Sitecore is fantastic value for larger organizations! Not because it is one of the best content management systems around and not because it's functionality spreads beyond content management and into digital marketing and customer engagement analytics. No, what sets Sitecore apart is its ability to run an unlimited number of sites in one installation (within the same legal entity). What tremendous value!
But that also opens a can of worms; not only is it a bit more complicated to build a multi-site Sitecore solution, but it also creates a larger governance challenge.
I have worked with a number of clients with global multi-site Sitecore solutions, and a common theme is emerging: Those that implement a governance framework and execute within agreed upon guidelines stemming from this framework, tend to be more successful and deliver more ROI than those who have a more laissez-faire multi-site solution - at least in my experience.
You might ask: What are some of the aspects of a well-run multi-site solution governance structure?
Strategy and Organization
Creating a multi-site solution is not just a technical task, it is also an organizational challenge. Here are a few ideas to how you can establish a better organizational foundation.
- Create a committee to govern the solution
- Have clearly defined solution objectives
- Be in alignment with the business
- Define an clear structure for roles, responsibilities (ownership and accountability)
- Potentially plan using roadmap (creates a common alignment)
- Be iterative and agile - "chip away at it" versus "take it all on at once"
- Group members in committee representing all solution areas; tech, business, stakeholders, product owners, sponsors, media, legal, editors etc.
Technical Solution Governance
A multi-site Sitecore solution might sound easy to build, but it can be complex to build if the requirements and the architecture is not thought through correctly.
Make sure you understand the following:
Remember that you are putting all eggs in one basket; if one part of the solution crashes, you might end up pulling down some or all sites in it as well.
- Establish an architecture that covers:
- Site types, templates, branch templates, design control and settings
- Global versus local content and media
- Clone nodes; sites, sections or items
- Global versus local modules and components
- Think of clear naming conventions for sites, folders, data etc.
Solutions that may want to leverage the Sitecore cloning feature need to be very well thought trough ahead of implementation. Detaching from clones has some benefits and some drawbacks. Cloning in general is very useful.
Shared modules / functionality can be great, but requires extra thinking up front - especially if the design of the modules can vary by site. Make sure you plan which modules are global and which are local before committing modules as globally enabled.
Deployments and testing: One bug fix for one site might break functionality or create unexpected consequences on another. Make sure you have an organized approach to deployments and testing - maybe even a form of automated testing might help.
Content and Media Governance
Content and Media governance is important, as content could be shared in some form in a multi-site solution. Furthermore, organization through the use of a taxonomy might be a great next step for an organization implementing Sitecore for their web properties. The taxonomy can be use for a number of these from search through basic classification and SEO.
A couple of nice to haves when maintaining a multi-site solution:
- Global taxonomy
- User-friendly reuse of content across channels and sites
- Content alignment with segmentation, brand and organizational messaging
- Unique or reusable workflows, roles and permissions
- Separation of sites, content and media
- Compliance with organizational standards (such as legal requirements, messaging, branding and accessibility)
- Sharing content is not easy - especially if there is no good governance structure around the shared content. One change might work well for one site, but be problematic for another site.
- Access rights to sites can become a maintenance nightmare - make sure you plan this well ahead of time. Building a security matrix or another form of visualization of security groupings and rights might make life easier.
All in all, this may sound like an article recommending not to build a Sitecore multi-site solution, and there are definitely some challenges with Sitecore when operating multiple sites. But I maintain that it is a tremendous benefit and value to have licensing for an unlimited number of same-legal-entity sites in Sitecore. Always be aware of the do's and don'ts
- be sure and do even more due diligence before committing to new features in your multi-site solution than you would in a regular solution.
Let me know what you guys have learned when implementing multi-site Sitecore solutions - would love to learn more from others!