Making the jump to Sitecore 7 requires much forethought and a lengthy review of your current Sitecore status. Learn more in this instructive video from two Sitecore MVPs.
My name's Carla, I'm with nonlinear creations, and today we're going to chat with two Sitecore MVPs about what’s involved with upgrading to Sitecore’s newest releases.
New features that have been added to Sitecore 7
One of the biggest new features of Sitecore 7 is what we call Massive Scalability. It is the ability to author, store and publish massive amounts of information in a way that makes it easy for content authors to access and find it, and edit and author it. This is primarily achieved through a new feature called Buckets which essentially allows millions amounts of content items to be stored in an efficient way. If you are an organization who has thousands of news articles, media items or anything like that, Buckets offer an option to store those in a way that doesn’t require people to be clicking through an enormous content tree. They act as a repository that is highly efficient and indexed by the search engine allowing content authors to access it easily.
The latest introduction of Sitecore 7.2 is the notion of parallel publishing. If you are reading hundreds or thousands of news articles or pieces of content on an hourly or daily basis, this parallel publishing capability in Sitecore 7.2 allows you to move content much more quickly from the approved state in content management to the final state in content delivery. That is a huge benefit.
The other piece is that as Sitecore continues to evolve the product that search interface is beginning to permeate the entire content authoring experience. Not only can you search but you can also use facets to find content as a content author and that is incredibly powerful.
How will the improvements to search functionality in the newest release benefit content authors?
The ability to add the facets to the search interface allows you to slice up the content in different ways. This allows you to apply taxonomies or tags to content. In particular, when you need to reuse or share a content across different sites or different areas of sites, that’s quite powerful.
The other thing about that search interface that’s quite nice is the way it displays search results is also very configurable. You can have it show up fairly traditional Google-style listing, it can be presented as a table if the information is very detailed or technical (maybe product listings), you can make it render out previews as well. If you want to extend the search API you can also make it go into documents and files. That is a huge improvement over the previous releases in Sitecore.
The interface improvements also extent to the DMS (Digital Marketing System). When content authors and marketers are looking to configure personalization, A|B tests or any of those other features, they also will be able to take advantage of that new search interface and the power of the facets, in particular, to find the pieces of content they want to leverage for those two mechanisms.
What are the biggest concerns you hear from clients who are thinking of upgrading to Sitecore 7?
The biggest concerns are ensuring it goes smoothly and what that entails; everything from the impact to their production environment, whether the site will have to be down at all, to how big of a change is this for the content authors and administrators who work with the product every day. When we work with clients in terms of an upgrade, we typically will plan out on what we call a dress rehearsal whereby the entire upgrade is performed offline on a copy of the production build so something can be documented. You’re always going to run into unexpected issues as you’re upgrading so the documentation and resolution of those can be explicitly planned for when you actually do move to production.
The other biggest thing is preparing the team. An aspect of training should be planned in to make sure those folks are comfortable with whatever’s coming.
The third most important thing is what you’re going to do with it; in some cases people upgrade just to stay in lockstep with the product roadmap but if they are looking to take advantage of things like Buckets and the new search features, they will need to plan in development and deployment time for that as well.
At the technical level, search interfaces are powered by updates to the search providers in Sitecore. That means updates to Lucene or possibly deploying solar, so training for the development and IT teams on those features and capabilities if they’re not familiar with them would be warranted for sure.
What are the next steps if someone is ready to get the ball rolling on upgrading?
Our first recommendation would be to conduct that trial upgrade. That’s largely because moving from your current deployment of Sitecore to the latest release requires a stepping stone. For example if you’re at Sitecore 6.4, you upgrade to 6.5, 6.6, 7.0, 7.1, 7.2… You’re doing that trial run and understanding the steps and what you need to address. At each stage it’s crucial that you get it documented and understand the break fix period.
It’s definitely worth double checking with your Sitecore sales rep on your licence agreement and confirming that there will be no particular barriers to moving from 6 to 7. Usually there aren’t but it’s worth double checking so there are no surprises.
If your solution does incorporate a number of either Sitecore modules, marketplace modules or any third party connectors, they may be on their own upgrade roadmap so it’s definitely worth double checking whether they have their own version compatible with 7 or whether you’re going to have to work out a contingency plan if they do not.