summit - Sessions

The next day was time for various sessions. These sessions were for MVPs only, so there's a lot that can't be shared. Here again, you notice the real advantage of being an MVP as you get to see products that haven't been announced yet and can provide immediate feedback. I attended sessions about XM Cloud, Sitecore Personalize, and Sitecore Connect. There are many exciting features coming for these products!

SUGCON - Digital Experience is a team sport!

After 2 days of the MVP summit and a day of rest, Thursday was the time for SUGCON. The keynote was interesting, but most of the topics were already known to us from the MVP summit. After the keynote, it was time for a session by Pieter Brinkman. He showcased the possibilities with XM Cloud and XM Cloud Plus. Through various demos, the benefits for both builders and the business were evident. It truly is the best of both worlds.

SUGCON - Search Smarter not Harder: Unleashing the Power of Sitecore Search for Marketers

This session provided a comprehensive overview of all the capabilities of Sitecore Search. As the title suggests, this session was aimed at marketers, but as a developer, I found it useful to see all the possibilities. The following topics were covered: Content Collection, Federated Search, Analytics, Widget/Presentation Transformation, Rules: Boost, Bury Block, and Personalization with Search. It's clear that Sitecore Search is already a comprehensive product, making search an integral part of the content strategy.

SUGCON - Implementing Sitecore Search

After the previous session, I had a good understanding of what you can do with Sitecore Search, and this session was about its implementation, targeting developers. The Sitecore developers portal already uses Sitecore Search, so we received an explanation about a real implementation. Search results come from various sources, requiring different indexes. Using Attribute Definitions, Index Sources, and Document Extractors, it was explained how to set up Sitecore Search. Once set up, you can retrieve the results via an SDK, which drastically reduces development time. Unfortunately, the SDK implementation wasn't shown, but it was a clear example demonstrating how to configure Sitecore Search.

SUGCON - Tips and tricks for Next.js and Sitecore Headless

This was one of the most technical sessions at SUGCON. The focus was mainly on Next.js, so there was a lot of code involved. Tips were given on using getServerSideProps and React Query VS SWR, but I especially appreciated when various tips were combined to mock APIs in the Experience Editor. We are already working on several Next.js projects, and I will definitely use these tips!

SUGCON - Building No Code Integrations with Sitecore Webhooks and GraphQL

Sitecore Webhooks are a new feature added to Sitecore XP/XM 10.3 and are also available on XM Cloud. Dan demonstrated how to trigger a webhook, for instance, when an item is saved. A new GraphQL endpoint is also available for CRUD operations. He showed a demo where these features beautifully came together in a Picsum template. You create an item in Sitecore, specifying dimensions and blur. Then you execute a custom workflow that sends the data to Picsum via a webhook. Through the GraphQL query, you then retrieve a media item in Sitecore which is saved on the Picsum item. It's a great example of how to apply new techniques within Sitecore which don't require modifications. Additionally, a Sitecore Connect demo was shown that could display Sitecore item data in Slack.

SUGCON - No Compromises in XMC: On Demand Revalidation with Experience Edge

If you use Next.js and XM Cloud, there are various rendering options like Server-side rendering, Static Site Generation, and Incremental Static Regeneration. The latter is often preferred, but it can still take a while before content editors see their changes on the website. By using Experience Edge webhooks, a signal can be sent immediately to rebuild a page. It was educational to see how this is done step by step.

Conclusion

One of the last sessions at SUGCON (and with a very full room) was by my colleague Rob Habraken. I won't discuss that now as he will probably write a blog about it himself. It was another wonderful week in Minneapolis, and I learned a lot and met many new people. Especially the MVP Summit showed how valuable it can be to be a Sitecore MVP. Sitecore's decision to focus on Composable DXP was the right one!