Impressions from SUGCON 2017 – Amsterdam

On May I had great opportunity (thank you Coders Center & SoftServe) to took a part in Sitecore User Group Conference in Amsterdam and in this post I will try to explain you why in my opinion it was worth to be there and why I will do everything what possible to be there in 2018.

From the left side: Lukasz Skowronski, Piotr Zadykowicz, Wojciech Urban, Rafal Dolzynski, Robert Debowski, Lukasz Zalewski, Mateusz Wadolowski, Artur Wojno – just a part of our team from Poland.

In general every participant has different impressions. I would say that they can have only good impressions – so do I. Because there was many really great things and it would take too much time to describe all of them, I will tell you what was the best from my point of view.

The Best People

I am starting from people because in my opinion it is the most important to get new contacts and refresh old ones. I had opportunity to talk again with many friends from different countries (greetings for Jason, Una, Tamas) and also get to know well known Sitecore “celebrities” like Kamruz Jaman, Akshay Sura, Robbert Hock and many others. Not too often we have such great opportunity to meet all of them in one place.

The Best Presentations

In these times it is really hard to follow all the things related to Sitecore, sometimes I think that it is even not possible to be up to date with all Sitecore stuff. There is so many new tools, accelerators or just updates done by Sitecore that we need to get knowledge from all possible sources as fast as possible. In my opinion presentations done on SUGCON were so great that they were able to transfer in only 45 minutes knowledge which normally we would gather in few days with reading many available sources.

I will give you an example – during presentation conducted by Dmytro Shevchenko “Sitecore xDB in depth: Harnessing Contacts, Sessions & Clusters” all attendees were able to get to know how exactly work internal mechanisms and locking in xDB. Dmytro gave also many useful advices regarding to work with data from xDB. I am not sure if it is described somewhere in Sitecore documentation but check this photographs:

“Contact lock stages” describes when exactly which data is locked and for how long.

“Concurrency control examples” describes how concurrency in xDB works.

“Scenario 2: Background process” describes how to work with data in the case of contacts import.

You can check Dmytro’s presentation and many others on SUGCON website – here.

The Best Inspiration

Conferences like SUGCON or Sitecore Symposium should not only transfer the knowledge, they should also inspire us to make bigger and greater things and I have to say that I was really inspired with “Robbie – The Sitecore robot”. Check it out here:


Bas Lijten and Rob Habraken did great job and in only 6 months they built real robot which was using Sitecore xDB to store information about “recognized faces” – you have to check that video above – great job Guys!

The Best Party

Let’s be honest – after party everyone can say that his party was the best. Have you ever seen this Heineken commercial:

Yes, the party in the Mirabeau office was similar – trust me. It is also worth to mention that Mirabeau office is also impressive – probably even more than the fridge full of beer 🙂

And they also have their own robot!

The Best Award

Almost the last point on my list – it was great to get the MVP Award!

The Best Experience

Finally, all previous best “things” make in general the best experience I have had in last few months and definitely I want to be on SUGCON in 2018 – hopefully you will be there as well.

 

Could not load file or assembly ChilkatDotNet – Email Experience Manager

From time to time, especially when you are setting up new Sitecore environment on local machine or server you probably have some dependencies issues.

My favorite one is error with dependency of ChilkatDotNet. Why it is my favorite? Because even when you have all Sitecore files on place and installed all modern versions of .Net Framework this library still can brake Sitecore application (You can find ChilkatDotNet library inside Sitecore Email Experience Manager).

In the internet you will find some solutions related to Sitecore environments:

  • http://labs.steveottenad.com/sitecore-damn-you-chilkat/
  • http://www.letsdositecore.com/chilkatdotnet2-dll-in-sitecore-6-5/

But the problem is – they are all about x32 vs x64 bit architecture and used version of chilkatdotnet library – they were not helpful for me.

Enable assembly bind failure logging

I had started to find a way to extend logs to know more about the problem and I found some articles about additional logging mechanisms for assemblies. I decided to enable that in my registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Fusion
Add:
DWORD ForceLog set value to 1
DWORD LogFailures set value to 1
DWORD LogResourceBinds set value to 1
DWORD EnableLog set value to 1
String LogPath set value to folder for logs (e.g. C:\FusionLog\)

Unfortunately it did not help for me – I did not find there anything significant (but in general I think that it is worth to know that settings).

You will find more about this here: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/255669/how-to-enable-assembly-bind-failure-logging-fusion-in-net

Old tool for modern work

After checking everything again I had started search of new solutions for my issue and I found one – Dependency Walker.

On website http://www.dependencywalker.com/ you will find simple tool which can check details about dll dependencies and display all errors/warnings.

It might looks like this:

As a result of “opening dll” you will see all broken dependencies. You just have to take the name of missing dll file and check from which library it is to add it to the system or directory.

In my case it was missing “Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 Redistributable” – yes, quite old version – I would not ever install this without Dependency Walker.

Hopefully this tool will also save your time as it saved my – enjoy!

 

Sitecore Data Exchange Framework – diagram

Few weeks ago I had an opportunity to take a look into Sitecore Data Exchange Framework. At first glance it was looking very cool and still it is but I have realized that one thing there is missing. In this post I will provide you something what will help you understand how it works.

If you do not know for what we can do with Sitecore Data Exchange Framework, following definition from documentation should tell you everything:

Data Exchange Framework is designed to facilitate the transfer of data between two systems.

You can find more on documentation page: http://integrationsdn.sitecore.net/DataExchangeFramework/v1.3/getting-started/overview.html

In documentation you will find very well described parts of the framework but it can be hard to “connect the dots” right away. That is why I have prepared diagrams – because image is worth a thousands words.

You can use them after/during reading of official documentation.

Standalone pipeline

Pipelines in batch

Summary

Diagrams describe how all elements of framework are connected and how they cooperate. If something on the diagrams is not readable then try to open pdf file from here: Sitecore Data Exchange Framework – Diagrams

Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model – Stage 3 – Align

In this post we will focus on Align Stage which is Stage 3 of Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model. It is a third and the last one stage of “Attract” phase.

What does it mean to be on “Align stage”?

Things here are getting complicated. You have more data about your customers, ideas of your marketing department are more and more complex, your business has to align to all needs. This is a key for this stage – you have to find a way to make everyone happy (align digital goals with marketing objectives that drive strategic objectives to achieve a real value across used channels).

Sounds like something impossible – let’s try to make it possible!

Before we will move on to the list of main objectives in Align stage we have to be sure that we understand all things in the same way. So it is time for short glossary.

Short Glossary for IT Guys

Digital Goals - goals strongly related to actions made by users on our website, mobile application etc. For example it can be: sign up for newsletter, complete survey, connect with facebook account.

Marketing Objectives - objectives drive marketing departments. They want to know their clients. They are able to know their clients if they will gather the data/contacts. So in this case for marketing objectives we can give following examples: capture profile data, contact acquisition.

Strategic Objectives - objectives which are crucial for the company. The best possible example can be "Increase revenue".

Strategic Themes - high level objectives which are not define details but general goals for company. For instance it can be: the best quality on the market, lifetime customers, etc.

Authors of “Connect” book define three main objectives of this stage:

  • show how digital goals drive strategic and marketing objectives
  • create an Engagement Value Scale (EVS) – scale which values digital goals to its relative impact on organizational objectives
  • define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure marketing impact and efficiency as well as the relevance to customers

Ok, ok, wait a second, but what does it mean in simple words? If you are software developer as I am you probably still do not know about what they are talking.

Engagement Value Scale (EVS)

To understand that definition, we should be aware that all objectives and goals are somehow connected. They can be on different level, they can have different value for the company, but they should be identified and should build together strategic theme. In other words it means that, digital goals are ingredients of marketing objectives, marketing objectives are ingredients of strategic objectives and strategic objectives are ingredients of strategic themes – simple.

Now if we will check again the definition of EVS we should notice that if we have digital goals we should also have a scale to define which of them are more important from organization point of view.

Keep in mind that values which you will define will have impact for marketing objectives and later for higher levels of the objectives – so values should be proportional to how much that goal contributes in higher level (marketing objective).

Later in the “deep dive” series I will try to describe how to prepare EVS but for now you just should understand what it is.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

You have defined goals with engagement value scale – but, would you be able to say for someone that your activities and marketing strategy brings you more money/value from visit/clients/satisfaction/what is important for you and your clients? You need to have indicators which values will define the scale of your success – all important for you indicators we can close in one definition “Key Performance Indicators”.

With provided by Sitecore “Executive Insight Dashboard” you can measure efficiency of your decisions and actions. You can use for it also different tools or just simple stats – depends on your defined KPIs.

What more we should know?

You already know what Alignment stage is and what you have to understand to move on. But it is not always enough to move to another stage.

Sitecore has prepared Marketing Optimization Matrix (MOM) to help you use better your resources. You can check that topic alone or wait for me – I definitely will talk about this later in “deep dive” series.

If you will feel that you are fluently manage all your goals and objectives, that you have properly set values but you need some better strategy for multiple campaigns – then check MOM immediately. (Marketing Optimization Matrix on sitecore.net)

In next article I will write about first stage in “Convert” phase which is “Stage 4 – Optimize”. That name tells us that we will already have really useful tools in our hands but we need to learn how to use it in optimal way.

 

Please keep in mind that this article is just an overview - later, in next articles or in brand new series I will prepare "deep dive" into digital maturity.

Stay with me, on my blog and learn more together!

 

Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model – Stage 2 – Radiate

In this post we will focus on Radiate Stage which is Stage 2 of Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model. It is a second stage of “Attract” phase.

What does it mean to be on “Radiate stage”?

I will start here with the definition from “Connect” book.

In Stage 2, Radiate, marketing organizations are more concerned with reaching their customers through the appropriate channels.

It means that on this level you have started to think about your customers. You do not focus only on your offer and products – you understand that you have to know your clients better. That change in your understanding indicates your next actions – work on segmentation of your clients and accessibility on all channels.

Omnichannel

Omnichannel sounds like something ridiculously complicated but if you will check what exactly it means you will be surprised how easy it is.

Wikipedia defines Omnichannel in following way:

Omnichannel is a cross-channel business model that companies use to increase customer experience. ….. bla bla bla ….. including channels such as physical locations, FAQ webpages, social media, live web chats, mobile applications and telephone communication. Companies that use omnichannel contend that a customer values the ability to be in constant contact with a company through multiple avenues at the same time.

In one sentence: always be there where your clients are! If you know/think that your customers use Facebook – you should be there. If you know/think that your customers would use mobile app to know you offer better – you should give them mobile app.

What is cool in Sitecore – no matter which channel you will pick from the list – Sitecore already have a solution for you!

Check this site for more details: http://www.sitecore.net/products/sitecore-experience-platform/cross-channel-delivery

Segmentation

Because you already know that you should not present the same things for all customers you have to split people for segments. There is no one simple answer for question “how split customers for segments” because every group of customers is different – you probably know your customers better than I do,  so you will find the way to split them.

What can determine simple segments assignment:

  • gender
  • age
  • location
  • selected goods
  • campaigns
  • registration details
  • many more other things

You probably noticed that I wrote “simple segments” – I did that because on this level you still know only groups of your customers not concrete people (You will know them better later).

What I have to do to move to the next stage?

Next step for you is “Stage 3 – Align”. In next blog post I will describe details but for now you should be aware that you have solid basis and you are ready to “Align digital initiatives with strategic and marketing Objectives”

 

Please keep in mind that this article is just an overview - later, in next articles or in brand new series I will prepare "deep dive" into digital maturity.

Stay with me, on my blog and learn more together!