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Sitecore to bring more generative AI XM, XP clouds

Katie Johnson joined Sitecore after leading vertical market pushes at Salesforce and Talkdesk. In this Q&A, we discuss that, future generative AI plans and more.

Kathie Johnson took over as chief marketing officer at DXP vendor Sitecore in late November 2023. Previously, she led vertical-market pushes at both Salesforce and Talkdesk, which will be a part of the strategy for Sitecore, as well as the trends toward "composable" platforms, which let customers buy parts of a DXP as they go along instead of being forced to buy all or nothing.

Sitecore offers cloud and on-premises offerings for its DXP, which includes content management, e-commerce, CDP and personalization components.

What's been cooking behind the scenes at Sitecore since you joined? We're imagining AI bots furiously writing code for the next releases.

Kathie Johnson, chief marketing officer, SitecoreKathie Johnson

Kathie Johnson: I've been meeting with customers, partners and employees, learning the market and the space. There's been a ton of innovation both around the cloud SaaS offerings and also with AI. We will be announcing new AI functionality within our products.

One of the other things that's exciting is a partnership with Microsoft. We've been doing a lot of work with Microsoft and our Order Cloud, which is our commerce solution. It is now integrated into Microsoft Fabric.

Talk about Sitecore's recent investments in your on-premises experience platform [XP] and experience manager [XM].

Johnson: We have thousands of customers, and we have a lot on our on-premises solutions, and we're continuing to innovate. We have a new edition coming out in April, so we're continuing on with that for sure. At the same time, we're working on the composable pieces for our XM Cloud SaaS offerings around search, personalization – things like that as well.

We put the customer at the center of everything we do. We have a lot of customers on our [on-premises] products. We want to ensure we continue to innovate for them so they can create the best experiences for their own customers.

Do customers ask for things like 'composable' or 'headless' DXPs? Or are those marketing terms and users are asking for functions and features and capabilities and don't care they're called?

Johnson: It's an interesting question. As I meet with customers, some of the IT folks would use that language, some of the CMOs might not. It depends on the persona itself. But what customers are looking for is the ability to create excellent experiences for their customers, be it on websites or applications.

[Our users] want to be seen as trusted and reliable to their customers. They need to know that they can be there and offer their customers the experiences they need on an ongoing, always-on basis. When we look at why we use the word "composable" today -- analysts use that word a lot. [What it means is that] people are looking for speed; they're looking for agility. They're looking for the ability to put all the parts together to offer the best experience for their customers.

Talk about your experience at Salesforce and Talkdesk. What are you bringing with you to Sitecore from those positions?

Johnson: I came to Sitecore because I was looking for another opportunity at a company that puts the customer at the center of everything they do. Also I was looking for a vibrant market and innovative technology [as well as] strong leadership across the board and also within the company itself. The last piece was, 'Can I make a big impact?'

At Salesforce, I ran the marketing for all the [vertical] industries, which drove a lot of net new business and grew that over time from a small focus to a huge focus today. At Talkdesk, I drove growth and expansion. I'm excited to do that here at Sitecore as well.

What does a tech company's fresh push into vertical industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and government look like?

Johnson: There are three phases when you go vertical. The first is to speak the language of each industry. It's, 'Let me understand and use the language.' The second is that marketing piece that I brought to Salesforce -- taking pre-existing products and packaging it to solve the most important use cases [for a given industry]. Then the third is net new product, really working with the product team, designing products, specifically whether it's AI trained for those industries, whether it's language embedded within [the applications and services, or] whether it's integrations and partnerships.

When you look at Sitecore, I think there's a couple of different things. One is, of course, to speak the language, which is the first phase. Then you also look at something like our relationship with Microsoft for retail and consumer goods. That's actually solving a use case and going to market together within retail. We play in all industries. We have a strong partner ecosystem.

Talk about generative AI [GenAI] and how that figures into the future and now.

Johnson: [Chief product officer] Dave [O'Flanagan] is working on and has already brought to market both AI and GenAI offerings. We're also looking at it within our own organization and in marketing as well to ensure that we're tapping into it. We are looking at how to provide AI in a way to create the best workflow [and] to make the marketer's life easier. What are the ways that we can bring AI in GenAI into what we're doing? There's a tremendous vision that he has. Some of those pieces of we've already brought to market, and some of those we'll bring to market as we go forward.

Can generative AI help in the vertical approach that you'll be working on? Can it accelerate customization of industry-specific packages and products and tools?

Johnson: Generative AI can always be leveraged, but we also have to ensure that we're doing things in a safe way. Obviously, there's a lot of discussions around how to leverage AI while also being true to your brand [as well as] making sure it's secure and safe for our customers and us. But GenAI can help in all the industries. Think about how it can consume so much information, so quickly, consolidate it and deliver right to audiences. There's lots of opportunity there.

Editor's note: This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity.

Don Fluckinger covers digital experience management, end-user computing, CPUs and assorted other topics for TechTarget Editorial. Got a tip? Email him.

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