SDL Connect 2018

Last week SDL opened the doors of the 2-day SDL Connect conference in Santa Clara, CA. In 2017 they brought back Tridion and included Knowledge Center as Docs in Tridion DX suite. This year they followed suit, by launching new Tridion Sites 9 and new language solutions based on linguistic artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). SDL is foreseeing 5 disruptions related to content where AI will play a big differentiating factor:

  • Content will create itself
  • Content will be agile
  • Content will organize itself
  • Content will be secure
  • Content will be your best salesperson

Besides all the announcements it was good to see customers like IKEA, NetApp and Philips on stage explaining their challenges and how SDL helped resolve them. New this year was the SDL Innovation Center where experts answered questions and showed demos of the new SDL products during networking breaks. 

There were a lot of interesting sessions and too much to cover. So, let me show you my favorite topics of SDL Connect 2018.

SDL Tridion Sites 9

The biggest announcement during SDL Connect 2018 was the new version of their flagship product: SDL Tridion Sites 9. This enterprise content management system is part of a bigger suite: Tridion DX. Overview of the newest features is described below.

Enhanced customer experiences:

  • API‑first approach to delivering content across your ecosystem of mobile and digital channels
  • Headless content delivery services enabling server-less based solutions 
  • Dynamic content mashups (marketing and product information) with shared taxonomies
  • Experience optimization for greater personalized relevance

Assisting content management operations:

  • Regions for easy management of content‑rich web pages
  • Quick and easy image editing (cutting and cropping)

Newest technology features:

  • GraphQL-based content service
  • Docker container support for flexible deployment
  • Alibaba Cloud support for websites in China (solves ICP filing/licensing issues)
  • Staged and rolling scenarios for smoother upgrades in the future with zero downtime for users. 
  • SAML 2.0 support for single sign‑on

You can read more about SDL Tridion Sites here:

Global Content Operating Model

The researchers from Forrester recognizes the trend that the GCOM becomes more and more important. The customer journey in the past was often marketing driven and only touching the first few touchpoints. Companies recognize that product information has a great impact on customer experience and loyalty. To be able to provide the right content in the right context companies need a well-organized content supply chain. This research shows that SDL is on the right track combining marketing (Sites) and product information (Docs) in the Tridion DX suite. Another trend is the growing amount of content required for the (translated) omnichannel experience. Translations have always been the core-business for SDL, but they are now showing that AI and ML technology can and should be used to lower the cost and time to market.

Download the free Forrester report from

SDL Machine Translation

Another announcement was related to their translation solutions. SDL has the world's first secure Natural Machine Translation (NMT) solution that is available across on-premises and cloud boundaries. For companies that have content that should be in a self-controlled environment can opt for a fully on-premise version. An interesting feature is a hybrid solution. In the scenarios when on-premise translation capacity is reaching limits (incidental bulk operations), you can send packages to the cloud for translation. Companies that want full flexibility and scalability can use the cloud version.

SDL Content Assistant

SDL has strong AI expertise in NMT which up till now has been used for speeding up translation processes, better quality and lower costs. During SDL Connect they announced a brand new product: SDL Content Assistant. This stand-alone application can assist Editors with AI enabled generated content. Its strong points are creating high-quality content with multiple variants in the right context. CA will be introduced slowly by a closed beta program, but it is exciting to see where SDL is headed.

Apply for the beta program here:

SDL West Coast user group

It was great to participate in the user group session, hosted by Joseph Yu from Wells Fargo. A lot of great discussions about what 'headless' really means and how that works in the real world. Also a great presentation about Content as a Service (CaaS) and how much different it is than Dutch cheese (KaaS) by John Winter. Niclas Cedermalm showed his big plans on the connectors and was taking notes on some valuable feedback.

It was a great conference. Thanks to SDL for having us and thanks to EPAM for allowing me to visit it.

SDL Connect 2017 - Tridion Sites and Tridion Docs

The SDL Connect 2017 conference was held in San Jose, California. Connect is a yearly user and partner conference where language and CMS technology provider SDL announced their strategy and roadmap for the coming year(s). Below some notes from the sessions that I attended.
SDL Tridion DX
One of the most visible changes is bringing back the Tridion brand. At SDL Connect they announced the new SDL Tridion DX digital experience product. The product is actually a suite that combines web content management (SDL Tridion Sites) and DITA-based structured content management (SDL Tridion Docs).
Tridion DX contains a unified experience layer with the support of Tridion Open Content API targeted to any digital touchpoints: mobile, desktop, watches, bots, in-store displays, etc. With these APIs, it is possible to create content mash-ups blending marketing content, commerce content and product information. All this information can be personalized by leveraging AI and Machine Learning capabilities.
Tridion DX will be launched mid-2018 and will replace their 2 current content products SDL Web and SDL Knowledge Center. Until that date there can still be some confusion, since marketing will only use Tridion DX, but the underlying product names stay a bit longer: SDL Web 8.5 and SDL Knowledge Center 13.
SDL Knowledge Center and Tridion Docs
Tridion Docs will be the new name of SDL Knowledge Center (KC) by mid-2018. Until then the product will still be named KC version 13. Knowledge center is a product which enables companies to manage technical content (i.e. manuals) in a structured way. The product supports the industry standard Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), which is an XML based structure to create, produce and publish information. Publishing targets are typically documentation portals, download centers, and support sites.
The end of October 2017 release of KC 13 has some major improvements:
  • Support for new delivery stack (DXA) shared with SDL Web with better touch points experiences
  • Upgrading is simplified by Powershell script support, automation, and centralized configuration
  • Enhanced translation workflow
  • Enhanced productivity by UI improvements
By using DXA in the delivery stack also new benefits are introduced:
  • Improved site navigation options (more flexible, can be based on taxonomy)
  • Multilanguage support for the UI
  • Personalization and filtering support
  • Search is now powered by Elastic Search
SDL Tridion Sites 9
Tridion Sites is the content management system that is formerly known as SDL Web 9. It is mostly used for managing multi-language/branded content for marketing and commerce sites. By combining both Sites and Docs in Tridion DX the content silo boundaries are removed and content managers have a more unified experience when working with content. For the customers of the content, this change will also be noticeable since the pre-sales marketing content is more aligned with the post-sales product content.
Experience regions can be used to partition a page. The regions are user-defined and customizable per page template. A region can be used to position components in a certain area of a page. Regions can also be restricted to be only used for e-commerce integrations.
Other announced features include:
  • Image editing support (basic manipulations like cropping, rotating and scaling). The manipulation is stored in the metadata and source image is untouched.
  • Tridion Open Content API for creating content mashups.
  • Integration Marketecture - integration with external CRM/Marketing/E-commerce systems via Accelerators and Connectors
  • Improved cloud support
  • Prescriptive Personalization (old SmartTarget/Fredhopper product) based on:
    • Web attributes (i.e. IP based geolocation, company, time of day or referrer source)
    • Database attributes (i.e. CRM or marketing databases)
    • Behaviour-driven (user actions on touchpoints)
  • Adaptive Personalization by using real-time AI and Machine Learning technology. See picture below.
West Coast meetup - preview of new CME UX design
During the West Coast community meetup, SDL showed that they are very busy working on a new UX design for their Content Management Explorer. The first UX drafts are very promising and radically changing the way we work with the CME. Also, they emphasized the goal of open API based platform with connectors for extensibility. The downside is that we need to wait until Tridion DX 10 is announced to see what they can deliver since it's quite a big step.