Jul 25 2018
Jul 25

When I started working with Drupal, I was impressed by how developer friendly the community and the software were. Twelve years later, as my role and responsibilities in our business changed, my opinion of who should cater to Drupal also adjusted.

Drupal would not be what it is today without the hard work of many developers who devoted their (mostly free) time to build the core framework. Even more important are the products in the module ecosystem that address real business problems, enabling the cost reduction of developing complex solutions. During the last ten years, I learned how the community feeds the software and how software feeds the community - quite literally. There are thousands of households around the world that rely on the fact that Drupal stay relative in the world of software. But who is making sure Drupal will remain relevant?

I could romanticise about free and open software, but that alone will not enable Drupal to survive neither to grow. Some people believe the quality of code and innovation will drive the growth in the following years. I think the lack of quality and innovation will slow down or stop the growth, but it's not a factor for "world domination". But why do we need to grow? Can't it just stay as it is? Well, in the world of business growth is a necessity. VC money is poured into everything that is growing, and since our open software has a significant share in the "websites market" there are thousands of startups looking to take that away, slicing our piece of the pie until there is nothing left.

So what can the Drupal community do to continue growing? Let's try to look at Drupal as a privately held startup. In the Business Model Canvas, there is a big box reserved for Partnerships. Growth for Drupal means more websites running on Drupal, but Drupal as a startup can't work with all of the customers and employ thousands of developers to implement millions of sites per year. Hubspot, for example, has built many tools for SMBs, but they soon figured out that those customers are self-serving only to a certain point. But some businesses are happy to help companies with marketing while getting paid for their efforts. 

Marketing agencies, digital agencies, branding agencies, and similar businesses are integrated into their local market or have great insights into industries and verticals. They understand what clients need, as they fight in trenches, sometimes losing the battle but always learning. Like Hubspot, Drupal relies on the success and growth of agencies which are using the framework. In the past, Drupal opened doors for many many agencies to win big accounts. Today the situation is a bit different as clients are overwhelmed with technology to a point where they only look at the full package: platform + vendor.

The community is already doing an excellent job by promoting Drupal agencies on Drupal.org, but I believe there are things to be done. Just by looking at Hubspot, as an example, I see what we could do more and better. I do hope we can step together as a community, put aside that we are direct competitors. Even more, we must be open to inviting even more competition to our community, organisations that will introduce next-level of professionalism into our community. 

Apr 11 2018
Apr 11

Day one at DrupalCon Nashville started with the traditional keynote by Drupal's founder Dries Buytaert. Dries talked about what is new and where are we heading. One of the main announcements was the Promote Drupal Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to start a promotional campaign that will enable to make Drupal known and loved by new decision makers.

The same evening I happen to see a tweet from a formal active Drupal contributor that was questioning the director of Drupal. The tweet that got deleted very quickly said that we are compromising quality with marketing bulls**t. My first thought was: that is so typical for an engineer to say. The thing is, Drupal community consists mostly of engineers. What if other developers feel the same way? We have to address this and try to explain why changes will be needed to survive let alone grow. 

There is a mantra in the business world that I like to recall in situations when painful changes need to be made: 

What got us here won't get us there

It's entirely OK to say that Drupal got where it is now due to its quality and security. However, this does not mean those same features will continue to draw more people into Drupal, especially end users who are not responding to technology anymore.

Every new technology has two phases of adoption. The first phase is driven by technical features. You can take a look at blockchain technology for example. Today, every blockchain startup talks about how will they take advantage of the new technology, and use blockchain for their platform. In a couple of years, blockchain technology will become a commodity and the only valuable assets those startups will have will be their business model and ability to execute. The second phase is not about features and what technology can do, but instead about what impact can it make when applied. 

Same goes for Drupal's market. Today everyone assumes quality and security should be inside of all content management frameworks. We have to evolve and start thinking about the buyers and what they want to achieve. Even developers need to be sold into the idea of trying Drupal. At AGILEDROP we do this regularly by explaining what a great career choice Drupal is on events and otherwise.

I have a very good feeling about upcoming changes in Drupal.org marketing activities. I hope together we can tell the world how Drupal can help them solve their problems and help them achieve their goals.

Help promote Drupal by donating

Apr 10 2018
Apr 10

It was a long trip from Slovenia to Nashville, but after a good night sleep, I headed towards Music City Center for the first day of DrupalCon. Mondays at DrupalCon are reserved for sub-events called summits. There were Decoupled Summit, Higher Education Summit, Government Summit, Media and Publishing Summit, Nonprofit Summit, Community Summit and Business Summit. The last is the one I picked to attend. 

 

Business Summit

The event was organized by Elia Albarran, Four Kitchens and Aimee Degnan, Hook 42. The idea of the event is to facilitate open discussions between Drupal agency owners and to be a safe place to talk about things company owners and executives usually have to keep to themselves, which can be overwhelming to many. With that in mind, I can't share too much, but here are my highlights from the summit:

  • Drupal Association has started listening to Drupal agencies who need Drupal to be more aggressive in marketing.
  • Agency need to build buyer personas, identifying who the buyers are (marketing or IT department)  and tailor the message to them.
  • To build outstanding digital experience, agencies should not ask if Drupal can do it, but if they or their clients can do it.

I very much enjoyed the talks this year, and the group work assigned to us was very insightful and initiated some interaction between the attendees. It seems like Drupal business community has to be reminded every once in a while at events like this that we are competing with proprietary software and unified businesses with marketing budgets that surpass Drupal's by far. To compete, we will need to invest a lot more and to win we will have to join forces.

Mondays are very busy, and I wanted to attend another summit, so I had to leave the business summit earlier. This summit was not part of DrupalCon, but it was an event organized by Acquia. For those who don't know, Acquia is the leading Drupal solutions provider, targeting the enterprise market.

drupal con Nashville

 

Acquia Partner Summit

Acquia organises Acquia Partner Summits at every DrupalCon. Besides their main event, Acquia Engage, this is where they can connect with their partners, digital agencies. AGILEDROP is an Acquia partner too. Being an Acquia partner means a recognition that we are a part of the professional Drupal network, that we know how to use Acquia's tools and that we know how to build websites with Drupal. There are apparently 3000 partners, of which 400 are considered active, the ones that attend events like this and work with Acquia to provide feedback and of course bring and service clients on top of their technology and solutions. 

What we could learn from roundtable discussions and talks was that Acquia is becoming a multi-product company and that they are going to start investing heavily in innovation. We could hear buzzwords like AI and machine learning. Even though I'm not a big fan of buzzwords myself, there is a point that end clients do want to hear about that, and that they want to use the tools that have such capabilities. I hope that this rebalancing from a sales organization to an engineering organization will be successful for Acquia. Even if their products are not directly Drupal, they will pull Drupal forward into the mature enterprise market.

I guess the question is how many agencies will be able to follow there. If truly 30% of agencies produce 70% of partner revenue, and this revenue is one-third of total revenue then one of the tasks for Acquia is to teach other 70% to sell enterprise solutions. Many agencies think this is a size question, but in reality, the trend is that corporations are replacing big agencies with specialized consultancy businesses. It only matters how the agency positions itself and who they target.

 

Opening ceremony and "Acquia & Partner Pig Out"

Full of new ideas we all went to the opening of DrupalCon, and hopefully people will remember something the day after. After talking to some old friends and meeting new people at the booths, it was time to move on to the next treat of the day, the dinner provided by Acquia. Thank you Acquia for dinner and to host us at such a fabulous venue.

Looking forward to Day 2 at DrupalCon Nashville.

Apr 04 2018
Apr 04

I was not planning to go to DrupalCon this year due to so many things going on at the company, but with a little delegation effort, I will be able to go. 

I would not like to miss this one, to be honest. So here is what I am looking forward to in Nashville.

Meeting new people

DrupalCons in the US are the biggest Drupal events, and even if you are an active community member for 11 years like I am, you still see a lot of new faces.

Developers are generally more on the introvert side, so you don't see so much intentional networking like on some other events, but don't hesitate to ask the person sitting next to you, waiting for the session to start, where they are from and what they do. You would be surprised what can come of that simple conversation.

Having intriguing conversations

Some people say they come for the sessions. I think that is a wrong reason to be there. I have a 10-hour flight to America. I will use that idle time to watch some lectures, but when I am at the conference, I want to engage in some conversations.

Even if you do come for the sessions, don't be so passive. Ask questions after the session and ask other people how they perceive the topics you were listening to. 

Nashville

 

Mindset shifting

My first Drupal in 2010 in Copenhagen was a tipping point in my career. On that conference, I realised how big Drupal is and how many opportunities it offers. If I did not visit DrupalCon in 2010, there would be no AGILEDROP. 

With all the new people you meet, conversations you have, something will stick, and you will come home inspired and full of enthusiasm to make the next big step.

Get swag

I'm just joking with this one. But yes, go ahead, take as many t-shirts and pens as you can carry. 

Let's meet there

I am looking forward to meeting new folks and catching up with people I meet before. This blog post is an open invitation for everyone who would like to know more about my company and me. Please use the link below to propose a time to meet, and we can take it from there.

Schedule a meeting

See y'all in Nashville!

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Feb 09 2018
Feb 09

I always felt that any website should be a tool for driving sales. And there is no better way than enabling customers to make a purchase right there on your website. Anf now you can do it with Drupal 8.

TLDR:
Acro Media created a demo Drupal 8 demo site with Drupal Commerce 2 and made it available on Github.

Building commerce websites is not easy. The only way to make it easier is to use a service like Shopify, where there are presets available that will cover requirements for 80% of entrepreneurs doing their first online commerce venture. 

Sooner or later things get complicated ...

Sometimes a business becomes so big that it needs to have its merchandise in multiple warehouses, or it sells to customers from different countries, or it has simply developed a unique business model that is enabling its growth. In many cases, DIY tools can't handle those requirements anymore. 

Do mind that I don't try to dismiss companies providing those services. I think services like Shopify are outstanding and that everyone should try to see if they can build their webshops on their platforms. When I get approached by potential clients e-commerce, I always advise starting with a cloud e-commerce platform, if the business needs can fit in their feature set.

OK, so what happens when I see the requirements of the business don't fit into Shopify or alike? Well, I advise going on a route to building something more complex, something entirely tailored to them.

 

Commerce on Drupal 7

When we were still building sites with Drupal 7, we had an excellent weapon in our arsenal: Drupal commerce. With the efforts of Commerce Guys, the company that took full ownership of the idea to build the best commerce solution, the Drupal community was able to say we don't only have pretty darn good CMS, but also a pretty darn good solution for building web shops. 

I remember that it was quite easy to sell Drupal Commerce back then after showing Drupal Kickstart distribution. To be honest, Drupal kickstart was also very useful for us developers to figure out what are the best practices in developing Drupal Commerce sites.

we are open

 

Commerce on Drupal 8

With the arrival of Drupal 8, the future of commerce was in question. The company that was driving the development of open source modules and was able to stand behind the product (very important factor for enterprise clients) was not the same as it was years before. News that Acquia is partnering with Magento didn't help as well. While talking with many agency executives, the topic of e-commerce on D8 usually ended up with a conclusion: not yet. 

 

Commerce Kickstart for Drupal 8

But Drupal commerce 2.x for Drupal was successfully released, and there are already many excellent examples of huge e-commerce website built with it. What is great about Commerce 2.x is that is very functional out of the box. This is also the reason a Kickstarter distribution was not developed. However, I did miss a demo that I could showcase to potential clients.

Recently I stumbled upon a blog post from Acro Media. I realised they've set up a demo website with Drupal 8 Commerce 2.x showing its full features months ago! If you missed it as I did, I welcome you to check it out.

Links:
- Drupal 8 commerce 2.x demo website 
- Source code with DB export and files on Github 
 

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Feb 01 2018
Feb 01

In 2017 Janne Kalliola and Michel van Velde conducted the Drupal Business Survey for the second time. By collecting responses from more than 200 Drupal agencies, they were able to come to the following conclusions:

  • Drupal 8 has become the most popular version for new projects.
  • Agencies started working on more complex projects.
  • Drupal has lost against Wordpress (and others) in the low-end market.
  • Smaller agencies have a challenge staying competitive in seizing bigger projects.
  • Finding talent is continued to be a challenge.

tiping on computer

 

SWOT analysis

To try and foreseen into 2018 I am doing a SWOT analysis based on general digital agency reports from 2017 and outlooks for 2018.


Strengths

Drupal agencies have an advantage that they are already very specialised. The last couple of years there has been a trend that everyone in every kind of business has to specialise in a niche market in order to be successful. You can even see simple businesses like coffee shops going in a niche and attract certain types of customers. So how are Drupal agencies specializing? They do Drupal, and they tell this to the world. Drupal is still something clients look for. Many clients get educated about the CMS market and place Drupal as their CMS of choice. 

The other strength I see is the mature community. Last year I was at a couple of Drupal events, and many had dinners for agency executives. It was great to see how competitors can sit together and share their experiences with each other. This means we are working together to take a bigger share of the CMS market.


Weaknesses

By talking with more than 100 Drupal agency executives, I found two types of agencies:

  • Type A: They are active in the open-source community and is almost religious on using Drupal.
  • Type B: They see Drupal as one of the tools available to help their clients succeed.

The weakness that I found in type A is that those agencies also only focus on selling Drupal and it's software features. They are transmitting the same messaging that convince them to use Drupal. This is all too engineer oriented. Client's do not care about the underlying technology as much as some agencies think they do. So, we have to be careful that our strength does not become a weakness.

computer

Opportunities

Based on the report from Society of Digital Agencies (SODA), 43% of clients expect to increase their digital marketing spend in 2018 where 33% will maintain the same budgets. The areas where businesses will allocate more budget are digital experience, customer insights, content development, and digital projects. In 2017, WWP, the largest holding company in the agency space, reported the largest share price fall in decades. On average the revenue of the six largest agency companies fell for 0.3% in the second half of last year.

So what is happening?

Based on the report, the number of clients with three or more digital agency partners grew by 42% in 2016. In addition to that, we could spot a shift in 2017 where clients were more likely to partner with a consultancy firm than an agency. 

I see this as an opportunity for Drupal agencies to position themselves as consultancies rather than a full-service agency. There is also a prediction that the term "digital" will disappear in the next five years as there is no more distingue between digital and physical with the introduction of omnichannel. This will mean that a lot more engineering work will need to be done. Drupal agencies have an opportunity to build websites and leave design and marketing to other agencies (without having to fear to lose a client).


Threats

Only 25% of clients are planning to increase spending with external agency partners. So where will 48% of companies who are increasing their budgets spend that money? More and more marketers are partnering directly with companies who offer self-service (like Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc.). 

Marketers need to move fast, and they are not able to afford to wait weeks for a new landing page on a website. Drupal agencies need to start thinking about integrating those services into their offerings and provide added value, even if that means doing less development work. Clients will be happy to pay the premium for something that will save money in the long run. So, do less work and charge premium.

computer

Conclusions

Drupal agencies face the same challenges as many other types of agencies. What I learned is that specialization is the right course, but they have to think about the value they provide. Agencies that are not thinking about the client's goals will have a hard time winning more work. Drupal is a great tool for building websites, but it is not a sales strategy for agencies.

Overall, the future is bright. I am looking forward to seeing Drupal agencies grow and AGILEDROP can sure help them do that with fewer risks and overhead. 


Photo by Philipp Mandler on Unsplash

Photo by Dai KE on Unsplash

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash

Jan 09 2018
Jan 09

Happy new year! Here at AGILEDROP, we will remember 2017 as the year when we became more focused and systemised. We worked hard, learned new things and had fun, lots of fun. Along with the growth in personnel and revenue, I can say it was a good year.

 

 

New business model, new processes

At the end of 2016, we changed our business model and moved away from being a full-service agency to become trusted partners with digital agencies in building Drupal websites. With great foundations from 2016, we started tweaking processes and documenting them. To become more productive we also introduced new tools and even built one ourselves (on top of Symfony if you don't mind me adding). 

chart

Adaptation to the new business model in 2017


Visiting and sponsoring Drupal events

In 2017 we have visited more Drupal events than any year before. As we realised how important it is to meet our clients in person, we decided that we will use any opportunity we get. We also felt this is an excellent way to help organisers of Drupal events. Drupal events are super important for the community and AGILEDROP will continue supporting Drupal camps and Drupalcons in Europe and US.
 

Drupal conference

Posing in front of inflatable Druplicon at Drupalcon Vienna

 

Having fun as a team

We did not forget to have fun in 2017. In May our whole development team went to Zagreb, Croatia to Drupal camp. In addition to learning about Drupal, this was an opportunity to hang out with colleagues. Our team also organised 2 meetups in AGILEDROP's offices, and we visited events like Webcamp Ljubljana and Webmaster picnic. For the cherry at the top, we went for a 2-day team building to Kranjska gora. 

teambuilding

Team building in Kranjska gora

 

Giving back to the community

We improved a lot in 2017 when it comes to giving back to the community. In addition to sponsoring events, we also did more traditional contributions: writing patches, taking over abandoned projects and starting our own. To keep track of contributions to open source, we have a project in our project management software where every developer can pick a task or a module. One of the most rewarding community project last year was definitely organising free Drupal courses. We had two 12 hours Drupal courses led by our developers with 12 attendees each. We set a goal to continue hosting the courses every two months in 2018. This means AGILEDROP will train 100+ developers how to use Drupal in 2018 alone.
 

Drupal course

Free Drupal course at AGILEDROP

 

What about the numbers?

All I wrote in this article sounds very well, but AGILEDROP is a company and companies are expected to show results in numbers. The company went from 18 to 30 full-time employees by the end of 2017. We are also happy to announce we increased our income by 35%. With all the growth and investments in the knowledge and equipment, we were even able to stay profitable which gives us the stability and enables growth in coming years.

chart

Income and profit growth from 2015 to 2017

 

Thank you!

I can say 2017 was successful. I would like to thank our team for working hard day in and day out. By delivering quality work in time, we are enabling our clients to grow their businesses and prosper. Every one of us contributed a piece in the puzzle in making 2017 a successful year. 
Most importantly, thank you, dear clients. Thank you for trusting us with your projects, thank you for inviting us to work alongside your teams and thank you for being loyal partners. Working with people and companies like yourself empowers us to move forward into 2018 with positive energy and enthusiasm. 
 

Nov 10 2017
Nov 10

Nowadays business in a complex and dynamic environment. Because of its uncertainness, it's never too late to listen to a good lecture. If you have missed any session from DrupalCon Vienna, let us highlight some of them to you. 

 

Co-operative Drupal: Growth & Sustainability through Worker Ownership

Finn Lewis, Technical Director of Agile Collective Ltd

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There is an increasing number of worker-owned Drupal companies. So there are more and more sectors looking for effective and customizable software solutions, so it's a good time to start or grow Drupal's business, which is not the easiest way to do. In this session, Finn Lewis presents his experiences and challenges with growing conventional companies with about 12 employees. Through the lecture, we get an insight into how decisions are made, how to resolve disputes, how to grow, and where to find funds for establishing a workers' cooperative.

 

Move up the value chain: Discover, Define, Design, Deliver, Distribute (maintain, grow & measure)

Lukas Fischer, CEO of Netnode 
Michael Mauch, Senior Digital Consultant at Netnode

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This session gives us practical examples of how to bring value with Drupal technology trough consulting and delivering a Drupal solution, which adds value to clients business goals. 

 

Teaching Clients How to Succeed

Ken Rickard, Director of Professional Services at Palantir.net

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For many clients, web projects happen once a decade, so it is our job clients understand the components that make for long-term project success. That is why is really important that we set client expectations early in the sales process. This is something this session is focusing on including how to talk to the clients, how to build blocks of projects, describe them to the clients and communicate about schedules and budget.

 

Better together, a client/agency relationship based on trust and value

Alexander Schedrov, Team Lead, Software Architect at FFW
Dmytro Danylevskyi, Team Lead at #root.ua

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Traditional “client/vendor” paradigm doesn’t work anymore, what now? How to build a successful relationship based on trust with your clients? The session guides us through the phases of the project and s us tips we can use. Also, we see some specific cases how to build successful relationships with clients, since the strategy “We pay, you do all the work” doesn't work anymore.   

 

Creating business value with Drupal

Baddý Breidert, Co-Founder, and director of 1xINTERNET GmbH

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She gives us information how to present our clients Drupal 8 as a value, due to cost reductions, quality assurance, and other benefits. All pieces of information are presented through real case studies. 

 

Is Selling Drupal an Art or a Science?

Michel van Velde, CEO of One Shoe

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Everything we do in sales is based on how we influence prospects, from pre-calling to closing the sale. We get to know what have influenced techniques based on psychological principles that direct human behavior, what is the difference between sales and account management, and which marketing strategies are good for our company. 

 

Marketing and Selling the Drupal Commerce Ecosystem

Ryan Szrama, President / CEO of Commerce Guys

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The lecturer gives us an overview of Commerce guys managing the ecosystem of Drupal Commerce, since its constantly growing and become much more than just a single project on drupal.org. 
 

Those were some of the sessions from the last DrupalCon Vienna about business, looking forward to seeing you at the next Drupal event. 

Nov 03 2017
Nov 03

Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal, gave great session this year at Drupalcon Vienna. Watch the part where he talks about who is Drupal for. Instead of focusing on big and small websites, or SME and enterprise clients, Dries describes the type of a website Drupal is made for as ambitious. 

What is not an ambitious website

A business that used to have a simple brochure website is now better off being served by SaaS (software as a service) solutions like Wix and Squarespace. Facebook, Google, and Amazon are providing services that not only cover what a good-old-website did in the past, but they also drive traffic to their client's sites.

Last couple of years we are reading about how people making websites will soon lose their jobs due to self-service solutions. However, there are cases when a simple brochure site could be more sophisticated than it first seems.

Ambitious websites

If an enterprise client wants to build a simple website for a new service, does this website fall into the same category as a site for a hairdresser? Or how can you compare a personal blog with media website, where the content is similar, but the later has a sophisticated editorial flow. It not just about the size of the client and the market it serves. Any website can ambitious, and based on this we have to choose what will be the underlining technology we are going to build on.

So what makes a website ambitious?

Custom business logic

All successful businesses I've seen have one thing in common: they have a unique business model. Since those companies are ambitious, they usually move part of their operations online. As they introduce an innovative way of doing things, they often can't be served by a SaaS provider and have to look for people who build websites.

Branding, design, and UX

From my perspective, a bespoke interface design is not a priority, but for many people looking to build a website this is the only thing they can understand, so they put a lot of attention to it. When it comes to design is more than just picking a color palette. When custom business logic is introduced, we also need to look at user experience. To customise the UX, we need the support of the technology and a  team then can go through the process.

Integrations 

Integrating with a 3rd party application is always underrated features of a website. E.g., if you are collecting inquiries for your product on a site and you also have a CRM, your number one priority should be integrating those two to save time on data entry and reducing errors. Many SaaS firms support only the most adopted 3rd party systems, or they have it integrated in a way that does not help the business.

Data protection and IP

When looking at TOS of service companies mentioned above, you can learn that the data your clients collect and content they create is not necessarily theirs. For some businesses, this is not acceptable as their either deal with private data or their model can not allow giving away content to the 3rd party. 

Where does Drupal come in?

DriesA slide from presentation in Vienna by Dries Buytaert

It's not only Drupal that is struggling with market share in the non-ambitious websites sector. Wordpress, market leader by far, is seeing a drop in usage due to SaaS services and platforms. Fortunately for Drupal, we had people and companies pushing towards enterprise market for some time now. Drupal is positioned next to solutions like Sitecore and Adobe Experience Manager.

With Drupal, we can build ambitious websites. I believe we have more advantages in this fields than our competitors. We should not be looking at the stats like how many Drupal sites we build. The CMS is growing very slowly now, and it will soon hit the plateau. Instead, we should focus on getting a more significant piece of the pie from the ambitious website's market which is growing.

If you are a digital agency struggling with delivering ambitious websites for your clients reach out and I will see how I can help you.

Oct 24 2017
Oct 24

Digital agencies sometimes get in a position when they have more work their internal team can handle. For many outsourcing is not an option, as they still wish to keep the project in the house, but are open to working with external developers.

Agencies can hire freelancers or work with teams like AGILEDROP. In this post, I will highlight some of the advantages of working with a team that agencies often overlooked when making a decision.

No more job posts and screening interviews

Hiring a freelancer is practically the same as hiring a full-time employee. First you have to write a job ad and post it to places like Upwork or Drupal.org job board, then you have to screen candidates to find the ones you can work with, and lastly, you need to negotiate rates and customise contracts for every single freelancer.

By working with a company, you have a one-stop solution. After the initial audit and screening, you know what to expect from all the staff. For example, at AGILEDROP we only let proven developers work directly with clients in the staff augmentation model. Hiring a developer from AGILEDROP is also very simple, as the client just has to send an email with requirements and we find the right person for the job.

time, watch

Separation of roles and better use of time

When you work with a freelancer, you work with a company of one. This person still needs to do all of the administrative work like any other company. Freelancers usually juggle multiple clients at a time, receive support emails and phone calls from recruiters. This could all happen while on the clock with you.

When working with developers from our team, you can be assured they work exclusively on your project. All of the paperwork is handled by other roles in the company. At AGILEDROP we have people in sales who handle contracts and resource managers who send weekly reports. When you want to talk about plans, you can jump on a call with me, while developers stay productive.

Team provides redundancy

When freelancer gets sick, there is nothing she can do, either works ill and tries to suck it up (but the work can not be done with the same quality) or leaves the job and wait till she gets better. 

If a developer from a company like AGILEDROP gets sick, we send her on a sick leave and offer you another developer, with the same skillset, to replace her during that time. 

Team delivers more value

At the end it all comes down to: can one person deliver the same amount of value than a whole team can? We don’t believe so. 

While you start working with a freelancer, you already risk by hiring, but if you take that risk it might end up just fine, but what if they come across a problem? Who do they turn to, do you take charge of that? If hiring people from the A-team, there is no doubt. If a developer come across a problem, the whole A-team helps out, so you don't have to worry a thing. 

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about how our team can help you scale your Drupal development capacities.

Aug 09 2017
Aug 09

The first day sets the foundations for the whole project. Optimizing onboarding process for developers who join new teams is something we are constantly improving. We made a process for this that I will share with you.

Have an onboarding checklist

When a new developer joins AGILEDROP, we go through a couple of checklists that ensure the new person has given and received all the information needed.

I strongly recommend you to have an onboarding and offboarding checklist. If you are onboarding an external person into your team, you can still use the same list and cherry pick the tasks that make sense. The idea is not to forget something.

Have an introductory meeting

While giving access to tools make sure you have an onboarding call. During this call, you can explain the nifty details of your workflows and processes. During this call, do not talk about specific tasks on the project. Acknowledge that you are bringing a new person on board who has never seen how your team works.

 

Onboarding

 

Some key points:

  • Who are the people on the project and their responsibilities?
  • Who gives assignments and assigns tasks?
  • What is the workflow and who is responsible for each step?
  • Who is responsible for testing and QA?
  • Where does developer tracks work time? Where to track idle time?
  • To whom does developer turn to when having deployment issues?
  • Are there any daily or weekly meetings? When?

At AGILEDROP we also include Resource manager on this call as we like to learn about specific procedures a company has and record it. If some of the processes are not defined we raise that and try to propose a solution that we know works best.

Create user accounts for software tools

My recommendation is to start with an email. Create emails for every person acting as your staff, even one-time consultants.  You can then use that email for other online tools. By requiring your email domain for other accounts, you also increase the security and control.

Also, think about:

  • Project management tools (JIRA, Asana, Trello)
  • Daily communication tools (Slack, Hipchat, Skype)
  • Version control platforms (GitHub, Bitbucket)
  • Server and hosting (Acquia Cloud, Pantheon)
  • Time tracking (Harvest, Toggle)
  • Project related accounts (access to Mailchimp for API)
  • Miscellaneous accesses (VPN)

Give full access to code

Do not complicate version control with additional security if not needed. The best way to make sure nothing goes into production that should not have is to have pull requests workflow. One example of this is when our developers had access to Git repository which had many Git sub modules that were restricted. Now the lead engineer from the client's team had to manually grant access to other repositories for us to be able to get all the code.

Provide sample database and files

It's a common practice to develop Drupal websites locally. To run a website locally, generally, the developer needs code, database, and files. Even if you are using installation profiles and build with migration scripts, it does not hurt to provide a sample database and files to the developer joining your team, especially if this is in the middle of the project.

From our experiences, the scripts for deploying local sites get changed along the way, but documentation seldom updates. This results in trial and error while team debates about "how this used to work, but because of X not anymore."

 

Onboarding tips

 

Continuous feedback

Even with all the steps completed something can still go through the cracks. It is important to address any issues as they happen. Not to fix them when they occur results in a domino effect with much greater consequences than the original issue was. You should also encourage developers to give honest feedback. Especially if your team has a long history, there is a big chance someone from the outside will find many anomalies that you are ignoring for years and are easy to fix.

Trust people

Learn to trust people. Nobody wakes up in the morning and goes: "Oh boy, today I am going to do my worst job." By helping and guiding developers, you can get much better results. Make people accountable and let them know you are counting on them and remind them about consequences. By treating people like responsible adults, you will get best results.

 

Please share your experiences on how to onboard developers into new projects and teams. Send feedback to [email protected].

Jun 08 2017
Jun 08

How do we grow a sustainable Drupal business in an increasingly competitive marketplace and how can we innovate and diversify to stay ahead? Help us address those questions at Drupalcon Vienna 2017 with your sessions on Business track.

Drupalcon is the biggest Drupal event where people meet and discuss Drupal as technology and community. This year European Drupalcon will take place in Vienna, Austria. 

Drupalcon targets to provide something for everyone, regardless if you are a developer, designer or entrepreneur. To provide this mix of content, we organized it into 11 tracks:

  • Being Human
  • Business
  • Coding and Development
  • Core Conversations
  • DevOps
  • Frontend
  • Horizons
  • Performance
  • PHP
  • Project Management
  • Site Building

This year I was thrilled to be invited to the Business track team. Together with Janne Kalliola (CEO of Exove) and Stella Power (CEO of Annertech) we are preparing the program and will be selecting sessions.

We are inviting people to share their lessons learned, success stories and insights about how to grow a sustainable Drupal business. We want to hear about real-life examples supported by facts and numbers. 

Marketing and selling Drupal as an enterprise solution beyond GOV and NGO markets.

At the last Drupal Business Days, a new movement has started. Our goal is to take Drupal to the next level and build marketing at the level of Adobe and Sitecore. This task will be challenging as Drupal does not have one single owner and Drupal companies will need to start promoting Drupal not only their own business to make it happen. More about this in the article from Michael from OneShue: A Plea to Make the Shift from Modesty to Marketing

Alternative and innovative models of running and growing agency businesses.

The majority of Drupal companies are digital agencies who build Drupal websites for customers. Agency model has many challenges: selling time instead of value, no recurring revenue, demand for talent, etc. But there are other innovative models that agencies are going after to build a stable business.

Case studies on using Drupal as the technology platform for a company.

Sponsors and exhibitors complain that there are no clients at Drupalcon. End users or customers do not get much value out of Drupalcon if there are no sessions targeted for them. We want to hear successful business stories from the client perspective. What business results did Drupal bring to your company? Is your startup based on the Drupal platform? And most importantly, please share what you need from Drupal to continue growing so Drupal community can build it.

Drupal is in the increasingly competitive market, and technology alone will not be enough. We have to take a look at how we do marketing and sales. We need innovative business models. We need to do this together as a community. Share your experiences with other business owner and contribute to Drupal in something you are best at.

Propose your session for Drupalcon Vienna 2017.

Sep 23 2016
Sep 23

Is creating website really so hard? This is a question I get from people not in the industry after I tell what we do at AGILEDROP. My reply is that web development is hard because it is just one form of programming. And programming is hard. Difficult to learn and even more difficult to master.

Why is programming so hard?

When you are developing, you are creating new things. Spawning solutions from thin air. Programming is an art. Programming is also inventing things. Manuals for inventing can not exist. Instructions on how to do programming will never be complete, only indicative, guiding. What you do with programming has not been done before, not the same.

Many times, developing complicated software results in problems, frustration. There is a constant need to think in new ways. Problem-solving is the core of the art. As a programmer, you need to embrace and accept that you’ll never know when and in what form problem will appear. The reality is not elegant or simple; it is chaotic and unpredictable.

You will find documentation is wrong. Weird hardware bug takes you days until you will realize it was not your fault. Many times you spend hours looking for a spelling error that was staring you in the face all the time.

To be a programmer, you need to be a person who gets excited about solving hard problems. For example, if you found math to be an interesting subject in school, you will have no issues with programming.

So, is web development hard?

Compared to mobile or desktop development, web development is not hard. Most web development today is done on top of open source which makes frameworks, tools, and documentation accessible to everyone.

You also need to learn basic conceptual foundation.  You shouldn’t start with something like jQuery or Angular!  You need to focus on understanding the basic web development models: HTML, Form processing, and back-end interaction such as with a database.  Know those layers before you start getting into the advanced stuff.  Without an understanding of the basic foundation, it’s going to take you a lot longer than it needs to.

Where to start learning?

Whether you are new to web development, I would advise starting with an open source software that has an active community. When I started in the Drupal , people in the community enabled me to grow very fast from a beginner to an entirely independent developer.

How can my knowledge be tested

To fully understand how deep the knowledge of an individual is when it comes to web development or programming the only route to go is to look at the experiences, references, and do a test project. Recently I applied to join Toptal Web engineering group where the process of selecting a candidate is very sophisticated. If you want to understand where you with your current level of experiences and knowledge I recommend you to put yourself out there.

Jan 31 2016
Jan 31

Here is a complete guide to get your drush working OS X El Capitan.

1) Download latest stable release using the code below or browse to github.com/drush-ops/drush/releases.

wget http://files.drush.org/drush.phar

(Or use our upcoming release: wget http://files.drush.org/drush-unstable.phar)

2) Test your install.

php drush.phar core-status

3) Rename to `drush` instead of `php drush.phar`. Destination can be anywhere on $PATH.

chmod +x drush.phar
sudo mv drush.phar /usr/local/bin/drush

4) Enrich the bash startup file with completion and aliases.

drush init

5) Add the following lines to .bashrc. (Check which PHP version you are using!)

export MAMP_PHP=/Applications/MAMP/bin/php/php5.6.10/bin
export PATH="$MAMP_PHP:$PATH"
export PATH=$PATH:/Applications/MAMP/Library/bin
export PHP_OPTIONS='-d memory_limit="512M"'

6) Add the following line to .bash_profie

if [ -f ~/.bashrc ]; then . ~/.bashrc; fi

That’s it, you will have a fully functional drush on your Macintosh.

Jul 25 2015
Jul 25

I like to be technology/platform agnostic, but last couple of years I’ve built everything on top of Drupal. I get this question many times: “Why not using something else?”. My answer is usually: “I became so good at using it, that it only makes sense to me”.

I tried to came up with some objective reasons, to rationalise my future decision.

1. It’s open source

Software is the bricks and mortar of your business. If you don’t own it, then someone else has the control over you startup. Open source also means no up-front cost for licenses. Since so many people know how to work with Drupal, you are also not locked in with developers.

2. Integrates with 3rd party services

Do you really want to spend your time building custom payment solutions, analytics or notifications systems? We live in a time that there is an API service for everything. There is also a Drupal module for every popular API service. This enables you to build your solutions quicker and cheaper, without developing the integrations yourself.

3. Safe and reliable code

With a community of thousands of people working on the code it became of of the biggest open source communities in the world. The biggest challenges was to ensure the code in all 10.000 modules is secure and reliable. Drupal has a centralised system for modules and it is very rare you would download a module from Github or private websites. This enables moderators to control who releases what. Also, there is a special security team watching over the code.

4. Enterprise oriented software

When I first joined the community, Drupal was compared to WordPress more often than it is today. From some different perspective I would say WP has won the battle against Drupal. On the other hand, Drupal has won the battle of enterprise CMS platforms by far. Why is this important to your startup? It puts you shoulder by shoulder to Twitter, CISCO, Tesla and many others.

5. It’s a safe investment

There is a 90% chance you will fail. Now, if you pick a technology that you will invest your time to learn, then pick something you can use on your next project.  On the other hand there is a big demand for Drupal developers out there, if you will ever want to get a regular job and take some time off from startup madness.

Would love to hear from you too, what platforms would you recommend to me, and why?

Mar 23 2015
Mar 23

Landing pages are a must-have for any web business. Every marketer will tell you that pointing ads to a home page is a waste of money. Actually, any campaign should have a dedicated landing page to maximise the the conversion.

Here is the problem: setting-up landing pages in Drupal is not easy. Modules like Panels and Display Suite sure can help, but the flexibility is far from needed. Also, landing pages have to be tweaked over and over again. This can be super time consuming and expensive if you hire designers and developers.

We found a way that enables people with no Drupal skills build completely custom landing pages within minutes. 

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

First, we need to be open to use a tool outside of Drupal. Instapage got our attention.

Instapage is a service that enables anyone to build landing pages with an intuitive drag&drop editor. It includes features like A/B testing, webform builders, analytics, and much more. And we started with that.

Unfortunately we could only publish landing pages on subdomains. We noticed support for Wordpress where landing pages can be put on the domain’s path (eg wordpress-site.com/path). We reverse engineered the WP plugin and made Instapage module for Drupal.

This means you can build your landing page on Instapage and then import it to your Drupal site. You can choose on which URL this page will be located. When you edit the page on Instapage, the changes are immediately visible on the live site, without touching Drupal! I recorded a short screencast explaining how Instapage for Drupal works.

[embedded content]

We started using Instapage to set up all public page and ended up saving whole lot of time. I do have to explicitly mention that in order to use this feature inside Instapage, you have to go with a paid account. If you think about how much does an hour of your Drupal developer cots, it’s still super cheap!

Now go, Install and try Instapage module for Drupal.

Feb 13 2015
Feb 13

Drupal community talks a lot about best practices. When I talk about best practices I mean code driven development, code reviews, SCRUM, automated tests… I immediately realised that introducing new ways of working is not going to be easy. So I figured, why not asking one of the smart people how to start. Amitai (CTO of Gizra) was very kind to have a call with me, explaining how The Gizra Way™ started and evolved.

One thing at a time

Making to many changes at once can backfire with a resistance. A new idea has to be sold to the team. It is impossible to expect that the whole team can just switch to a new way of working. Mastering one trade is better than struggling with many.

Testing period

Having a testing period takes away the pressure. If it does not show any benefit after a week, then you can stop doing it, but you really have to try during that week.

Leading by example

Just giving instructions does not help. In most cases developers will not be able to see the benefit at first sight and it can even feel like a punishment. Even if you are not a developer, you can encourage the team to try their best during the trial.

No exceptions

Starting with a new best practice feels like procrastination. In the beginning I had hard time selling why we need to have every project on a GIT repository. Now we just say: no exceptions.

During our call with Amitai we discovered that reviewing code from other developers is the foundation of a great team. Code reviews can be as simple as asking colleagues what are they up to. So we started our trial week on code review. After one week I was able to see changes in how we communicate and help each other. In this spirit we ended up releasing two modules and switching developers to use same IDE.

What really resonated with me was the fact, that it doesn’t need to be perfect. As Amitai says: I am not a purist. Having one code review or one automated test is better than none at all.

I will leave you with this great presentation from Amitai in DrupalCon Austin 2014:

[embedded content]

Nov 09 2014
Nov 09

My first ever conference was DrupalCon in Copenhagen, 2009. It changed my career and after that I attended a lot more Drupal events. Last week it was my first time at Web Summit and my first conference of that scale. It may sound like comparing apples to oranges, but since it’s the only two I know, I don’t have a choice.

Networking was harder

Web summit had 20.000 attendees which goes way above my (and Dunbar’s) number, that is 150 people. First impression might be, that with more people you will get more conversations and you would meet more people. That is absolutely true, I never gave away so many biz cards like I did last week, but only had handful really meaningful conversations.

First reason is that at a event with just 150 people, attendees would have more things in common (professional niche, geographically, language). Second, they would have more time for each other. At the summit I had 4 seconds for each attendee, compared with a smaller event where I would have full 10 minutes. In reality it was impossible to meet the same person again in those 3 days.

Sessions were less specific

I don’t really attend sessions, because I think it’s a waste of time when all the sessions get recorded (and this is something everyone is doing last couple of years). I’ve been at some of them and they were focused at not being focused. That makes sense, since the public is very random and to please everyone you have to make the session as general as possible. At DrupalCon you get to hear very specific topics and actionable information . It

Session were mostly self promotional

I haven’t seen a lot of them, but the ones I did, speakers talked about themselves. I got the same feedback from other attendees. And there were a lot of panels where, again, people were asked about themselves and their companies. Unfortunately, they weren’t revealing anything new. We didn’t came all the way to Dublin just to hear you say: “Sorry, I can not say, wait for the official announcement”.

Speakers were more skilled and prepared

I have to be honest, speakers were awesome. You could tell they practiced and that it’s not their first time on the stage. If you consider that they were observed by 3-4 cameras and 3000 people you can just applaud them for not freaking out. This is where DrupalCon fails, where most of the speakers are not very good at public speaking, some of them even have trouble with English.

Exhibiting at startup booth worked

So this is something that might not work on DrupalCon, since the point of exhibiting at Web Summit was to attract investors. But a concept of having a small table for one day, where you can tell what you do, is great. My friends at Gotoky told me, that they meet so many investors and got feedback, that will drive them forward. It was also just a simple way to network, since there was no awkwardness to approach people at the stand and start talking.

Night life was well organised

Sooner or later you would bump into Web Summit attendee even in big city like Dublin, but the organisers made sure we were all on the same street at a specific day. There were also pub crawls organised, where some magic (based on data from attendees) was introduced when building groups. Not sure how successful that was in general, but definitely a nice effort.

Wifi didn’t work as advertised

If you were at the Summit you saw this one coming. I never really believed wifi would work well, but that was not enough to get backup mobile internet.

No place to work or meet

I am used to have my labtop with me, to do some work, reply emails etc. At the web summit the only place you could sit down was the session. Unfortunately the sits were too small for two grown-up male to comfortably sit next to each other, without working on a computer. At DrupalCons there are always chair and tables available where people get together and code. If Summit does not need that, it certainly needs a place for people to meet.

Free coffee available, like all the time

What I learned from organising two Drupal camps in Slovenia is that people need wifi and coffee. If Summit failed at Wifi, they sure did a good job with coffee. It was not the coffee, yes, but considering how far from Italy we were, it was still OK. I remember that at DrupalCons coffee wasn’t always there which is similar to Wifi working just sometimes. Kudos to Web Summit to have infinitive cups of coffee for 20.000 people!

I wont end the post saying which conference is better, since I always preferred camps with 150 people anyway. If you want to get the most of the conferences, try to find smaller, niche conferences where you will be buddies with all the attendees after three days.

About Drupal Sun

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