Sitecore DMS starting too fast or planning too much
When clients start with Sitecore DMS, the first very important questions often are "What shall we do?" and "when shall we do it?", which translates into "how much to we need to plan ahead before we can get the benefits of DMS?" Obviously there is no absolute correct answer to this question, but there are some guidelines to follow to achieve relatively quick benefits from DMS without compromising future options. But what's important? Let's start with some basics that need to be in place for DMS to be successful:
- DMS license: Does your Sitecore license include DMS? Most likely it does, but that depends on when and how you purchased Sitecore in the first place. DMS is not automatically included with Sitecore CMS. TIP: If you are unsure, you should contact your Sitecore partner or the Sitecore sales rep you purchased the license from.
- Architecture: Next to having the DMS license, this is the absolute most important factor for successful DMS implementation. Having the wrong architecture will make it hard or impossible to utilize e.g. personalization or multi-variate testing without major, costly, rewriting of your Sitecore solution. Generally a best practices architecture and implementation will support DMS, but all the time we see solutions that are not very DMS capable. While there are many facets to this, your site should at least fulfill the following: 1) Architecture must be componentized so each logical element is a separate component 2) All components that are candidates for personalization and/or MV testing must reference its content via the datasource, which allows Sitecore to switch content for the component by referencing another data source 3) Components must be properly assigned to placeholders for easy management and configuration. TIP: If you are not sure that your solution is properly architected to support DMS, you may get an assessment from an experienced Sitecore partner.
- MaxMind license: Sitecore integrates out of the box with MaxMind (http://www.maxmind.com) for retrieving GeoIP information when a user hits the site. Every new license is "delivered" with a set of free MaxMind lookups with a limited life time. When these free lookups are used, either by being fully used or having expired, the GeoIP lookup no longer works and the Sitecore reports will start showing "License expired". While a working GeoIP lookup is not mandatory for DMS to work, it provides very valuable insight in your visitor population as well as offering easy personalization possibilities. TIP: When signing up with MaxMind, choose automatic renewal so you don't have to worry about being out of lookups or have personalization stop working.
How to start? The trick about a successful DMS implementation is not to start too fast - but also not go overboard in planning so you overthink your solution and wait too long before getting the advantages of DMS. While every case is different, there are no necessarily a one-fits-all approach, but the following is a good checklist for getting started right:
- Enable Sitecore Analytics: The analytics part of Sitecore DMS is the foundation of DMS where all information is collected. Even if you don't have specific plans for utilizing DMS yet, you may as well start collecting information about your visitors for later use
- Don't worry about other analytics tools: DMS works perfectly fine along with other analytics tools such as Google Analytics or WebTrends so there is no reason to hold back because you already have analytics in place
- Determine your ambitions: As with anything else regarding your web activities you should determine what you want to accomplish. This may be a difficult exercise unless you have assistance from an experienced Sitecore partner, since you may not be fully aware what DMS offers. TIP: Work with your Sitecore partner for all planning activities, even if you are planning on implementing yourself. An experienced Sitecore part will know DMS and not just be able to tell you how it work but also help identify and prioritize where and when to use it. Sitecore as well as partners have a large set of ready-to-use tools and workshops to help in the process.
- Verify your architecture: As already mentioned, successful DMS implementation is highly dependent on the way your solution is built. For new projects, this will require that DMS is thought into the solution while existing sites often are less suited for this purpose and will require modifications of some kind. Tip: If you have an existing Sitecore solution in place and want to take advantage of DMS, you should have an experienced Sitecore partner perform an assessment to determine how the solution complies with DMS.
- Plan: Make a plan and for your DMS project. This way you will be able to prioritize your activities, prepare new development for future DMS usage and make sure what you do fits into the bigger picture. Tip: Create a roadmap with 3-month milestones to follow.
Now DMS is running - now what? Congratulations - you are now in business with DMS and can start taking advantage of it. What you should do is:
- Take the easy wins: There's nothing like success - not just for yourself but for the rest of your organization. Start out with the goals that are easy to accomplish and build from there. Typically, but not always, this will be personalization, multi-variant testing, profiling and engagement values. TIP: Follow your plan and roadmap - they will help you prioritize and tell you what matters to your organization.
- Follow your plan - and keep it up to date: Priorities change - so consider your DMS plan and roadmaps living documents that should both follow closely but also be prepared to revise.
- Monitor and improve: Nobody ever gets it right the first time, and your planning will be based on assumptions, so you should constantly monitor your DMS solution and adjust accordingly. Maybe your profiling doesn't match your actual visitor population, maybe your personalization doesn't provide the visitors the benefits it should or maybe your engagement values don't correspond to your actual conversion patterns. Tip: Establish proper governance for DMS (as you should for the rest of the solution) so you keep focus on it and can adapt it to changing conditions or new insights.
- Don't be afraid of customizing: While DMS provides a lot of value out-of-the-box, there is always room for improvements. It's important that the toolset work for you and not the other way around. Luckily DMS is just as flexible as the rest of Sitecore and can be customized to meet YOUR needs - and often with very simple means. Tip: Talk to your Sitecore partner - they have most likely tried this many times before and can advice or help accelerate development with experiences or modules from other projects.
- Keep momentum going: Don't just start and not follow up. Keep investing in your DMS solution by monitoring and optimizing it as well as increasing the use and customize to exactly your needs.
So - to sum up:
- Have the basics in place - especially with regards to having a suitable solution that supports DMS
- Enable Analytics early: Start gathering information about your visitors
- Determine your DMS strategy: Know what you want to accomplish
- Plan: Make a plan and a roadmap
- Take the easy wins: Success is always a good thing and motivates everyone to continue
- Consider DMS a long-term effort: Constantly monitor, adapt and extend your DMS implementation
- Don't walk alone: Engage with an experienced Sitecore partner who has tried implementing DMS before - they will have the tools and knowledge to make sure you're successful