Jul 23 2018
Jul 23


Nobody likes a backseat driver.

One of the challenges with global Drupal agency partnerships is the assumption that the onshore partner is the subject matter expert, and that they should always be in the driver's seat, so to speak—no questions asked.

The problem is though that partnerships, Drupal or otherwise, can crash when one out of two is silent. When one follows, unquestioning, without lending consultative advice on key elements, this is not a partnership; it’s more aptly described as servitude.

The assumption that offshore Drupal partners are doers, not thinkers, is harmful and wrong. Harmful to the offshore agency of course, but also to their onshore agency counterparts. And most significantly, to end-clients themselves. Wrong? Because there's proof of Drupal consulting success within stories like these


The voice that is willing to disagree is the voice of a partner. This is the voice that helps drive positive change. Consultative problem-solving with Drupal, questioning assumptions, and pushing back is ultimately to the benefit of the end-client. It helps set realistic expectations, create alignment between partners, and generate greater buy-in and commitment to the long-term vision.

Pushing back and saying no hasn’t been characteristic of offshore agencies.

However, as globalized marketplaces become even more connected, with learnings diffusing across cultures, timezones, and companies, this is changing.  

Empathy and curiosity are key to success.

Successful engagements are about more than asking for a scope document and delivering exactly what’s expected. It’s important to look past shipping code into the real business need. This begins with asking the right questions.

Quote We spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients, stepping into their shoes, talking about how their business is doing, their recent activities, where they are headed, and how anything related to digital could potentially help them.

Sreenivas-Success-Manager Sreenivas, Success Manager

 
Understanding the competition, how clients differentiate themselves in the marketplace, what new trends or challenges are on the horizon for them—all this helps create a holistic picture for the team working on the end product, allowing them to focus their efforts in the most productive directions.

“Drupal problem-solvers can’t just be doers,” says Prateek Jain, Engineering Manager at Axelerant. They need to understand the client’s need, and be able to identify practical, realistic aspects of the task at hand.

“They need to be comfortable playing in the grey areas between what’s idealistic and what’s pragmatic, and knowing what tradeoffs generate the most value for the end-client.”

The "success management" framework has to be the epitome of the Drupal consultative approach by design.

Our success management approach takes into account that change is the only constant, since people, technology and process are evolving everyday, which necessitates continuous learning and evolution for support teams to be able to keep up. And through a consultative approach, we help our partners and end-clients keep up too.

Sreenivas recalls an incident from a few weeks prior to co-architecting a partner success framework, where a partner gave the Axelerant team a relatively low Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating of 6 out of 10.

We conducted open discussions with all our partners to find out more about how they perceived the partner relationship with us, and to learn what could be improved. We took note of any areas of improvement in both process and culture as items for us to proactively work on.

“We mentor our team members on these aspects,” says Sreenivas. In interactions between team members and partner stakeholders, the team is encouraged to be empathetic and proactively consultative at every step. They’re asked to consider whether the solution approach is in the best interests of the partner, and whether the effort estimates have taken into account a 360-degree view of the project, and would reliably prove to be accurate.

By communicating these aspects openly with the whole team, earning the client’s confidence became a shared objective.

Sreenivas utilizes a success framework dashboard in all his meetings with both internal teams and partners to set the agenda, to define, implement and monitor the effectiveness of success plans, risk management, feedback, and change management.

“We wanted to show that we are not just doers. We think from experience and learning before we do, and estimation isn’t just a formality for us. We will ask questions, we’ll state and validate our assumptions, provide a summary of all discussions, and then offer an estimate,” says Sreenivas. “And then we’ll track our performance against what we have committed to.”

 
Being consultative builds trust.

Over the next few months, the NPS rating went from 6 to 8—to where it's currently is, at 10/10.

“They trust us more and more now as a reliable partner, which has come through sustained effort, not by accident,” says Sreenivas.

In the digital world, and certainly in Drupal, things change and evolve all the time, and you can’t build trust on stagnation. Partners have to try to understand: what are the client’s preferences? What are their limitations? Why do they need this deliverable? How do they operate, and who are the stakeholders?


Only then can they begin collaborating, designing, and validating initial output.

In one case Prateek recalls, the team realized the client works for federal clients, and had specific preferences per tech (proprietary software). They had to drill down to identify what was needed, and in the end, they were able to offer an alternative—a product that the client is now using, which replaced their proprietary system.

Prateek says: “One benefit of having a partnership built on a foundation of trust is that when there is a mistake—which there will be—they’ll stay. That trust can only come over a period of time through being consultative, and being open and transparent about our approach.”

In spite of significant changes and an aggressive deadline, in this particular engagement, the team went beyond what was expected, wanting to ensure the client’s success, first and foremost.

Most of the time, it’s simply about doing the right thing.

Sreenivas remembers an epic on a particular engagement where the partner Program Manager was building pressure on our team to agree upon a commercial contract with 30 percent lower estimates than estimated by the Product Owner and the partner’s Technical Architect.

Instead of succumbing to the pressure or just refusing, our team took a consultative approach. The bottomline was that committing to doing something in less time than it should take would not have solved the issue at hand, and would have resulted in a loss to the end-client, Axelerant’s partner and Axelerant.

In order to facilitate a win-win situation, the team organized a joint meeting with the partner and end-client Product Owner, and encouraged deeper scope discussions from both the business and technical perspectives. Upon asking proactively, the team was allowed to provide an alternative solutioning approach that could reduce estimates and meet the Product Owner’s budget requirements.

“We were able to give them a different perspective altogether which they hadn’t considered,” says Sreenivas. They’d considered only a front-end approach to achieve a certain standardized look and feel on the homepage. A pure front-end approach would have needed far more effort via trial and error to achieve the desired results, and would also have added long-term maintenance needs.

The Axelerant team highlighted that by using a combination of front-end and back-end development together, the desired results could be achieved with less effort and a lower cost, while almost eliminating maintenance needs.

“Our main objective was to provide the best solution that could render the desired results, and do so at a reduced cost,” says Sreenivas. “We simply considered whether we were opting for the right solution, getting to the root cause of the issue.”


Oftentimes, the end-client is a huge organization, with a huge vendor ecosystem. “If we don’t consciously choose to do the right thing for the end-client in these situations—it’s not just the end client who loses, it’s a loss for everyone, including our partners and ourselves,” says Sreenivas. “The fact that we take success for everyone seriously is why our partners have really trusted us.”

Pushing back can be hard—but conflict is generative.

When there are many stakeholders—with different capabilities, different skill sets, and different maturity levels—coming together to work on a project, conflict is a natural outcome. Everybody’s trying to bring their perspective forward and make what they believe to be the right decisions.

In the middle of this, being able to respectfully disagree and steer the conversation in a productive and mutually beneficial direction is hard, but essential for real partnerships to be as successful as possible.

Not being able to do that would pose a significant disadvantage to the engagement as a whole—when communication breaks down, projects fail—and would have a negative impact on offshore partners’ growth as well.

It’s relatively easier to push back if you have already earned your partner’s trust. That takes time and moments that test the relationship. It can be extremely difficult to stand your ground when partners don’t already know your work.

QuoteA better approach might be one where we say why we disagree. Such suggestions must come from the team, but the decision must ultimately lie with the PO. 

Prateek-Engineering-Manager

Prateek Jain, Engineering Manager

 
Rather than agreeing to go along with what appears to be a bad call, he believes partners should be open with each other and explain why they think something could be done better. Vendors may have to concede to going ahead even if they don’t agree, but airing different perspectives early will be to the benefit of the engagement.

He believes it’s best when all stakeholders can be honest about any potential challenges, have hard conversations together, and make the decision consultatively, rather than any one party taking that call in isolation.

But is this approach right for every project?

“This depends on the project and the client. Sometimes it’s important to just get the job done,” says Prateek.  

Engineers need to wear multiple hats. “There is a certain time when you need to be consultative, and there are other times when you need to just focus and go. It’s important to understand when to do what,” says Prateek.

 
He recalls a time on an engagement when one of our partners needed a particular feature built in a couple of days for a demo. The Axelerant team reviewed the requirements, and felt it would need at least a week to build, and doing it the way the partner had suggested might not be the best architecture.

But since the demo was important, the team went ahead and implemented it the way it was needed for the demo, knowing that this wasn’t the best architecture. Later, they fixed the architecture and everything went well.

Sometimes, timeline pressures, budget constraints, or certain custom feature requirements can make it necessary to just go ahead and implement certain aspects.  

In another instance, a partner needed a particular feature needed to be built, and the requirements were clear, but the team didn’t really understand the value of it. They went back to ask the end-client: “Why do you really need this?” It turned out that the client was in fact looking for something really simple, and that this could be achieved in a much easier way.

In place of the original solution, which would have required a lot of effort, the team proposed an out-of-the-box solution using Drupal that would solve 90 percent of the problem at one-tenth of the cost.

Suggestions like these allow clients and agencies to then refocus their investment towards more valuable activities. “If you care about customer success, these things come naturally,” he says.  

Offshore partners as the Drupal agency’s agency.

Offshore partners may hesitate to push their opinions forward out of an unwillingness to undermine their agency partners’ attempts to own the technical strategy.

“I find it helpful to think of us as the technical consultant to the agency. It’s the same job, with a more limited scope,” says Prateek.

In the same way that onshore agencies function as the end-client’s resource, offshore Drupal partner agencies function as theirs.

Rather than being involved in considering product trade-offs directly, offshore partners work more as technical consultants, helping agencies make architecture decisions, and identify what needs to be done. They still have to understand the requirements to the same level of depth, get the same clarity, understand the business, and its future.

“Asking these questions is what will enable us to build the right architecture into the system. We must do that. Otherwise how do we make sure that we’re building something that will endure?” says Prateek.

 
The customer is always right. Or are they?

In situations of conflict, if things go wrong, the ability to arrive at a win-win solution often comes down to a question of maturity.

When outsourced vendors are immature in terms of process or culture, it’s easy to blame the partner or end-client. It’s easy to conclude that it was simply a bad decision to work with them.

What’s harder is to consider the partner or client’s perspective from a place of empathy, to keep in mind their needs, their background, any cultural sensitivities that may be at play. And to see that in the end, every client is simply trying to contribute to their own project.

The choice then lies with the vendor: to push back, or to simply do as they’re told?

If you choose to take the easy way out, every time—in the end, people will know. Not being honest and transparent will hurt agencies in the long term. This should be obvious.

Pushing back is hard. It demands honesty and courage. But if you dare to ask: “How can we serve the client’s need best?"—if you dare to do the research, to ask the right questions, and make valuable suggestions, that’s where meaningful change begins.

 
That’s how better partnerships are forged.

Partnerships can only drive on two-way streets.

Partnerships have the greatest impact when communication flows both ways. This is what allows truly mutually beneficial relationships to take shape.

Which means that, as the vendor, as much as it’s important for our success managers to collect feedback from our partners, it’s just as important for us to be open with our partners about any challenges we’re facing in working with them.

If outsourced agencies genuinely care about their partners’ success, it’s plain to see that being open about any challenges is in everyone’s best interest, as it enables teams to solve problems and deliver their best. This will not only strengthen the partner relationship, but also enhance the end-client’s experience.

 
We aim to set up an on-boarding week for better team assimilation on projects with external partners. We proactively seek partner feedback from the team during internal project retrospectives. And while we do currently share our feedback informally with our partners, we have no official, structured process for this.

These two-way streets are still being paved and repaved.

Realizing that we need a better mechanism to give constructive feedback to our partners, we’re now trying to create a system for this. Having an internal system established would help us generate more value through our partnerships—for end-clients and for ourselves. While we have retrospective points that we share, creating more in-depth reports for them would be advantageous for all parties involved. 

Drupal consulting services are diverse.

You have choices. And we are one. All things considered, this is what we believe it means to be consultative doers, not just thinkers—and certainly not just doers. It's a different approach, a global one, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Consultative-Partnership

*Contributors: Ankur Gupta, Sreenivas KV, Prateek JainNathan Roach, Priyasha AgnihotriMadhura Birdi.

Jul 14 2018
Jul 14


Drupal Developer Days Lisbon
was valuable, nicely organized, and full of energy. Two Axelerant team members attended to contribute a workshop and a session on two key topics, and they wanted to share key highlights with you, to thank the volunteers, and to encourage more developers from around the world to make it in 2019.

Lakshmi Narasimhan

So, how was it overall?

Incredible. Of course the event was highly developer focused—which is why developers from all over should make time to really commune. European agencies and the talent behind them are real powerhouses. The environment was great.

Random thoughts or new learnings?

Well, I’m always looking for conversations around DevOps solutions, and it seems like everyone and their dog has a workflow problem. They’re looking for and want to have some rudimentary CD pipeline which helps them quickly deliver. It seems that Lando adoption is obviously growing and Vagrant/VM is thinning down. I was personally happy to see a houseful K8s workshop. I initially thought that not so many people would be aware of it, but was I was proven wrong!

How were the keynotes?

The keynote by Gabor Hojtsy was excellent. One thing I realized was that there are so many initiatives in Drupal. It’s really spread its wings and grown from being a small “LAMP” flavored CMS to painting with broad strokes—API first, workflow, layouts, etc.

In all honesty, the flipside, in my opinion, is that the developer audience is not clearly defined. Is Drupal a clicky, site-builder friendly tool (with layouts, out of the box initiatives, etc) or a content management framework (composer in core initiative, config YML files)? It’s hard to ride two horses at the same time.

Here are some of the initiatives I really like. For one, the Out of the Box Experience initiative (the Umami demo), for showing off Drupal’s superpowers to prospective people making CMS decisions in an organization. Also, Admin UI JS modernization? The name says it all—awesome. Some others: composer as a first class citizen, the telemetry initiative, and using GitLab as the issue tracker for Drupal.org.

And who manages all the initiatives and makes sure they don’t step on each other? Hojtsy. Really great work.

What other sessions or talks do you remember well?

What‘s new in Drupal Commerce. I personally think Drupal Commerce is technically feasible for a large organization, as Drupal can fit the bill in terms of other aspects too, like workflow, content strategy, personalization, etc. But like any other solution, engineering finesse alone doesn’t dictate product decisions. There was a lot of emphasis on having shared marketing resources, artifacts across agencies for Drupal Commerce—like how Drupal is competing with other platforms with similar offerings.

TDD using Drupal. The session demonstrated how TDD and Drupal is possible and I’m surprised that we don’t see tests in contrib and custom modules as much as we see in core. Another good takeaway was “tests as documentation”, the idea being that you figure out how to use a module by reading the test code.

Modular software, modular infrastructure. This was an aux armes! for all DevOps folks to create shared “best practices” Docker images for Drupal. Quite an intuitive talk.

One flew over the developer’s nest. I’m usually curious about sessions alluding to movies, and this one didn’t disappoint at all. It covered the importance of people and process in an organization, and is a must watch for anyone aspiring to be a CTO or Engineering Manager. You’ll come out with a gigantic reading list from the session, including but not limited to The Phoenix Project and Modern CTO and more. I also really liked how the session flowed like a personal anecdote—nice.

Any “business” highlights?

There really wasn’t too much marketing or sales that I could see on the ground—because developers are a hard sell—though it would be a great idea to sell developer-focused tools at the event, like IDEs and certain DevOps offerings.

Any last mentions you’d like to share?

There was certainly a lot of buzz abound Drupal Europe—inviting Matt Mullenweg, and everything people like Baddy and Gábor are coordinating. It seems like it’s going to be really special.

Having a blast @drupaldevdays closing session.. pic.twitter.com/08fTMzAYHf

— Lakshmi Narasimhan (@lakshminp) July 6, 2018

 
Overall, the experience was like drinking through a firehose. We had a lot of sessions to watch and had to juggle that with Lisbon sightseeing. I’m looking forward to watching the ones I missed once they’re uploaded to YouTube.

Here’s a shout out to the organizers, with a special mention for the lunch catering; this was one of the first Drupal events where I had more choices, being a vegetarian. Thank you!

Mohit Aghera

What did you think?

Contributions was a main focus—people sprinting in the sprint room for the whole week! There’s also tons of excitement around Drupal Europe.

Contribute, contribute, contribute! Go to initiative tables and ask what you can help with! #drupaldevdays has 3 big rooms with contributions going on. Go there! pic.twitter.com/9vE7nHxaAL

— Drupal Dev Days (@drupaldevdays) July 5, 2018
 
Keynote thoughts?

Gábor Hojtsy really did a nice job with his summary of all the initiatives in Drupal 8. He also covered the status of 8.6.x, and how the process is coming along.

I’m quite impressed with these—CMI 2.0, composer initiative, Out of the Box initiative, and the significant amount of work done on the JSON API module to move it into Drupal 8 core in an experimental state.

The composer initiative, for example, is being led by Alex Pott and Fabian Bircher. We are planning to have a sophisticated configuration management system in Drupal 8 Core. You can also check out the PoC of the composer initiative here.

As a community, we have made significant progress on media initiatives as well, and they’re in good shape right now. Gabor also mentioned the security release initiative and how we are dealing with it.

Updates on media initiative at @drupaldevdays #drupaldevdays pic.twitter.com/guYqIMyl8w

— Mohit Aghera (@mohit_rocks) July 5, 2018


Rachel's
 keynote was inspiring. It covered how Drupal is making a real impact on lives, how Drupal is changing the world. She covered some good use cases of Drupal, like how Warchild UK is using Drupal to help childrens in war affected areas. She explained how Drupal helped to double the conversion rate of donors—which in turn helped Warchild UK to receive more donations for more impact. She also urged everyone to donate, volunteer, and contribute to the Drupal Association.

Wednesday! Drupaldevdays starting at the main auditorium with an amazing Keynote by @rachel_norfolk pic.twitter.com/G9lO7xMHT5

— Drupal Dev Days (@drupaldevdays) July 4, 2018

So which sessions did you attend?

Lakshmi’s for one! The Helmsman and the water drop: Running Drupal on Kubernetes.

This workshop by Lakshmi was really useful for developers who want to use Docker in their development and production environment. He covered Kubernetes and Minikube nicely, and related concepts that help get things up and running using Kubernetes and Docker.

@lakshminp explaining why we need docker.. #drupaldevdays
Join in workshop room to learn more about it @drupaldevdays pic.twitter.com/4ti8q8dTfp

— Mohit Aghera (@mohit_rocks) July 4, 2018


I attended Fabian Bircher's session too: CMI 2.0 and configuration management with contrib today. He did a helpful, quick overview of best practices in configuration management and how to implement them. He also provided some insights for CMI 2.0 to make configuration management even better.

@fabianbircher explaining about configuration management and CMI2.0 initiative #Drupaldevdays pic.twitter.com/Ioz2pe0j7r

— Mohit Aghera (@mohit_rocks) July 3, 2018

You were an active contributor. How did it go?

I was actively working with the Out of the Box initiative team to use CSV import for sample content. Thanks much to Elliot Ward for providing so much help and setting clear expectations from a ticket perspective. I spent around three days working with the team and we are currently working on this issue. (Everyone is welcome to contribute.)

The enthusiasm for contribution was clearly visible—and contagious—in the contribution room. Everyone were really helpful in contributions and other things.

A HUGE thank you to everyone that's helping out on the Out of the Box @d8initiatives (the Umami demo) at @drupaldevdays!

In fact, a huge thank you to everyone who's getting involved in making Drupal better :) https://t.co/nJyCPXAicY

— Gareth Goodwin (@gareth5mm) July 4, 2018
 
Any last thoughts?

This event was planned very well. Thank you to the awesome team who worked hard at Drupal Portugal—and to all the volunteers, speakers, contributors, sponsors, and attendees.

Jun 29 2018
Jun 29


Drupal Developer Days brings together people who contribute to the progress of Drupal from around the world. There are code sprints, workshops, sessions, BoFs, after parties (and after-after parties) and more.

What’s happening in Lisbon?

Drupal Developer Days Lisbon 2018—which begins Monday, 2nd July, and continues up to Friday, 6th July, at ISCTE (University Institute of Lisbon)—offers an opportunity for students and experienced professionals to meet and learn about what’s new in Drupal. Participants from around the world come together and seek ways to improve the Drupal platform. Attendees can attend sessions, workshops, and code sprints led by experts in the community, and build connections with professionals worldwide.

Why are we going?

Two of our team members are representing our agency by contributing a workshop and a session on two key topics. Lakshmi and Mohit are ready to learn, teach, and give back to Drupal.

Lakshmi

LAKSHMI NARASIMHAN

Workshop: The Helmsman & The Water Drop: Running Drupal On Kubernetes
When: 14:30-16:15, Wednesday, 4th July
Where: Workshop Room
Track: DevOps Beginner
Drupal.org profile:
lakshminp

Lakshmi is leading a two-hour workshop titled The helmsman and the water drop: Running Drupal on Kubernetes that will explore Kubernetes (an open-source container-orchestration system) and its uses.


“I’ve never given a workshop, and this is on the ops side of Drupal, which I have a penchant for—I’m just as interested in how to deploy an application as in writing the code and features,” he says.

Why this submission for the workshop?

“This is relatively nascent; I just want to bounce a few ideas around to see if other devs are also thinking in the same way." He’d like to gather devs together to see if there are other more optimal, easier ways to use Kubernetes. “It’s about sharing my thoughts on the subject.”

This is the first such event he’s submitted to. He chose this one because he finds that he syncs better with the dev community in particular rather than the Drupal community as a heterogenous whole.

With any tool in the dev world, abstractions come at a cost. This is true for containers as well: “Containers present with their own problems, and we have to find out how to manage them. We have to optimize the way we consume our infrastructure. That’s where container orchestration comes in,” he explains. Kubernetes helps solves the container orchestration challenge, taking care of the need to deploy different applications, so that devs can focus on writing the code alone.

At the workshop, Lakshmi plans to deploy a live Drupal 8 site on a Kubernetes cluster. “I don’t think this has ever been done before in front of a live audience.”

What’s the value of this?

“It’s exciting that code can simply be written and deployed, minimizing time and effort involved.”

Sometimes, production deployments do go wrong. As a backup, Kubernetes offers the concept of rollback, which facilitates reversion to a previous working condition.

But learning Kubernetes can feel like drinking from a water hose, says Lakshmi. “Like any new paradigm, devs can expect a lot of terms and concepts. I'll try my best to relate it to stuff you'd probably already know and keep it simple. You'll leave the workshop with a totally different (hopefully for the better) perspective on how to deploy your application,” he says.

Lakshmi is curious to see how people receive this style of deployment, and Kubernetes in general. Other sessions he’s looking forward to include the session by Mohit Aghera on Writing Dynamic Migrations, as well as a session by Oliver Davies on Test Driven Drupal (TDD)

Mohit

MOHIT AGHERA

Workshop: Writing dynamic migrations
When: 16:45-17:30, Thursday, 5th July
Where: Wunder Space (B103)
Track: Development Intermediate
Drupal.org profile:
mohit_aghera

Mohit’s session, titled Writing dynamic migrations, will show participants how to migrate from various data sources to Drupal 8.

Why this particular session topic?

“It emerged from a real end-client need,” says Mohit. Recently, in a project that he was a part of, there was a client requirement to migrate content based on user input (e.g. the user prefers a particular language, content type, etc.).

Mohit collaborated with others to find the right approach via a dynamic migration, and this solution worked. Because it was new to them initially, it look more time than expected, but now it’s easier—and Mohit hopes to share how to do these migrations even more efficiently.

Writing a migration takes two approaches: configuration, which is more-or-less steady, easy but less flexible, and user input, which is the dynamic way. A dynamic migration scales above configuration restrictions, rising above limitations. Mohit will explain the setup and then run through the migration, so attendees can experience it. He’ll also go into other relevant topics which will help to convey the concept more clearly.

Mohit feels that this particular theme, migration, is everywhere. "Migrations API helps developers and decision-makers with deciding about their next project," he says.

He first presented this session at DrupalCamp Goa and reformatted it for DrupalCamp Mumbai. This version of his session has evolved from user feedback and perceptions, and offers more context through examples, clearly conveyed and understood.

The session is meant to encourage a move to Drupal, without data loss or significant challenges—in the end, the session aims to promote Drupal adoption through clear, easy migration paths.

This is Mohit’s first DevDays event. He prefers the developer focus that DevDays allows, with prominent contributors attending and great opportunities to learn new things from fellow contributors.

He’s looking forward to the media initiative and front-end initiative sprint—he’s excited about this, and with Drupal 8 admin UI needing a ramp up, he wants to learn how to make a more impactful contribution toward this.

Jun 18 2018
Jun 18

Can you outsource Digital Transformation (DX)?

Let's set this off in the right direction. What people think digital transformation is, often isn’t. Adopting the latest feature is not digital transformation, and neither is a basic migration or new functional enhancements made to a site.

Yes, these are aspects of a digital transformation (DX) initiative, but in themselves, just optimizations of what’s already there—not a holistic, strategic move toward a metamorphosis.

It’s greater than the sum of its parts, and it has to be in order to be DX.

While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably by the marketplace, digital transformation is not the same as digital optimization. One deals with refining some aspects of the whole, and the other deals with the whole itself.

What is digital transformation, really?

Start at the core. Digital transformation begins with the core business model and works its way outwards, attempting to question and recreate everything from the ground up, in ways that make the enterprise faster, better, and more efficient. DX touches the entire organization. The impact of real digital transformation can be felt at all levels across an enterprise.

DX is hard to get right. It’s a big, unwieldy subject.

Broadly and in context of enterprise, DX can be defined as: “the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.”

But because each enterprise is different, DX works differently for each.

While it leverages technology, it’s grounded more in process than technology. Legacy systems and old, suboptimal processes extract a heavy cost from enterprises across industries, eating into huge portions of the IT budget and stalling innovation. The future demands agility and creativity—which can only be achieved through automation and reducing technical debt.

Even more, DX has to be a cultural shift. Enterprises that might have been doing things in a certain way for decades now need to have agility and responsivity built into their DNA. This requires buy-in from all levels of staff, which takes far more than a simple technical upgrade. It’s a change in mindset.

There are a lot of different reasons why an enterprise may seek DX: to accelerate change and create competitive advantage, to enter new markets, to improve customer experience, for digital technology integration, staff enablement, etc.

But when it’s not done right, most digital transformation initiatives fail. In fact, seven out of every eight DX initiatives fail, according to Forbes. This isn’t a choice for enterprise. No, there’s nothing fair about necessity.

Despite the difficulties, DX is the future. It’s how enterprises can create differentiation going forward. Therefore digital transformation is a question of survival and thriving. A failure to transform digitally is a failure to evolve, which can only mean one thing, and that’s extinction.

What does it take to bring DX to the enterprise?

DX begins with mapping the journey to long-term success. It’s not achieved by chasing after the latest technology, abrupt changes in direction, or a lack of adequate foresight. It’s achieved by knowing the enterprise’s end goals and staying focused on them in spite of distractions and challenges along the way. Primarily, it takes three prerequisites:

1. It demands a singular focus on the end customer. What do enterprise customers need? Digital needs to be woven into their journey at each step of the way.

2. It takes the right talent. A successful digital transformation initiative requires experienced product managers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, etc, to be on the same team working towards the same goal. Building a team with such talents takes time and effort.

3. It requires staff buy-in. Any attempt to modernize an enterprise on a large scale will be met by at least some resistance, and will require effective change management and staff buy-in to be successful—particularly from senior management. Therefore, DX is ultimately a people issue.

No, enterprises can’t transform themselves.

Digital transformation is a huge undertaking. Often, these are multi-year initiatives that demand changes to the leadership structure, operations structure, and organizational culture, as well as all internal systems and functions (including ERP systems, HR workflows, finance, etc)

Enterprises do have their own in-house development teams, but often these are teams dedicated to working on projects, websites, internal ERP systems, etc. Members of these teams typically do not have any experience undertaking DX initiatives at such a large scale.

So then you can outsource digital transformation?

With the number of discrete functions that make up an enterprise, and the typical size and scale of such organizations, specialized expertise is required to make DX a worthwhile undertaking for them.

But DX is not something that can be outsourced in-full to a third party vendor in-full. DX is about transforming an entire ecosystem from the inside. It needs to begin inside the enterprise, starting with its business model, and extending outwards across operational aspects and the organization’s culture. This takes an internal amalgamation, not a singular motion of outsourcing.

Such an initiative needs people close to the source, those who are familiar with the organization, its culture and processes. Anyone attempting to transform an organization while looking at it from the outside in would be missing important aspects.

Agencies can lead enterprise DX initiatives. But not alone.

Digital transformation for the enterprise requires capable system integration partners to help enterprises plan and launch multi-year initiatives successfully.

A DX team comprised of agency partners with the right mix of capabilities (across strategy, core technology, culture, digital experience design, marketing and sales, etc) can help enterprises think through potential challenges, and enable meaningful transformation across platforms, verticals, and geographies.

What about us?

We support agency affiliates in the digital transformation of their enterprise clients with key ownership of fundamentals, but we’re not a one stop shop for metamorphosis, an agency of record (AOR) for DX at large. There’s no such thing.

Agencies, their affiliates, and enterprises need to work together and align to achieve enterprise digital transformation. Working together with the right capabilities to effectively support digital transformation initiatives is possible. That’s the way to success—and that's much more complicated than outsourcing.

Agency Success

Jun 08 2018
Jun 08


I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Swati, Hetal, Priyasha, and Aliya expound on this—and in their own words.

 

Swati-Kharbanda-QA

 

It was while studying engineering that Swati found that she didn’t actually enjoy software development. She wanted to explore other options. This is what led her to quality assurance. Soon, she was placed at a leading multinational, where she trained in testing and developed an interest in it.

While she enjoyed the work, the new job took her to Bangalore, and after two years of working there, she wanted to come back to her family in Delhi. That was when she was referred to Axelerant and joined the team as a QA professional.

Initially, she and everyone around her had their misgivings about remote work. But she decided to try it out. Over time she found that remote work offered her a lot of liberty. “I can take care of my house as well as work towards my career,” she says.

The work can get hectic though, and family life is impacted occasionally. On projects that have challenging deadlines, team members sometimes have to work long hours, and it can be hard for her to find any time for herself. In her family, she does the cooking and really enjoys it, and loves sharing her daily creations with those she loves. “I may have to work late into the night, which means that when my husband gets home, I won’t have anything prepared.” So sometimes she says, “you do feel a certain amount of guilt.” But that’s the great thing about finding the right partner: balance and mutual support. Swati's husband is extremely supportive, but not everyone is as willing to understand that in a marriage, both people’s careers hold equal importance.

“People have this expectation that girls should do less work in the office, and boys should do more work. But ultimately, we both work in the same industry, so it should not matter… everyone on my team works just as hard. If I step back from my role, the project would fail. My team members know and appreciate that,” she says.

She advises young women to give their careers same the importance that they give to their responsibilities towards their families. "Being a girl doesn't mean that you can't focus on your career," she says.

 

Hetal-Mistry-Project-Manager


“I did my MBA in Finance—I don’t know why,” begins Hetal, with disarming frankness.

She joined a bank, quickly realized it wasn’t for her and began exploring project management instead. Then, her husband decided to move to Mumbai, and she changed jobs again, joining her first remote workplace. When her baby was born, she made the choice to dedicate a year to his care.

After a year, she wanted to go back to work and was supported by her husband to do so, unconditionally. Meanwhile, her employer had been acquired by a company that did not support remote work—but made an exception for Hetal. The next few months were a struggle. “When people don’t trust that the remote model works, you have to keep trying to prove yourself every day, and working from home soon becomes working 24/7,” she says.

Hetal decided to leave. And that’s when she found out about Axelerant.

“Now, it’s easy because I know my team members trust me. If I need to pick up my son, I can leave early without feeling guilty,” she says.

Hetal has also had her skills questioned occasionally in the workplace. “If you are asking too many questions and you are a woman, you will probably be told that you won’t get it,” says Hetal.

Her advice to women who might be facing similar criticism: “Don’t take it too seriously. If we pay too much attention to the noise, sometimes we stop paying enough attention to the job,” she says.

Hetal believes that workplaces like Axelerant that encourage flexible work will have a positive impact on women, particularly those who are re-entering the workforce. She observes a stark difference between full-time working moms and stay-at-home moms in terms of how fulfilled and enthusiastic they seem in general. She says: “Stay-at-home moms often tend to look bored or resigned. Working moms—even though we are always tired—exude a sense of satisfaction. And I don’t think the children of working moms are at any disadvantage. That is, if you do it the right way.”

 

Priyasha-A-Graphic-Designer


Ever since she was old enough to dream, Priyasha dreamt of being an architect. You can read her story here.

But once she’d completed her degree in architecture, she realized her interests lean more towards designing for users, and she wanted to explore that direction. Why? “Because good design makes things simpler for everyone,” she says.

By then, she had also begun making graphics, logos and illustrations. So when she found a job opening at a company that was engaged in “graphic, web and space design”, her heart leapt, and she applied.

What followed? Many years of learning and getting used to the new work environment and the challenges it presented. Priyasha found that architecture and graphic design were not very different after all. She had her doubts occasionally about changing directions. Ultimately though, she’s glad she made the move. If she hadn’t, she says, she might never have gotten out of her comfort zone.

Today, Priyasha is a graphic designer at Axelerant, helping to transform the company’s brand experience. She loves music, and in her time off, she attends as many concerts as possible. When she manages to find some free time, she sketches. And she loves travel, so whenever possible, she plans a trip. She’s still learning and growing, challenging herself everyday. “I believe in learning by making mistakes, so if there's something new that I'm not aware of, I try to learn about it and give it my best,” she says.

She’s quite comfortable with the idea that people need to explore different sides of themselves through their careers, and therefore she may not always stick to one predetermined path. “I do know that I'll always be a designer, but the directions will definitely change with time because I feel it's really important to grow on a daily basis,” she says.  

Her advice to young women: “Always take risks, get out of your comfort zone and move towards growth.”

 

Aliya-Khanam-Front-end-Engineer

 

“I wanted to be back home again. Staying away from my family was getting harder by the day.”

By 2012, Aliya had spent several years in Delhi working for a Drupal development company. She wanted to be closer to home in Srinagar but she wasn’t sure how this could work. She wasn’t aware and certainly not convinced that remote work was really possible.

But after floods affected our office in Srinagar, she started working for Axelerant from home. Aliya never came back to the office (and the office didn’t come back either).

Now it’s 2018, and she’s convinced that more remote opportunities in her home region of Kashmir would be good for many—and not just because being close to home is a nicety.

Aliya believes that this change could foster independence, particularly for women, who face cultural challenges which sadly keep so many subjugated, unequal, and unsafe.

“In 2012, I was the only female Drupaler in my region. I feel so proud to say that’s no longer the case,” she says. She’s a firm believer that women everywhere can do more than what they think is possible; that independence begins with learning, by opening up the mind to new opportunities. She hopes to teach this to others, and to learn more about what’s possible for her and her peers.

Besides being her title as Front-end Engineer, she’s also wife and new mother. When she’s away from her desk, she loves to cook for her husband and spend time with her 3-month-old baby girl, Baheej.

Aliya’s learning every day how challenging and rewarding being a mom can be. “This all seems very challenging,” she says, “and I’m sure there will be a lot to give and take.”

Madhura-Birdi-Marketing-Associate

 

I've thought about the questions I've been asking others, trying to answer these myself. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot of support—from men and women—throughout my career. I have never experienced many of the challenges that a lot of women face in the workplace. So as the author of this piece, I've found there's a lot to learn from each of the women I've spoken to.

But the biggest lesson I will be taking away is probably that each individual is strikingly, beautifully different.

And perhaps this is fitting, because in my career as a writer and creative professional, the biggest challenge I have faced has been accepting how different I am from the people around me. Everyone is different and works differently, regardless of their gender. What has helped me the most is to not judge myself by anyone else’s standards, to turn inward instead and try to find my process, trust it, stay with it, and adapt it to meet each new challenge.

So that is what I would offer: Whoever you are, whatever your gender, don't let anyone else tell you that your difference is a flaw. Own your process, your challenges, your solutions, and their outcomes.

And when you start to do that, you might find that you have strengths that are special and powerful, and that you can use them to achieve things you'd never thought possible.

Also check out Chapter One and Chapter Two of the Women at Axelerant series.

May 31 2018
May 31

 

“How can you ensure workplace accountability in a virtual workplace?”

“What makes me think they will deliver what’s needed remotely?

“Will anything actually get done if they telecommute?” 

Virtual or remote team responsibility has been a concern of stakeholders since Jack Nilles started teleworking for NASA in the 70s. And while much has changed over four decades, many of the questions concerning telework accountability haven’t.

Out of the many questions from agencies we receive, ones related to our remote work environment are still common and these deserve an expounded answer. Here’s why physically decentralized workplace skepticism is still a thing, our answer to it, and our example as a globally distributed team of 50+ remote workers and counting (see our going remote story).

It’s not that it can’t be done remotely.
You just don’t trust us to do it.


It’s about trust and everybody knows it
. This is the main reason, that trust has to be earned and it can only come through the passage of time (i.e. we have a chicken and egg problem). So how can fully-distributed agencies like ours demonstrate that they can be trusted? It starts with finding out who trusts them already.

Time to serve up some proof pudding.

We can start with sharing key success stories delivered remotely, examples of invested trust and the success that comes from it. Shared collateral like this of course isn’t a catch all; there are plenty of agencies with embellished case studies—though often not public, and with the expressed permission of the partner.

Due to contractuals and certain circumstances that involve agencies and end-client preferences, not all endorsements, testimonials, or success stories can be publicly shared. To establish initial confidence, though, discussing services feedback from others is a step forward. Here are some recent AskNicely snippets from the last few months (i.e. this how we correlate to produce our Net Promotor Score, our ultimate success measure).

Remote-Skepticism-AskNicely-Desktop-01

Remote-Skepticism-AskNicely-Desktop-04

Remote-Skepticism-AskNicely-Desktop-02

Remote-Skepticism-AskNicely-Desktop-05

 
Everyone has an opinion on remote work.
Few are realistic.


Where there are two people, there are three opinions. But there’s a realism to remote work that skeptics and optimists miss and that is the reality behind their day-to-day activities.

For most agencies operating in the digital services space (providing integrated marketing, web development, etc.), all of these are virtual services. In this way for those who actually do the work, we are all working remotely through our devices—the question is to what degree. When it comes down to actual productivity, for most of us it’s close to 100%.

Here's a semi-sweet dose of objective truth.

Waking up and smelling the routine now, from the services you charge your end-clients for to the time tracking, project management workflow, and success metrics that account for it—you do everything digitally.

This is true regardless of whether or not you’re part of an officially remote team. Remote realism is the objective truth behind today’s digital world. Realize how you’re taking in this sentence. For most of your day, this is how you’ll absorb and relay information. And all of your in-office collaborations, roundtables, and desk drop ins are oriented toward this digital output.

Your in-office ability to huddle, to discuss projects and progress, is possible through channels that extend beyond the dimensions of your desk, your office’s lobby, or your town or city. And in the end, the work that goes into providing digital services has to be quantified, measured by end results, and streamlined through a visible workflow system. By virtue of the remote environment this has to come first and not as an afterthought.

Is this really about productivity levels?
The results are in.


Numerous studies have found that employees who work from home are 10-20 percent more productive than employees working out of a physical office. So does that settle it? No.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

For every six studies that back remote work productivity, there are half-dozen opposed. We could play this game for a while—so what can we take from this? Each survey-based, output-based, time-based study (conducted either by a small fry agency or Stanford University department) is based on one thing.

The reality is: productivity comes down to people. 

Preferences, abilities, and personalities considered; that's what it's alway been about. If you hire people who are a good fit for your organization’s culture (remote or in-office, you’re able to build a team that’s highly charged and primed to deliver. At our agency, our employees’ freedom to choose their environment, the enthusiasm about their work, and their commitment to the team facilitates their productivity. That's because take an inordinate amount of the time to find the right people and to foster the right work culture.

If it's about long-distance collaboration...
how will you open another office?

Collaboration is often cited as one of the key areas where remote work fails. But if collaboration requires physical presence, how could it be possible for any organization to branch out to more than one office?

A failure of collaboration is more about disengagement than it is about the lack of physical closeness. Again, it’s likely to be a people problem rather than a proximity problem. If employees are disengaged and not communicating effectively, such problems would occur no matter where they work.

Small details tie into a bigger picture of accountability. 

If we’re fixated merely on maintaining proximity rather than building connection and engagement between members of a team, we’re failing to see the forest through the trees. Superfluous processes or restrictions that do not address the root cause of the problem will hinder and further obstruct creativity and authentic engagement. We use 7geese integrated with Slack to facilitate positive engagements and Objective and Key Results (OKR) checkins publicly.

Remote-Skepticism-7Geese

It serves distributed agencies much better instead to focus on establishing good working relationships between team members, building engagement and a healthy work culture. At Axelerant, this has always been a key focus. Although we're remote, we are not disconnected.

Throwing some stones, now.

Collaboration works better with remote than in many co-located teams, because there’s a deliberate focus on it; the entire system is intentionally built to enable asynchronous communication, better documentation, and greater transparency.

It’s often the assumption that because remote employees could theoretically get away with working fewer hours (read: getting less done), that’s what they’ll choose to do. When the culture is built on a foundation of trust, this doesn’t hold. Again, success is about the right people, first.

Hiring for remote has always been the hard part.

In our team, we’ve found that the remote model works best when it’s supported by effective hiring and processes. We focus on people who are talented and who fit in with our values.

When people are motivated to deliver, aligned with the organization’s purpose, and the organization is willing to trust them and give them the flexibility to do their job in the best way possible, we find accountability is no longer something that needs to be demanded of them or artificially enforced. It’s a natural outcome from a highly engaged team.

Remote-Skepticism-Collaboration

Remote work on a global scale isn’t without its headaches. Engagement, for one, needs to be actively fostered. Sustaining a healthy remote work culture isn’t easy. And finding the right people with the right mindset, aligned goals, qualifications and experience levels is a challenge faced by the entire organization—hiring the right people for remote is really, really hard.

Not everyone will be a good fit. At Axelerant, we hire only the top one percent of applicants. We’re careful to hire only applicants who are closely aligned with our organizational values; this includes a 30–90 day trial hire period.

We help our team members identify clear goals, set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), establish ways to track progress, and retrospect regularly. All our engineers have a mentor assigned to them, to help them grow their skills and overcome any challenges. We’re also generous with providing them opportunities to advance their knowledge and meet others in the industry.

Process + Technology = Visibility

There will be times when people will struggle and processes will fail. To function seamlessly, teams cannot depend only on people for accountability, but also the system. If there is a gap, the system has to be engineered in such a way that all relevant information is captured, and challenges are highlighted early. Here's an example from one of our Officevibe dashboards, that helps us track and measure team health and live feedback weekly, for example.

Remote-Skepticism-Officevibe

When remote teams are truly agile and follow all the associated ceremonies, this facilitates a high degree of transparency. Agile processes have several built-in checkpoints with various stakeholders as well as key metrics that are tracked, and progress (and any roadblocks) is clearly visible via the scrum board in Jira.

All this serves to eliminate blind spots, allowing team members to proactively and reactively address any issues as they arise. From providing leave documentation in advanced to sourcing meeting notes on request, we’re assiduous about creating and maintaining meaningful documentation that’s open to partners.

Journey mapping really helps.

At the beginning of each engagement, we define a success journey with our partners, so that we’re able to understand their pain points and so that we’re always working towards the bigger picture. This is the stage at which we identify mutually agreeable processes that facilitate trust and transparency. That provides visibility at a high-level, and from the start.

Following the project kickoff, we set clear expectations with our partners regarding what will be covered in each sprint, and we follow through with regular check-ins, gathering feedback and concerns, and making improvements as needed—all backed by the right tools.

Our team members are also aware that their work isn’t mindlessly resolving tickets, one after the other—but that their work has an impact on the project’s success, and that there are dependencies with the rest of the team. They understand the need to communicate constantly to make sure these aren’t overlooked.

Beware of that cold, dark place
where opportunities go to die.

Questions around accountability get raised when there is a lack of trust and leadership fails, the energy behind team engagement, or the responsibility and integrity of the team members themselves. Trust is something that has to be earned and reciprocated in kind and without opportunity or willingness, there’s just limbo.

So if you want to go nowhere fast, here's how.

Keep your concerns to yourself and don't reach out or ask questions. When the onsite or brick and mortar agency fails to deliver a volley of honest, precise questions (that if answered correctly would reinforce confidence), and the remote agency partner fails to provide the answers? It's over before it could begin. This mutually stagnant state is where opportunities of all kinds go to die.

And it happens all the time—the unasked questions, the hesitation to inquire. Honest exchanges of trust, reinforced by actions, shed light on the sources of skepticism and warm relationships with increased confidence through openness.

That’s the first thing.

Everything else is secondary.

Agency Success

May 29 2018
May 29


Culture
is your agency’s environment and its identity. And it’s shaped by your agency values.

If, as Simon Sinek says: “...people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”—then culture is what tells them why they should buy from you.

It’s the compass that guides decision-making at every level within the agency—from how to write an email to how to deal with clients. It allows team members to understand what’s expected of them and operate powerfully in alignment with the agency’s goals.

And when it works, culture is a fuel.

It’s what makes the organization’s vision and purpose clear to people, allowing them to connect with it, get behind it—and push. A productive agency culture fosters commitment among team members to the agency’s mission and the willingness to go above and beyond. Culture is what helps fire people up to get to work every morning, makes them want to stick around for years, and has them advocate passionately for the brand to customers. In short, it gets compelling results.

We didn’t start out knowing this.

I wish I could say that we always knew what we wanted Axelerant’s culture to be like. But that wasn’t the case.

The Axelerant we see today wasn’t conceived the way it is now. When my co-founder and I started the agency as an idea back in 2005, we started small, and without a very well thought out organizational vision. We wanted to do good work, team up with the right kind of people, be part of more projects, and be profitable. We didn’t have the experience of growing an agency’s culture.

Over time, we saw what happens when culture isn’t paid attention to—around us, and by making mistakes of our own. The question of culture is one that arose out of the need for positive sustainability. We realized that if we wanted our agency to be a lasting entity, independent of us, it had to be a place that people felt connected to.

That’s the journey we’ve been on ever since.

People come first.

The Axelerant that we speak of now began to take shape in 2012, when we started building a team, and trying to make a name for ourselves in the Drupal space. It was then that we really focused on our vision to create a structured organization, but without location constraints. We started with distributed offices in cities like Hyderabad and Srinagar, and gradually became completely location independent.

Over time, we drew closer and closer to the less traveled path that we’re on today: choosing to put our people first, always. We wanted to be successful, but also to achieve that success sustainably. We wanted our team members to be thriving, fulfilled, and committed to driving our mission forward—we believe that’s what gets the best results. This talent-first approach is now woven into all strategic decision-making at Axelerant.

Also, as we work with Open Source technologies, we wanted to ensure that we cultivate that same ethos within the organization. This strengthened our desire to be open and generous with each other and our tech communities like Drupal.

Remote teams need a deliberate focus on culture.

Culture is especially important for remote teams, which don’t have the advantages of spontaneous conversation and face-to-face meetings. Remote workers miss out on a lot of information and opportunities that people have instant access to in physical offices. This can mean that it takes longer to build trust. And trust is critical for team members to work together and rely on each other.

How could we build trust when our team members were located far away from each other? We had to show them that they could trust the system. The only way for us to do that was by being transparent in all our dealings.

The first version of our agency values was documented on an Axelerant retreat back in 2014. These have evolved since, but they remain true to the same central idea: a desire to infuse everything we do at Axelerant with meaning and inspiration, and create happiness and fulfilment for our team members.

These are our agency values, and how we live by them.

We have three agency values at Axelerant: Enthusiasm, Kindness, and Openness. And these are woven into all our activities. It was important to us to narrow down and focus on the things that really define us. And as more people who are driven by these core values join our agency, this has helped us build a team of people that really play well together, and are able to pull together in times of need.

Our feedback and recognition system (7geese) is integrated with Slack, and every day, we recognize people who exhibit our agency values directly in meetings, in conversations, and on partner engagements.

Enthusiasm

This is the value that’s recognized most often among our team members.

Enthusiasm speaks of our excitement at being part of Axelerant, and working with each other on projects and through challenges. We’ve found that if people are not excited about their work, their effort will be hard to sustain over time, naturally. Enthusiasm is part of the way we work, and therefore, essential to who we are organically.

It’s one of the fundamental things we look for when we hire. We seek out people who are excited by what they’re doing, and want to be part of something bigger. We look for those with the desire to learn and iterate by themselves, and persist until they get results.

One of the ways we nurture enthusiasm in the people who join our team is by sponsoring learning and events. We send them out to meet other passionate people, connect with top contributors in the industry, forge new connections and learn new skills. We find dynamic, creative, and fun ways to help people keep growing in their field, and feeling inspired and uplifted by the work they’re doing.  

When people bring that vitality into their work, you get a team that’s driven to overcome challenges, push boundaries, and succeed. This is visible in our team members’ sustained focus on improving organizational systems and processes, their continuous participation in and active contribution to the Drupal community, and their willingness to go beyond what’s expected to deliver greater value to our partners.

Kindness

Some people think of success as requiring a certain degree of ruthlessness. Kindness may not, at face value, seem like an essential component of success, but it is deeply important to our identity, and contributes to our success.

We want to nurture a positive, encouraging environment for our team members, and we do not tolerate behavior that is hurtful, disrespectful, or negligent towards others—against our code of conduct. In every way possible, we try to keep our interactions positive; we praise publicly and share constructive feedback and criticisms with our team members in private.

This approach also carries over into conversations with our partners. We lean towards positivity and generosity in all interactions, particularly when important but difficult conversations must be had. We give others the benefit of the doubt, choosing tact and good judgment over imprudence.

We also hired a life coach full-time to help our team members work through any challenges they might be facing. They work with our team by lending an ear whenever someone needs to air their frustration, mediating between team members through any difficulties, and keeping the team happy and engaged, facilitating kindness through mutual respect.

And we’ve found the best way to nurture kindness is by example. If one person in the team is kind, it inspires others to act the same way. Kindness, in other words, is contagious.

So when one of us is struggling or going through a personal challenge which they share, everyone reaches out with messages and offers of support. That is, individual notes of encouragement, publicly—not compelled, but naturally And when one of us succeeds, we join in to celebrate them as an organization. Kindness invites more kindness, creating an environment that’s positive, productive, and healthy.

This culture of kindness means that our people are highly engaged and uncommonly motivated to help each other as well as our partners in meeting their objectives. Axelerant team members spontaneously go out of their way to offer support through challenging projects, share learning and insights freely, and seek ways to give back to the community. All of this contributes to the success of our engagements, and the accomplishment of our partners’ end goals. This is what empowers us as an organization to be authentically and holistically focused on success.

Openness

Radical transparency is something that we've practiced at Axelerant from the beginning. We wanted to build a culture where team members felt like their voices would be heard. We wanted them to be able to be more vocal about things that affect them—their career paths, projects, and organizational decisions, like process and policy changes. And this was only possible if we were willing to openly discuss problems.

We started out with most of our team in India, where sometimes due to cultural and personal factors, it took a long time for people to open up, to start talking openly about things that matter. We had to be patient, try to get to the root of all issues that were brought to us, and consistently demonstrate that what people shared with us wouldn’t be received in a negative way. Setting examples around openness has been an enduring focus of ours.

To that end, we’re transparent with our team members and partners about our efforts, our challenges, as well as any mistakes we’ve made. As far as possible, our chats and threads are kept public. Disclosing certain information internally comes with its own challenges, but in our team, our people have been highly professional, understanding the responsibility that comes with this level of trust. With our partners, our openness helps build confidence. We’re able to have difficult conversations with candor, realizing fair outcomes for all parties involved.

We value feedback from our team members, as this is what helps us get better. We use Officevibe to encourage people to speak freely to us about their struggles, or any unhappiness over decisions made. When we receive negative feedback from team members, we address it publicly, letting everyone know what positive changes we plan to make to solve their problems.

We also use AskNicely to gather feedback from our partners periodically. Insights gleaned from their comments and follow-up conversations help us quickly correct course if there are any challenges, adapt to our partners’ needs, and keep improving the way we do work.

We value dissent when it is productive, because it leads us to making better decisions. Our ability to take new input and rapidly maneuver to adapt to it creates a team that’s fast-moving, nimble, and dynamic. And these are the qualities that allow us to respond to our partners’ evolving needs with speed and precision.

Well-chosen values create positive synergies.

In some ways, our agency values also temper and modulate each other, evening out the dangers of the antonyms or the damaging effects of the disintegration of each. I’ll explain.

Openness without kindness could easily become harsh and discouraging, and we’ve seen this at play. Enthusiasm without openness would mean energies being spent recklessly, unchecked and ineffective. Kindness that’s not buffered by enthusiasm or openness would mean we’d be unable to make meaningful progress, that is we’d be ineffective.

We’re enthusiastic enough to keep propelling each other forward, open enough to share freely and keep each other on target, but kind enough to be gentle and constructive while doing so. That’s what creates a highly energized, positive, and purposeful working environment for us all. And it’s how we win.

And the work is never over.

People ask us how we got our culture right at Axelerant. I don’t think we got it right—it’s just that we’ve stayed highly focused on it, and conscious of the fact that we have to strive get it right. What moves us forward is our constant wrestling with this question of whether we have it right or not. It’s a question we have to continuously ask each other, today and certainly tomorrow.

So yes, we’re in a far, far better place than we were when we started. But the continuous evolution is ongoing, and this is the most important thing for any agency to recognize, particularly a services organization. Recognizing that is why we continue to improve.

We’ve seen what happens when culture is treated as an afterthought. And I strongly believe that if you lose sight of people, that’s the end of the story. Culture is something that always needs to be tended to with care and attention. And we have a lot more work, and our best days ahead.

Agency Success

May 23 2018
May 23


I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Mridulla, Akanksha, Sabreena, and Nikita expound on this—and in their own words.

 

Mridulla-H-Life-Coach

 


Mridulla’s role in the company is unique: she’s a full-time Life Coach.

What motivated her to take this path? “When there’s no guidance or support available to you, you miss out on a lot of years and experiences of your life,” she says. Once she began coaching people, she started to see an immediate positive impact on her work relationships. So she knew she was onto something.

Today, she helps maintain the engagement and culture at Axelerant, empowering team members to create the lives and careers they want. She’s also a passionate advocate for women, and this passion comes from her having seen a lot of bias against girls while growing up in India.

She believes that: “Women in India don’t have much of a voice, and are taught that they don’t have any rights,” she says. It’s her opinion that although they may not express it, they (girls) grow up imbibing a belief that they are inferior. The oldest generation of the family might grieve when a girl is born. If a girl is abused, her family is unlikely to stand by her. “There’s a story being told to women that teaches them that they are second-class citizens,” says Mridulla.

As she became a Life Coach, her conversations with different people gave Mridulla a much wider perspective. “I learned that men also go through the same kinds of abuse. Now, I think I am equally passionate about all issues.”

She advises women to find ways to preserve their independence. “Start saving as soon as you begin earning. Even a small amount each month will give help you whenever you need it in life, to study, travel, or just have fun.” And also, to have courage: “Lack of courage makes you compromise on your self-esteem. Do what you think is right and stand up for yourself.”

She believes good workplaces have the capacity to empower people: “Axelerant is an equal-opportunity-for-all workplace. It’s a safe place to work at, free of any kind of harassment. Such an environment helps bring our courage to the surface and helps us work to our full potential.”

 

Akanksha-Singh-Drupal-Engineer

 


If you ask Akanksha what she thinks about women in the workplace, you’ll find she has a lot to say. For her, it all began in college... with a Counter-Strike club.

“In my first year of college, we used to have video game events for computer science students. All the boys would play Counter-Strike, and for girls? Angry Birds.”

She was really into video games back then, and the situation frustrated her to no end. She asked the college society for computer science why she couldn’t play Counter-Strike, and was told she was the only girl who was interested.

“All of that gets to you, no matter how hard you try not to let it,” she says. But it didn’t stop her.

By her fourth year of college, Akanksha was the president of the community and had created a separate section for girls. “And it wasn’t just Angry Birds—it was Counter-Strike too!” she laughs.

Since college, Akanksha has had good experiences personally, but has also seen women in management being treated with disdain. “I've always wanted to prove all those naysayers wrong, especially people who say women aren't good with technology—each day is a step in that direction,” she says.

Now, as a Drupal developer at Axelerant, she says she would like to make a difference industry wide. “I would like to be in a position where I can help other women to achieve something,” she says. “I want there to be a presence for women in tech, and especially here in India. We’ve a long way to go.”

Her advice to young women: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can do. You can do anything that you set your mind to. And let the haters encourage you. There’s no use in letting all this affect you in a negative way.”

In truth, for Akanksha, it was never really about the video games—it was about equality. “It’s my choice if I want to play a video game or not,” she says. “But no one should be able to tell me that I can’t.”

 

Sabreena-Khursheed-Front-end-Developer

 


Originally trained in medicine and wanting to become a researcher, Sabreena switched over to Computer Applications during her post graduation. She believes this move was best, as she found it was much better to be in a field where she could implement her skills and support her family rather than just doing research.

Today, she is a front-end developer with Axelerant. Does she find it challenging? “It has always been tough for women to work in the software industry. But at Axelerant, remote work, flexible work hours, openness and transparency help overcome a lot of these challenges,” she says.

Women often need to be able to handle a lot of responsibilities across different domains, and may find that they’re not always able to accomplish everything they’d like.

“That’s okay,” says Sabreena. “We can’t do everything 100 percent.” But it’s important to keep trying.

Ultimately, though, it’s also important to recognize that working full-time while raising kids is just plain hard. “I don’t really know what to say when people ask: How do you do it all? Maybe the best answer is “I don’t.” So maybe rather than asking that, the question should be: “How do you make it work?” I give myself permission to have a sink full of dirty dishes and keep my baby at daycare,” says Sabreena. “The best advice I can come up with is: be flexible, lower your expectations, laugh at yourself and try to enjoy the little moments.”

A lot of women give up on their careers altogether because they can’t see how they will manage their careers after marriage and motherhood. Sabreena believes that it’s important to seize opportunities when they present themselves, and to stay adaptable. “You can always find solutions to these challenges in the future,” she says. “But if you have the opportunity and you have the skills, you should use them.”

All this is not easy, for sure. “But if you have reached here and you have the skills, sitting idle doesn’t make any sense. With time, things do become easier,” she says.

 

Nikita-Jain-QA

 


When Nikita is not at work, she’s generally out with her family or spending time with her 11-month-old baby, Mishti. Now that she’s a mom, work-life balance is more of a challenge to maintain on regular basis. “With greater responsibilities at work and at home, it can get harder finding me time as well as time for family and friends,” says Nikita.

How does she manage? Nikita is flexible, doesn’t believe in planning much, and handles challenges as they arise—all while making sure work-life balance is maintained.

She finds that her career as a QA professional affects her personal life in positive ways. “Being a QA professional is all about learning fast and implementing new ideas. It’s interesting because it throws new challenges at you every day,” she says. “You have to stretch your mind to understand new things, to find out how they should work and how they shouldn’t, in order to manage them effectively.”

Nikita’s work has taught her how to manage and prioritize tasks on a daily basis. She finds this helpful when facing challenges in her personal life, as it enables her to overcome them by prioritizing things and working on them accordingly.

When asked what it’s like to be a woman in her career field, Nikita replies: “Solving real-world problems, personally or professionally. And making sure quality is achievable in every aspect of life.”

What message would Nikita like to share with her daughter about being a working professional, or with other young women? “Work is important for everyone. It helps develop self-awareness and confidence in individual lives. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. It also teaches time management and teamwork, which are two skills that are always helpful,” she says.

Nikita’s three-year journey with Axelerant has been very exciting and interesting. “Axelerant is very supportive in each phase of my life. I am totally satisfied and motivated with the work I am doing here, which makes me feel proud,” says Nikita.

Also check out Chapter One and Chapter Three of the Women at Axelerant series.

May 16 2018
May 16


DrupalCamp Mumbai
was held on 28th-29th April at IIT Bombay, bringing developers, students, managers, and organizations together and providing them the opportunity to interact, share knowledge, and help the community grow. 

The unofficial group photo from #DCM18. I beat @parth_gohil in posting this first. pic.twitter.com/8BPsuSIeky

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) April 28, 2018


Shyamala Rajaram
was the keynote speaker at this edition of the camp, which was focused on developers, business users and students. Hands-on Drupal training and workshops covering beginner, intermediate, and advanced Drupal topics offered developers the opportunity to learn, and the birds-of-a-feather (BoF) sessions gave them the chance to participate in some interesting conversations.

Business users had the opportunity to meet talented Drupalers as well as representatives from leading Indian companies. Students had several opportunities to learn from more experienced attendees, attend training sessions, and discover mentoring or internship opportunities. 

The #DCM18 #keynote by @shyam_raj begins. India to lead #Drupal in 2018. pic.twitter.com/GWk3x9wZKW

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) April 28, 2018


Axelerant was a Gold Sponsor at the event; 11 members of our team attended, flying in from different cities across India, including New Delhi, Jaipur, Surat, Bangalore, and Rajkot.

Since we’re a remote team, the camp was an excellent opportunity for us to hang out, exchange ideas, present and lead BoFs together, have many interesting conversations with other attendees—and of course, to just have fun together.

We'd like to thank the volunteers—without you this event wouldn't have been possible. We’re glad to have had the opportunity to meet with so many people who are also really passionate about technology, to share our knowledge with them, to be inspired by them, and to spread the love for Drupal. It was also really exciting to see the diversity at the camp—people came to attend from different cities with different kinds of expectations from the camp: Dev Engineers, QAs, Project Managers, Program Managers, CEOs, etc. 

I'm bringing stickers, badges, and patches from @DrupalConNA and various DrupalCamps to @DrupalMumbai camp tomorrow. Come pick them up from the @axelerant booth and also stop by to say hi. #DCM18 pic.twitter.com/JRxrGLkaL1

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) April 27, 2018

This was our booth!

booth

We had intentionally chosen to engage with attendees in person at the BoFs and sessions rather than at the booth. So our team members were mostly out on the floor, interacting with individuals, attending and leading sessions, and participating in meet and greets on the floor.

Our team members led three sessions.

In the Back End Development track, Mohit Aghera and Mitesh Patel led a session titled How to Write Dynamic Migrations. The session covered how migration works in Drupal 8, migration plugins, how to write Derivers for migration use cases, and how to execute migrations which are derived from Derivers.

The session was received well by an almost packed house, with a lot of questions being asked and good feedback all round! We’re looking forward to preparing more sessions for different camps in future.   

Very well explained dynamic migration @mohit_rocks @miteshmap #DCM18 @DrupalMumbai pic.twitter.com/TXMXPUP6Tx

— Siddhant Chopra (@MyDJ17) April 28, 2018

 
Check out their speaker deck here:

As part of the Front End Development track, Taher Jodhpurwala of Axelerant and Sparshi Dhiman of Srijan led a session together. It was titled Develop And Test Accessible Web Experiences. The session detailed the need for accessibility, creating WCAG compliant web experiences, testing for and fixing accessibility issues, and available tools for accessibility testing. 

@devtaher and @dsparshi explaining about developing accessible web experience. #DCM18 pic.twitter.com/GtHUpAmYSZ

— Mitesh Patel (@miteshmap) April 28, 2018


Here's their 
speaker deck.

Finally, in the DevOps track, Hussain Abbas led a session titled Static Analysis For Your Drupal Modules With CI, in which he covered automating static analysis to ensure that code is clean and follows coding standards.

We led two BoF sessions. 

See you tomorrow, @DrupalMumbai! Time for some open discussions. #DCM18 #Drupal pic.twitter.com/KoSWxQdox5

— Axelerant (@axelerant) April 27, 2018


Our CEO, Ankur Gupta, led these—talking about his own experience starting Axelerant and developing its culture over the years. Attendees opened up about their career concerns and got into interesting conversations.
 

Thanks Ankur for a very interactive session on 'will you have a successful career in drupal' @axelerant @DrupalMumbai #DCM18 pic.twitter.com/m5WHYTKeST

— Gaurav Agrawal (@ga_agrawal) April 28, 2018


And
Parth Gohil helped facilitate the Women in Drupal session, along with Shyamala Rajaram. Megan Sanicki from the Drupal Association made an appearance at the session, talking about her journey towards becoming the Director of the Drupal Association. 

Thank you @MeganSanicki for sharing your path towards success in @DrupalMumbai 2018 #WomenInDrupal session. Your words truly inspired all of us and filled us with more energy and motivation. pic.twitter.com/zNGFrg9pYG

— DrupalMumbai (@DrupalMumbai) April 30, 2018


Our team also seized the chance to go out to dinner at Mirchi and Mime, to unwind, catch up with each other, and have some fun!

DC Mumbai - Team dinner


We had a great time.

For some of us, it was our first time attending a DrupalCamp, so it was really special. Axelerant team members were able to connect with many developers and step out of their comfort zones, gain an understanding of what is happening in the community, and find ways to contribute.

We were also part of some impactful conversations with several community members and leaders. These were centered around shaping the future of the Drupal community in India and identifying the next steps in that direction. 

Day spent well with great conversations around #OpenSource, #FOSS, #Drupal, #Mozilla, #life & awesome people @siva_epari @RanjithRajV @ga_agrawal & @Kishanraval. pic.twitter.com/gPH3YELZXo

— Parth Gohil (@parth_gohil) April 29, 2018

We see what we need to improve. #Openness

There were also some challenges and some miscommunication that occurred at the event. Due to coordination issues faced by the DCM team, our BoF leaflets didn't make into attendees' kits, and many didn't know about the BoF. We’ve learned from these experiences that BoF coordination needs to be handled more prudently. 

We also realized later that it was important to have someone at our booth to guide the visitors who wanted to engage but weren't able to connect at our intended forums. And these are things we’d like to do differently next time, at the next event we’re attending. We hope to meet you there! 

Thank you @axelerant for all your support. #DCM18 pic.twitter.com/J9UmWPpBJM

— hussainweb (@hussainweb) April 28, 2018
May 09 2018
May 09

I sat down to speak with the amazing women of Axelerant, and they each shared their unique perspectives about what it's like being professionals in their field. In this chapter, Shweta, Avni, Trupti, and Karuna expound on this—and in their own words.

Shweta-Sharma-QA


The first thing you notice about Shweta is her unbridled enthusiasm. It’s catching.

“I love my career and I’m really passionate about it,” she says. “I can’t be happy if my kids aren’t happy. But I could never be happy without a professional life.”

She recalls the time she traveled 90 km for work each day, spending three and a half hours in the middle of Pune’s pollution and traffic. After she got married, she switched to an organization that was closer to home, but soon after, the first of her two children was born, and she decided to take a break from work in order to take care of her baby.

While she was very happy to be a new mom, there was something missing: “I like to challenge myself, and to keep learning and growing. If I’m not learning, I’m not happy.”

Shweta’s husband encouraged her to put her daughter into daycare and begin working again, and that’s when she joined Axelerant.

Now, she is able to pursue everything that excites her, without having to choose. Apart from her full-time job as a QA professional at Axelerant, she attends regular fitness classes, goes swimming, travels whenever she has the chance, looks after her daughter and takes her along to extracurriculars, and occasionally cooks exciting new meals. “And the best part? I’ve been able to resume my favorite hobby, Kathak (a form of Indian classical dance), after more than a decade.”

In her opinion, all of this is possible only because remote work helped her cut down on travel time, and she now has the time and energy to pursue other interests. “It makes me so happy and content that I can take care of my family and have a professional life of my own.”

Her advice to young women? “Chase excellence, and not success… seek excellence in whichever profession you choose, and success will follow.”

 

Avni-QA

 


“Kya karna hai padhke? Shaadi ho jani hai.” (“What will you do with an education? Eventually, you’re just going to have to get married.”)

This is what a lot of daughters hear from their fathers in India, including Avni’s own friends growing up. “Now, when those fathers see me…” she laughs.

Meet Avni: a high performer in college, who now works as a QA professional at Axelerant while also pursuing a postgraduate degree in Big Data and Machine Learning.

Avni is unquestionably proving people wrong about what’s possible. And she’d like her own daughter to take away different lessons than her friends did in the past. “Gender equality starts with how you bring up a child,” she says. “Educate your daughter; help her stand on her own feet. There’s no harm in being ambitious.”

Avni has another dream. In about 10 years, she’d like to be running an NGO to empower women from weaker sections in the society. For her, this dream took shape as she worked her way through some challenging questions about three years ago.

“When you see certain woman, you can see that they’re being held down,” she says. Avni found it disturbing that while more women in urban spaces are independent today, in rural India, the difference in social status is steep.

“Nobody should have to live in a miserable state, whether man or a woman. And women in rural areas really need help,” she says. She plans to help them learn new skills so that they can look after their own needs.

Meanwhile, she’s taking it all in stride, delivering great work during the week and spending the weekends painting with her daughter and pursuing her schooling. She finds being a professional while having a rich family life extremely fulfilling. “You do have to juggle, and you do have to set your priorities,” she says. “Sometimes, the problem is we just keep quiet and try to be flexible all the time. But once you set your boundaries and expectations right and communicate them well to others, it works.”

 

Trupti-Sawant-QA

 


Trupti recalls beginning her career with some hesitation about her role in the male-dominated tech industry. “Most of the time, I’ve worked with only male counterparts. There were no other women on my team. It was a group of 8-9 devs and a single QA professional—a girl.”

Her male counterparts were very sound technically and she worried about the fact that her role required her to challenge them, and how that would play out. “Some people have this attitude that QAs aren’t necessary. QAs are a headache to them, because we point out their mistakes.”

Today, she doesn’t have these concerns: “now I work closely with all my technically experienced male counterparts and feel more confident as a woman,” she says.

How did this happen? “My communication skills, patience and resilience as a woman have helped me to improve my knowledge and to develop more competency among my peers.”

As a QA professional, communication is particularly important for Trupti’s place on the team. She explains how all the different roles she plays in her life—daughter, wife, sister—bring out particular qualities which help her develop her professional outlook and improve her skills.

“Between personal and professional, there’s a bridge that helps. If someone in my family is in a bad mood, I have to understand that and be patient with them.” And it’s this same understanding that informs her work with the team, allowing her to be patient and gentle with teammates, and to keep the peace (even in difficult situations).

When Trupti is not at work, she slips into the role of a typical housewife. “When I am free and have no other plans, I’m happy dedicating myself to household work,” she says.

Is it hard to manage the needs of work and family? Her response: “It’s not very easy, but we have to manage our time and our work accordingly, per our schedules. Since we work remotely, we don’t have strict timings. We are flexible, so we are able to manage it effectively.”

 

Karuna-Batra-COO

 


“A career choice should be as close to 100 percent in alignment to one’s passions… to not drain someone. Something that can motivate a person to get up and go to work every day.”

Karuna continues: “...knowing what we want to do, its alignment to our divine purpose and architecting it as a career is the best route to try and hit that 100 percent resonance.”

As COO at Axelerant, Karuna’s role spans across people engagement, projects, process and operations management through direct involvement or consultation as needed by the ecosystem collaboratively. Outside of work, Karuna spends time learning about spirituality and evolved consciousness, trying to become the best version of herself, either through books or social media. Her ambition is to learn, grow, and evolve every day to help herself and the world around her.

Because she is single, managing work and life have not been difficult for her. When things get challenging, she manages through re-prioritization and re-arranging her task list. “One needs to be good at multitasking in a position like mine, where you’re heavily involved across the organization,” she says. 

Since Axelerant is a remote company, it all works. “For me, this framework—which I have closely co-architected—has really worked well not just to take care of my health but also to provide timely support to my family members as and when needed.”

In contrast, she recalls the time when she used to travel 40 kilometers one way on Delhi's busy roads to the office, and was totally disconnected from her family; working more than 10 hours and spending four hours (sometimes more) on the road each day. 

“At Axelerant, we try our best to strike a work-life balance for all, even if it demands continuous re-invention—and that’s not easy.” 

Check out Chapter Two and Chapter Three of the Women at Axelerant series. 

May 01 2018
May 01


We’re often asked:
“what service commitments can you make?” Agency Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) are those baseline commitments. For us, often an agency for agencies, the Service Level Agreement is a partner promise that comes with defined consequences if broken.

Background To Our Service Level Agreements

“Change is the only constant..." (said Heraclitus) something we often hear and know is true. In the context of services, this of course nods to agile and its principles, which help provide a success management framework to manage constant change to ensure partner success. And within any model that supports execution, customers or partners should be involved.

There is a lot going on behind the curtain.

For success to happen, there need to be structures which aid collaboration and coordination—with or without cadence per needs. Beyond the internal agency system which is working to build a solution, there is a complete support team engaged and involved in architecting and building the right operational system to ensure efficient and effective agency-to-agency collaboration (aka: doing the right things at the right time).

This is true especially for agency support services as customer requests could vary in urgency, complexity, and risk levels. The collaborative play generally involves reducing resolution and communication time while ensuring an effective solution.

All of this, when converted to measurable metrics and success criteria, ultimately defines the Service Level Agreement. These SLA's help us set clear and measurable guidelines and to eliminate confusion while defining what is and what is not acceptable. Eventually this establishes clarity: our commitment to our partners.

Tailoring Service Level Agreements: The Basics  

The success of a support engagement is entirely determined by how much an agency is able to reduce response and resolution time for the customer. This depends on the complexity, the scope of work, and the velocity of work coming in by re-architecting the operational ecosystem. For example, an agency may want create an offshore team for a strategic partner to accommodate their time zone, essentially ensuring availability for efficient resolution and response times.

What does this depend on?

Tailoring is most often not dependent on the actual process of ticket closure, ticket collection, or ticket response, for which agencies normally have established baselines and frameworks. Rather this is based on:

  1. How the subunits in an agency are structured (to aid efficiency)
  2. The capability tiers within an agency (to manage complexity and delegation)
  3. Engineers managing the service requests (value system including softer skills such as communication)
     

For instance, a certain type of ticket created for an incident that occurred at the backend server may need to be pushed to a particular kind of functional crew (Centers of Excellence) or a different capability tier. The complexity and risk level of the ticket determines the capability tier to which the ticket should be delegated.

The more tiers there are available, the more advanced the SLA definitions, giving clients complete coverage across a range of issues with varying complexity.

Global teams have an effect.

With geographically distributed teams, SLA definitions could get another degree of flexibility (to aid efficiency) particularly if the company allows its team members to work for a certain number of planned and proactively communicated hours. We can have team members working within clients’ time zone, as required. We have found that this model is clearly scalable, for it provides a feasibility to build pods (fully functional in capability) covering more geographies, ultimately speeding up resolution times for our clients with strategic "geo-positioning."

Designing More Holistic SLA’s: Key Considerations

While support SLA’s will, first and foremost, deal in aspects revolving around defect resolution, a holistic SLA must cover more than just reactive maintenance needs. Maintenance partners also need to consider their partners’ longer term needs along with short term return on investments.

What about “preventive” maintenance?

Once support teams begin working on tickets, they’ll often find that there are other problems that run deeper on the end-client’s site, for example. The site may not adhere to prescribed standards, which could mean that further down the line it will not be scalable and the code will not be optimized for performance. Proactive, corrective, adaptive maintenance as separate streams demand separate centers of excellence as we scale.

At this point, support agencies can either resolve the superficial issue and close the ticket, or they can view this as an opportunity to consult with the client about considerations that will prove valuable in the long term. Mature agencies will take the opportunity to offer consultative value to their clients, helping them move closer to their long-term vision on their success journey.

SLA’s should therefore be designed to include implicit, non-functional expectations which are also part of maintenance. These can be based around security requirements, performance optimization, and scalability (e.g. the number of users, adding more functions, etc.).Through experience we have generally observed, maintenance services generally are supported in parallel with managed end-to-end projects.

It’s important to address “technical debt” before anything else.

Another important consideration for support agencies to keep in mind at the start of the engagement is that end-clients’ websites may be burdened with some degree of technical debt, that is: the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution in the past instead of using a better approach.

Once it is clear that there is technical debt associated with a project, the first “obvious” priority should be to address it. The very first milestone should be focused on resolving technical debt, so that SLA’s can be be reliably defined and adhered to.

If this is not done at the start of the project, any effort expended on fixing bugs, making enhancements or tailoring SLA’s is likely to be non-impactful (per expectations) effort, as unresolved technical debt is likely to create complications further down the line. Engineers may find themselves fixing some aspects, but in the process unearthing several other issues with the end-client’s website.

At later stages in the project, agencies may find that clients do not wish to pay for the cost of fixing new bugs as well as all the hidden issues that are revealed in the process (which may be rooted in unaddressed technical debt).

This might seem basic, but it’s important for support partners to bring any kind of technical debt to the attention of clients for a collaborative, consultative and a symbiotic relationship.

Agencies that are looking to enhance any partnership and progress towards shared value creation will want to raise such issues early and address them proactively. Doing so may offer no immediate returns, but it does increase the probability of having a successful long-term relationship.

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Driving SLA Success: Preventing Breach

For service requests, the most important consideration usually is how quickly communication can be established with the end-client to update them on the expected time to resolution (depending on the severity and risk level of the service request: urgent, critical, normal or low priority and on the complexity of the solution) and floor developments. This is determined by how fast the ticket can be recorded, and the support team’s time to first response. System cycle time and Ticket cycle time being equally important to consider.

SLA’s can we tweaked to include the above drivers after identifying what works with the customer and the servicing organization collaboratively.

Effective Discovery: If an issue needs more research, causes a risk spike, doesn’t have a direct solution, or is a known issue, usually the best that support partners can do is to provide a workaround. In such a case, it becomes imperative to provide clients about the time needed to build a patch, for instance. Success is determined by how quickly support staff are able to establish effective communication with the end-client to source solutions to their challenge or opportunity.

Capability Tiers & Value System: For urgent or critical requests, which may cause website downtime and possible business losses for the clients success usually depends on two factors:

  1. Engineers available on the floor to solve that particular query
  2. Engineers with the right capability are available
     

Careful consideration and planning going into weaving one and two effectively in operational execution adds to customer success. It is imperative for support agencies to ensure that service requests are assigned to engineers at the appropriate capability level who can think beyond than just providing a quick-fix. All things considered, nobody really benefits from a quick or “hot” fix; they benefit from partners’ efforts towards genuine, consultative value creation—reducing these problems, and proactively evolving.

Empathy: Any effective partnership has to be grounded in a thorough understanding of the client’s vision (read: long term goals!) as well as a sense of ownership. Challenges exist but customer success entails how well they are actively listened to, acknowledged, understood, and supported with a mutually agreeable, co-architected solution.

Communication: The key factor in determining successful outcomes. There are two broad types of communication failures experienced:

  • Lack of timely reply to clients, where the team may already be working on the issue, but if the client has not been kept informed, their experience is likely to be negative.  
  • Failure to provide a satisfactory explanation (i.e. communicating) with clients; even when an issue could not be effectively resolved in time, this should be conveyed to clients in such a way that conveys reasoning, efforts made, and what comes next.

Handling SLA Breaches: Broken Promises

An SLA breach is unacceptable. It can result in lost revenues and end-clients, as well as seriously damaging PR for the partner agency. In all such cases, it is vital for support staff to act prudently and methodically to restore service at the earliest.

What do we do if this happens?

It’s important to understand what led to the breach, and promptly resolve any internal challenges through a joint retrospective.Transparency, ownership and effective communication with end-clients can help to restore broken trust and create positive outcomes.

Any service provider has to be sensitive to the serious repercussions of SLA breaches for partners and end-clients and hence the need for measures to protect our partners in the event of an SLA breach. Depending on whether there is work left incomplete, work that is found to be sub-quality, or work that is delayed. Some should and do refund varying percentages of the project budget to partners.  

Service Level Agreements & Trust

Ultimately, the goal of an SLA is to foster accountability and a sense of trust in the partner agency. Well-designed SLA’s protect the interests of both parties and ensure that any issues can be quickly and fairly resolved. When these are meticulously detailed and effectively used, they help create successful engagements and better outcomes for end-clients. And that is exactly what we're striving to do each and every time.

Agency Success

May 01 2018
May 01


We’re often asked:
“what service commitments can you make?” Agency Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) are those baseline commitments. For us, often an agency for agencies, the Service Level Agreement is a partner promise that comes with defined consequences if broken.

Background To Our Service Level Agreements

“Change is the only constant..." (said Heraclitus) something we often hear and know is true. In the context of services, this of course nods to agile and its principles, which help provide a success management framework to manage constant change to ensure partner success. And within any model that supports execution, customers or partners should be involved.

There is a lot going on behind the curtain.

For success to happen, there need to be structures which aid collaboration and coordination—with or without cadence per needs. Beyond the internal agency system which is working to build a solution, there is a complete support team engaged and involved in architecting and building the right operational system to ensure efficient and effective agency-to-agency collaboration (aka: doing the right things at the right time).

This is true especially for agency support services as customer requests could vary in urgency, complexity, and risk levels. The collaborative play generally involves reducing resolution and communication time while ensuring an effective solution.

All of this, when converted to measurable metrics and success criteria, ultimately defines the Service Level Agreement. These SLA's help us set clear and measurable guidelines and to eliminate confusion while defining what is and what is not acceptable. Eventually this establishes clarity: our commitment to our partners.

Tailoring Service Level Agreements: The Basics  

The success of a support engagement is entirely determined by how much an agency is able to reduce response and resolution time for the customer. This depends on the complexity, the scope of work, and the velocity of work coming in by re-architecting the operational ecosystem. For example, an agency may want create an offshore team for a strategic partner to accommodate their time zone, essentially ensuring availability for efficient resolution and response times.

What does this depend on?

Tailoring is most often not dependent on the actual process of ticket closure, ticket collection, or ticket response, for which agencies normally have established baselines and frameworks. Rather this is based on:

  1. How the subunits in an agency are structured (to aid efficiency)
  2. The capability tiers within an agency (to manage complexity and delegation)
  3. Engineers managing the service requests (value system including softer skills such as communication)
     

For instance, a certain type of ticket created for an incident that occurred at the backend server may need to be pushed to a particular kind of functional crew (Centers of Excellence) or a different capability tier. The complexity and risk level of the ticket determines the capability tier to which the ticket should be delegated.

The more tiers there are available, the more advanced the SLA definitions, giving clients complete coverage across a range of issues with varying complexity.

Global teams have an effect.

With geographically distributed teams, SLA definitions could get another degree of flexibility (to aid efficiency) particularly if the company allows its team members to work for a certain number of planned and proactively communicated hours. We can have team members working within clients’ time zone, as required. We have found that this model is clearly scalable, for it provides a feasibility to build pods (fully functional in capability) covering more geographies, ultimately speeding up resolution times for our clients with strategic "geo-positioning."

Designing More Holistic SLA’s: Key Considerations

While support SLA’s will, first and foremost, deal in aspects revolving around defect resolution, a holistic SLA must cover more than just reactive maintenance needs. Maintenance partners also need to consider their partners’ longer term needs along with short term return on investments.

What about “preventive” maintenance?

Once support teams begin working on tickets, they’ll often find that there are other problems that run deeper on the end-client’s site, for example. The site may not adhere to prescribed standards, which could mean that further down the line it will not be scalable and the code will not be optimized for performance. Proactive, corrective, adaptive maintenance as separate streams demand separate centers of excellence as we scale.

At this point, support agencies can either resolve the superficial issue and close the ticket, or they can view this as an opportunity to consult with the client about considerations that will prove valuable in the long term. Mature agencies will take the opportunity to offer consultative value to their clients, helping them move closer to their long-term vision on their success journey.

SLA’s should therefore be designed to include implicit, non-functional expectations which are also part of maintenance. These can be based around security requirements, performance optimization, and scalability (e.g. the number of users, adding more functions, etc.).Through experience we have generally observed, maintenance services generally are supported in parallel with managed end-to-end projects.

It’s important to address “technical debt” before anything else.

Another important consideration for support agencies to keep in mind at the start of the engagement is that end-clients’ websites may be burdened with some degree of technical debt, that is: the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution in the past instead of using a better approach.

Once it is clear that there is technical debt associated with a project, the first “obvious” priority should be to address it. The very first milestone should be focused on resolving technical debt, so that SLA’s can be be reliably defined and adhered to.

If this is not done at the start of the project, any effort expended on fixing bugs, making enhancements or tailoring SLA’s is likely to be non-impactful (per expectations) effort, as unresolved technical debt is likely to create complications further down the line. Engineers may find themselves fixing some aspects, but in the process unearthing several other issues with the end-client’s website.

At later stages in the project, agencies may find that clients do not wish to pay for the cost of fixing new bugs as well as all the hidden issues that are revealed in the process (which may be rooted in unaddressed technical debt).

This might seem basic, but it’s important for support partners to bring any kind of technical debt to the attention of clients for a collaborative, consultative and a symbiotic relationship.

Agencies that are looking to enhance any partnership and progress towards shared value creation will want to raise such issues early and address them proactively. Doing so may offer no immediate returns, but it does increase the probability of having a successful long-term relationship.

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Driving SLA Success: Preventing Breach

For service requests, the most important consideration usually is how quickly communication can be established with the end-client to update them on the expected time to resolution (depending on the severity and risk level of the service request: urgent, critical, normal or low priority and on the complexity of the solution) and floor developments. This is determined by how fast the ticket can be recorded, and the support team’s time to first response. System cycle time and Ticket cycle time being equally important to consider.

SLA’s can we tweaked to include the above drivers after identifying what works with the customer and the servicing organization collaboratively.

Effective Discovery: If an issue needs more research, causes a risk spike, doesn’t have a direct solution, or is a known issue, usually the best that support partners can do is to provide a workaround. In such a case, it becomes imperative to provide clients about the time needed to build a patch, for instance. Success is determined by how quickly support staff are able to establish effective communication with the end-client to source solutions to their challenge or opportunity.

Capability Tiers & Value System: For urgent or critical requests, which may cause website downtime and possible business losses for the clients success usually depends on two factors:

  1. Engineers available on the floor to solve that particular query
  2. Engineers with the right capability are available
     

Careful consideration and planning going into weaving one and two effectively in operational execution adds to customer success. It is imperative for support agencies to ensure that service requests are assigned to engineers at the appropriate capability level who can think beyond than just providing a quick-fix. All things considered, nobody really benefits from a quick or “hot” fix; they benefit from partners’ efforts towards genuine, consultative value creation—reducing these problems, and proactively evolving.

Empathy: Any effective partnership has to be grounded in a thorough understanding of the client’s vision (read: long term goals!) as well as a sense of ownership. Challenges exist but customer success entails how well they are actively listened to, acknowledged, understood, and supported with a mutually agreeable, co-architected solution.

Communication: The key factor in determining successful outcomes. There are two broad types of communication failures experienced:

  • Lack of timely reply to clients, where the team may already be working on the issue, but if the client has not been kept informed, their experience is likely to be negative.  
  • Failure to provide a satisfactory explanation (i.e. communicating) with clients; even when an issue could not be effectively resolved in time, this should be conveyed to clients in such a way that conveys reasoning, efforts made, and what comes next.

Handling SLA Breaches: Broken Promises

An SLA breach is unacceptable. It can result in lost revenues and end-clients, as well as seriously damaging PR for the partner agency. In all such cases, it is vital for support staff to act prudently and methodically to restore service at the earliest.

What do we do if this happens?

It’s important to understand what led to the breach, and promptly resolve any internal challenges through a joint retrospective.Transparency, ownership and effective communication with end-clients can help to restore broken trust and create positive outcomes.

Any service provider has to be sensitive to the serious repercussions of SLA breaches for partners and end-clients and hence the need for measures to protect our partners in the event of an SLA breach. Depending on whether there is work left incomplete, work that is found to be sub-quality, or work that is delayed. Some should and do refund varying percentages of the project budget to partners.  

Service Level Agreements & Trust

Ultimately, the goal of an SLA is to foster accountability and a sense of trust in the partner agency. Well-designed SLA’s protect the interests of both parties and ensure that any issues can be quickly and fairly resolved. When these are meticulously detailed and effectively used, they help create successful engagements and better outcomes for end-clients. And that is exactly what we're striving to do each and every time.

Agency Success

Apr 30 2018
Apr 30

 It’s not difficult finding people who are passionate about Open Source all over the world. What’s challenging is bringing them all together, that is: creating a global agency made up of enthusiasts like the ones who work with us isn't easy. But that’s what we’ve done—and this is how.

Fully-distributed teams make sense for Open Source.

We hadn’t considered working remotely at the time of our inception. My business partner Abhi and I were located in different countries and time zones (the US and India). We started off by opening a few offices in various cities across India.

It didn't take long for us to notice that most people chose to work from home, given the choice, and the offices were not being put to use. After our office in Srinagar was affected by floods, which led to more people working out of their homes, we got an idea.

We began rethinking our business in 2012. That’s when we decided that instead of having offices in different cities, we should simply start working remotely (100%). Because Open Source enthusiasts are distributed all over the globe, being tied down to a few office locations wouldn’t make any sense in the long-term anyways. Soon, we became a company with team members working from their homes, co-working spaces, or cafes. Without realizing it, we were organically aligning six years ago to what many believe will become the future of work

But what does “remote” mean?

Openness is one of our values, so here it is: to many, remote work is still a fairly new thing so occasionally there were also people joining us who didn’t really understand what we were trying to build. They joined us with the intention of taking on a stop-gap job before they moved on to a job at a ‘real office’, with in-person interactions. Circumstances like these set us back but not forever.

Our vision for the company was different. We wanted our team members to be happy and fulfilled wherever they were located and we were fully committed to that goal, long-term. We also realized that any distributed team could quickly become saddled with a purely transactional culture, with conversations becoming limited to work-related tasks. We needed to make a conscious effort to make interactions a lot more engaging, so that new friendships and powerful working relationships could be forged like in highly successful office settings.

We began exploring how to solve these challenges. Some of the resources we found extremely useful were articles and books from Harvard Business Review (HBR), the approaches to remote by Buffer and Lullabot (and now Yonder), and several books on workplace culture. In recent times, we have worked with Simon Sinek’s concepts, and are now exploring the concept of Tours of Duty from Reid Hoffman’s book:The Alliance.

Over time, we have experimented a lot with technology to bridge the gaps that naturally occur in a virtual workplace. We've made our way through several from our tools for distributed teams list. All things considered tools wise, Slack has been the biggest enabler for us, along with Zoom, practically easing the challenges presented by differing time zones, locations and cultures.

Culture comes first.

In physical offices, team members tend to form personal networks that help them defuse stress and get answers to problems they might be facing at work (or even at home). This can be challenging to duplicate in a remote environment.

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To help us address some of these issues, we decided to bring a life coach onto our team—full-time. First we started conducting one-on-one sessions with nearly everyone on the team, every month. And we continued this for well over a year and a half—being vulnerable, opening up conversations, and helping people overcome challenges, however big or small.

We continue these conversations today in response to feedback received via regular Officevibe surveys, or when we pick up signals of anything discordant, or when team members specifically reach out for support. This has helped us catch problems early and rapidly course-correct whenever needed.

Lack of support leads to team stagnation.

As these conversations with the team deepened, it became apparent that people needed help with their technical skills, and were unsure about how to go about learning new skills or honing existing ones. This led to us developing a mentorship program. This program enables team members to develop leadership traits and take 2-3 "mentees" under their wing, primarily to help them grow technically, but also to be a friend and guide when required. 

Everybody needs a safe and supportive environment to work in, and with this mentorship program, we have been able to take a step in that direction—so that hopefully our team members never have to feel alone and without guidance.

Today, we have 15 mentors at work whose goal is to ensure that their mentees always feel guided, supported and understood, no matter what. Over time, many of today’s mentees will be taking over as mentors, and we hope the support system will thus keep growing stronger.

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Engagement must be deliberately cultivated.

Organizations are always struggling to achieve holistic engagement, because most people don’t want to work just for the money; they also want to do meaningful work and be able to grow, to engage. In a physical office where people meet each other regularly, some things can be taken for granted—for example, getting up and walking over to someone for a discussion, or to the coffee machine.

Here's something that concerns us: when team members are all working from home, some might not even get up from their chairs all day. This leads to unhealthy outcomes for both the team and the organization. Which lead to our internal wellness program, where we've made health and fitness goals for the sole purpose of encouraging our team members to stay active.

Identifying issues with remote work like these becomes key to figuring out ways to help people work holistically. We take weekly surveys and source feedback—anonymously if needed. This helps us develop or fine tune programs to be put to work for our people, so that consistent support in developing healthy habits and making positive changes stays real. 

Successful teams require sustained connection.

We are about diversity across all parameters, and we'll be publishing more on this soon. We firmly believe that "sameness" puts us in danger of extinction. This means that not only do we have to solve interpersonal challenges that may occur across time zones, but also issues related to cultural, sociological, or interpersonal understandings (or lack thereof).

We want to have the best talent on our team and to ensure each and every Axelerant team member knows that they are safe, respected, and valued—all 50+ of them. 

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There are some established some rules of the road regarding communication—these center around being careful with our words and tone when speaking to our team members or clients. We run regular sessions on how to give honest feedback or praise the right way, how to foster genuine empathy, how to listen fully to someone who is not in front of us, how to not judge others, and so on. All this has helped us evolve into a more caring, kind, and giving organization.

Our HR team has also instituted a host of creative programs that encourage Axelerant team members to connect outside of their work duties. From Happy Hours that are delightful, hilarious sessions to programs like 10X Your Excitement (whatever you do, do it with ten times the excitement) to Healthy Lifestyle challenges (team members who participated achieved goals around eating healthy, for example). These programs see tremendous participation and allow team members from different departments to interact and have fun together.

Of course new joiners need dependable support, and that’s why we have a strong onboarding program. New team members have a buddy assigned to them who checks in with them and shows them the ropes regarding Axelerant culture, work expectations, etc. There has to be a conscious effort made to ensure everyone is made to feel welcome, well beyond a ‘Hey there, welcome to Axelerant!’ slack message in #general.

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And yes beyond monthly local team meetups, we do meet face-to-face—all 50+ of us—typically once a year and we are committed to increasing this frequency. Our entire team gets together at a resort and spends a few days together (last year it was Baga Beach, in Goa). There we re-establish our alignment with the goals of the company, and participate in some insightful learning sessions and workshops. Mostly we kick our shoes off, let our hair down, party a bit—get to know each other better. To be honest, it’s the most fun part of the year and everyone looks forward to it.

There is only one thing remote teams need.

Commitment. Our remote culture has been six years in the making, and so far we’ve had about four years of being purely remote. It’s not always been easy going, of course we’ve had our share of missteps. But because we’ve always believed in bringing together the best people, wherever they may be, we have doubled down on the challenges and the surprises and emerged where we stand today. It looks pretty good:

  • A rating of 4.7 on Glassdoor
  • A rating of 8.4 on Officevibe; that puts us in the top 10 percentile of remote companies across the world
  • An internal Net Promoter Score of 9/10 by our staff 

We're on the right path. As we expand into other countries and grow as a fully-distributed and truly diverse company, we'll be keeping our sights on our three indispensable values—enthusiasm, openness, and kindness. And as our end-goal, to quote our pre-2015 tagline for old times sake, true to our internal mission for our people: making happiness possible.

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Mar 29 2018
Mar 29


When starting an engagement with an offshore Drupal agency, it can be difficult to determine whether the agency has the capability and maturity to successfully address your needs. One way to avoid project failure is to ask the hard questions up front.

We’ve put together a list of some of the questions you should ask your potential partner, based on what our current partners had asked us (and the answers we gave them).

1. How have you worked with agencies in the past?

Ultimately, the key to a productive agency partnership lies in whether agencies are able to focus on partner success. Drupal agencies need to invest the time and effort to get to know their partners’ business as well as industry, their challenges and desired outcomes. Without this understanding and commitment, any partnership is unlikely to produce a high return on investment.

Consider whether the agency in question is able to communicate openly, filter out a clear picture of their partner's objectives, efficiently manage the knowledge transfer, and tailor processes to suit partner needs. Agencies should be able to take a methodical approach to understanding project needs, anticipating roadblocks and making appropriate adjustments to minimize risk.

Axelerant specific: As a support partner with a strategic focus on agency support, everything we do has to be aligned to agency priorities. Our modus operandi is freeing up agency resources with success-focused delivery services and staffing.


We begin by introducing stakeholders to our Success Management framework where processes and desired outcomes are explored. This is followed by a review stage which allows for knowledge transferring of technical and functional specifications, methods, deployment workflows, and best practices. Then, per the agency's needs, we customize operational processes and prepare schedules and reporting so we're ready for work requests.

On a daily basis, Axelerant classifies work as either project or support tickets for agencies:

  • Project tickets (enhancement tickets) would include anything that can be identified as subtasks, tasks, stories or epics pertaining to large or small “new feature requests,” “change requests” and “preventive actions.” These are scheduled via release planning and requests of this nature are resolved within a mutually agreed release cycle.
  • Support tickets include anything that can be identified as corrective, as in bugs and security or software updates. The timely resolution of these support tickets is ensured within mutually agreed resolution times, as specified via the Service Level Agreement (SLA), which is finalized at the conclusion of a collaborative workshop.
2. Where have you found successes? What about failure?

Speaking to Drupal agencies about their past successes and failures can tell partners a great deal about their experience and level of maturity. It can help partners understand the strengths and weaknesses of the agency team, how effectively they are able to communicate with partners, take ownership of partner concerns, and resolve challenges along the way.

The right agency should have experience, discipline and multiple case studies showcasing their expertise in the areas that matter most to partners.

Axelerant specific: The typical challenges we face in our projects are organizational changes on the client side, getting timely feedback, and customer buy-in to adhere to certain agile processes. Further: inherited large technical debts from legacy systems, lack of single client-side product owner, too many unplanned tasks, and a lack of budget for automated Quality Assurance.

Our success lies in collective responsibility and proactive collaboration with our partners to overcome challenges while focusing on their success. The dedicated Axelerant Success Manager takes accountability by proactive single point coordination, while identifying all risks associated with high-level objectives and coordinating with relevant stakeholders for the efficient execution of risk mitigation and goal planning.

Partnership success requires the holistic process of aligning needs and expertise with that of our partners through communication designed around finding out “why.” In essence we're getting behind their purpose too, which leads to a successful plan. This shared purpose or shared understanding is what helps keep team members aligned more efficiently.

Defining our shared purpose begins with understanding key drivers behind our partner’s global delivery or outsourcing strategy. The shared perspective, jointly identifying the right partner strategy, aligns with strategic business goals and we execute what’s needed from preparation to operations—from transition to the steady states.


In a nutshell, we strive to:

  • Adequately plan and manage outsourcing process
  • Establish an efficient governance process
  • Manage the potential commercial and legal risk
  • Obtain sufficient knowledge and insight in outsourcing
  • Maintain control and tightly link all activities to the objectives
3. What’s covered in your typical onboarding process, and how long does it take?

Agency onboarding must be set up to adapt to partner needs, and put the right frameworks in place to help drive partner success. The process should introduce key stakeholders across both teams, enable knowledge transfer, establish a clear understanding of the partner’s vision as well as strategic priorities, short term and long term goals, and expectations, and also set up tools and touchpoints for communication.

Any major concerns or challenges should also be brought forth openly at this time, so that the delivery team is able to proactively address them.

Agency Success

Axelerant specific: A complete onboarding for a new partnership engagement may take up to two weeks, depending on the expectations and schedules of all stakeholders involved. Onboarding activities typically cover:

  • Formal Kickoff:
    • Who: Introducing primary stakeholders and team involved from both sides
    • Why: Confirm understanding of the vision behind the engagement
    • What: Confirm understanding of goals and priorities in the engagement
    • Presentation and agreement of processes and tools
    • Mutual agreement of success metrics
  • Technical Onboarding:
    • Grant of access credentials and/or exchange of credentials where applicable to allow replication of development ecosystem locally
    • Definition and mutual agreement of development and deployment workflows
  • Process Educational Onboarding:
    • Grant access to relevant stakeholders to the communication, process tools as needed
    • Information provided to most important communication processes, touch points, setting up check-in cadence
    • Setup and walk through of tools involved within the engagement.
  • Ongoing Continuous, Proactive support:
    • Onboarding for any changes while in execution coming from joint retrospectives as a part of continual service improvement
4. Who will the main point of contact (POC) be and how frequently can we meet?

Agency partners need a single point of contact whom they can connect with weekly to spearhead the project, review progress and address any concerns.

Not only does this help to streamline communication, it also ensures that there is a dedicated team member proactively looking out for partner needs and priorities, understanding their long term goals, and always keeping their best interests in mind.

Axelerant specific: At the start of the engagement, weekly calls will be set up with your dedicated Axelerant Success Manager (SM). This SM is specifically assigned to you and they’ll serve as your main point of contact if you need to address project or talent concerns if any. Depending on the engagement’s status, the frequency of these calls can be reduced from weekly to biweekly after six to eight weeks weeks into the engagement. You'll also be assigned a Project Manager (PM) who is responsible for project health, and who functions as your secondary point of contact.

5. How can we ensure time zone collaboration?

Collaborating across multiple time zones requires teams to have effective strategies and communication tools in place. Not only that, it also requires teams to have much more clarity and discipline than co-located teams. Expectations (from team members) and communication standards need to be set clearly, and frequent check-ins should be encouraged.

Axelerant specific: For more than 10 years, since 2005, we have collected learnings on how to successfully collaborate with our clients across multiple time zones, backed by our fully-distributed team and our current approach to global hiring.

  • Rotation Options: we can share the burden of 24/7, isolating overlaps together
  • Goals For Consistency: we strive to schedule meetings in rhythm for continuity
  • Tools As Needed: use as many collaboration tools as needed, always optimizing
  • Overlap Gains: calls are valuable, we absorb and record everything as needed
  • Meetups: team syncs, pre-established onsite or offsite rendezvous schedule
  • Impromptu Travel: possible, partner need-based
6. How can we ensure long-term, high-quality technical skill availability for our partners?

Agencies are best positioned to provide high quality talent to support their partners when they have a culture and ethos that values team member growth; team members who are happy and fulfilled are more likely to be driven and engaged.

To effectively meet partner needs, agencies should also have ways of ensuring that sudden developer unavailability due to illness or other circumstances does not impact project success. This may mean maintaining a certain percentage of bench cover with each project, or other such ways of protecting partner interests.

Axelerant specific: Our approach to hiring less than 1% of all applicants and also our approach to caring for growth and advancement of hired staff ensuring highest levels of engagement speaks for itself with our low attrition rates and how knowledge sharing loss is aptly minimized.


Our Talent Management Framework:

  1. Interview & Onboarding: During this phase, you’ll review our suggested talent according to your preferences. If you’re happy with them, they can be onboarded to your tools, techniques, and processes
  2. Integration On Acceptance: With your staff member acceptance, they’ll be ready to integrate with your team just like an employee. And while Axelerant people mainly work remotely, on site visits can be arranged.
  3. Continuous Output: And if for some reason you’re not completely satisfied with who you’ve been paired with, we’ll discuss options with your success as our priority. We maintain continuous bench strength to take on work, and have standing resources ready to start at a couple weeks’ notice.
  4. Engagement Tailoring: Communication frequency, the right selection of communications tools (e.g. Slack, Skype, Hangout, Basecamp, etc.), utilization and productivity reports with as needed frequency.
  5. Collaborative Success Planning: Utilization dips, talent concerns, cost model dis-alignment with dynamics, risks.
7. What’s your QA process and how is it weaved into your development process?

Drupal offshore agency personnel have their hands on work that directly impacts the success of end-clients. QA engineers need to be ensure standards are adhered to from beginning to end. Software testers have set up and use an agile framework to provide stability at every stage of development. The success of a delivered product is its quality, and time to market (TTM).

Axelerant specific: Quality Assurance isn’t an afterthought, it comes first and foremost. Our QA Engineering team is involved from the start of a project to review requirements in detail and to visualize the scenarios to be tested. Beyond this, our QA Engineers work with the team to develop acceptance criteria for User Stories. Our QA team is also well-versed with Drupal’s admin interface, to test the content related scenarios, taxonomy, content types, and configurations. General outlining:

  • Pre-Iteration, Sprint Zero Plan: After gathering the initial requirements, during the pre-iteration or sprint zero phase, our QA Engineers create a test plan which broadly covers objectives, project description, test scope, and test strategy—this is updated and refined with every sprint iteration. The test plan is further reviewed by all other stakeholders.
  • Test Cases Created & Classified: After the requirements are baselined, test cases are created covering positive and negative scenarios which are then reviewed with Project Managers and the development team. Test cases are further classified into manual vs automation.
  • Scripts, Functional Testing, API QA: The development team along with QA ensures that the Behat scripts for functional testing of Drupal sites are created and executed. We use Selenium and other API testing tools when required. These automated scripts are used during regression testing.
  • Bugs & Issues: These are reported on our issue tracker via JIRA, with appropriate bug reproduction steps, expected result, actual result and screenshots, etc. Bugs are reviewed by the team and are classified based on the severity (e.g. Blocker, Critical, Major, Minor etc.).
8. What about security? How do you protect data?

It goes without saying that agency teams should adhere to industry best practices, and have systems in place to prevent unauthorized use of any partner or end-client data. They should also be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and work in accordance with their partner’s security practices.

Axelerant specific: Axelerant employees follow active policy to prevent unauthorized use, access, disruption, modification, inspection, or recording of any data or information. And in addition to this, the team adheres to the procedures our partners specify as standard practices.

When it comes to code, we’re committed to writing according to industry best practices in compliance for maintainability and security. Specifically for Drupal, we follow coding standards that include recommendations on designing applications foremost with security in mind. We use appropriate Drupal API to protect against common attacks such as XSS, CSRF, and SQL injection. Our coding practices also prevent common privilege escalation scenarios.

Each person also signs an NDA and we work with the client’s security procedures, ensuring that we have restricted physical access to their servers and other hardware assets. We also use VPNs to access infrastructure in as secure a manner as possible.

9. What does your documentation process look like once work is completed?

Proper documentation can simplify communication and prevent issues from occurring at the time of transitioning the project, saving valuable time and money. Agency teams should be willing to take ownership of providing project documentation up front, and have clear answers to what is included.

Axelerant specific: The key activities taken up as a double measure to ensure smooth transition by documentation upon completion of work are:

  • Gathering and providing up-to-date project records
    • Technical Documentation - Application Architecture, Schema, Server Architecture etc.
    • Requirements Documentation
    • Release Notes
    • Test cases, test plans
    • Reports - Bugs and closures
  • Disseminating any other information to formalize acceptance of work delivered and performing closure that includes but is not limited to
    • Hours consumed report with original estimate versus actuals and billables along with approved change request tracker
  • Feedback forms sent to gather information on what’s appreciated and areas of improvements and measure satisfaction
  • Request for call schedule to discuss any open questions or training needs
  • Request formal acceptance of closure of work
Agencies need better answers so clients get the best.

With globalization in full force, and geography no longer a limitation, the choice of the right Drupal partner is more critical than ever to partner success. But a successful partnership requires more. It requires constant communication to keep all stakeholders on the same page. It requires a partner with the ability to handle any sudden changes in requirements, through effective processes and planning. It also calls for a partner with a determined focus on customer success, and a close understanding of clients’ desired outcomes.

Spending time thoroughly getting to know an agency before choosing them as a Drupal partner may save clients a lot of trouble later on, as it might prevent them from onboarding a partner that fails to deliver when needed.

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Feb 28 2018
Feb 28


Rather than looking at Drupal partner relationships as time-limited engagements, at Axelerant, we look at every partnership as a long-term commitment. As such, we want our partners as well as our team members to begin with an accurate high-level view of the partnership.

At the outset of an agency partnership, we look to establish a common understanding of partner agency success. We conduct detailed workshops in order to address any concerns that they may have, and identify any particular problems they’ve experienced in the past that they’d like to see resolved.

We do this because we know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that we can offer our partners. We know that the ultimate value of a partnership is in the return on investment (ROI) that we are able to deliver back to the client agency. And that emerges from a shared understanding of success.

If you don’t have a general idea of what your “journey” looks like with your implementation partner, you’re on the road to nowhere. This is why we focus on accurately identifying the long-term value we can help unlock for our partners. 

How do we arrive at an accurate picture of what constitutes long-term value for another agency?

By mapping partner success journeys at the beginning of the engagement. This partner journey then acts as a representation of all the different experiences that a partner can expect to have while working with us.

Defining the journey

Axelerant-Partner-Mapping-Example

No two partners’ requirements and expectations are the same, so by nature each partner journey is contextual and custom. Different agencies may have different ways of working. There can be differences in time zone, culture, personalities, capabilities, and geography.

We aim to identify the actual needs and concerns that our partners have experienced as closely as possible, and then map our capabilities and team members onto those, bringing all stakeholders into alignment through a tailored mapping process.

For us, the key word has always been empathy. We’ve put partner agency success at the center of everything we do, and reoriented around it with empathy forming the center of the value system.

Our partners are not just records in a CRM. We believe that a partner journey needs to be well thought out at a human level, and tailored to suit each partner by understanding what they go through and what their needs are.

That’s how we make this process unique and customizable to each of our partners. We begin with an initial, generic partner journey, and then tailor it as per our growing understanding of our partners’ needs.

The journey is a visual representation of what the customer experiences. The visual representation with crests and troughs ultimately tells the story of what we are doing well (meeting goals, exceeding expectations) and where we need to do more (pain points, challenges, roadblocks).

The most important element for us is identifying these crests and troughs correctly—so that we can then dynamically adapt the journey, elevate the lows, and create customer delight.

Partner journeys are works in progress. Just as you get to know a new hire over a period of time while working with them, so also you get to understand your partner’s concerns more deeply after you start working alongside them. We use this understanding to adjust the partner journey to more accurately reflect their goals.

And these goals can always change. This is why we have frequent touchpoints established, like weekly or monthly check-ins and quarterly reviews—where different stakeholders can review the goals and objectives. We see this as a constant process of exploration and setting milestones for deliverables. With customers being co-architects of this journey from the start, we see ourselves as the agency's extended teams.

Here’s how we map partner success journeys at Axelerant.


Partner-Journey-Phases


Phase 1: Building Confidence

Initiation

We begin with an initiation phase. This is a transition phase that takes around 4-6 weeks.

Engagement Definition: Partner Success Workshop

The engagement definition phase begins with a partner success workshop that aims to define how the service will be transitioned to Axelerant and managed. The objective is for our partners to feel confident about engaging with Axelerant, and for teams to get clarity on processes to be followed, stakeholders to be briefed and ops culture to be defined collaboratively.

This phase includes scope discovery, and considers ways to measure engagement success and improvements that can be made in accordance with client specifications. Another outcome is for the Axelerant team to be onboarded onto the client’s current infrastructure and tool setup as needed, or vice versa.

This is usually done onsite and requires the participation of key stakeholders from the client’s side as well as a Dedicated Partner Success Manager, Project Manager, and Engagement Technical Lead from Axelerant.

Here are some of the key elements involved at this stage:

  • Foundational Understandings: lay basic blocks in place, the foundation of our services
  • Defining The Means: show how to transition inhouse work—migration to global delivery
  • Information Sharing: establish how knowledge transfer happens, operations in place


This helps us form an effective strategy and establish priorities, creating a roadmap that the team can follow for the rest of the engagement.

While Axelerant has its own set of processes, SLA's and reporting methodologies, at this stage partners may wish to review and refine our processes in accordance with their needs. They may also want us to adhere to their processes for the duration of the engagement. We hold discussions around this, through which processes are reviewed and refined.

SLA's are defined once processes have been harmonized, and talent mapping is done based on mutually identified needs as well as deadlines provided for initial engagements.

Once the SLA's are finalized, the allowed ranges are attached to each of them (eg. time to resolution for each ticket/average duration of an open ticket). Reporting frequency is decided for each measure.

We also define communication and escalation protocols at this stage to ensure that there is transparency throughout. The usual escalation path is:

Client Project Owner > Success Manager > Director of Delivery

We ensure that the definitions, the approach medium, and participants for all expected conference calls, meetings, and regular reports (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually) are mutually clear from the beginning.

Communication and workflow means at Axelerant are supported by industry standard tools such as Slack, Zoom, JIRA, and Confluence. These weekly conference calls between all parties help keep us aligned. In case our partners have other preferences regarding tools, we’re happy to adapt to their practices.

Phase 2: Establishing Trust

Process Definition & Technical Discovery Workshop

To ensure alignment between the Axelerant development team and partner teams regarding their long-term goals and objectives, the next phase in the partner success journey involves process definition and technical discovery. This phase is all about onboarding the Axelerant development team and building confidence. We conduct a technical discovery workshop that usually lasts around 2 days and then continue with Process Definition over the next 2-3 weeks.

This phase requires the involvement of key stakeholders on the partner’s side as well as Axelerant’s. At this stage, Axelerant conducts a documentation exchange in order to update key architecture and design documents. Our team conducts a high-level review of system requirements (i.e. Drupal distribution understandings, identifying major components for the system in its long-term roadmap and how they can be enabled through Drupal modules).

Here we consider current and future desired capabilities, along with current and potential external integrations. Physical as well as content architecture understandings are defined along with any changes that are recommended in order to meet performance requirements for the deployed system.

The objective of this phase is to complete initial project staffing by a Senior Development Team and to complete onboarding with priorities established for the near-term and long-term. We also establish report formats and the frequency of reporting, establish a development workflow, and have an engineering and communication protocol set along with escalation paths.

Delivery: Kickoff

Based on the output from the two prior phases, a staffing plan is put into action, and initial development activities begin.

This is done remotely, and requires the involvement of key stakeholders and product owners from the client’s side, as well as from Axelerant. We also maintain 20% bench cover for the team to add redundancies, and we are ready to pull in more Back-end, Front-end and QA Engineers based on any ongoing needs or to address demand spikes.

Ongoing Delivery (Steady State)

Team Ramp Up

At this stage, the larger team ramp up begins. All work is now funneled to the Axelerant team through the partner agency’s Product Owners (or however initially determined during the Partner Success Workshop). The team is scaled as per the staffing plan (or as required).

Delivery begins as per the Workflow Setup, through the determined project management system. The hybrid or blended delivery model is followed to execute project needs, ongoing maintenance needs as well as critical backup and demand spike requirements. Performance delivery begins as planned.

The outcome desired from this phase is to gain the trust of the partner, and also for Axelerant team members to gain the trust that they will benefit and grow from contributing to the services.

Delivery: Monitoring & Performance Reporting

Axelerant team members monitor the performance measures that have been agreed upon during the project initiation phase. These are measured at the frequency that’s been agreed upon and reported on a weekly or monthly basis by the dedicated Success Manager.

Apart from these quantitative measures, Axelerant team members also regularly gather qualitative feedback from partner teams to judge their performance. This feedback is then used to identify preventive as well as corrective measures to be taken, and they also inform the future focused performance reviews of our team members.

Net Promoter Score (NPS): Monitoring and feedback is as continuous as ongoing delivery. Quarterly reviews center on partners’ provided Net Promoter Score (NPS), their analysis of Axelerant’s performance at large. We aim to capture not the details but an overall satisfaction pulse.

Staff Performance Ratings & One-On-One’s: At a pre-established frequency, partners have the opportunity to provide a staff rating for each member on their team. Internally, we also conduct monthly one-on-ones with every member, ensuring that they receive regular feedback on their performance, progress made towards their goals, areas of improvement, as well as praise for their achievements.

Team Member Key Performance Indicators (KPI's): We also help them identify areas for growth and provide them with the means to keep learning continuously, through mentorship, external programs or project work, and for this reason Key Performance Indicator (KPI) metrics have been introduced. Through KPI’s, team leaders take responsibility for their team members’ performance, and implement a plan of action that is based on past performance and current needs. At Axelerant, this metric impacts performance summaries in our teams’ appraisals.

Phase 3: Delivering Quality

Growth begins when teams are able to meet partner expectations without negative variation. This consistency is key. Consistency of quality service delivery lends to trust. But above and beyond that, there’s more value we have to offer:

Consultative: We’re able to advise our partners proactively, add value by suggesting changes that can significantly impact their bottom line, help them address technical debt, and keep up with industry trends (for example, if there’s a security release that’ll affect the project). Without this aspect, all the team is doing is grunt work, which doesn’t help partners avoid problems or seize opportunities.

Retrospective: We look back at decisions made and consider what we can do better. We consider the NPS data as our scorecard and use it to guide us to making improvements. We retrospect, adapt, evolve and deliver better next time.

Proactive: We put meeting our partners’ goals above all else. And when our partners face problems, we’re right alongside them, supporting them in any way we can.

As an instance of this: with one of our partners, the onboarding was quite fragmented as there was no documentation available from the partner’s side. Our team asked the right questions and acted consultatively. Without anyone asking, they came up with the documentation themselves, so that for new projects, our partner now has the documentation provided by Axelerant.

In essence, journey mapping is about trying to visualize what the partner as a customer is going through in their journey with us. This requires us to be empathetic at every step. Without a clear picture of this, it will be difficult to meet expectations, and that leads to lost opportunities on both sides.

Phase 4: Exceeding expectations

This is when customers are confident and seeing the increased value that the partner agency is delivering. This could include finishing ahead of schedule, for example, perhaps with consultative recommendations or other incremental improvements.

For Axelerant, meeting expectations without variation is an important element of our Partner Agency Success philosophy. This stage then seems to deviate from this operational norm.

However, where there is opportunity to optimize and present enhanced value, always within the scope of partner needs, we will indicate and pursue. Having a Drupal partner that doesn't invest time to push their own boundaries on your behalf or consider new, more effective, more efficient ways to accomplish goals, is a stagnant extension to your agency—not a partner.

There's value in having a Drupal partner who moves with you and who helps you move along with the world. As technology moves just fast enough for you to fall behind, a partner that meets and then exceeds expectations ensures a job well done, with identified and initiated improvements wherever applicable.

In another instance, due to a contractual problem with the end client, one of our partners had to freeze work on a particular project that was staffed by a large number of Axelerant team members. Potentially, we were facing a huge revenue loss. We spoke with them regularly but tried not to push them towards a resolution, because we recognized that they were finding this just as difficult as we were, and they didn’t have an answer.

The workaround we implemented was to act as their extended team; we utilised team members from the frozen project on other projects for the same partner. This resulted in better utilization of staff, and by expediting other projects, we created additional value (i.e. exceeding expectations) and mitigated the risk for them.

This was not an expectation that they had set. Through open discussion and understanding, we made them feel like their own extended team.

Phase 5: Shared Value Creation

This is the ultimate goal of a symbiotic partnership that’s designed to grow and prosper. We need to invest the bandwidth and time to consider new horizons with our partners, and recommend and point out opportunities that could benefit them. This involves strategic planning to consider what could be possible, what would be good for them.

This a collaborative, thought-leadership driven approach that’s contextual on the partnership, which enables us to grow closer and expand at the same time. This is the ultimate goal of any successful parner journey. Where could it take you? The sky's the limit. 

Agency Success

Feb 14 2018
Feb 14
There’s a Drupal outsourcing paradox, don’t you know.

For most agencies, the biggest factor driving them offshore has been the difference in cost. That is, the difference by cost of living and consequently labor expenses around the world.

However, that cost gap is steadily shrinking. Over time, as salaries in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly India, keep rising, and salary increases in the US and Europe slow to a crawl, the labor cost gap gets smaller each year. In fact, for many development related roles, labor costs have tripled in India since 2005. Putting them on par with Asia's Far East technology workforce.

The “Q3 2017 Salary Budget Planning Report” released by global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson projects that in 2018, salaries in India will increase by 10%, which is the same as in 2017. While year-on-year, the salary increases are slowing, India still leads the Asia-Pacific region in salary growth as of 2018. And within the country, some sectors can be expected to offer above average salary hikes.

In contrast, in the US, the numbers look very different. LA-based executive search and recruiting firm, Korn Ferry, expects salary increases in the US to be at an average of 3% in 2018—the same as in 2017. However, adjusting for inflation, the real increase is 1%—almost half the corresponding figure in 2017, 1.9%.

Although the cost gap will continue to be in play for the next few years, by many accounts it will continue to level out over time. What will be the measure of value then? 

What should these changes mean?

For end-clients with high goals for their product outcomes, it’s clear that cost becomes less meaningful of a metric by which to gauge the real value of Drupal outsourcing. 

If agencies expect quality work from their global partners, the cost of materials and services will have variations. In global delivery cases, the benefits might be the same, but the costs can be less. This being a prime factor for choosing offshore Drupal development.

Ultimately though, this is about the end-product; one which has an intrinsic value based on the costs of the means by which it’s produced. Which means it’s the outsourcing partner they choose that makes the difference in cost-to-benefit. The people, processes and technology engaged are the factors that can make or break a project, rather than cost alone. 

How do you determine good outsourcing pricing?

While cost is a valid concern when shortlisting an offshore Drupal partner, selecting the partner with the lowest cost can’t be the only objective.

An important aspect to consider while making such a decision is that the outsourcing of goods and the outsourcing of services do not work in the same way. When the end product is goods, the only competing factor is price. Nothing changes significantly in the quality of the output across locations given exacting specifications and same results.

But when the product is an ongoing service, there will be vast differences in skills, qualifications, strengths and weaknesses, availability, etc., of the people delivering that service. Especially if they are based in different countries around the world.

Additionally, there can also be significant variations in indirect costs, like team management, employee benefits, tool sets, training, etc. All of these need to be weighed carefully too.

You have to consider your vision.

What can help you accurately determine cost is your long-term vision. What is it that you hope to achieve from the engagement? As Michael Cannon our CRO always says to us and prospective partners: “What are you looking to accomplish?”

Are you looking for a one-off, end-to-end project or a stable long-term partnership that you can consistently rely on? What kind of capabilities do you need, and how easy or difficult is it to find teams—locally or otherwise—with these needed capabilities?

To effectively weigh the project cost, agencies should consider the cost of the investment made against the likelihood of project success and project continuity.

If a delivery team is ill-prepared, the project as a whole is going to cost you more. If agency teams are not properly qualified, higher costs are incurred over time in terms of project failure: work that needs to be done over. This would translate into an increased total cost of ownership (TCO) for the project and it’s a familiar place agency decision makers find themselves in after rushing into an end-to-end outsourcing contract.

The real factor to consider while weighing this decision is the possible ROI from any team of developers you consider hiring. What agencies need above all is quality services delivered on time, reliable expertise that they can call on, and project continuity guaranteed.

Outsourced teams must ensure this business continuity for agencies. And successful engagements require agencies to effectively sync and to be able to recognize and nurture partnerships like this to the fruition.

Realize you get what you pay for.

It’s not popular to say, but TANSTAAFL! (That’s unpopular English for there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.) When it comes to the MVP you’re looking to achieve, what are you willing to pay and what are your expectations?

This is more about your comfort level than someone else's. There are teams in places like India, UAE, Nigeria, and elsewhere creating advanced and simple digital experiences with Drupal. Just like any other region. 

Drupal developer rates, including those outside of the U.S., typically range broadly from $15 to upwards of $85 depending of course on whether the project requires Junior Engineers or Technical Architects. This is expounded by how many front-end, back-end, mobile, DevOps engineers, QA specialists, and other project management and oversight are needed.

End specifications dictate bottom lines. It’s an obvious point, yet one often forgotten by cost-driven outsource solution seekers. If you’re looking for the Drupal 8 site build and migration of a complex Quantcast Top 50, requiring a full team backed by mature processes, it’s going to cost relatively the same whether the developers are based in Boston or Bangalore. 

There will be differentials for sure, like an increased time to market (TTM) by harnessing the follow the sun (FTS) delivery model. Or the savings accrued by avoiding inflated local costs brought on by limited talent pools. 

Where’s the real ROI?

Agencies could make the same investment in an in-house team, but this would cost them more in terms of the time and resources required to support such a team long-term. It also means missing out on other opportunities while focusing on internal team maintenance, turnover, employee benefits, and other factors. 

There’s a lot to gain from entering into meaningful partnerships with outsourcing partners who are focused on value creation. 

There’s the ROI on free hands (AKA the value of reallocation). Being able to transfer project delivery to a partner means that in-house agency teams are free to pursue opportunities that may come their way. In the case of Drupal, consider Drupal 7 support that enables Drupal 8 project acceleration. 

There’s value in having a partner who moves with you. And who helps you move along with the world. Drupal moves fast enough for you to fall behind. An effective partner would ensure that agency teams do not lag behind in terms of technology. This would mean partners have the agency’s best interest at heart, and freely use foresight and good judgement to determine what is best for you, the agency under the circumstances. 

In a partnership like this, there is a sense of consultative shared value creation. Relationships like this are driven by partners being willing to say no and arguing for what is right for the agency; rather than just being led along blindly. This requires partners to be mature enough to not merely do what the agency asks for, but also be willing to push back in favor of a better alternative. This needs experience and good judgement, and these are the qualities that transform such engagements into successful long-term partnerships. 

Partnerships like this help to lower TCO over time. When agencies outsource to the right team, lowered costs and process maturity become core long-term benefits. An outsourced team that works as your partner (than a cheap supplier) can prevent you from falling into pitfalls like expertise gaps, with projects needing to be redone again (and again).

We have a perspective on factoring prices.

Delivering successful projects again and again requires not just talent but also the machinery, process and backing built in to support them. Ultimately, your choice of partner boils down to one question: Would you rather pay only for the talent needed to execute your project, or would you rather have the talent and mechanisms needed to support them?

Setting your team up for success costs money and takes real effort. At Axelerant, we look to add value in every way possible. We hire talent from all over the world, and our staff includes the top contributors to Drupal. We have minimized physical infrastructure costs and invested the savings them back into the business to scale up the quality of the people and processes that constitute our teams.

We’re laser focused on the upskilling and growth of our team members. We treat our staff as stakeholders. Over the years, we have come up with a number of varied initiatives that push our team members to grow in different ways.

  • Hiring: Our hiring is very selective, so only the best get to be part of our team. This means that from the word go, we’re setting the bar pretty high. Less than 1% of applicants are hired and pass the trial-hire.
  • Learning & Development: We put great emphasis on professional development:
    • We have a Drupal Engineering Career Ladder for each team member, giving them clarity on the next steps in their career
    • We encourage them to pursue continuing education ($1000 per person)
    • We sponsor all relevant certifications, especially Acquia Certifications
    • We sponsor global event participation ($500 per person)
  • Culture: We have a unique culture, grounded in openness, enthusiasm, generosity:
  • Team Benefits: We offer a number of other benefits:
    • New team member referrals ($100)
    • New device funding every two years ($700)
    • Gifts and swag ($100)
    • Local and corporate retreat ($1000)
    • Coworking space ($1200)
    • Fitness ($300)
    • Monthly team meetup allowance ($240)
    • Health, dental, and vision for immediate and extended family members
    • EPF, Pension Plan ($360)

With other benefits considered, these add up to over $5,000 per Axelerant team member annually. Despite the expense, engaging and retaining top people abroad and ensuring that they are fully empowered and have their needs met is certainly cheaper than $1,700 a month family-health insurance premiums like those found in the United States.

At Axelerant, we do work differently. It means that agencies that choose to work with us have a different experience than others. The way we provide service is not the same as every other offshore company. Our team members are among the best at what they do, hungry for challenges, and driven to succeed. This is how we ensure customer delight for our customers. And the results speak for themselves.

40% of our staff from five years ago, is still with us today. Moreover, what current and past employees say about working here says it all.

Our contrast in the world of Drupal outsourcing.

We’ve found that our clients have stuck with us even through the tough times. The feedback we consistently receive is that we have great team members, that our managers offer exceptional support, and that our customers see the value we create.

A key reason why we stand out in comparison to other agencies is our agency exclusivity. We’ve limited our focus and customized our services with a strategic focus on agencies. This means we’re uniquely positioned to understand the challenges that agencies face, and we’ve committed ourselves to resolving them. 

When two teams with different cultures, processes and methodologies come together, there can often be teething issues between them. In such cases, Success Managers at Axelerant works to set clear expectations and resolve any difficulties.

Axelerant team members have to be highly proactive. When picking up a project midway, there may be issues with missing information, for example, a lack of documentation. Instead of trying to pass the blame onto someone else, we look for solutions. This is our culture. And this is not something that is limited to a particular department.

This is who we strive to be, from junior engineers to leadership. We believe that this ambition matters. The energy we bring to the project matters.

Agency partnerships should be about value creation.

We’re passionate about what we do, and as a global delivery team worth our salt, we have an axe to grind. This hunger to prove ourselves makes us push ourselves hard to do the best job possible, every time. Try as they might, there’s no going back from globalism.

The tide is turning, the winds have changed—the agency-delivery marketplace is inextricably tied to global delivery. Agencies choosing Drupal outsourcing as a means to grow is ultimately an ongoing case study, reflected at large in the global picture of products and services.

Feb 01 2018
Feb 01

The Acquia certification program (now Acquia Academyoriginally launched in March 2014, offers a useful benchmark that allows Drupal developers and the agencies they’re part of to validate their expertise and promote teams. More than being just a badge, it provides valuable differentiation—an edge enabling global agencies to stand out of a crowd, one often assumed by many to lack aptness or engineering prowess.

Acquia Certifications + Drupal Outsourcing?

With the world moving towards global delivery, end-clients often have concerns about the calibre and competence of global team members, their ability to match industry standards and certifications, quality assurance, security, and so on. As a fully-distributed agency that started over a decade ago, with 50+ team members today operating in The United States, The United Arab Emirates, India, Ethiopia, Japan (and counting), we know well the concerns and objections.

Offshore agencies and developers outside the US and Europe are often perceived by some as being inferior onshore resources. While there may be a number of factors that have contributed to this perception, speaking truth to power, there are many credible agencies in Drupal and highly talented developers who are denied opportunities due to this perception.

Let’s consider this: when teams made up of adept men and women have what they need to succeed, with the right support system behind them, they rise to the occasion—regardless of where they come from.

For agencies that practice global delivery, that are driven by a focus on excellence and invested in their clients’ success, certifications can help level the playing field. They help legitimize the expertise of their team members and their standing in the community (e.g. Drupal Grand Master status). Ultimately for global team members, this is about the validation of skills and a provided measure almost always requested by partners or end-clients.

Let’s take a closer look at Acquia Certifications.

The Acquia certification tests are comprised mainly of scenario-based questions with detailed multiple choice answers. Exams are designed to validate skills and knowledge of a Drupal Site Builder. They are taken under strict conditions, making it impossible for candidates to look up answers.

These tests assess candidates’ problem-solving skills in real-world scenarios, as opposed to merely testing their recall, as standardized tests often unfortunately tend to do. This is therefore not a test candidates can cram for. It is not enough to have programming experience—these questions will test for experience specifically with Drupal.

Candidates may have studied the code, but if they have not used it, they will have difficulty answering these questions. Developers would need to have built real sites with Drupal and dealt with the actual problems that occur in order to be effectively prepared for this test. This makes the test a good indicator of candidates’ prior experience of working with Drupal as well as their efficiency in solving problems. Preparation via immersion is the only real way.

No assessment system is perfect and the Acquia certification test too has limitations. While the test does validate real-world experience with Drupal and acts as an excellent first-level filter, at the end of the day, it cannot effectively replace candidates’ actual work or contributions made to the Drupal project as a direct measure of their ability. The type of commits a candidate has made always reveasl more about them than the number of certifications.

Do Acquia Certifications even matter anymore?

The short answer is yes and here's why. At a high-level, clients and agencies can both benefit immensely from having certified developers on their teams in a number of ways, and the proof is in the continuity of the program and the requests by stakeholders. Here are four key reasons which regard both team members and the agency’s they are a part of: 

1. Providing Standardization For Clients

Certifications certainly matter to clients, who are often looking for some kind of objective standard to establish the calibre of individuals on their agency team. 

“In such cases, certifications provide a strong, reliable filter for a certain baseline level of developers that you want to have on your team,” says Hussain Abbas, Engineering Manager at Axelerant, Acquia Certified Drupal Grand Master, and core contributor.

2. Showcasing Validated Skills For Developers  

Agencies can also benefit from having team members who are certified on their teams, as certifications provide an opportunity for them to showcase the efficiency and competency of developers on their staff. Certifications act as an equalizer, allowing them to gain an equal footing compared to other, more established businesses in the field.

Particularly for agencies based in locations other than the US or Europe, certifications communicate standardization and help remove bias. For global developers and agencies who are just getting started, who may have just as much competence, ability and drive as more established businesses in key locations, certifications reassure clients that they will be able to deliver in spite of cultural differences, language differences or a variety of scenarios which it is not usually possible to test for in a single interview. 

“Rather than spending time testing for all of these different scenarios, you can just use the certification as a filter. If the certification is reliable, which in my opinion it is, it works as a strong indicator of later efficiency in the output from the developer,” says Hussain. 

3. Enabling Individual Growth

For those new to the field, certifications also provide a roadmap to follow, and opportunities for growth and learning. Beginners in Drupal who are looking to get certified, even if they have experience building a few Drupal sites, probably still would not have had the opportunity to use many of the features that Drupal offers. The process of preparing for the certification will give these developers the chance to explore these aspects and features of Drupal, and see their value.

Once developers have graduated to a specialist or developer certification, they will have a more specific target to aim for on the development side of things. Here, they will face Drupal-specific terminology, as well as technologies and techniques specific to Drupal, which are not used in other ecosystems.

“While preparing for these certifications, you will come to appreciate how Drupal does these things. This helps build your knowledge, allowing you to eventually use these techniques in your project work,” says Bassam Ismail, Front-end Architect at Axelerant, and Acquia Certified Drupal Grand Master.

4. Streamlining Effective Agency Hiring

At Axelerant and other agencies, certifications are usually valued for hiring. In addition, while opinions on the merits of certifications can vary, the fact that a candidate has made the effort to become certified provides evidence that they are willing to go the extra mile.

“Certified candidates are generally sufficiently good even by our standards, and our interview standards are rather high... if someone is certified, it tells me that person is open to thinking outside their own box. It’s an indication of flexibility, and I would lean towards that," says Hussain.

It also reflects on candidates’ commitment to excellence in their field.

According to Hussain: "Just seeing that you’ve gone through the preparation tells me a lot about a candidate that is not related to their technical skills. It shows commitment and discipline, which are traits to be valued.”

Ultimately, it’s really all about that process of preparation involved in acquiring the certification, that journey you have to take to get to your goal. By itself, any degree or qualification really doesn’t mean anything, but it signifies everything done to get that mark.

Prateek Jain, Engineering Manager at Axelerant, believes that “the real value is in that time you spend preparing.” 

Bassam adds: “While you are preparing to give the test, you get to learn a lot of things. And clients appreciate certified developers. So it’s a win-win.”

Therefore, rather than getting entrenched in one or the other, it is any global agency’s responsibility, and it is also in their best interest, to encourage both commits and certifications as a way to inspire confidence in the eyes of clients.

How can we be supportive of certification programs?

At Axelerant, we fund and curate a list of certifications (36 Acquia Certifications and counting) and reimburse team members who wish to take them in-full. But besides taking care of the logistical aspects, there are many more ways agencies can support team members with a desire to get certified.

Structure Around Skill Development

We’ve found that it’s not just about placing more emphasis on team members getting certified—it’s more about creating a culture where skill development is a key focus for everyone. For team members to be invested in their own growth and to have regular opportunities to further explore their areas of interest, goal-setting needs to be a part of the agency’s cultural ethos. At Axelerant, we make this happen in several ways.

We’ve implemented Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for all our team members, which are closely aligned with the company’s strategic objectives. We’ve also launched Objectives and Key Results (OKR’s) across the organization, encouraging team members to bring forward their goals in relation to organizational objectives, and move forward synergistically to achieve them.

In addition to this, mentors help their mentees set quarterly and yearly goals, and conduct regular one-on-ones to help them track progress and solve problems along the way. We use tools and templates designed to help teams track their goals successfully, and this ensures that that our one-on-ones are always fruitful and focused on the right things.

Our emphasis on treating our agency staff as stakeholders factors into Axelerant’s entablement of continuous learning in-full. As we expect our team members to keep learning continuously via regular feedback, reviews, and retrospectives. This means our teams are always evolving into better, more effective versions of themselves—with ROI incentives.

All of these efforts have to be documented; this is helpful in terms of offering visibility into team members’ growth journey, particularly when they’re being considered for promotions. Paramount to this internally is our Engineering Career Ladder, formed with standardized levels which include certifications. All these efforts ensure that team members feel encouraged to keep pushing their own limits.

Specific Skill-Focused Mentoring

A well developed mentorship program can help team members build on their skill set and accelerate their growth. Mentors can help mentees identify the right certification to aim for. They can also help them set a timeline, source the right study material, and prepare for the test, or direct them to other team members who can help them with the preparation.

At Axelerant, we have a growing focus on skill-specific development. Increasingly, we’re trying to pair team members with a certain interest with mentors who can assist them particularly with developing that skill.

Prateek remarks: “This skill-specific mentoring is something I have not seen happening enough in most agencies.”

At Axelerant, the goal is to establish a rotational system, where team members are given the opportunity to be paired with a mentor for a specific duration, acquire a certain skill, and then move on to a new mentor to learn a new skill.

“This kind of unique mentoring structure would be strategic and to the benefit of both individuals as well as the projects they’re on,” he adds.

Fostered Development In New Areas 

Agencies must also recognize that certifications enable goal-directed learning for team members, allowing them to develop a diverse skill set. This can be particularly valuable in situations where people are entrenched in particular projects for long periods of time.

Prateek continues: “Certifications provide an accessible way for team members to dip their hand in a new area. They can begin preparing to get certified in something that’s outside the realm of their day-to-day work, and they’re able to mix it up.”

While certifications do not reveal everything that clients need to know about Drupal agency team members, they do communicate a certain level of standardization, efficiency and problem-solving ability, and have the potential to positively impact individual Drupalers, as well as Drupal agencies and their clients.

What’s the point here?

Acquia Certifications, as demonstrable means of acquired skills being validated, are helping to rectify global delivery in Drupal. It’s in the hands of agency decision makers to take this further. That means making this work for the betterment of the individual and the collective community—to nurture growth in abilities and opportunities, regardless of boundaries, biases, or the fear of change.

Nov 30 2017
hr
Nov 30


The Axelerant team checks in from around the world to fuel success for themselves and our agency partners—and now we’re expanding.

Today, we’re investing in and fostering more talent across the world, with time-tested delivery, hiring, and customer success processes. Many distributed teams like ours have experience using a fully-distributed work model to the advantage of clients. It’s no secret that global collaboration is much easier today, from timezone management to effective communication means that get better every year.

What we’re doing is a little different: 50+ team members, five countries.

And central to this is Axelerant’s internal work culture and our message about work-life balance—read: happiness. Through Axelerant flexibility and our remote culture we are giving people resources to focus on wholesome life.

Unlike many agencies and other organizations both near and offshore we treat our staff as stakeholders not numbers, with international travel and trainings, and giving them the opportunity to collaborate on big brand projects.

Where are we going?

Closer to our agency partners. That means servicing US, Canada, Western and Central Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East with more ease and efficiency. We're looking into expanding in these regions between now and early 2018. 

What’s the strategy behind this?

To strategically build more bridges across the zone for even more optimized collaboration with our agency partners. With a larger global reach, not only do our agency partners get all the advantages associated with traditional global outsourcing engagements, they achieve more.

We needed more for our partners.

These traditional benefits include competitive rates, but the operational reasons and benefits are what’s really important here: agency partners are able to leverage round-the-clock delivery, as people from different time zones work in synchronicity to get their project delivered. They get the ability to deliver larger, more complex projects.

They can leverage variable staffing models to suit project requirements, and scale resources as needed. They get to source the best talent from around the world, and increase their access to specialized skills. And they can take advantage of the mutual knowledge transfer between two highly skilled teams, and gain a sustainable edge.

The value derived from the cost optimization that these engagements facilitate gets cycled back into the business, into newer initiatives and bigger projects.

New regional operations create new opportunities.

With closer locations becoming available, physical team visits become much easier and more frequent. Regionally sourcing talent in this way allows for easy in-person access.

This makes it easier to maintain project accountability, and allows our agency partners to have customer facing staff that are placed close to client locations. Having staff presence in a local market can also assist agencies with localization and internationalization of web applications.

Apart from this, having more team members in varied locations also allows teams to build an international dimension to who we are. We’re looking forward to fostering more diverse experience on our team, and to building up the community in these areas with Open Source evangelism and value-driven opportunity creation.

On to more holistic grassroots community investment.

By expanding globally, we’re also supporting the growth of communities like Drupal. While local or regional markets may not always offer skilled talent the opportunities they seek, our global reach creates new opportunities for people around the world. We've always been deeply focused on our people and culture. Continuously expanding around the world and trying to reach more people and drive a positive impact together is our next big thing.

We’re looking forward to fostering more diverse experience on our team, and to building up the community in these areas with Open Source evangelism and value-driven opportunity creation.

Sep 22 2016
Sep 22

Giving back to our communities isn’t a new thing for us. And come Monday, five of our team members will be at DrupalCon Dublin. There will be plenty of Axelerant to go around. We’ve got three sessions, each in a different track, and the official event photography team will be led by Michael, our COO.

But before we get into what we’re bringing to Dublin, we should mention that we started to schedule our meet and greets. And we want you to be one of them. Let’s get together at a local brew pub and talk about Open Source problems and solutions in the community:

Let's connect at DrupalCon Dublin

Now, let’s get into what we’re up to. We’re presenting in Front-End, Project Management, and Business tracks at DrupalCon Dublin, so be sure to add them to your list.

Choosing The “Right Agile Methodology” For Your Drupal Projects

Date: 09/27/2016

Time: 14:15 to 15:15

Room: Liffey Meeting 4 | New Relic

Add this session to my schedule!

Shani and Prabhat will explore and compare different agile methodologies and share tips on how to choose the right one so you can accelerate your Drupal project. In this session, they’ll cover effective uses of CYNEFIN, a popular decision-making framework, to differentiate between Drupal projects and choosing right agile methodologies for the same.

Shani and Prabhat will cover:

  • Scrum
  • Extreme programming
  • Feature-driven development
  • Scrumban
  • Kanban
  • Lean development

Expected Takeaways:

A clearer idea of which methodology is right for each project, considering: project size, team size, iteration length, roles and responsibilities, and distributed team support. They’ll also discuss risk mitigation levels and customer interaction.

Growing Via Strategic Account Management Frameworks

Date: 09/27/2016

Time: 17:00 to 18:00

Room: Wicklow Hall 2A | Druid

Add this session to my schedule!

Piyush will take you through our Account Management practice and share some real-life case studies demonstrating how we hit target sales quota by 2-3x and achieved maximum strategic account objectives within the desired timeline.

Have you connected with Piyush yet?

Piyush will cover:

  • Customer onboarding process
  • Kickoff meetings
  • Routine engagement health check-ins
  • Invoicing and collections management
  • Satisfaction surveys and testimonials management
  • Complaint and grievances management
  • Contract renewals and extensions.
  • Opportunity exploration: researching the client, industry, references, social media, etc.
  • Evangelizing clients via social media, digital marketing, and event participations

Expected Takeaways:

  • What is Account Management?
  • What skills and talents are required to excel in Account Management specific to Drupal
  • What activities must be performed to maximize Account Management ROI?
  • What are some of the accountabilities and performance metrics used?

React Front-End For Your Drupal 8 Back-End

Date: 09/29/2016

Time: 12:00 to 13:00

Room: Wicklow Hall 2B | Platform.sh

Add this session to my schedule!

Aliya and Bassam will give a hands-on session. By the end of it, you’ll have learned how to build a decoupled website using React ecosystem on the front-end, using Drupal 8 as the content management system (and a data source).

Aliya and Bassam will cover:

  • How to configure Drupal to expose RESTful resources using Drupal 8
  • Enable CORS support for the domains/port running our React application
  • Authenticate requests using JWT
  • Consume data on front-end using Redux store
  • Pass data from Redux store React components

Expected Takeaways:

  • Be able to build a RESTful API using Drupal 8
  • Use any backend with react front-end

Covering DrupalCon Dublin

Michael has a knack for capturing Open Source events around the world as a way of giving back. He’s been leading the photography for two DrupalCons now: DrupalCon Asia and DrupalCon New Orleans.

He’s coming fully equipped to help the Drupal Association immortalize DrupalCon Dublin for all of us, and you can help. If you’d like to contribute to this process, there’s still time to join the “Official Photography Team.”

And while he’ll be running around the event like a paparazzo, Michael would still like to connect with you one-on-one to answer any questions you have about Axelerant. Be sure to take him up on the offer if there’s something you feel we can help you accomplish.

Want to chat about something? Parth Gohil

Parth Gohil

Parth is Axelerant's Community Manager hailing from Surat. He loves supporting open source communities, piloting single-engine aircraft, and being a Cha-Cha Productions actor.

Jul 28 2016
Jul 28

This Drupal cache case study began on a pleasant January afternoon in beautiful Goa. The entire company flew in for our annual retreat, enjoying the scenic beauty of the sandy beaches and the cool breeze. Between the fun times, we were ducking into our remote workspace, poring over a cachegrind report sent over by our client.

This report was generated for ajax responses coming from a product page on an e-commerce website. We could clearly see that the page was extremely slow to render and that this was true for all ajax responses.

The Cachegrind report as sent by the client - Drupal Cache: A Case StudyThe Cachegrind report as sent by the client – Drupal Cache: A Case Study

Progressive Doping

Digging deeper to figure out what was causing the performance bottleneck, we use XDebug to generate cachegrind files, which we could then analyze to determine what functions were costing us the most, or where there were functional paths that could be truncated via caching. Performing this process iteratively we came up with a list of major pain areas. This list was very specific to our project.

  1. Function “get nid from product_id” was being frequently called with a resulting resource consuming data query.
  2. Function “hook_commerce_checkout_pane_info_alter” was being executing on each request.
  3. Product filtering for a particular type of user was a resource consuming activity
  4. Function “get product_id matching attributes” was being frequently called, with a resulting resource consuming query.
  5. The theme function “theme_extra_bundles_radio” was processing some resource consuming business logic.
  6. A lot of calls were made to the “entity_load” function.

Drupal Cache

It is a widely accepted fact that as great as the Drupal 7 core can be, it doesn’t scale well for web sites with a lot of content and a lot of users. To extract the best performance under such scenarios, it’s necessary to make use of several strategies, tools, and techniques. Keeping this in mind, we settled down with the following strategies:

  • Basic Drupal caching:

Drupal offers basic performance settings at:

Administration > Configuration > Performance > Development > Performance (admin/config/development/performance)

Here we enabled block and page caching which cached the dynamic complex SQL queries of Drupal for quick retrieval of content. We also enabled the Compress cached pages, Aggregate and compress CSS files and Aggregate JavaScript files which further helped in bandwidth optimization by reducing the number of HTTP calls.

Lineup/Dealership cache - Drupal Cache: A Case StudyLineup/Dealership cache – Drupal Cache: A Case Study

You can also define your panel cache method for your particular use case and cache the panel content.  First, define a ctool plugin like:

<?php // Plugin definition. $plugin = array( 'title' => t("Example cache"),
  'description' => t('Provides a custom option to cache the panel content.'),
  'cache get' => 'my_module_cache_get_cache',
  'cache set' => 'my_module_cache_set_cache',
);

/**
 * Get cached content.
 */
function my_module_cache_get_cache($conf, $display, $args, $contexts, $pane = NULL) {
   $cache = cache_get(‘my_panel_data', 'cache_panels');
  if (!$cache) {
        return FALSE;
  }

  if ((time() - $cache->created) > $conf['lifetime']) {
        return FALSE;
  }

  return $cache->data;
}

/**
 * Set cached content.
 */
function my_module_cache_set_cache($conf, $content, $display, $args, $contexts, $pane = NULL)    {

        cache_set('my_panel_data', $content, 'cache_panels');
}

?>
  • Custom caching:

After looking at few more cachegrind reports, we identified some custom functions that were causing a performance problem and thrashing the database to perform complex queries and expensive calculations every time a user viewed specific pages. This prompted  us to use Drupal’s built-in caching API’s

The rule is never to do something time-consuming twice if we can hold onto the result and reuse them. This can be depicted in a simple example:

<?php function my_module_function() { $data = &drupal_static(__FUNCTION__); if (!isset($data)) { // Here goes the complex and expensive calculations and populate $data // with the output of the calculations. } return $data; } ?>

The drupal_static function provides a temporary storage to functions for data that sticks around even after they are done executing. drupal_static adds the magic to this function. It returns an empty value on the first call and preserves the data on next call in the same request. That means our function now can determine if the variable is already populated or not. If it has been populated, it will return the value and skip the expensive calculations.

The static variable technique stores data for only a single page load. To overcome this situation Drupal cache API persists the cached data in a database. The Following code snippet illustrates the use of Drupal cache API

<!--?php function my_module_function()   {   
$data   =       &drupal_static(__FUNCTION__);           
if (!isset($data)) {
  $cache = cache_get('my_module_data', 'cache_my_module')
  if ($cache && time() < $cache->expire) { 
    $data = $cache--->data;
  }
  else {
    // Here goes the complex and expensive calculations and populate
   // $data with the output of the calculations.
   cache_set('my_module_data', $data, 'cache_my_module', time() + 360);
  }
}
return $data;
}
?>

This version of the function uses database caching. Drupal caching API provides three key functions –  cache_get(), cache_set() and cache_clear_all(). The initial check is made to the static variable, and then this function checks Drupal’s cache for data stored with a particular key. If data is found the $data is set to $cache->data.

If no cached version is found, the function performs the actual work to generate the data and saves it to the static variable at the same time which means that in the next call in the same request, it does not even need cache_get.

Finally, we get a slick little function that saves time whenever it can—first checking for an in-memory copy of the data, then checking the cache, and finally calculating it from scratch.

Conclusion:

After putting all these together, we were able to reduce the total number of functions call to 741 and the execution time reduced to 665ms. Hence we get the 1500% of performance boost.

Cachegrind Report Generated After Implementing Drupal Cache. - Drupal Cache: A Case StudyCachegrind Report Generated After Implementing Drupal Cache. – Drupal Cache: A Case Study Want to learn how to set up RESTful Drupal Caching?

References:

This article was originally published in April 2015.

Jul 21 2016
Jul 21

Using Drupal in higher education has been a popular choice among leading schools. It’s become the preferred website platform for hundreds of institutions of higher learning around the world. Schools like Harvard UniversityStanford Law SchoolDuke UniversityBrown UniversityRutgers UniversityUniversity of OxfordUniversity of Prince Edward IslandKarlstad UniversityZaman UniversityBentley UniversityUncommon SchoolsUniversity of Waterloo, and Yale have chosen Drupal as their preferred content management framework because it best supports current and future needs of students, faculty, alumni, and their communities.

In short, Drupal has proven these top schools that it serves higher education website needs. Here are some specific reasons why it’s best for your school.

The Top 14 Reasons To Use Drupal In Higher Education:

1. Multi-Site Functionality

Most universities and colleges maintain multi-faceted websites, ones that serve a broad range of purposes. By leveraging Drupal’s built-in multi-site functionality, institutions provide their departments with a substantial toolbox and relevant media types for communicating with students, staff, and other users via a single system.

This multi-site capability helps institutions break out independent websites by giving control and ownership to individual departments. This control structure significantly reduces administrative overhead from the IT office. SomeDrupal in higher education distributions like Open Atrium allow you to build intranets for any educational institution.

2. Easy Responsive Design Implementation

According to an eMarketer study, an estimated 90 percent of US college students will own a smartphone by the time they graduate in 2016. Now with Drupal 8, academic centers can easily use Drupal in higher education to stay up-to-date and relevant to users by delivering smoother, responsive website experiences out of the box.

Experiences from each user’s device of choice. Drupal sites adapt to user evolutions, making it optimal for institutions with student demographics. It’ll also be easier for admins to manage content with a dashboard (one that’s responsive and mobile ready out of the box as well).

3. Workflow Modules

Drupal’s Workflow modules and features set allow universities and colleges to control and manage the publication process actually, without limiting its use as a mere content management tool. There’s granular control available for every content operation.

At each step, employees can be notified to complete their tasks (like editing). This control keeps team members from performing tasks out of order and keep projects moving forward.

4. Content & User Access Control

With Content and User Access Control, site administrators can create privileges grouped together by access level, function, and role. These permission sets can be assigned to groups of users rather than manually granting privileges to each and every user. Permission sets help decentralize task responsibilities like creating, editing, and managing content, all without putting extra workload on your IT hub.

These Drupal in higher education access control features are exceptionally handy on university websites where professors, students, alumni, and site visitors require unique user experiences and different access rights. The domain access module enables sharing content across multiple sites quickly, allowing site owners to share configuration settings and users among various college or university portals.

5. Multilingual Awesomeness

With Drupal 8 now available in over 110 languages, you can have your site available in almost any language that your student demographic needs. This feature allows decision makers to take into account: international student associations, global event communications, foci of studies, and more.

6. Efficient Use Of Taxonomy System

Drupal’s taxonomy system is a robust method for classifying website content into groups. Taxonomy systems can be designed and deployed on a per-content basis.

This system ensures extremely efficient content categorization on the site, resulting in ease of access for site visitors or users. Through taxonomy usage, only relevant content is delivered to site visitors; this avoids distractions and simplifies navigation.

View Our Work

7. Collaboration Modules

Apart from forward-facing content—static pages, forums, course schedules, blogs, and articles—Drupal provides powerful collaboration features and document management for back-end users. These systems are not typically part of the public front-end but are critical for faculty and students who require access to manuals, handbooks, procedural guides, and research documents. Because of its tools for collaboration, Drupal is a prime system for supporting internal teams and research for university and college websites.

8. Single Sign-On

Most higher education institutions have existing authentication systems for email or other internal accounts. With Drupal using LDAP and CAS, single sign-on for academic websites are easily doable. These single point access integrations result in a secure environment for users who want multiple resources and services via a single login.

9. Community Support for Drupal in Higher Education

IT movers and doers can connect with Drupal community groups around the world, and can easily search the issue queue for questions and answers related to institutes of higher education. Some community group examples are:

10. Social Media & Email Campaigns

Drupal’s integrated capabilities make engagement easier. From email marketing services like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. to higher ed social media campaigns launched via Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest modules, and more.

11. Drupal’s Multisite Approach

Multisite management needs are common for institutions of higher ed. Different departments or student initiatives often require sister domains. Drupal’s flexibility means effective content storage for each website. Sharing different site content can be done with the Domain Access module, allowing configuration, user, and content settings to be managed between or across sites.

12. Quick Edits

Drupal sites for institutions of higher education provide an editing fast track. School event location changes, cancelations, and more can be managed quickly by a novice. With CKEditor, creating media rich content is simple and time saving. Media management is simplified by the Media Module in Drupal, it helps embed files in your post, makes files fieldable, enabling the use of text fields to store captions on images, taxonomy fields for audio file genres, etc.

13. Security Reasons

College sites are often targeted, which drives higher ed decision makers to choose their digital platform wisely. Open Source Software (OSS) is generally more secure than proprietary software, and Drupal is no exception. Drupal’s security team is highly responsive and sends frequent security fixes for all actively maintained versions—all security fixes are logged.

14. 400+ Experienced Vendors With Drupal In Higher Education

Colleges and universities have many vendors to choose from. And we’re in the top 10.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

Article originally published on December 3, 2015 and has been updated.

Parth Gohil

Parth Gohil

Parth is Axelerant's Community Manager hailing from Surat. He loves supporting open source communities, piloting single-engine aircraft, and being a Cha-Cha Productions actor.

Jul 06 2016
Jul 06

Development started on Drupal 8 features back in March of 2011. Since then, the developer and application framework world has looked forward to the outcomes of every development, feature completion, clean-up, API completion, beta, and release candidate (RC) phase with baited breath. In November of 2015, Drupal 8.0.0 was released. Sighs of relief turned to curious murmers—what’s this all about?

Drupal 8 takes an already terrific content management framework to ever greater heights for users, administrators, and developers. There’s a seriously sharp focus on user-friendliness, but content presentation, new ways to create data structures, build APIs, multilingual capabilities, and the delivery of mobile accessibility out of the box? Drupal 8 brings those to the table too.

Looking for help with Drupal 8?

There are 16 Drupal 8 features worth knowing.

While Symfony 2 powers the Drupal 8 backend, a lighter and faster core offers tons more capabilities for modules and themes. Plus, the Drupal 8 migration and the onward curve is significantly reduced. These changes and more are key reasons to consider that switch to Drupal 8. But I’m getting ahead of myself, here are the 16 top Drupal 8 features:

1. New Theme Engine

Drupal 8 includes a brand new theming engine called Twig, which is PHP-based, flexible, fast, and secure. It’s much easier to create beautiful and more functional Drupal websites using Twig, as its templates are written in a syntax that’s less complex than a PHP template or others while being more secure.

2. Mobile First From The Get-Go

Drupal 8 is mobile first in its approach. All the built-in themes that come with Drupal 8 are responsive, along with an admin theme that adapts to different screen sizes, and a ‘Back To Site’ button to go back to the front page. Tables fit into any screen size without a hitch, and the new admin toolbar works well on mobile devices.

3. More HTML5 Power to You

HTML5 is now more or less the de facto standard when it comes to writing web markup. The same is now available natively in Drupal 8, giving you access to input fields like date, e-mail, phone, etc., and even more functionality and compatibility with mobile and handheld devices.

4. Multilingual Ready

Drupal 8 boasts extensive multilingual features right out of the box. The admin interface has built-in translations. You can also create pages with language-based Views filtering and block visibility. Translation updates from the community are automatically facilitated.

5. Manage Your Configuration

Drupal 8 has configuration management built into it at the file-system level so that carrying over configuration elements (like content type, views, or fields, etc.) from local development to the server is a breeze. You can use a version-control system to keep track of configuration changes. Configuration data is stored in files, separate from the site database(s).

6. Easy Authoring

New Drupal 8 features bring unprecedented power into the hands of the Content Editor, with WYSIWYG editor CKEditor now bundled with the core. However, the most touted improvement remains the in-place editing capability that Drupal 8 will afford users, a result of the Spark Initiative.

Site and content creators or editors can edit text on any page without having to switch to the full edit form. Drafts are now much easier to create, and web security is now better implemented as a result.

7. Quick Edits

There’s something great about seeing something that needs changing and having the ease of access to change it—directly and quickly. Now Quick Edit is a backport of the Drupal 8 in-place editing for Fields. So if you’re logged into Drupal content is in front of you, edit the text directly for quick fixes and additions from the front-end.

8. Views Now Part of Core

Views sit high up in the Drupal module hierarchy, as it is an integral part of most website projects, and a lot is pretty much impossible without it. Site designers have used use this hitherto-contributed module to output galleries, maps, graphs, lists, posts, tables, menus, blocks, reports, and what-have-you.

With this Drupal 8 feature, Views is part of and firmly integrated with the core. The front page and several administration pages are now Views, and users will now be able to quickly create pages, blocks, admin sections, etc., and modify existing ones just as effortlessly.

9. Better Support for Accessibility

Drupal 8 has excellent support for industry standard accessibility technologies, like WAI-ARIA. ARIA Live Announcements API and TabManager are significant improvements in Drupal 8, which provide control for rich Internet applications. Bells and whistles like better font sizes, tweaked color contrasts, jQuery UI’s autocomplete, and modal dialogs go a long way towards making Drupal 8 a breeze to use.

Download our Ebook: Learn to select your best Drupal Partner

10. Web Services Built-in

Drupal 8 now makes it possible to use itself as a data source, and output content as JSON or XML. You can even post data back to Drupal 8 from the front end. Hypertext Application Language (HAL) is implemented in Drupal 8 and makes exploitation of web service capabilities less painful.

11. Fields Galore

Drupal 8 ships with bucket-loads of field types in the core, thus taking its content structure capabilities up a notch. New field types like entity reference, link, date, e-mail, telephone, etc., aid content creation, and now you can attach fields to more content types, as well as create custom contact forms by attaching fields to them.

12. Guided Tour

Now the descriptive text is right under the help link. Users can click and then take the tour; pop-ups appear, explaining how this all works, one of the most helpful Drupal 8 features to newcomers. This user-friendly boost is well-received as it’s making the CMS easier for everyone to understand.

13. Loading Speed

Drupal 8 caches all entities and only loads JavaScript when necessary. When a page is viewed, its content doesn’t need to be reloaded again. Previously viewed content is quickly loaded from the cache. Once configured and enabled, caching is completely automatic.

14. Industry Standards

Drupal 8 aligns with the latest PHP 7 standards like PSR-4, namespaces, and traits, and uses top notch, outstanding external libraries like Composer, PHPUnit, Guzzle, Zend Feed Component, Assetic to name a few. Meanwhile, underlying Drupal 8 features modern, object-oriented code that’s the order of the day, by Symfony 2.

15. JavaScript Automated Testing

Automated testing is not possible for front-end, so JaveScript (JS) automated testing is now possible with Drupal 8.1. Now QA’ers can test the JavaScript front-end automatically, saving time and making continuous integration that much easier.

16. Big Pipe in Core

With Big Pipe part of Drupal core, developers can optimize the site load performance for the end-user significantly. While this feature has nothing to with actual performance and is only perceived, it’s a great feature to have since the end user is able to see a difference in site load times.

Enough Drupal 8 features to think about?

These 16 Drupal 8 features are some of the most important reasons that this upgrade is so worth celebrating; it’s the collective work of over 3,000 contributors. But more importantly to you, this might be that big, bright answer you’ve been searching for.

Got Drupal 8 your mind?

More Drupal 8 resources:

This article was originally published in July, 2014. It has since been updated.

Jun 30 2016
Jun 30

We’ve found that the best Drupal agency is the one with a highly functioning, happy team. To be fair, remote or distributed agencies are happier and more productive anyways and that’s based on remote work surveys. But we’re going a step further with the goal of becoming the best Drupal agency, specifically by ensuring our team is a happy one.

Our Goal: Be Best Drupal Agency

There are a few important factors, features of wellness, which help make the best Drupal agency. For us, these are our fantastic Life Coach (working full-time for our team members), peer-determined semi-annual raises, results-based productivity that’s not measured in hours, and much more. How we approach work-life balance, organizational culture, time, and money have changed the way we do everything. Most importantly, it works.

We take employee satisfaction to an extreme

We hired a Life Coach full-time for our team members. This unique move has helped forward our holistic approach to instill job satisfaction, side step burnout, and enable healthy professional growth. Team members can contact our life coach to work on career path objectives, stress management, personal goal setting, life changes, social challenges, and much more.

This internal resource may seem bizarre to some, but it’s an option with benefits that go beyond productive workdays. A life coach fosters satisfaction and helps banish workplace indifference.

We’ve got an excellent kudos system. Our HR system integrates with Slack, which lets us give publically and receive pats on the back throughout the day. We encourage many notes of appreciation, recognizing monthly those who give and receive the most. This enablement creates a healthy and congratulatory environment within our organization.

In a professional environment like this, concealed positive feedback doesn’t always do the job. We’re building a positive culture for our team, with an emphasis on goals, personal development, and satisfaction.

Often when logging into our Slack system, we find personalized messages from the CEO and COO encouraging us to reach out to our leaders and peers if there’s something on our minds. It’s a great way to promote openness and remind everyone, daily, what we value here.

Need to Grow Your Team? Learn How

We make it a point to survey team engagement and belonging. Quarterly surveys give our team members opportunities to bring forward their sentiments. While our open door policy is always in effect, these questionnaires allow us to ensure organizationally Axelerant is feeling good.

Monthly 1-on-1’s are about career growth. Making improvements and milestones are imperative, but you could say that career growth is paramount. Team members discuss with leaders their future so they can visualize the stepping stones.

Being a best Drupal agency is one which enables career growth and skill refinement, and having these every month—for everyone—applies a strategy.

In these meetings, we discuss training opportunities, the possibilities of educational reimbursement and career path changes. If a team member is interested in another vertical or department, we can nurture a transition or part-time involvement.

Our progressive policies are benefits. Team members are encouraged to take advantage of leave, travel, and tech policies whenever applicable. Inside Axelerant, you’ll find travel and technology budgets (Wi-fi reimbursement and device replacement); group health insurance; and a generous 35-days leave plus maternity, sabbatical, and paternity leave options.

Days off are shareable with other team members. And these are paid, of course.

We do work differently

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about burnout in the Drupal community. Work-life balance has been at the heart of this conversation, and at the crux of work-life balance you’ll find company policy. Let’s face it. Overworking, a culture of perpetual overtime, and burnout have a lot—if not everything—to do with an agency’s approach to productivity. The best Drupal agency or firm will put this into perspective and do the right thing.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

We don’t clock in or out. We deliver quality work on time and budget, without timesheets. Productivity is about results via Key Performance Indicators, not punch cards. When you work hard, efficiently, and you’re connected with the team, you achieve these quality results.

Of course, our approach is detailed; we’ve adopted and refined agile frameworks which support our self-organized, self-managed teams.

Agile powers how we get things done. Our performance tracking and collaborative efforts align with this approach. There are much more reasons for our Drupal success in delivery, including our competence with automation.

We set our work schedules. This scheduling is expressive of deep trust and responsibility, and it’s a serious testament. If top Drupal agencies want to keep top performing team members happy, allowing time for daily activities (whether these involve family, social, or spiritual norms) is a great start.

Axelerant’s work-life balance is in the hands of each team member.

This doesn’t mean that our employees aren’t up early in the morning or late at night. What this means is while some may choose to be up before the sun (or long after it’s gone), it’s up to them. We encourage them to do what’s best for themselves.

These agile and scheduling characteristics help foster our team’s wellness, as both are focused on the needs of the individual. We’ve found that this doesn’t hinder project success, in fact, it helps to ensure it.

Rigidity doesn’t work, and our teams have proven that they can be trusted with accountability and independence.

We handle finances differently

We’re transparent. In Axelerant, employees can view salaries, raises, and other details about company spending. These aren’t coveted secrets; figures are talked about openly. In this way, every employee is kept in the loop and encouraged to ask questions about our internal affairs. We keep ourselves honest, and we don’t mind talking about money.

We’re passionate about our work and our livelihood. Some firms and agencies don’t like to speak about money. We’re not like this. Let’s be frank, financial conversations centered on our employee’s needs aren’t signs of a lack of passion or selfishness. At Axelerant, we encourage openness.

Download: Continuous Discovery White Paper (PDF)

Semi-annual raises are peer-determined. Each team receives a raised budget based on profits. Next, the allocation of this amount is by honest team-level discussions. We’ve found that this system in conjunction with 1-on-1s, metrics, and engagement survey enables team recognition and promotes project feats. While this isn’t wholly competitive, it does encourage personal growth.

We’re paid on-time, in monthly lump sums. This consistency works perfectly for our employees when it comes to putting away savings and meeting monthly budgeting needs. Whereas some agency employees need to wait for several weeks or a couple of months for addressing their school loans, rent, food, and other financial concerns, Axelerant employees are already done during the first week of every month.

Being remote sure helps

Remote teams have the opportunity to put their best face forward. This doesn’t mean telecommuters are fake or disingenuous. Digital practitioners, despite contrary opinions, have the ability to interact in ways face-to-face team members can’t. They can compose themselves and avoid reactive, knee-jerk responses.

We’re talking about the unproductive kinds of office culture, the kinds that can weigh heavy in the workplace. These things can produce, over time, an unhappy (and by extension an unproductive) team. Remote work avoids this and other unpleasantness that can come with the brick and mortar.

But what’s more important is our people are free to be around their friends and family without hesitation. Working from a home office or a cafe liberates the team—gives them freedom

Being global changes everything

Axelerant is a globally distributed team (France, Taiwan, India, Israel, Japan, Australia, United States, and more to come). Some of us are from the major cities; others live in small towns—why does this matter? Because we’ve built a close-knit international team and have attained a diversity some can only dream of.

We’re a melting pot. Our cultural differences create a unique environment that enriches us all. The unique perspectives and insights every team member brings to Axelerant make our team dynamic. Diversity is the workplace gives organizations of all kinds a real advantage.

The importance of having this universal, a global mindset in today’s market can’t be undervalued. We’re world travelers, with a deep appreciation for the new. This connectedness is positive energy that charges Axelerant’s brand: we’re multicultural movers and boundary pushers.

There are global events and retreats happening back-to-back. Our annual retreat officially brings us all together for epicness, but we often see one another at international cons, camps, and other local meetups. This sponsored travel takes many of us to places we wouldn’t be visiting otherwise, broadening our horizons, and exposing us to the world even more.

We’re an international, 24-hour powerhouse. We use time zones to our advantage. This provides a tremendous advantage to our clients and enables us to get ahead of other agencies. At any time, somebody from Axelerant, somewhere in the world, is working hard at getting the right thing done.

It’s simple, happy people work hard

Happy employees are more productive. and happy, skilled production is what makes up the best Drupal agency.  We’ve found that satisfied employees with proper work-life balance are the best, bottom line. If you don’t have happy people, you’ve got a revolving door, an impassionate workforce, and indifference.

Unhappy people are indifferent. Unhappiness can breed indifference, and indifference is what will sink any agency. The day your people become unhappy is another day closer to them becoming unconcerned and eventually inactive.

If you want the best Drupal agency, find wellness

Beyond an extensive portfolio, and efficient Drupal services, a top Drupal agency will display healthy indications of a flourishing culture. The culture comes from people. If you’re looking for the best talent, which is what every organization in need of a Drupal vendor is looking for, then look for happy talent. Empowered teams produce powerful work. When more decision makers start to get this, we’ll all be in a better place.

These are just a few oddities that make us great. If you’re looking to hire or work for the best Drupal agency, these are some of the details you should be considering.

This article was originally published in November, 2015. It has since been updated.

Jun 16 2016
Jun 16

Drupal staffing for your projects is a unique challenge. And if you’re looking to hire for a project, Drupal staff augmentation may make the most sense for your organization. Drupal migration projects, site builds, support and maintenance, DevOps consultations—these all fall under this umbrella service.

Looking for the right people?

Unlike a direct hire or a complete outsource, growing your Drupal staff from the inside but with an external agency is retractable, scalable, affordable, and smart.

So What Should You Consider First?

How about what you’re most afraid of.

Failure. If you’ve been in the business long enough you know, you should be considering the ramifications first. It can’t be overstated: if you don’t bring in the talent to do it right, you need the time (and the budget) to do it over.

Signing off on an insourcing deal without looking beyond the pitch, the branding, or a brief preliminary review is never a good idea. With concerns duly noted, it’s time to focus on value.

Your Organization Wants Value, Right?

Then focus on what your organization values.

A natural next step after defining concerns should be determining values. Drupal staffing means you’re choosing the best Drupal agency to be your extension—a valued partner.

Get your Drupal Partner Checklist.

This partnership has to be on respective terms, conditions, and most of all shared values. Discerning the similarities or irreconcilable differences is what’s important here.

Drupal Staffing Partner Basics: 9 Values

Every organization is different but when it comes to values, there’s sure to be overlap. What does your organization value when it comes to staffing? Here are suggestions to get you thinking:

1. Integrity. When it comes to selecting a Drupal agency, open source integrity should be at the top of your list. You should never  partner with an organization you would publicly and proudly endorse.

Spot for signs of integrity. When they’ve contributed code, are they supporting it? Are they responding to posts in the issue queue? These indicators will teach you about the potential hire or the Drupal staffing organization offering their services.

2. Global Stewardship. Remember that Drupal, as an advanced open source framework, is powered by international teams of enthusiasts. Drupal is the result of focused, globally driven interconnectivity.

Do they support global evangelism? International Drupal event hosting, sponsorship, sessions, or identifiable support is something your organization should value. Drupal isn’t local, it’s global. To teach and to learn OS at these events is a sign of due diligence. The culture that has sprung up around the open source community is one of sharing, of giving back.

 3. Thought Leadership. Drupal staff augmentation agencies should cherish and exude thought leadership just as much as your organization. These will likely be different areas of thought leadership—you’re in different industries—but the value is the same.

Look for innovation in unique projects. Thought leadership isn’t always that recognizable. While an agency can be respected for forward thinking, it may not be applauded.

Competitive rhetoric dominates most industries, so it’s best to look through agency contributions, portfolios, case studies, and convention session topics.

4. Serious Discipline. Levels of due diligence and focus aren’t things that can be taught easily, right? It’s something you learn to appreciate in yourself and other people. As far as values go, this one is essential.

What’re some indicators of this? Work environments that promote discipline. Remote offices and telecommuting practices speak an awful lot about a staff’s discipline. Without this value—more of a virtue—nothing would get done.

Need to Grow Your Team? Learn How

5. Real Savings. You want to make a deal, and you want the better half of it. If your prospective partner values savings, so will they. There’s nothing wrong with healthy negotiation. The alternative is scrambling for your business; a reckless disregard for the worth of their services. Your organization has likely turned down bad business before. A staff augmentation partner would do the same.

Your partner should understand this too. You’ll know if they share this value with you if they refuse blatant low balling. Desperation isn’t a sign of fiscal responsibility.

See if there are any big names, big projects—launching or re-launching one of the top websites in the US should count. You can bet these projects played well for the Drupal staffing agency financially.

6. Timely Results. The bottom line is this: you want results that are on time and budget. Without results oriented success, you’ve got nothing—literally. This should be significant to all of your staff members and even more so your augmented ones.

There are things to look for. Check to see if your prospect publicly mentions deadlines, agency self-organization, and DevOps practices. These are signs that the agency values timely, results oriented success.

Next, you’re going to have to go beyond this and look into their project management processes. Agile frameworks. This is what you should be looking for.

7. Reputation. Poor standing within respective communities isn’t a good sign for obvious reasons. And the reputation the prospect has based on staff member reviews should be just as valued.

If there are challenges to the provider’s reputation—or yours—this may be indicative of a lack of care to respond to allegations of mismanagement or a hostile work environment.

What do the employees say? If there has been public, verifiable negligence against current or former team members (look at recent Glassdoor reviews and responses), then pass them by.

Public disgruntlement is a serious red flag when it comes to Drupal staff augmentation specifically. You want your staff augmentation team to be well treated, and you don’t need a tarnished reputation for partnering with a problem agency.

8. Saleability. Drupal staffing partners should be scalable. As your organization grows or your needs change, your staffing partner has to be able to adapt to suit you.

Digital platform essentials constantly shift. New features, adjustments, or entire new pages or sites need to be constructed. And sometimes rapidly depending on your industry.

Can they easily ramp up? Don’t forget to evaluate their bandwidth. Consider whether or not this Drupal staffing partner has the numbers. If they can’t flex when needed, move on.

It’s a good idea to get the rates and requirements that pertain to last-minute service increases in the open from the start. Surprise or emergency fees should be discussed first. Otherwise, you risk being taken advantage of when you need accessible and affordable help the most.

9. Likeability. It’s true that surveys show that likability is a key part of getting hired. There are some who believe this doesn’t matter, and that quantified, qualified results are the only things that do.

When it comes to partnerships involving teams, this should matter a whole lot. You’re going to be collaborating, perhaps on a daily basis.

Ask yourself: do I want to work with these people? Don’t go basing everything on first impressions, but consider the whole picture.

Teams should exude a fun, playful atmosphere. What you want are staff members who take their work seriously without taking themselves too seriously.

Drupal staffing is like hiring.

Consider what you’re hiring process is like and what it’s meant to do. When onboarding staff, hiring managers are looking to discover if their values line up with the company.

While it’s probably not smart to build a team of only the like-minded, creating a team with shared values when it comes to production, your industry, and accomplishments makes sense. So it is with Drupal staffing agencies that offer augmentation.

Interested in Staff Augmentation?

This piece was originally published in November, 2015. It has since been updated.

Jun 08 2016
Jun 08

If you or your competitor is moving to migrate to Drupal 8, that’s good for one of you… and potentially really bad for the other.

Somebody is picking up on something big, because Drupal 8 migration is a mark of enterprise-level thought or a sign of aspiring enterprise-level vision. If you or your associates aren’t sold yet, the proof is in D8’s mobile, global features.

You could say accurately that modern Drupal is a preemptive, forward step, a step away from the dangers of a Closed Source, “one size fits all” mentality. See headless Drupal migration stories for even more proof.

Big question: why migrate to Drupal 8?

Well, the sense that mobile incompetence and unchecked global competition are deal breakers? That’s more than a feeling. That’s a fact. Today if your website isn’t responsive and built for growth with features like those of Drupal 8, you’re declining. Let’s get why:

  1. Face it, we need a different kind of responsive.

  2. What makes Drupal 8 mobile first.

  3. You migrate to Drupal 8 for all users.

  4. Migrate to Drupal 8 for your customers.

  5. And migrate for international teams.

Decision makers like you, with a keen sense for growth, will see. Within these features are the traits of an evolving Open Source software for 2016 onward. 

1. Face it, we need a different kind of responsive.

Having a responsive design means having a website that automatically looks good no matter your user device’s viewport size. The way we search the internet has changed. Search technologies and site owners must account for it.

Just last year, Google rolled out a mobile friendly algorithm that led to mobilegeddon. It was labeled a doomsday because of the tremendous boost in search engine results given to responsive websites versus the whack it gave desktop-only sites.

How far does mobile reach?

In the US, one out of every three people owns a smartphone. Worldwide, it’s one out of every five. The number of users browsing on tablets, phablets, and phones will continue to rise—website responsiveness becomes more critical every day.

View Our Work

Responsive websites are made possible with things like CSS media queries. These queries define how page elements should be displayed to users. Its effectiveness can be checked with responsive plugins and extensions from Chrome and Safari. At Axelerant, we created a simple URL mobile friendly website tester that can check your site.

But shouldn’t “desktop” versions come first?

Not anymore. Productive websites from now on should be treating the desktop as secondary. The demand for mobile, responsive themes has never been higher and it continues to rise. The number of users accessing sites from mobile devices only is steadily growing.

Users in the US alone are accessing mobile online media 51% of the time, compared to the 41% using a desktop. These accesses drives the Drupal community to focus on mobile first because we’re passed the 50-50 mark. Having a clear focus on mobile first designs can also improve the efficiency of your desktop website. Your website’s responsiveness has to be taken into account if it’s going to be productive to you and your end users—to inform, deliver services, generate leads, and more.

2. What makes Drupal 8 mobile first.

Drupal 8’s very essence is accessibility because it was made with a mobile first mentality—for users and end-users. When site owners migrate to Drupal 8, they solve the need for an extremely responsive website. It’s an upgrade that isn’t an option anymore.

For Drupalers like us, a Drupal 8 upgrade provides fresh mobile-friendly development for the content management system (CMS) and Open Source software (OSS) industries. In fact, Drupal’s original creator and product lead Dries Buytaert said way back in 2011:

If I were to start Drupal from scratch today, I’d build it for mobile experiences first, and desktop experience second.

Considering all of its modern features, Drupal 8 has been well worth waiting for. Contributors charged forward with a transforming Mobile Initiative to create a first-class mobile platform, spearheaded by the initiative’s lead John Albin Wilkins. The admin interface, themes, tables, and pictures were focused on and today these are incredibly useful:

Drupal’s Admin

As a mobile friendly CMS, Drupal enables on the go administration. Managing content on a mobile device has become painless. The admin layer has been revamped to be simple, straight-forward, and light. Toolbars work horizontal or vertical as needed.

Great Responsive Themes

All built-in themes are responsive. These give you the power to change the way your site looks and feels. Drupal 8’s new theming engine Twig is PHP-based, secure by default, easier to read, and front-end developer friendly.

This new theme flexibility enables the creation of highly attractive, highly functional sites that look great on mobile. The right theme will help power your organization’s branding while providing positive user experiences.

The goal was to transition all existing Drupal 8 themes from “desktop only” to mobile first, and for all to include a useful backend platform. This ties into the push to make Drupal the leading mobile CMS platform.

Flexible Tables

When a user views the page from a narrow device viewport, such as page’s horizontal elements will automatically become vertical, with lesser important columns being removed.

Breakpoints are built into Drupal 8, which keep track of height, width, and resolution. These breakpoints enable a site to respond appropriately to different devices: tables and the likes shrink readily to preserve mobile integrity. So when transitioning from a desktop screen to a mobile one, you’ll see tables adapt seamlessly.

Picture Perfection

With such an emphasis being placed on ease of use for end users and administrators, with a migrate to Drupal 8 images become responsive. Administrators can add large photos to their pages that automatically size themselves appropriately based on the viewer’s device.

The Drupal 8 responsive module that contains breakpoint mapping and an image formatter that efficiently reduces file weight by resizing the image. These features can be used to output responsive images using the HTML5 picture tag.

Responsive image support isn’t just visually convenient, it helps pages with large images load faster. Meaning that pictures worth 1,000 pixels don’t have to make your mobile site slow or awkward.

3. You migrate to Drupal 8 for all users.

You already know that the standards of your website should be up to par with the growing number of relevant on-the-go, global web users. A huge, growing number that has a direct effect on your organization or will soon. Accessible websites existing within the digital space will either experience the positive or negative side of the expanse: one billion users in 2005, two billion in 2010, three billion in 2014, almost three and a half billion in 2015, and counting.

Now if you keep these numbers in mind, consider that the number of smartphone users in the world is expected to be a massive 6.1 billion by 2020. This growth means that in less than five years, 90% of the world will be online and at that point, 70% will be mobile.

You might be tempted to think: “these numbers don’t apply to my organization. Relevant visits to my site aren’t going to increase as these figures grow.” That’s only correct if your website isn’t mobile first and global ready. In fact, if your site isn’t more accessible now than before, you can expect the number of new, relevant visitors (potential customers searching for your services) to drop.

4. Migrate to Drupal 8 for global customers.

Drupal 8 mobile-based global websites are designed to be accessible for international users from other countries and different cultures. With a migrate to Drupal 8, modern organizations looking to target specific even global reaching demographics can succeed.

However, due to rising internationalization and increasing globalization, all forward thinking businesses will eventually need to take up these searchable, accessible, localized websites. Localization is especially true for e-commerce sites, which must be prepared to cater to ever-changing global e-commerce data. If you’re selling a product or a service online, chances are you’ve been made aware of increasing numbers of international visitors. If your organization has the structural capabilities to sell to these demographics, it should.

What’s this about website localization?

This isn’t the opposite of what’s called website internationalization or globalization. Website localization refers to “local” site adaptations, which facilitate particular communicative, cultural, or other demographical requirements that cater to a particular target market. Globalized or internationalized sites enable localization.

Ongoing Drupal 8 initiatives are aimed at improving its localizing interface to suit international users. Likewise, these users can create localized Drupal sites for their audience. What helps make this possible is a sophisticated translation manager in the Drupal core. This system empowers users to utilize the right translations, for example, for each targeted demographic that need to be reached.

5. And migrate to Drupal for international teams.

To be global ready is to be user-friendly on an international scale, and Drupal internationalization accomplishes this. In the late 90’s, over 80% of internet users were native English speakers, by 2010, this dropped to less than 30%.

With Drupal 8’s multilingual capabilities, international site visitors and Drupal 8 site builders alike aren’t met at a half-way mark, but where they’re most comfortable: in their language. Drupal 8’s Configuration Translation enables the translation of essential elements—blocks, toolbars, menus, etc.

With these essential features, Drupal 8 positions itself as the global ready website option. Multilingual feats like translation and transliteration are two pillars of this positioning.

Drupal 8 Translations

Advanced multilingual capabilities of Drupal 8 are hallmarks of this release. Whereas Drupal 7 has regional settings, language support, and usability attention given to interface translation, Drupal 8 brings this into the core. It comes with highly improved language detection abilities that are browser based, meaning it functions to identify preferred languages and present them to users automatically.

There’s 94 languages and counting, one of which that you can assign as a website default for content and configurations. Blocks can also be language dependent. Further, more page elements than ever are now “blocks” in Drupal 8, granting greater translation accessibility.

Even “Transliterations”

There are times when characters need to be romanized for various purposes. Drupal core has addressed this. Now, built-in user interfaces transliterate key language assignments. This transliteration is an advancement from other CMS solutions, enabling efficient romanization of several challenging scripts and types (e.g. Hungarian, Czech, Marathi).

There is a variety of multilingual Drupal 8 sites in production settings of multiple industries that demonstrate Drupal 8 easily makes possible.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

Migrate to Drupal 8 for results.

If you migrate to Drupal 8, you’re setting your organization up for the future. The importance of a mobile-friendly and global ready website cannot be overstated. You’ve heard it more than 1,000 times that “content is king.” It’s true, but it has to be accessible first so your targeted content reigns supreme. Your content after a migration to Drupal 8 can become even more SEO friendly, fast, mobile, and manageable.

Great content doesn’t just happen. Content creators and copywriters need to apply their trade strategically more than ever before. And while it’s principally a supportive means for content creation, Drupal 8 will certainly help. In so many ways, Drupal 8 and content marketers were meant for one another.

SEO capabilities: Users have tons of available modules that monitor SEO activity and track analytics. It’s also able to produce automatically customizable meta tags or create title based URL nodes for a website. Awesome tools like Yoast and Goalgorilla can now be incorporated to develop a site’s SEO in all aspects. Drupal 8 also supports RDF and integrates very easily with Google Analytics.

Content Loading: Another way that Drupal 8 supports content has to do with how quickly and readily it loads. Loading speed is a huge factor that will directly affect both the site’s global rank and local rank. Now Google provides insights on a page’s loading speed to help isolate costly hold ups. Drupal 8 has features that help users address page load issues. As an example, Drupal 8 caches all entities and only loads JavaScript when necessary. What this means for a page is that viewed content doesn’t need to be reloaded again, rather it’s quickly loaded from the cache.

Maximizing Value Via Continuous Discovery (PDF)

When visitors return to a Drupal 8 website, they won’t have to wait for previously viewed content to load up. Updated or new content is presented to visitors while the cache of older unchanged content remains preserved and shown immediately.

Content Visualization For Multiple Devices: See content when editing, as it’ll look when published with a real-time what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor for desktop and mobile devices. Via the WYSIWYG editor, users have the option to choose images and revise content for desktop or mobile versions as needed. By seeing what end users experience—in real time—is a valuable feature for saving time and foreknowing the outcome before publishing.

General Content Management: Drupal 8 offers a simple and flexible CMS. With previous Drupal versions have been seen as too challenging for new users. Drupal 8 changed all that. Now content authoring is easy and reliable performance is guaranteed. Content managers can navigate their site smoothly and use the new on-page editor quickly and with ease.

With mobile, global content taking the center stage on every stage, if you migrate to Drupal 8 your organization can get it right. It’s time to leave the disappointing and the outdated behind so your organization can pursue something greater.

Want to migrate to Drupal 8?

This article was originally published in October, 2015. It has since been updated.

May 03 2016
May 03

Despite attending conventions across India and beyond, some of this might come off as a little, well, unconventional. If I’m going to convey what I feel is wrong with the Indian Drupal Ecosystem (IDE), I’m going to need to bring some candour in here.

I’ll take this step-by-step, exploring and explaining how the Indian Drupal ecosystem works, then I’ll point out the gaps and include suggestions, from my limited perspective, as to how we can bridge these gaps together.

The Indian Drupal Ecosystem (IDE):

We know there are a significant number of local Drupal communities in India (just check out this blog by Josef Dabernig). What a lot of you might not know is how the Indian Drupal Ecosystem functions. We have about nine hyperactive Drupal communities in India (Kashmir, Delhi, Jaipur, Gujarat, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore & Chennai). And almost all of these communities have the following 10 defining characteristics:

1. At least one community lead—this person is responsible for coordinating

2. Their own Facebook page, Twitter handle, and website—run by the community lead

3. Active volunteers who take on the responsibilities of running event activities

4. Three to four supportive companies backing each event with resources

5. Thier own Drupal.org group, where people discuss the next meetup and activities

6. They don’t have a bank account for the community for event transaction purposes

7. Sponsored events by these groups are free for all to participate

8. At every camp there’s someone disappointed with management—suprise!

9. These groups depend on camp attendees, despite these being free events

10. Each community is on its own, some cross-pollinating during camps

Do you agree? I’ve found that these characteristics are the most common. Unfortunately, many of these characteristics are causing some trouble with the Indian Drupal community’s stability and sustainability. These have led to some significant gaps.

10 Gaps Within The Indian Drupal Ecosystem

Now comes the rough part… what’s wrong with it? Let’s go into how we don’t have a formal structure of doing things. Don’t worry, I write about how we might be able to fix these things too! Here are 10 areas of improvement we need to start talking about:

1. Camps aren’t being taken seriously enough—session presentations are not on par

2. Finances aren’t handled formally because there’s no official body to handle them

3. There isn’t proper archiving of camp collateral and physical materials

4. There’s no formal way of decision making—whoever shows up!

5. With no formal structure, it’s hard to understand what the community lead’s role is

6. Even though some Camps have been running for 3 years, these aren’t sustainable

7. Only a few people attend more than one camp a year (and those are the most active)

8. There are only a few companies that sponsor every camp regardless of location

9. There isn’t enough sharing across communities and there isn’t a support system

10. Distributed communities aren’t advocating Drupal adoption on a larger scale

Not too harsh, right? I’m not looking to go on a total rant or be a buzz kill. This is about how we can move to the next level. With these significant gaps in mind, now we can start focusing on solutions.

So how we can start fixing this?

Now with more clarity on the state of the ecosystem and its immediate gaps, let’s go into how we can fill these up. I’ve been talking to a lot of the community members over this past year and I’d like to share some of the conversations and potential solutions I’ve heard talked about.

Join Axelerant

Yes, the chapter.

One huge answer to many of these problems is a local Drupal Association Chapter that works along with or with the support of the Drupal Association. This would tackle:

Fund management: This would mean formalizing finances, which is one of the biggest problems within each Drupal community looking to bring forward events and other activities. With a formal Drupal Association body for India we can sort this problem with a central account.

Central Hub: Moreover, managing archival storage and keeping a centralized repository hub for events could be taken care of. This could also streamline marketing material coordination for camps.

Indian Drupal Directory: A dependable and frequently updated directory could be maintained, listing local chapters, companies, individuals, volunteers, community leaders etc. and update frequently. Essentially, an updated and comprehensive version of “Drupal India – Existing Local Chapters.”

Evangelism: This would allow for the advocation of Drupal within the Indian and the Indian subcontinent. As a recognized, centralized body this would allow corporations, governing bodies, and other large entities (like those in media publishing or education) to interact.

Ecosystem Unity: Do a country-wide event maybe one in two years (or one every year), this will give a lot of Indian Drupalers the Con experience. A country-wide event will also help consolidate a few camps that particular year, helping sponsors and attendees make a simpler choice.

Should we be considering our camps?

Another potential solution when it comes to camps, is instituting a paid structure. At the end of the day, for camps to be more sustainable, we’ll have to move to a paid structure amongst other things. Yes, we have a great audience turnout. We’re educating between 200 – 250 students about Drupal with each camp. But this isn’t going to cut it.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

With a paid model we ensure we have people who care about the community and are there looking to learn. This means we’d be able to provide more value to attendees with better training, sessions, hospitality, international engagement, conversations, and more. I am not suggesting a ludicrous fee, we’re talking about Rs. 500 or $8. Here are three potential effects:

1. Reduced dependence on sponsors

2. More star power—paid sessions, keynotes (these might not necessarily be Drupalers)

3. This way organisers aren’t stuck ordering food for attendees from their own pockets!

We need to identify and move to the next stage of this community maturity model provided by communityroundtable.com for creating a sustainable community. I will be reaching out to community leads in the near future to adopt this and implement for better management. Obviously, you’re free and encouraged to take it on and implement this for your local community. But since I’m a bit nosy, I’ll reach out to check either way.

What do you think?

While all of these gaps haven’t been addressed and the solutions aren’t sound or completely verified yet, let’s start talking about these things. I hope I made some sense here. I’ll be working on implementing or advocating for solutions to these in this quarter. If you’d like to discuss this or help with documentation, please email me. Let’s turn up the volume a little bit!

Are you all about the Drupal community?
Apr 28 2016
Apr 28

What do the best agile Drupal support teams, plasma laser systems,

and flocks of birds have in common? 

 They’re self-organizing. And you’ve got to see the big picture to get it. I’ll show you.

agile drupal support

First off, I suppose should tell you that I’ve been studying self-organization as a scientific discipline for the last decade. It’s a good thing I like this stuff, right? During this 10 year journey I’ve jumped into various subjects: plasma laser systems, educational technology, robotics and computer simulations, Drupal project management, and of course: organizational dynamics.

What I found is that when you get the depths of each of these topics, it’s too easy to see the similarities. Each allows for a systemic view—the big picture.

Download: Continuous Discovery White Paper (PDF)

But before we get in too deep here, let’s cover some basics. A system is a collection of interacting components, each having its purpose. The what doesn’t matter; it’s about the how. It could be plasma particles in laser-plasma interactions, it could be a team working on a project, it could be functional groups interacting to form an organization, it could be a flock of birds flying together constantly maintaining distance. The list is endless.

What we’re talking about here are fixed systems. System that:

(A) Can produce the same outcomes in different ways in the same environment and different results in the same and different environments

(B) Can not only learn and adopt but also create

Agile Drupal support teams are great examples.

They are in effect flexible, scaleable systems that have to naturally adapt to function in a changing environment or perform within a constant environment. Agile facilitates evolution and adaption, meaning fully-agile Drupal teams can do this.

So how does this science work with agile Drupal teams?

Agility in Drupal project management is a simple way to look at project teams as self-organizing nonlinear systems. This system is a network of interacting autonomous entities, all working towards the project’s goal. Each team member is autonomous, and the goal is value-driven.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

As an example, Scrum which is an agile model with its three pillars of transparency is a framework that allows the teams to work towards the objective that makes the team most productive. Through this, team productivity is far more important than individual productivity. So while autonomy is taking place, collective achievement is the end-result.

The systemic view of agile teams also explains why clients are expected to be an active participant in the dynamics. The client is a component of the whole system which impacts the input flux, the project’s requirements, and output flux, the project’s releases, by defining priorities and needs.

Every kind of system needs a set of guiding rules.

Scrum, one kind of an agile technique framework for things like agile Drupal QA, is nothing but a set of rules that the project team as a system agrees to play by to meet their goals. Scrum isn’t a methodology—it’s a set of steps that have to be followed, like a manual.

The objective of any system is to improve continuously and emerge. Emergence here means achieving something that wouldn’t be possible independently. It takes an integrated team.

If we look at a project team, scrum does allow agile Drupal retrospectives as a tool or technique for continuous improvement. The main purpose of any environment where any system operates is to design interventions towards improved performance of the system.

Self-Organizing Drupal Support Teams?

So in this way, the best Drupal team can be a self-organizing system, and why not? The science does not limit the volume or size of the system. Perhaps a better word would be a self-organizing dynamic system, through constant retrospection and agility. You can bring stability to chaotic situations—or steep and changing demands or requirements—to meet a shared goal or organizational vision.

Today the discipline of System Dynamics is being used to model the software development life cycle, SDLC, processes we commonly use today. Or at least, that’s what we’re using successfully with our agile Drupal support teams. It works.

You can make this happen.

Applying agile and enabling self-organization might cause some growing pains at first. At Axelerant, we’re transitioning our content department to agile frameworks. It takes time. But for many organizations—perhaps yours?—the way teams go about creating things like dynamic software needs to change.

How?

Agencies with flexible Drupal services, centered on agile practices and self-organizing principals, can help bring this to you. Because enabling self-organization may not be an in-house option right now. But one thing is absolutely for certain—whether you partner with a team like ours of if you go about self-organizing yourself. Things will never be the same.

Want an agile Drupal support on your side?

This article was originally published on November 11, 2015. It has since been updated.

Karuna Batra

Karuna Batra

Karuna is Axelerant's Director of Delivery and a strategy team member. She focuses on evangelizing, institutionalizing, and auditing best practice processes via open source tools and appropriate governance structures for delivery based organizations. She's more importantly a loving aunt and Indian foothills trekker.

Mar 24 2016
Mar 24

Success in a top Drupal agency is achieved by its people. And with something like Drupal staff augmentation, it’s important to hone in on traits. When growing our team, choosing augmentees with indicators like these can mean the difference between competitive advantage and failure.

So what ideal, non-techie team member traits make a top Drupal agency?

1. Integrity

Open source integrity is what builds a top Drupal agency. When they’ve contributed code, do they support it? Are they responding to posts in the issue queue? These indicators are important. But it goes beyond just coding integrity. More of a movement than practice, less of a process than a culture; open source involves a different kind of ethic. After all, that’s what builds and evangelizes entire communities.

An employee can have all the talent in the world, but without honesty and authenticity, nothing significant can be accomplished. Integrity is the stable force behind many role models. Great leaders model integrity by being honest and doing what is right no matter the circumstances.

Integrity requires us to make the right choice, even when we may not receive personal gain from the outcome. Open Source Integrity is something that should be mutually understood by contributors.

Much like the foundation of a building, this should be the basis for every good hire or Drupal augmentee. Integrity is essential for lasting success.

2. Openness

Drupal didn’t make it this far by closing itself off from criticism, suggestion, or ideas. Openness is how open source technology will take over the world of software. So it is with individuals.

Satisfied employees comfortably voice concerns and ask questions. They know where to go for answers. In current economic times, openness is crucial—anxiety is high, doors seem closed. It’s impossible to build an atmosphere of trust if new augmentees or hirees are padlocked. A closed environment encourages a damaging, looming distrust within organizations big and small. To create that transparent, open workplace, more value must be placed on this trait.

3. Giving

Here’s one of the most undervalued traits of all. It usually means going above and beyond comfort zones—sharing time, talent, and more without a reward expectation. Giving back to a community like the Drupal Community goes beyond a typical gift exchange.

A top Drupal agency will make its mark this way. It’s how the marketplace is ordered, and it’s the practicing of this virtue by our industry leaders, mentors, top contributors that distinguish them—set them at the top. Drupal event attendance is a great indicator here. To teach and to learn open source at these events is a sign of due diligence. 

4. Passion

Enthusiasm and passion: the fuel for open source success. Fervent OS evangelism is a motivator, and a top Drupal agency will have its team members feeding off of it.

Employees who are passionate about their job can make the heaviest workload a light one. Passion (drive, motivation, zeal) is the prevalent, self-driven attitude that will help lead to success. Team members who are ready for work on Monday because they love what they do, regardless of what they do, are organizational engines.

Looking for Drupal solutions?  Download our Ebook: Learn to select your best Drupal Partner

5. Discipline

Isn’t self-discipline really about perseverance? In the workplace, it’s really about not giving up, despite setbacks. When control is tied to passion, mountains are moved.

Contrary to common belief, self-discipline does not mean being harsh toward yourself or living a limited, restrictive lifestyle. Self-discipline is about self-control, a sign of inner strength. This control becomes perseverance; it holds us to our decisions, enables us to follow them through.

6. Leadership

The workplace is an environment where effective leadership is incredibly important. Growth is impossible without it, and every member of a top Drupal agency should have the qualities of a leader.

Real leadership is an ability to foster affirmative action, the kind that can achieve results for an organization. The most effective leaders have a strong sense of self; they understand the qualities that spur others into action.

Effective leaders know their strengths and limitations, they create and effectively communicate a positive, realistic vision. They’re motivators and inspire followers to reach their potential. Team members with this trait look beyond self-interest and encourage others to do the same. This leading is what Drupalers have to do today—it’s a contributive attribute.

7. Motivation

Like discipline, self-motivation is a power that drives us to keep moving ahead. It nurtures continuous learning and success. Self-motivation is a primary means of realizing goals and progressing. We could say that it’s linked to inventiveness. These team members need a lot less managing than less determined individuals.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These are the individuals who tend to learn new skills and take up regular training courses, take ownership of issues, become team leaders; they go above and beyond their job description.

Download Drupal Staff Augmentation Case Study

8. Empathy

Being sensitive and empathetic towards others goes a long way in establishing productive relationships with peers. If there’s sensitivity at play in the workplace, teams will experience a reduction in office politics, misunderstandings, and the divides that fragment what needs to be a productive work environment.

What empathy does is bring about comfort. While some firms invest in the amenities of an office space or the trappings of a creative work environment, others invest more in team members who do this by their virtue.

9. Aptness

We need people who are ready, willing, and able. Infused together, this creates aptness—apt team members. That is: team members prepared to take on challenging Drupal projects and win.

  • Ready: This sub-trait means being “made” in a professional sense. A top Drupaler working at a top Drupal agency has to have a constant readiness, usually in the form of technical knowledge and experience.  This preparation includes technical expertise, operational experience, and process knowledge.
  • Willing:  Willingness in this sense is a desire to accomplish.  We must be prepared to do the job, or all the preparation in the world won’t help. Having this desire is a serious factor of professional and personal success.
  • Able:  If we’re not ready, we won’t be able to do the job (regardless of our enthusiasm).  If we’re not willing, all the education and experience in the world won’t help.  However, if we’re ready and willing, then we’re able.

Together these sub-traits manifest in a super trait, one no Drupaler can be without.

10. Modesty

This characteristic may seem odd to many, but it shouldn’t. Let’s face it, the most sought after employees shout their values, not through their words but their work. They’re humble. Team members like this don’t feel the need to pump themselves up in front of others.

We can bring you a top team.

This post was originally published on 11/9/2015. It has since been updated.

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