A particularly active group that were in attendance were Sitecore MVPs – an elite group of Sitecore evangelists who specialize in 1 of 4 areas – Technology, Commerce, Strategy and Ambassador. As these individuals are key influencers in the Sitecore community and are experienced at implementing Sitecore CMS and (in many cases) Coveo for Sitecore, inevitably their experiences at Coveo Impact were unique.
As such, we reached out to the Sitecore MVPs who experienced this year’s event and asked them about their experience. The MVPs consist of: Thomas John (Rightpoint), Chris Williams (EPAM Systems), Deepthi Katta (Verndale), Dan Solovay (Velir), and Chirag Patel (Rightpoint). Here is what they had to say:
Q: What were your top takeaways from Coveo Impact?
Dan Solovay: I was really struck by the clarity of Coveo’s vision. Their AI-powered search tells you what users are looking for, their machine learning lets you decipher their intent, and the result is being able to deliver relevant content. I was particularly struck by the emphasis relevance has on enabling proficiency: by giving employees access to the information they need, they are empowered to take on different kinds of tasks and do new things. One of my strengths as a Sitecore developer is knowing what and knowing who to search for; it’s one of the main skills I teach newer developers. Democratizing that process—letting people effortlessly get to the information they need, can lead to more confident and capable employees, and of course more satisfied customers.
Chris Williams: My biggest takeaway from the event was how much work Coveo is doing to make Sitecore more integrated and seamless with the platform. With the new product, users can enable and disable fields from inside the Sitecore admin, which means that you don’t need to access it through the Coveo admin. Additionally, the increased granularity of security inside the Coveo admin makes it easier for users to find the settings they need more quickly and limits the chance of accidentally changing the wrong settings and breaking other parts of the enterprise search. Many customers have been asking for these features and it’s exciting that Coveo is listening.
Deepthi Katta: I’d break mine down into three sections:
Future: It definitely looks exciting and appealing for Coveo and partners. With AI and machine learning being a primary focus, Coveo is sure to make a mark and get more complex and productive in terms of functionality, but, also catering many and many more implementations across the Globe.
Passion: I could feel the passion in every single session no matter if it was technical or marketing driven. The folks were full of enthusiasm and it showed in the presentations and their smiles coupled with ours.
Innovation: Sessions were bursting a full of innovation and of course, though this is an expected outcome from every conference out there, only few can actually portray it right. Coveo did it and I could not have asked for more.
Thomas John: Overall push in the realm of search and how it is evolving into touching/managing/curating data from one or more sources for one or more destinations. I also enjoyed getting to meet some emerging technology partners and learning about what they are doing.
Chirag Patel: As a Sitecore architect with a focus on websites and ecommerce, I was blown away by Coveo’s capabilities, vision and ecommerce roadmap I appreciated the sentiment about winning at every interaction in order to provide the best customer experience and the shift in perspective from thinking about personalization based on segments to thinking about personalization to the individual.
Another big takeaway was around the concept of the unified index, which can help bridge all the individual silos within an organization. Beyond unifying information to make it easy to find no matter where it resides, a great example of a use case where such unification would be useful is for GDPR. Organizations with a unified index could use the functionality to find and remove personal data upon request in any system within the organization.
Lastly, and probably the most important takeaway was how Coveo is making machine learning simple for everyone. A developer and marketer doesn’t need to be an expert data scientist, Coveo makes using machine learning simple to use.
Q: What did you learn about Coveo that you didn’t know before the event?
Dan Solovay: The whole construct of relevance as a vehicle for micro-personalization had not really hit home for me. What’s relevant to me is based on a very precise read of my behavior (including data points like my xDB profile, or my previous searches), and thus the results that come back are ones that are relevant for me. This really hit home when the project manager of the Salesforce Trailhead training site spoke, and explained how Coveo is used to generate dynamically generated, contextually relevant learning paths. By watching what people typically do, and seeing how they succeed, Coveo is literally helping people build paths to new careers.
Chris Williams: Most of my work with Coveo has been through Sitecore, so I wasn’t as familiar with its functionality with other platforms before Coveo Impact. I was able to see how Coveo is used in other environments like Salesforce and crawling other web content.
Deepthi Katta: Coveo is much more than a Search Implementation, It was amazing to see and understand the goals the company had for the future. I got to see and learn about Coveo’s culture and values first hand and it is nothing short of ‘WOW’.
Overall, I got to see and learn how Coveo and AI/ML can make vast amounts of information to help marketers, merchandisers, and others informed on the direction they should be taking for better customer experience. The talk from AOTA provided a case study on how impact of the terms searched led to a change in direction on content it was creating.
Q: What were your thoughts on the Hackathon challenge?
Dan Solovay: A painful question! I had registered, but realized there was panel content I needed to see, and ended up missing it—which is a dark moment for a developer! But I did keep an eye on the proceedings, and was struck at how the hackathon format was applied to teach the fundamentals of Coveo development (building a Sitemap connector) and the new frontiers (chatbots!). The task list and resources are now up on Github, so I might find myself sacrificing a weekend someday to fly the coder flag again.
Chris Williams: I loved the format of the Hackathon challenge, although it was different from the traditional format. All of the participants were able to learn how to integrate Coveo with external services like a chat bot. It would be interesting to have a Coveo Hackathon that followed a more traditional format as well with different teams competing on a single topic to try to develop something innovative using Coveo.
Because there were so many interesting sessions during the event, I wish I had the opportunity to attend some of the sessions that were at the same time as the Hackathon challenge. I was learning so much at the Hackathon challenge that I didn’t want to miss anything. Perhaps next time the Hackathon challenge could be on the first day before the keynote, or the weekend before Coveo Impact so that the winning team could be recognized at the event.
Deepthi Katta: Put simply, this was the best part of the conference, not to exaggerate, but it got my neurons floating. I got to not only learn something new, but actually do a hands on. Very well organized I must say and least stressful. Hackathons usually come with a subsequent amount of stress, but this was different. I would call it more fun and learning at the same time.
From idea to execution it was seamless and the parting gift was memorable and accompanies it’s friend’s at my home. The only suggestion I would like to make is to trim this short and if not a separate day, so we do not miss out on other sessions. We were allowed to walk out and come back in, but it was too intense to do that.
Q: Which session was most valuable to you and why?
Dan Solovay: Two stand out for me. Stephanie Yamkovenko’s talk on how Coveo analytics is used at her organization to determine what members are looking for. “They are telling you what they want to read!” A lot of really great tips, like using top searches from a given content page to determine what content people expect to find on that page and are not. This really drilled home a key point of the conference, that search provides a unique window into the minds, or the “intent”, of your visitors. I also really liked Diane Tetrault’s session on Coveo at Coveo, which covered both how Coveo is being used on the Coveo website (404 pages that tell you where to find what you’re looking for!) and how Coveo is used internally (context sensitive people search—here’s the person you are probably looking for…). And I really liked, and plan to steal, the idea of organizing internal hackathons to allow quick prototyping of ideas.
Thomas John: The keynote always happens to be my most valuable sessions for a couple of reasons – it helped me set up my interactions all through the conference but also helped me understand where Coveo is going and how I can engage with my customers in different implementation use cases around the platform.
Q: Did you ask any questions at the Ask Me Anything booth? If so, can you elaborate on your discussion?
Dan Solovay: I actually met with some of my fellow developers at Velir, and got a long list of questions for the conference. And then I got Simon Langevin, the Coveo for Sitecore product manager, at the AMA booth and we hammered through them, sketching out diagrams on a small whiteboard, which I dutifully photographed for the folks back home. “Don’t use the LINQ provider, use Hive, so you don’t lose the analytics!” … “Sure, you could do that with the analyzer pipeline. Just write some Python code to do that, and place it here…” One small example of many informative discussions I had with both Coveo staff and users at the conference.
Chris Williams: I asked many questions at the Ask Me Anything booth. The biggest question I had was related to personalization and the best place to manage personalization. Sitecore offers personalization of components and Coveo offers personalization via search. The answer greatly depends on your solution and the goals of your components on your pages. Coveo search is able to read anything from the xDb to the personalization of data, but it does not show data in different components based on personalization. For example, on the home page you may have a carousel where you show a user product images to feature them. Since you know the persona of a user, you may know that a user prefers grid components over carousels and are more likely to interact with that type of component. In Sitecore, you can personalize the swap of the component. If you have a list of products, Coveo can change which products are shown first in the list based on a user’s preference in color, previous conversations with a sales rep or items they have purchased in the past. Ultimately, using Coveo and Sitecore together allows you to benefit from different personalization features and reach your audience more effectively.
Deepthi Katta: I did participate in the lunch discussions that were organized to keep the momentum going. I felt it was a very cool idea, although felt a little shy stuffing Taco in my mouth. In these sessions it is not just about asking a question, but, it is also about listening to others and understanding what everyone else go through with Coveo as their Search Platform. I think I did get the key information I was looking for, but again, much more than the agenda that was planned out.
Q: Before attending, did you view “relevance” as an important component of a users’ experience within Sitecore? Did your perception change as a result of attending Impact?
Chris Williams: As a Sitecore MVP at EPAM, relevance has always been an important part of our work. Through our work with our customers, we’re always looking to produce relevant content for users through A+B testing, multi-variant testing, personalization, etc. Search technology and the introduction of Machine Learning will make this process more efficient. My perception of the importance of relevance matched what we discussed at Coveo Impact. EPAM’s vision, Sitecore’s vision and Coveo’s vision are pretty similar and something that is always a topic at Sitecore Symposium and EPAM Sitecore meetups.
Thomas John: I have always viewed “relevance” are a key criteria to the experience within Sitecore or any platform overall. My perception did not change as a result of attending Impact. If anything, showing how Coveo is innovating, it just reinforced the importance of “relevance” with an added view into “context”.
Q: What advice would you give to a fellow Sitecore MVP interested in attending Impact next year?
Thomas John: I would advise a fellow Sitecore MVP to do the following prior to attending Impact: Get up to speed on what the platform currently does and near view roadmap items. Note any gaps or capabilities that have been requested by your engagements. Come with an open mind to engage and learn.
Deepthi Katta: Coveo Impact has something for everyone and of course for Sitecore enthusiasts are not only just included, but, welcomed. From greetings via Twitter posts from @Coveo to warmth from key Coveo organizers. I felt really special. I received special attention at every single opportunity and got captured on bunch of Impact pictures as well. It is a great event to get together with like minded individuals and collaborate ideas. I had my share of fun meeting some of the Sitecore MVP’s who I look up to. Also, treasured few clicks with them. There were lot of Sitecore specific sessions planned out across the conference period which kept me interested throughout.
To learn more about Coveo for Sitecore, watch the video below.