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Building and Maintaining a ‘Brand Fortress’ Framework – and why it’s time to upgrade that framework to SXA

By January 15, 2019 No Comments

The idea of a ‘brand fortress’ reaches back decades in web development. The central concept is that brands suffer when their associated websites are of varying quality from a customer perspective. Quite simply it damages a brand to have a visible ‘poor cousin’ in terms of quality. It happens all the time when a large company has many sites, and different brand managers employ diverse agencies to build their sites – quality varies, the customer experience varies and some…inevitably…will be sub-par.

No reputable brand wants a Rolls Royce outcome on one site and a broken-down jalopy on the other.

The brand fortress idea goes far deeper however, underneath the shiny presentation layer lies a slew of code. Every programmer programs differently, and every agency standardizes differently – so the inevitable outcome is an impossible-to-manage code base. It’s a classic nightmare; upgrades are singular and costly, managing the code is a gargantuan headache, platform licensing is convoluted and integration either goes out the window or is massively complicated.

Not good. Not at all.

Smart agencies reacted by building ‘core frameworks’ that essentially contain code snippets, or modules that are common across all web properties. This had numerous benefits including accelerated time to market, standardization of code and in many cases commonality of customer experience across brands. Great stuff!

Sadly, in many cases those core frameworks had two nasty stings in the tail – they effectively crippled the full capability of the platform (oh, we see a LOT of this) and they often do not keep up with inevitable platform advances and evolution. The platform vendor is moving fast, in a hyper-competitive industry and its virtually impossible for web development companies to keep generating billable work and keeping legacy frameworks viable in terms of new platform capability.

The answer lies in both platform selection and making sure your coders 100% utilize the accelerator tools provided by savvy platform vendors – like Sitecore’s splendid SXA (Sitecore Experience Accelerator) – who, trust me on this, are well sick of supporting ancient frameworks that are generations behind their software. In fact, they don’t – often there is zero support for customers caught in this bind.

You are now stuck with not being able to maximize your use of your digital marketing platform, and you have fallen into agency lock-in. No new reputable agency is going to want to touch it, because it won’t be documented, and our experience shows us it will be full of work-arounds and cut corners.

The only viable option, unless you are content to let a technical debt build and build and fall farther and farther behind the capability of your competitors, is to keep your framework updated, or have your agency do the same. This is a grudge spend, all day long, the site doesn’t do anything better and doesn’t look any different, so the temptation is to let it be.

So, you need to keep your framework up to date – why wouldn’t you upgrade your framework to use the vendors supplied code? It will be best practice, it will be part of their ongoing roadmap which means it gets updated as part of the software release cycle.

It absolutely makes sense, you will always have vendor support, your code will be mandated best practice in terms of your chosen platform (if, like Sitecore, they offer an accelerator) and it will work with all the features you bought or are introduced as the platform evolves.

If it is time to upgrade to Sitecore 9x, it’s really time to wrap in SXA 1.8, which is free to subscription customers.

This isn’t a re-build, or wasted effort from the past – it’s simply recognizing that your framework is the heart of your digital web properties and as such really deserves to also have the greatest capability and alignment with your actual web software platform.

It’s so fast to rebuild with SXA that the process is more cost effective than the usual upgrade slog – the upgrade happens, and your framework is upgraded at the same time. No additional cost or longer time-frame – in fact it will be cheaper than a standard upgrade if your agency has the SXA chops necessary.

It’s time to update the heart of your web publishing and marketing engine, SXA is spectacularly well conceived and is literally Sitecore best practice, if you know what you are doing.

Keeping a vital asset updated and aligned with your web platform seems like a no-brainer to us.

It’s an upgrade – not a rebuild.

Author Greg Baxter

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