The first SUGCON ANZ is in the books, and what a ride it was.
SUGCON (Sitecore User Group Conference) is a community driven conference that has run successfully in Europe (for many years) and India in more recent times. This year saw the inaugural SUGCON ANZ. A one and a half day conference in Sydney covering multiple technical and marketing tracks on all things Sitecore.
I was privileged enough to join a crack team of organisers who dedicated many hours to help make the event a success. More on that later.
With a diverse range of session topics selected we saw speakers travel from near and (very) far to share their knowledge. Given this was the first SUGCON ANZ, it was fantastic to see support from a bunch of highly respected speakers willing to put in time and expense travelling to Sydney.
One of the awesome things about SUGCON is the real focus on community. It’s a bunch of folk (like you!) who are all passionate about delivering great experiences in Sitecore. Be it a developer, marketer, DevOps tinkerer or general slack troll…there is a session or a casual conversation that will inspire you or give you an actionable takeaway. It’s about people sharing for the betterment of all.
After hitting the zoo with a bunch of the international visitors on Sunday, we were ready for some early preparation on Monday morning. While the venue had the final finishing touches put on it, outside, queues were forming. It was great to see the enthusiasm. “Have you got your QR codes ready?” was my catchphrase for the morning, but registration was smooth, catering for 260+ attendees (a sell out). Attendees then had time to mingle, check out the sponsors booths and grab a bite to eat before heading in for the welcome and keynote.
There were too many great sessions to mention or even attend due to having three (two technical, one marketing) tracks running concurrently. Below are some of the highlights for me. Many of the sessions were live streamed, which can still be viewed online.
Keynote: Microsoft’s DevOps Transformation
Damian Brady (@damovisa) – Stream
Damian is an Australian based Cloud Developer Advocate 🥑 specialising in DevOps at Microsoft. He spoke about how the organisation has gone through a massive transformation over the last few years evolving their own products internally to deliver value to customers on a much reduced cadence. Y’know, putting some Devops in your Devops. Highlight takeaway for me was the focus on delivering value over product and having a culture within your org to support this.
Meet Your New Bestfriend: The Sitecore Rules Engine
Jeffrey Rondeau (@jrondeau16) – Stream
Jeff’s session was a standout for me. Unique subject matter, actionable suggestions and professionally presented. He challenged the audience to think about other applications for the the Sitecore rules engine. Sure, use it for personalisation….but what about to manage your placeholder settings or datasource management to enhance the Content editor experience? The focus here was on leveraging the rules engine for the the forgotten users, the ones that actually create content. Great session. If you attend Symposium this year, don’t miss it there!
Sitecore Horizon: The future of content editing
Rob Earlam (@robearlam) – Stream
Horizon has been just over the Horizon for a while now. This is a HUGE overhaul of some of the core editor facing UI pieces of Sitecore and frankly it looks beautiful. There is a lot of promise in the concepts Horizon is trying to tackle. Amongst many of the features, exposing data from XDB inline to help content editors and marketers make informed decisions when creating content and personalised components is a game changer. But it hasn’t hit prime time, yet. Hopefully we’ll see some of the new features publicly in 9.3 .
The Best Hidden Features in TDS Classic
Sean Holmesby (@seanholmesby) – Stream
Sitecore TDS (yeh, that’s the new name…redundant words and all 🤷♂️) is one of those tools in a Sitecore devs toolbelt that you’ve probably used, but only scratched the surface. Sean (and Jim Jefferies) delved into some of those features, and unpacked how they actually work under the hood and in what scenarios they can help or hinder. This has inspired me to refine our processes to ensure lightning mode, quickpush and GIT delta deploys are used collaboratively by the entire dev team.
Marketing Automation Extensions
Alistair Deneys (@adeneys) – Stream
It’s always great to here from some of the team involved in creating and enhancing a product. Alistair gave an overview of Marketing Automation in Sitecore mentioning that the non-marketing favoured description is “workflows for people”. I think this resonates pretty well with developers and is the best, concise description to convey the core aim of MA. He gave a demo of a basic “hello world” plan, but also some more detailed demos of the extension points by creating custom predicates and activities. He provided tips on the versioning gotchas and creation of the front end of custom activities, that (in my experience) is often an overlooked part of the process. There was even a sneak preview of upcoming features for 9.3 👀
Offline tracking with the Sitecore Universal Tracker
Akshay Sura (@akshaysura13) – Stream
This was a session I had been looking forward to for a while after missing it at SUGCON EU in April. As an avid contributor and supporter of the Sitecore community Akshay opened with a call to join the community for those that aren’t already involved. Believe it or not, this session was up and running for the entire length of the conference. RFID scanners had been set up and each attendee had an RFID card attached to their lanyard. After 1.5 days of collecting data, Akshay was able to demo the collected data in Experience Profile and walk through the main moving parts of the solution. He had used Azure IOT Hub, a custom .NET Core app and Sitecore Universal tracker (yeh, it’s v1, but great potential!) to collate, aggregate and push all of the data into xDB. For me this demo really got the ideas flowing on how we could take IOT/field data and start to leverage it in Sitecore in both known contact and anonymous contexts. Highly recommend watching this session.
As mentioned, I joined a team of dedicated individuals that made this event happen. This was a mix of ANZ community members and Sitecorians who all went above and beyond to ensure that the event was a success. Big thanks to all, particularly the experienced team from Sitecore who guided us and did a LOT behind the scenes.
Also thanks to all the sponsors. It takes a leap of faith to put down sponsorship dollars on a first time conference. We appreciate it and look forward to your support again next year.
Personally, I learnt a tonne from this experience, met some great people and am now thinking about how we can improve to make it bigger and better next year.
See you in Melbourne for SUGCON ANZ 2020!