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2019 Sitecore Symposium: Human Connections lessons and takeaways

Our Consulting Director Alec Bennett attended the 2019 Sitecore Symposium which, once again, took place at Disney Florida. He reports back on what he learnt.

The main theme of this year’s Symposium was Human Connections, which resonated with many of those attending including Kin + Carta Connect and our own messages of ‘Connected Outcomes’ and ‘Human Advantage’. The event also supported the American Heart Association (AHA) with Sitecore donating money for everyone participating in the partner pavilion CPR training. It’s a fantastic organisation to support, with its own excellent Sitecore case study.

View through the lens

Sitecore XEO Mark Frost opened the event. He offered teasers on Sitecore XP 9.3 but the main excitement was around the new Sitecore AI and Sitecore Content Hub offerings.

The guest speaker was British photographer Platon. He talked through the highlights of his career, from US president Obama, Trump, Bush (both) through to Putin, Stephen Hawking and Boris Johnson.

His speech centred around human connections and delivered some powerful, emotional stories that elicited both laughs and sombre silence from the audience. He talked about a world where we personalise our interactions with the people, companies and world around us and where we are controlling and shaping the messages, communications and even the makeup of the news we consume. “Isn’t there a risk we reach a state that we only see what we want to see and everything we consume reinforces our beliefs or interests?” he asked.

The takeaway for me was that even when we create highly targeted experiences we’ve got to add more natural variety. This will expose our customers to new products, news or experiences and hopefully bring them better individual and shared experiences.

Alec Bennett - Director of Consulting, Kin + Carta Connect

Getting personal

The second day opened with a fascinating look at AI and its use in emotion detection.  The standout use case was the development of educational games to help children with Autism learn to make eye contact and identify emotions in others.

I attended a couple of personalisation sessions to get a feel for the real-life use in this area and a session showing some developer tricks using the Sitecore rules engine.

In the afternoon I continued by deep dive into personalisation with two more sessions on this topic – one using AI, and the other with Google Analytics. I also spent some time going round the partner pavilion and watched a couple of the smaller presentations (while enjoying a coffee or two).


New horizons

Another session I attended was for a more developer focussed look at 9.3+ and what customisation options will be available for the Horizon UI. One major callout in this session is that SPEAK is being retired. This was welcomed with a round of applause for some reason...

From a user perspective, Horizon UI looks fresh, modern and a lot easier to use. If there is no reason not to use it I would recommend unboxing it on 9.3. (although there are some features missing and these will be phased in for future release).

Feeling the magic

On the second’s night, the entertainment was at Universal Studios – food, drinks (including Butter Beer), rollercoasters and – best of all – no queues! The final half day started with legendary basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson. It was an excellent presentation full of humour and perhaps the most amusing set of selfies I’ve ever seen taken. All in all, it was a great three days and if you get a chance to attend next year then it’s highly recommended.

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