Great State at SUGCON Europe 2023

An intrepid squad of Great Staters from the Software Engineering team made a trip to sunny Malaga to attend SUGCON – the Sitecore User Group Conference.

Day 1 – the future is headless

The day kicked off with some senior Sitecore execs giving us an overview of the current state of the Sitecore ecosystem and what’s coming up. It’s abundantly clear that while ‘traditional’ Sitecore (now known as Platform DXP – Sitecore XM & XP) isn’t going anywhere any time soon, Sitecore has made a big commitment to headless technology and composable architecture.

That’s not a revolutionary strategy by any means – the writing has been on the wall for a while now – but the level of resources they are committing to their new product suite (now known as SaaS DXP) is significant, including several recent acquisitions and a desire to promote integration between the products that make up their cloud suite.

After the keynote from Sitecore, the conference split into four tracks:

  • Plenary
  • XM Cloud
  • Path to composable
  • Marketing

Next.js and Vercel

We heard from Vercel, creators of Next.js – a framework we use very heavily at Great State – who have struck up a close partnership with Sitecore. We’ve been doing a lot of work recently with headless Sitecore and have been impressed with how their Next.js SDK has continued to evolve.

Next.js is our framework of choice because of its inherent flexibility. It's capable of generating static sites (very fast, great for SEO), server-side rendered websites (still fast, great for dynamism), but crucially it also has a middle option – incremental static regeneration – which is the best of both worlds. Combining the component-based approach React & Next.js offers with Sitecore’s enterprise content and personalisation capabilities gives organisations a lot of possibilities.

It’s clear that Sitecore are keen to push Vercel as a robust option for hosting the front end for Sitecore-powered headless websites, and Vercel certainly has a bunch of advantages if you’re using Next.js – they made it, and have first class support for all Next.js features.

XM Cloud

Another hot topic at the conference was XM Cloud – Sitecore’s SaaS enterprise content management system offering. While headless options have been available in Sitecore for a long time – either by rolling your own or using JSS – XM Cloud is a fully-featured, mature enterprise offering in this space that is now being used in production by a range of different organisations.

It couples one of the main selling points of the original Sitecore platform DXP – enterprise grade content management – with not having to worry about upgrades and infrastructure, alongside support for analytics, personalisation, and some other interesting new features like Sitecore Components. Unlike other SaaS CMS offerings, it also allows you to run your own custom code and run it locally, which was the focus of some of the talks, and a real point of differentiation.

Sitecore Search

We also had a deep dive into Sitecore Search and the technology that sits behind it. Sitecore Search is part of Sitecore’s SaaS product suite, and it brings customisable AI-powered high-performance search to your websites – whether they run Sitecore or not. It can be used instead of or alongside existing search providers like SearchStax / Solr, and it’s built on top of the same technology as Sitecore Discover and shares some of the features. Where Sitecore Discover is far more product & e-commerce focused, Sitecore Search is a more generalist offering suitable for any website.

Day 2 – making the future a reality

The next day covered a host of topics, building on the previous day – still with a heavy focus on XM Cloud and the other SaaS platform products.

A particularly interesting initial talk was around approaches and tips for migrating advanced Sitecore implementations to XM Cloud. This is particularly timely as the majority of customers using Sitecore will be using either self-hosted Sitecore XM/XP or Sitecore Managed Cloud, whereas XM Cloud is a very different proposition.

Another challenge with migrating is a lot of traditional Sitecore customers will be using MVC rendering rather than the more modern, headless approach offered by JSS. Sitecore implied that they may end up supporting MVC rendering in XM Cloud at some point – which is interesting – in order to aid migration, but in the meantime it’s evident that you will have a much easier time migrating if you’re already using Sitecore as a headless CMS.

Sitecore CDP, Personalise and Discover

Another very interesting talk covered how to use Sitecore CDP, Sitecore Personalise and Sitecore Discover together. We were shown how, given the composable nature of these products, it’s relatively easy to knit them together – in this case, feeding in insight from CDP and Sitecore Discover to deliver personalised content and results to users. You can even expose some of the machine learning model data and results from Discover by using a drag and drop interface in Personalise, and feed insight back into CDP.

This kind of example illustrates the benefits of integrating specialised systems together as opposed to the traditional all-in-one monolithic approach – as long as the systems have good APIs, you can accomplish all kinds of things!

Sitecore Components

After a bunch of lightning talks covering everything from APM to women in Sitecore, we learnt about Sitecore Components, a feature of XM Cloud that is specifically designed to make the lives of content editors and marketers easier. Components gives users the ability to create reusable components without needing to write any code, using a visual interface. These kinds of things have existed for a long time, but they’ve often been quite limited in their capabilities. This implementation seems very well thought-through, and it’s even possible to create components that call external data sources and use the data as part of their rendering – again, without writing any code.

Some control should be applied – otherwise you risk content editors going totally rogue and wrecking the visual identity of your brand – but it’s a nice productivity feature that genuinely seems flexible enough to be useful.

Content Hub ONE

We then heard how the German Sitecore User Group rebuilt their legacy Wordpress website using Content Hub ONE. By all accounts, Content Hub ONE is a far newer product than the other CMS (or CMS-like) offerings from Sitecore like XM Cloud, traditional XM / XP etc, but for simple use cases it may suit requirements. There are some caveats – you can’t upload PDFs to the media library, for example – but it sounds like as a product Sitecore will continue to evolve it to eventually become competition to the likes of Contentful and other SaaS CMS.

The conference ended with a very funny and engaging closing keynote by Microsoft legend, Scott Hanselman, which had everyone in the room laughing and nodding their heads. One of the best talks I’ve seen in a while, which I won’t try to summarise here as it was an hour long.


SUGCON was excellent fun, and we all learnt a lot about what Sitecore have planned for the next year or so. So many of the talks were practically focused, which for us is perfect – we’ll look to leverage this insight with our Sitecore clients to help them make the most of the technology.

If you're interested to hear about how Sitecore can help your business, and how we can make it work for you, then get in touch.

Related articles