Clutch spoke with Steve Hamilton, the Senior Vice President of Engagement Delivery at agencyQ, about the comparison between Kentico and Sitecore – two important Enterprise Marketing Solutions to consider when looking to develop a platform.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
I have spent the last 10 years of my career in the digital engagement software space. Fairly recently, I’ve come to agencyQ, and what attracted me to the group is that it’s changing the way in which digital marketing solutions are delivered. Traditionally, there were the agencies bringing big thoughts, creative thinking, and progressive elements, and there were the traditional consulting shops which would bring project management processes, technical disciplines, and so on. There was often a disconnect between those two lines of thought. agencyQ is bringing that technical strength and project management capability together with the creative thinking of a traditional agency, and using the power emerging from modern data platforms to glue those together to enable informed, data-driven decisions.
What is the typical challenge a client is trying to address in building a site when they come to you?
The biggest thing we see coming up over and over again is understanding and truly connecting with their audience. It certainly hasn’t happened overnight, but, over the last five to six years, the web has transformed, making a big shift from information sharing, which used to be key, to true interactions. Users now expect companies to interact with them, whether that be through social channels, tools like chat capabilities, good, dynamic FAQs, or the way in which the information is brought to bear.
Being able to bring the right ideas to the table and combining them with data-driven KPIs and insights is something difficult to do, especially if they’re not exposed daily to the changing market and user expectations. This is often an area for which people come to us seeking help.
What factors should someone consider before choosing a platform for their website?
Plain and simple, it’s their needs. There are hundreds of platforms out there, and dozens of major players in the space. Each one of those has a correct home—the right customer and profile—but each also has its strengths and weaknesses. The bottom line comes down to evaluating needs and finding the tool which has strengths that best align, as well as weaknesses which are non-damaging to the overarching goals. There is no one-size-fits-all answer; it’s a matter of balancing the need-versus-feature structure.
Could you give a brief introduction into both Kentico and Sitecore?
We’re a partner of both platforms, and believe strongly in them. It depends on the context needed by the customer, but they’re both Enterprise Marketing Solutions (EMS) intended to bring a full slate of features, from content publication to personalization, an e-commerce presence and marketing automation, all in one package. Both do that well, and are generally based on the Microsoft technology platform, unlike platforms like WordPress.
Generally speaking, Sitecore is built to be an all-in-one toolset for delivering everything. It has a particular focus, starting with versatility, whether it’s the multichannel capability to publish content through multiple elements like multilingual sites, or reusing content. Versatility is key, but the platform exposes its true power through its deep-data insights and personalization capabilities. We tend to believe that the focus and strength of Sitecore is found in using data analytics in order to drive personalized and targeted solutions.
Kentico is a similar product, also built to be an all-in-one toolset serving a vast array of needs. It doesn’t necessarily go as deep as Sitecore in all facets, but it makes up for lack of depth in ease and speed of implementation, which is its strength. The time to market and total cost of ownership tends to be significantly lower for projects fitting the profile.
Who is the ideal client for each of those?
In all actuality, there are too many factors to give a concise answer. When we are asked to come in and make a recommendation for customers, engineers will generally spend anywhere from a half day to multiple days with the client, learning requirements and engaging in an exercise of balancing features with timelines, budgets, and all other constraints.
There is no good way to make a blanket statement, since most of these platforms will meet 95% of client needs. The art comes in figuring out what lies in the other five percent, and what matters when making an appropriate recommendation.
Who should avoid using the platforms?
Again, I can’t give a generic statement, but I can think of numerous occasions when we recommended that customers go another way, whether it be another platform, or moving away from the EMS space altogether. Maybe they only need a simple content management capability, or don’t need a CMS at all, if they have a somewhat sophisticated editing and marketing team. Or maybe they need more of a focused marketing automation solution, such as Marketo, HubSpot, and so on. It depends on the need; none of them are one size fits all. There are organizational profiles which simply don’t fit.
Do you think that a company needs to have a technical background in order to run a Kentico or Sitecore website?
Definitely not. The point of EMS tools is that, once established, they can be completely operated by marketers. There is a certain level of technical knowledge required to get everything in place and handle the overarching technical strategy and implementation, but once that is done (which partners can effectively handle), the marketing team can independently operate the sites. In large part, this is the point of EMS tools.
Are there any steps which a company or client needs to take to make sure their Kentico or Sitecore sites are secure?
My team has a three-page checklist we run with every launch, two-thirds of it being security related. This includes basics like changing default passwords and following all the technical guidelines from the software provider, through to using outside vendors for security scans and ongoing monitoring. It’s a critical part, especially in today’s web environment.
Is there a particular feature or aspect of Kentico which you find most impressive, or makes it stand out?
There are quite a few, and to say that any one makes it stand out would be folly. However, my absolute favorite feature is what they refer to as the “portal engine,” which is a simplified toolset that allows a majority of the work that most websites need to happen without developer or outside intervention. This results in a dramatic reduction of time to launch and the total cost of ownership.
Also, while not a part of the EMS solution, it is a part of Kentico’s overall offering: they’ve recently brought their Kentico cloud to market. We’ve done a couple of implementations on it, and have been quite impressed with what is being done. It’s an API-first cloud-based methodology.
Is there a particular feature or aspect of Sitecore which you find most impressive, or makes it stand out?
As I mentioned previously, with any of these platforms, there are hundreds of features to mention, so singling out any one is hard. What stands out to me, and what I love to demo to customers, is their path analyzer functionality. It’s a great tool which visualizes the conversion path visitors take, and lets owners see where their site is succeeding and failing, enabling them to make important decisions about their direction. It’s a single facet of the deep analytics which are inherent to the Sitecore platform.
Our team attended a Sitecore conference in Las Vegas a little while ago and saw the features being launched in Sitecore 9. The Cortex engine making the promise of machine learning a reality will quickly make it a favorite feature.
Are there any aspects of either platform which need to be improved or added?
With all of them, there is room for improvement, but I leave the specifics of what those are to their product management and engineering teams. We attended the Kentico roadshow, and were thrilled to see the innovations they’re coming out with, whether those be data-privacy pieces or the embracing of other partners who are providing services which may better sum up e-commerce, email marketing, and so on. We’re looking forward to seeing what they’re going to bring in the future.
The same thing applies to Sitecore; we were excited by what we saw during their conference. What they’re bringing in version 9—the Cortex engine and other data improvements within the system—is incredibly exciting. We’re seeing the innovation that both vendors are bringing to the market, and we’re excited to see where it goes.
Have you had interactions with their support teams and resources?
Yes, all the time. They’re incredible organizations to work with that both put support first. They truly understand that this becomes the backbone of products.