Q: Tell us about your role. What do you look forward to every day?

A: My goal is to improve the digital properties and experience. The digital website infrastructure, driving experience improvements, developing and implementing digital strategy – these are key to enhancing audience connections. I’m excited about moving digital capabilities from just offering efficient and sustainable development to delivering disruptive digital innovation.

Q: What do you recommend your peers consider when deciding whether to upgrade their Sitecore instance?

A: I advocate staying current, always upgrading to the latest version. It brings improvements to communications, education, and experiences for web visitors, and also makes internal operations more efficient.

You’ve got to do it in the right order though. If you’ve got multiple legacy platforms and content management systems, you’re also managing multiple support skills. And a global company can have hundreds of websites and microsites. I recommend consolidating systems first. And focus on mobile-first. You’ve got to ensure you’re delivering the same, high-quality experience across smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.

By creating a centralized platform for all web and mobile communications, you’ll ensure message consistency and enable stronger compliance with local, national, and international regulations. Leverage the investments and achievements on the consolidated platform to transfer that to the latest version with the upgrade. Consolidating first makes the upgrade quick and easy and protects your investment.

Q: What new features or functionality advantages make upgrading to 9.3 worthwhile?

A: Upgrading enables easier integration with key third-party systems. It also offers an even more robust infrastructure and increased agility. The end-to-end analytics provides next best action to business partners, which helps to pinpoint personalization. In addition, the reusability functions improve speed to market with self-service for content changes. I’ve seen streamlined multiple-site updates that are four times faster.

Upgrading also reduces technical debt, as you’re decreasing the number of systems you’re supporting and the need for support skills. XP 9.3 also provides better security and global autoscaling. Making digital communications more proactive, efficient, and innovative translates into better experiences for customers.

Q: You mention easier integrations. What are some valuable integrations to consider? What benefits would be gained from that integrated environment?

A: One of the most important integrations is your marketing tool – Salesforce Marketing Cloud, for instance. With the Sitecore integration in place, it’s easy to track and analyze page and content links in emails and drive marketing actions like digital campaigns for new products, microsites, etc.

By sharing behavioral and profile data from Sitecore to SFMC and bringing audience behavior data from SFMC back into Sitecore, it’s possible to increase personalization on sites and portals. This helps to personalize content for different countries, geographies, and languages, and ensures more targeted, informed campaigns.

CRM integration with Sitecore is worth considering too, as it provides a datapoint for a digital 360-degree view of your accounts.

Q: Large global deployments often have numerous websites and multiple languages, require multiple kinds of personalization, and have to meet different regional regulations. Where does one begin when upgrading such a complex environment?

A: Having all websites already in a single Sitecore platform is very helpful for upgrading. It’s also important to have a good understanding of the locations, time zones, website owners, and any external agencies supporting the websites. That makes planning and coordination easier. Other important ingredients for success are having a solid upgrade strategy and plan supported by various tools and applications, backed up by technical architects and infrastructure teams as well as expertise within your own company, your implementation partner, and of course, Sitecore.

You also need to keep well-thought out documentation in one location for managing changes to the environment and ensure strong communication with the technical project manager and developers. Instead of relying on emails, bring together all the stakeholders for reviews and step approvals via live meetings virtually or in person. You should also set up global best practices for website design and development, and integrate website metrics to enable next best actions. If you use external agencies to develop and design your websites, you need to train, manage, and collaborate with the agencies so that site development is done using Sitecore best practices and reusability functions.

Q: Stakeholder support is critical when making changes. Who do you recommend including as key stakeholders? How do you keep them involved and engaged?

A: Large, global organizations have an equally large and global stakeholder base, including both internal and external audiences. Internal audiences typically include functional teams, while external ones are your customers, partners, investors, even the general public interested in your products.

I recommend including corporate communications, marketing, product, and commercial teams. Have meetings before the project starts to understand their goals and needs, and provide enough time for proactive planning. Gain buy-in and trust by solid pre-planning, consulting with your stakeholders as needed, and maintaining consistent, weekly progress updates. Keep them informed about how and when you’re meeting internal delivery milestones. And make them part of the QA and user acceptance testing processes.

Q: What difference can an upgraded Sitecore environment make?

A: If you want to deliver disruptive digital innovation and improve services for customers, you need to stay current. Not only does upgrading maintain and support a stable and secure environment, it also frees teams to focus more on proactive tasks, increasing efficiency, and delivering innovative projects to the business, such as virtual reality or augmented reality websites that include 3D modeling.

By upgrading, organizations can improve communication and increase customer engagement, since websites will support more visits due to the increase on system performance. I’ve seen overall productivity increase by as much as three times on website updates capacity, since teams can make changes and update content faster.

Q: Standardizing on and expanding a platform is a big commitment. What’s most important for vendor relationships?

A: Of course, table stakes is the tool. Vendors need to be able to innovate with minimal disruptions to digital services. Trusting relationships is right next to that though. Aim for an open and honest approach, and one that delivers a win-win for both parties, and you should expect that in return. That is key to maintaining long-term relationships.

Q: What do you see on the horizon that keeps you excited and motivated about this space?

A: An upgraded environment makes digital communications more proactive, efficient, and innovative, and that translates into better experiences for all audiences. The future is constant iteration and innovation to continuously improve the website experience. I’m excited about continuing to advance digital disruption and the new technologies to aid that process, such as bots and Artificial Intelligence.

Julio Lujambio is Head of Digital Excellence at a worldwide healthcare leader. Find his profile on LinkedIn