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Jul 10 2020
Jul 10

Thursday, 16th July, 18:15 - 19:00 (UTC)
Speaker: Christopher Torgalson
Track: DevOps & Infrastructure

In his session, Christopher will outline some of the most prevalent issues that make automated tasks less safe, secure, reliable, and performant. On the back of these learnings, he will then discuss how we can design better quality automation for ourselves and our clients.

As usual, we've been busy preparing and writing questions for Trivia "night". The Trivia event has been one of the highlights of DrupalCon for many years and at DrupalCon Global 2020, this is no exception - except this year, we will have teams from all around the globe! In addition, rather than it happening in the evening time, the event will be split across the three days of the conference. For more details on the times, see the conference website.

Jun 10 2020
Jun 10

What's new in Drupal 9?

With the release of Drupal 9, there are no major changes, no system overhauls, not even any new features! The only differences between Drupal 8.9.0 and Drupal 9 is that those deprecated APIs have now been removed, and a number of third-party dependencies (Symfony, Twig, etc) have been updated to newer versions which will be supported for longer.

This means that as long as you are already on Drupal 8, and have been keeping your site up-to-date, upgrading your site from Drupal 8.9.0 to Drupal 9 should be a relatively pain free process.

Are Drupal 7 and 8 still supported?

Yes, Drupal 7 and 8 will both be supported until November 2021, at which point both versions will reach their end-of-life (EOL). It is highly recommended that you upgrade to Drupal 9 before then. After this date, these versions will no longer be supported by the Drupal Security Team which means no future security patches or bug fixes will be released for these versions.

This is the first time that two major versions of Drupal will become unsupported at the same time. The timing of Drupal 8's EOL has been planned to coincide with the EOL of one of its third-party dependencies, Symfony 3. As the upgrade path from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is so simple, it is unlikely that any extended support will be available for Drupal 8 beyond this date.

Drupal 7 is a different story though. There will most likely be a small group of approved third-party agencies who will provide long-term security support for Drupal 7, for a fee of course, for those organisations which are not ready to undertake an upgrade just yet.

However, there is still a year and a half before they reach their end-of-life, so there is plenty of time to upgrade your site - you just need to start planning for it now.

Upgrading from Drupal 8

If you are using Drupal 8 already, then the process of upgrading to Drupal 9 is relatively seamless and pain-free.

  • The first step you should undertake is to ensure that you are running the latest version of Drupal 8 and any contributed modules you may be using.
  • Use the Upgrade Status module to check whether your custom code and contributed modules are Drupal 9 ready.
  • If any contributed modules are not Drupal 9 ready, then check their issue queue and work with their maintainers to remove deprecated code.
  • Remove deprecated APIs used in your own custom code too. The Rector module can assist in resolving these automatically.
  • Lastly, make sure your hosting environment is compatible with the updated requirements of Drupal 9.

At this point you should be ready to upgrade to Drupal 9! Of course, as with any upgrade, we recommend taking a backup and testing it in a non-production environment first.

Upgrading from Drupal 7

There is no upgrade path from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, or indeed Drupal 9. Essentially your site will need to be rebuilt from scratch and any content you want to retain migrated into the new structures. While this is a large undertaking and may seem a bit daunting, it's also a huge opportunity.

Drupal 7 was first released in January 2011. By the time it reaches its end-of-life in November next year, it will be over 10 years old! That's 10 years of no new features, other than what can be provided by contributed extensions. Ten years is a long time in the life span of any software, but particularly so in the online digital space, where technology advances rapidly.

Upgrading to Drupal 9 is the perfect time for you to re-evaluate your online digital strategy, to re-assess your messaging and positioning. It's a time to enhance and improve your customers' experience online. It's a time to take advantage of the new innovations and features released on the platform every six months.

At Annertech, we deliver ambitious digital experiences for our clients, and with Drupal 9 we know we have the ideal digital experience platform to deliver on that aim.

Isn't it time you started planning your upgrade now?

Sep 25 2017
Sep 25

Estimates are dead, long live forecasting!

Tuesday, 26th September, 11:20-11:45

Speaker: Mike King
Track: Project Management

In his session, Mike will outline the good, the bad and the downright wasteful aspects of estimates and how they’re used, before contrasting it all with the positive benefits of using forecasting to communicate a range of outcomes and how this can be communicated with the wider team. There will also be a follow-up BoF to share open source tools so that everyone can take home this new set of skills.

Lessons Learned from Building a Large Multilingual, Multi-region Site in Drupal 8

Tuesday, 26th September, 14:15-15:15

Speaker: Stella Power
Track: Site Building

Thinking of adding multilingual functionality to your Drupal 8 site? Then this is the session for you. Here Stella will take you through the fundamentals of configuring your content to be multilingual and the various pitfalls and lessons learned along the way.

Core Accessibility: How are we doing, and what can we do better?

Wednesday, 27th September, 10:45-11:45

Speakers: Andrew Macpherson (and Théodore Biadala and Kristen Pol)
Track: Core Conversations

In Drupal core, we've been making great strides incorporating accessibility best practices into the UX and markup. It’s not only important to help increase Drupal product adoption in some markets (e.g. the public sector) that have strict accessibility requirements, but accessibility is important to make Drupal sites reach the most people with varying backgrounds and abilities. This can be good for business. It is certainly good for our humanity.

Back to the Future: No More Static Mockups!

Wednesday, 27th September, 15:45-16:45

Speaker: Mark Conroy
Track: Front End

This presentation will be an easy-going rant about how to make things better for frontend developers and will start by taking a look at Photoshop, SketchApp and InVision and how these tools fail to deliver. We will then move on to talking about designing in the browser and how tools such as PatternLab and Fractal can help solve these problems. Finally, we'll look at how we can (easily) integrate PatternLab with Drupal, thereby going 'Back to the Future'.

Live Performance Workshop: A top-to-bottom performance overhaul

Thursday, 28th September, 13:00 - 13:25

Speaker: Anthony Lindsay
Track: Performance and Scaling

Come participate in an interactive performance workshop. Here you'll get to view a broken site and all the awful performance blunders that were made, and more importantly how to fix them.

There's a brief overview of each of our speaking slots. Be sure not to miss them, and don't forget to come say hello to us afterwards!

Photo credit: Franz Jachim

Jul 25 2016
Jul 25

Yesterday all the accepted sessions for DrupalCon Dublin were announced, and we are delighted to report that 5 of our 8 session proposals were accepted! With Acquia being the only company receiving more acceptances, we are extremely proud of our achievement.

Testament to our high standing in the Drupal community, we are the only Irish company speaking at DrupalCon Dublin. Our accepted sessions this year span a number of different tracks, namely Business, Horizons, Site Building, Being Human and Core Conversations, and cover topics from accessibility to remote working to building mobile apps with the Ionic framework. Congratulations to all our speakers!

Here's a quick run down of each session.

Building a co-lingual website - lessons learned from ireland.ie

Speaker: Alan Burke
Track: Site Building

2016 marks the centenary of the 1916 rising in Dublin, a pivotal year in Irish history, and is marked with a series of high-profile events commemorating the rising. ireland.ie is the official state website for the 1916 commemoration and runs on Drupal 7.

While English is the main language in Ireland, Irish is the first official language. A decision was taken to present both languages side by side wherever possible for the 1916 commemorations - including on the website. This session will focus on the unusual co-lingual [2 languages side-by-side] approach, and how Drupal made it possible. 

Choosing Drupal - insider advice from an Irish multinational

Speaker: Alan Burke & Aisling Furlong from Glanbia
Track: Business

Struggling to sell Drupal to clients? Ever wondered what goes into the decision making process when choosing a CMS?
In 2014, Glanbia selected Drupal as the CMS of choice for marketing sites. This session will outline the decision-making process used, and what Drupal agencies can learn when pitching Drupal. This is a joint session proposal between Annertech and Glanbia.

Bridging the PhoneGap: Getting Started Creating Hybrid Mobile Apps with Drupal and Ionic Framework

Speaker: Mark Conroy
Track: Horizons

With the advent of hybrid mobile apps, you can continue being a Drupal frontend developer and also build apps without needing to learn new technologies. The mobile web is quickly catching up with native apps. The mobile web is free, and open, and available to all of us right now and doesn't bind us to proprietary systems. With the many advances being made in this area, we can create great mobile experiences for users.

Future Directions for Drupal Accessibility

Speaker: Andrew Macpherson
Track: Core Conversations

Drupal has made great advances in accessibility over several major releases, and nowadays ranks as a leading implementation of web accessibility standards.  This session will encourage contributors to look ahead at future challenges and opportunities for accessibility during the faster 8.x (and 9.x) release cycle. 

Happiness is... remote working

Speaker: Anthony Lindsay
Track: Being Human

Many Drupal agencies have remote workers. Some are entirely distributed. Whilst remote working is beneficial to all concerned in so many ways, it does come with its own challenges. This talk will cover the journey I took when I moved from a typical 9-5 office job and joined Annertech, which is an entirely distributed Drupal agency. It will highlight the challenges I found: the good, the bad, the funny and the downright surprising, and offer as examples, my experiences for staying happy and healthy in what has the potential to be an isolating environment. 

Congratulations to Alan, Anthony, Andrew and Mark on their great achievement. We look forward to seeing these and all the other great sessions at DrupalCon Dublin in September. Hope to see you there!

Jul 23 2016
Jul 23

Ever since Andrew joined Annertech, he's been a champion of accessible web design and has ensured that accessibility has remained a key focus area in everything we do. That combined with his dedication to open source and contributing back to the community, meant that we were not surprised when he was asked if he'd be interested in becoming a Drupal core accessibility maintainer.

Andrew is truly passionate about accessibility and has increased the knowledge and awareness of issues encountered by people with disabilities for all members of our team. We can not think of a better candidate for a new Drupal core accessibility maintainer.

His response when asked to be a Drupal Core maintainer?

I was really stoked when Mike asked if I'd consider becoming a core maintainer. I have barely stopped bouncing around my home.

Congratulations from everyone in Annertech Andrew!

Oct 15 2015
Oct 15

Last month, not only did we announce that DrupalCon is coming to Dublin in 2016, but five more of our developers became Acquia-certified, myself included!

It was an interesting experience. I took the Backend Drupal Specialist exam and having not done much in the way of active hands-on development in the last year, was a little bit nervous going in. However, it turns out my skills aren’t as rusty as I might have thought, so I’m dead-pleased about that, and especially relieved that I aced the security and community sections.
 
The exam contains 60 questions and was 90 minutes long. A number of the questions were quite long, and a bit wordy, and needed reading a few times, but despite that I found 90 minutes was ample time. However, I do think that the question text could be made clearer and simpler, especially in light of the fact that not everyone’s first language will be English.

I was also a bit disappointed that there were no questions in relation to accessibility, but perhaps something related to that topic features in the Front End Drupal Specialist exam where it might be more important.

I have to say I’m really proud of my team, who all passed with flying colours. We now have six Acquia certified developers on the team and have every Acquia certification covered. If you check on the Acquia Registry, you'll see there are now six Irish-based Acquia-certified Drupal developers, and five of them work with us. Our other Acquia-certified Drupal developer, Andrew, is based in the United Kingdom.

Kudos to:

  • Mark Conroy - Site Builder (Only person in Ireland with this certificate)
  • Gavin Hughes - Front End Drupal Specialist (Only person in Ireland with this certificate)
  • Anthony Lindsay - Drupal Developer
  • Tommy Lynge Jørgensen - Backend Drupal Specialist (First person in Ireland with this certificate)
  • Andrew Macpherson - Backend Drupal Specialist
  • Stella Power (me!) - Backend Drupal Specialist

Well done everyone! Way to go!

Sep 28 2015
Sep 28

I’m writing this while sitting on the plane on my way back to Dublin and thinking about events of the last week. As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, DrupalCon will be coming to Dublin next year. We’re completely ecstatic about playing host to DrupalCon and excited about what this might mean for Drupal and the Irish Drupal community.

DrupalCon Dublin is going to be held in the new, state-of-the-art Convention Centre on the banks of our River Liffey. Located in the heart of Dublin city, you will be within walking distance of all the shops, pubs and restaurants. 

Dublin is a fantastic city to come and visit, and we would encourage those of you travelling to the conference from overseas to stay a little longer and come see some of the sites, soak up the atmosphere and culture of Dublin and perhaps travel a little further afield and visit some of the beautiful scenic areas outside of Dublin too.

There’s lots to go see and do, from visiting the Book of Kells in the historic Trinity College Dublin, to enjoying a traditional game of hurling (check out this short video clip), to joining the locals for a pint of Guinness. Sure, while you’re here why not get a tour of the Guinness Storehouse too or perhaps the Jameson Distillery.

If you fancy taking a trip outside of Dublin, well then I would recommend visiting Newgrange, a prehistoric passage tomb, or the monastery ruins in the picturesque Glendalough, both day trips from Dublin. If taking a tour of Ireland, I’d also recommend visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim or the Cliffs of Moher in the beautiful and unique Burren landscape.

We have a very active Drupal community in Ireland, holding regular monthly meetups in Dublin, Galway and Belfast, as well as twice yearly Drupal camps. Having organised Drupal Dev Days in Dublin back in 2013, we realise how much work goes into organising international events such as this. And while I’m sure it will be challenging at times, we’re looking forward to taking it on and making this a DrupalCon to remember. If nothing else, we’re looking forward to taking Drupal Trivia home and making it the best Trivia Night yet!

Come join us for DrupalCon Dublin next year - you won’t regret it!

Aug 31 2015
Aug 31

Continuing in our series of integrating CRMs with Drupal, we're now going to take a look at CiviCRM, an open-source, web-based CRM aimed at charities and non-profits which integrates closely with Drupal, Joomla and WordPress.

On a first look, it appears as another Drupal module and is downloaded and enabled in much the same way. However, it's really an external system that sits within Drupal. Often this leads to confusion as it doesn't behave and act in the same way as normal Drupal modules. It also doesn't work well with Drupal's theming layer and provides its own Smarty based templating engine.

Out of the box, CiviCRM comes with a lot of features, including nice deduping contacts functionality and a mail merge. Other features include:

  • Contact management
  • Event forms and registration management
  • Donation forms
  • Mailing lists
  • Petitions
  • Membership management

While aimed at charities and non-profit organisations, it can be customised for commercial applications. However, it is quite a large or weighty program with all the functionality it provides and we've seen a considerable negative performance impact on sites using it.

Due to its close integration with the Drupal platform, it is not too complicated to extend it to integrate with other Drupal modules, such as Webform, Ubercart and Entities and I actually wrote the Drupal Commerce CiviCRM integration module. It provides a fair number of CiviCRM hooks and an API to facilitate this sort of integration.

We've used CiviCRM on a number of client sites, including a bi-lingual English-Irish one, where we had to translate a number of the CiviCRM interface strings into Irish and which resulted in me becoming the maintainer of the CiviCRM Irish translation

However, our experiences using CiviCM generally haven't been that good. We've found it difficult to maintain, upgrade and customise, which combined with the website performance penalty, has resulted in us switching to Drupal's fully native RedHen CRM instead. I'll be covering RedHen in more detail in a later blog post in this series.

Why not get in contact with us to discuss how we can integrate your CRM and website?

Aug 04 2015
Aug 04

Recently I wrote about integrating Salesforce CRM with Drupal. Continuing in the same series, the next CRM we’re going to look at is MS Dynamics from Microsoft.

Unlike with Salesforce, there is not a plethora of modules offering integration with Drupal. In fact, there’s not even one! Okay I’ll admit, there’s one relatively new module which is still in development and not usable yet - MS Dynamics Client Connection.This seems largely due to the fact that the API is highly dependent on the data structure of the CRM itself, and as the configuration of each CRM instance is usually bespoke to the individual organisation, it leaves little to nothing that can be re-used in a generic Drupal integration module. In addition, Microsoft offer their own CMS option so are a bit reluctant to offer integrations with other systems.

On the MS Dynamics integration projects we have worked on, the client usually has had MS Dynamics specialists on board for the setup and configuration of the CRM (always advisable for any CRM project in my opinion). As well as the CRM setup, they can also provide an intermediate API layer between the website and the CRM. This abstracts the data structure and provides a simpler interface to interact it, removing the need for in-depth knowledge of the CRM structure.

The custom APIs we’ve worked with are normally SOAP or REST based, and again as they are custom to the CRM instance being integrated with, we’ve written custom modules to handle the integration and have been unable to contribute anything back to the wider Drupal community. 

However, much like the Salesforce Webform Data Integration we’ve taken to allowing the client to define the mappings for webforms through the webforms UI. Unfortunately, most other mappings have had to be defined in code, but by allowing clients choose which API method to use for webforms and the mappings to use for each field, we’ve been able to provide clients with the ability to create new forms and integrate them with the CRM without the need for developers in the majority of cases.

Again similar to what we do with our Salesforce integrations, we’ve also implemented error handling and tracking to ensure no data ever gets lost. Filterable reports allow the client to check whether any submissions have failed to make it through to the CRM, and why, and to resubmit them if necessary.

I'd be interested to hear how other people have gone about integrating MS Dynamics and Drupal. Do you also rely on an intermediate API layer? Or do you integrate with MS Dynamics directly? What have been your experiences?

Jul 27 2015
Jul 27

Recently, I wrote a blog post on the benefits of integrating your website and CRM, and Anthony followed up with another on the typical integration patterns you commonly see. Annertech have a lot of experience integrating Drupal websites with various CRMs, so this is the start of a new series on CRM integration where we will go into more detail on some of the more popular CRMs we’ve worked with. First up: Salesforce!

I first started integrating Drupal with Salesforce back in 2009 with Drupal 6 for Trócaire. Since then we’ve worked with it multiple times with both ‘web-to-lead’ integration and ‘two-way synchronisation’ integration, with both Drupal 6 and 7.

With ‘web-to-lead’ integration, the website acts as a data capture mechanism, generating leads for Salesforce. When a user submits a form on the website, the data is instantly sent to Salesforce and a 'lead' object is created. Whereas with the two-way ’synchronisation’ integration option, Salesforce remains the canonical data source, but the website can update Salesforce with the latest data captured, and can also pull down the latest updates from Salesforce to ensure the user always sees the latest version of the data. This is normally used in the case of managing membership details - so members can view and update their contact information online while administrators can modify them via Salesforce UI and both systems have the latest copy of the data.

SOAP vs REST

When we worked on our first Drupal-Salesforce integration in 2009, there was only a SOAP interface available when communicating with Salesforce. Since then they have brought in a REST interface, which offers some benefits over SOAP including the fact that it is  faster, more efficient and easier to integrate with.

Entities

The module landscape has also changed with Drupal 7. The powerful Salesforce Suite is still the go-to module for any Drupal-Salesforce integration but it changed drastically between Drupal 6 and 7. The main change is that it is now entirely entity driven. This means it will only create or update records in Salesforce when an entity is created or updated. This is great for updating Salesforce with new users, new commerce shop orders, or any other Drupal entity you may have on your site. However, this means that webforms submissions are not supported, which I’ll discuss in more detail shortly.

Salesforce Suite provides a number of hooks you can leverage to manipulate the data before it gets sent/received, as well as hooks for altering the mappings and other useful integration points. The main one we availed of was hook_salesforce_push_params_alter() which allows you to alter the data that gets sent and add additional mappings. I found this one particularly useful for conditional mappings - e.g. if the data that gets sent for a mapping varies based on the data entered or a combination of values entered.

Salesforce Suite supports both push and pull integration, so it is suitable for web-to-lead and two-way synchronisation. In such instances, the module will pull down the latest version of the data from Salesforce. This pull operation is usually triggered in some form, for example a user goes to edit their profile, or renew their membership, etc. However, it could also be triggered on a periodic cron run. Whatever you use to trigger it, just be sure not to issue too many API calls as you’ll just slow down the site and probably upset the folks at Salesforce! Once triggered, the associated entity is updated with the newly fetched data.

Webforms

The reliance of the Salesforce Suite module on entities posed a number of problems for us however. Most sites we create have a number of webforms, from lead generation forms to ‘volunteer with us’ type forms and donation forms. For new sites, there is an alternative to the webforms module: Entity Form. With the Entity forms module, every time the form is submitted a new entityform submission entity is created. As it’s an entity, there is no problem using the Salesforce Suite module to send the submitted data to Salesforce.

However, it’s not always feasible to use the Entity Form module. This was the case for us where we had an existing site with a large number of webforms already in place, including one that used the Pay module for processing donations. Instead we opted to use the Salesforce Webform Data Integration module. Unfortunately this doesn’t integrate with Salesforce Suite and uses the old SOAP interface, so you will have to configuration the Salesforce credentials twice and in potentially two different ways. There is a patch in the issue queue which integrates the two modules to avoid this issue, and there’s a few other patches from the issue queue that you will need too.

There is an older Salesforce Webform Integration module maintained by myself for Drupal 6, but it relied on the old non-entity driven Salesforce Suite architecture and so I’ve deprecated this in favour of Salesforce Webform Data Integration module. Other Salesforce-webform integration modules have been released since and have matured over the past couple of years that I have yet to try. Given the current lack of activity on the Salesforce Webform Data Integration module, these might be worth considering for newer projects, but Salesforce Webform Data Integration is still the one most actively in use. There’s a good comparison of these quite similar modules on drupal.org which is worth a look before choosing which module to use for your project.

However, one of the nice features about the Salesforce Webform Data Integration module is the ability to configure, on a per-form basis, whether that form should send data to Salesforce and then on a per-field basis configure which fields in Salesforce the data should be mapped to. We found this particularly useful when the client wanted to be able to create new forms and manage the mappings themselves without having to come back to the developers.

As this module works with webform submissions, and not with entities, it only supports web-to-lead integration. If the data in Salesforce is updated, there is no way to update the website with the latest changes.

It also provides a number of hooks including hook_salesforcewebform_data_alter(), which similarly to the Salesforce Suite module hook, allows you to manipulate the data before sending it to Salesforce, for example, we had to change the single on/off checkbox values from 1 and 0 to TRUE and FALSE.

Resilience

One of the features all of the Salesforce modules seem to be lacking, and most external-CRM integration modules for that matter, is the ability to record which transactions have made it through to the CRM successfully.

On all external CRM integrations we’ve had to implement, I think we’ve had to maintain a custom logging mechanism to track which submissions to Salesforce have made it through and which ones have failed, and if so, with what error. For example, sometimes submissions can fail to get through if there is a problem with the data (like the 1/0 vs TRUE/FALSE issue mentioned previously) or if there was a network issue that prevented it reaching Salesforce. To implement this functionality we were able to use hooks like hook_salesforcewebform_submission_pre_send() and hook_salesforcewebform_submission_post_send() to record submissions sent to Salesforce, and then update their status afterwards.

We’ve also provided a user interface for the client to find submissions that failed, and they can either force it to reattempt the submission, or wait until it attempts it again on the next cron run.

So, that's a short introduction to some of the technical side of implementing your Drupal website with a Salesforce CRM. If you think your organisation could benefit from some of our knowledge in this area, why not give us a call on 01 524 0312 or drop us an email at [email protected].

Jun 17 2015
Jun 17

Every organisation needs a CRM (C. Relationship Management) system, no matter how large or small that organisation is. Whether the C stands for Customers, Clients, Constituents, Contributors or other Contacts, organisations need to manage their contacts and keep track of their interactions with them.

So you have a CRM, excellent! However, a CRM is only as good as the data it receives. Many organisations fail to integrate their website with their CRM, having never realised the benefits they could receive by doing so. However, integrating the two systems can bring a lot of added value to your organisation. Here are seven reasons why you should integrate your website with your CRM system.

1. instantaneous and access to up-to-date data

For me, the number one benefit you gain from integrating your website with your CRM is having instant access to the latest data. Automated integration between the website and your CRM is seamless and in real time. There's no more questioning the accuracy of the data, or wondering if yesterday's or last week's website orders have been added to the CRM yet. This is hugely beneficial when it comes to talking to a customer as you know, with confidence, all the details of their most recent purchase or other interaction with you, and that can only lead to improved customer satisfaction and increased sales.

2. Reduced administration overhead

If your website and your CRM don't talk to each other, then you're probably spending an inordinate amount of time either exporting it from the website and then importing into the CRM, or worse yet, manually copying and pasting the latest order (or other) data from your website to the CRM, or worst of all, not capturing that data in your CRM at all!

By opting for an automated integration between the two systems, you're reducing your administration overhead (and hence saving both time and money) as all that manual copy and paste, or export and import, is removed. This leads to increased productivity as it frees up your staff to work on other tasks.

3. Single (accurate) data source

Another time saver for staff is where, by integrating your CRM with your website (and other sales or contact point systems), you end up with just one single accurate data source on each contact. Just think, what would having one master record on each customer or potential lead (with no duplicate data) mean for your sales or fundraising team? For a start, it saves them time as they don't have to check multiple systems to get a full picture of the customer.

In addition, because there is no manual human element in adding the data to the CRM, there is less chance or errors being made or duplicate records created. As well as that, it is likely that more data is captured, and by consolidating all that data into one place, a more complete and accurate picture or profile of your customer is achieved, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

4. Better profiling

A key benefit of any CRM is the ability to profile customers or leads to determine what they might purchase, how valuable a customer they are, etc. The more data you have on a customer, the easier it is to create a better profile, and the more accurate the data you feed in, the more accurate the profile becomes.

By integrating your website with your CRM, you will get a fuller, more complete picture of your customers' interactions with your organisation, from initial enquiry to sales, communications and eventual feedback. It gives you access to more reliable and consistent information. You are better informed about your customers and you've better visibility of your customer's behaviour and buying habits.

Better customer profiles allow you to more effectively manage and target marketing campaigns and other activities, while the website integration enables you to track the effectiveness of these campaigns online through conversion rates and customer response.

5. Increased sales

I've touched on it a few times already, but integrating your website with your CRM should help you improve your organisation's sales. Essentially it comes down to one thing - more and accurate data leads to better profiles, which leads to better-quality leads which in turn leads to higher conversion rates.

Many organisations spend a lot of time and money on their websites, creating great content and adding forms for prospective customers to contact them. By integrating your website with your CRM, it shortens the sales process, as potential leads are in the system immediately after the initial contact, and it gives your sales team better data to work with, ultimately leading to better conversion rates.

6. Improved response time to queries

After a potential customer makes contact, for example they've requested a quote or further information about a product or service, your CRM can automatically assign the customer's query directly to the appropriate person or team. For example, the CRM could use the customer's location, industry, referenced product, etc as factors in determining the correct department or staff member to direct the query to. All of the necessary information can be captured via the website and sent to the CRM with the customer's query. The CRM can then automatically assign and alert the relevant staff member of the new message. This all results in a speedier, and more relevant, follow-up response to the customer, which, like a lot of the other benefits listed, leads to increased sales.

7. Customer churn is kept to a minimum

As a result of the improved response time to queries outlined above, lead follow-up is efficient and customers are happy that their query is being dealt with quickly and by the right person. Other small touches such as the automatic sending of an acknowledgement of receipt or a thank you email, can again make the customer feel happy that their query is being dealt with.

Through better profiling of customers, you can track customer satisfaction. Feedback received can be acted upon and dealt with. This is especially important for negative feedback, but just as useful to do for positive feedback. By dealing with a customer's complaints quickly and effectively, and by monitoring and reviewing general satisfaction with different aspects of your business, you can reduce your customer churn rates.

So that all sounds great, now what? Well, I guess first, if you don't have a CRM already, you will need to pick one. There are a lot of CRMs to choose from, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, or even Drupal native CRMs such as RedHen and CRM Core. Ultimately though it will come down as to what you're going to use your CRM for and your budget.

If you already have a website and a CRM setup, then the next step is to determine the various interaction points between the website and the CRM. By and large, every form on your website will probably need to integrate with your CRM, though you could ignore some such as comment forms on blog posts. However, integrating your shop checkout, donation form, contact form or other lead generation forms with your CRM is vital.

With the integration points determined, you can then talk to your website developers about your requirements and start making the above seven benefits a reality.

Annertech have lots of experience in integrating Drupal websites with CRMs, including Salesforce, MS Dynamics, SugarCRM, CiviCRM, Goldmine and others. Over the coming months we will publish a series of blog posts on some of the more popular CRMs and how you might approach integrating them with your Drupal website, so stay tuned!  Why not subscribe to our monthly newsletter or RSS feed to make sure you don't miss them?

If you have a Drupal website and require CRM integration, be sure to get in touch.

Nov 05 2014
Nov 05

We are delighted to learn that the Building Control Management System (BCMS) project that we built recently for the LGMA has been nominated for an Engineers Ireland Excellence Award.  

The BCMS project, which we built as part of the localgov.ie portal, provides a new centralised system for administering planning notices on behalf of all local authorities in Ireland. It has been very successful at streamlining services, reducing administrative burden and, ultimately, reducing public sector costs. So successful has it been that a similar approach is now being considered for other aspects of the LGMA's and local authority sector in Ireland's work in a very timely effort to streamline local government services and save money.

The BCMS project has been short-listed in the Technological Innovation of the Year award category. The 2014 Excellence Awards, which will showcase the very best Irish engineers and engineering, is on Friday 7th November in The Four Seasons Hotel, Ballsbridge.

The purpose of the Technological Innovation of the Year Award is to highlight innovative technological concepts created in Ireland or by an Irish engineer that clearly demonstrates a real impact on society and an actual or future contribution to the economy.

This award will be presented to the organisation or engineer which has demonstrated excellence in the field of technology (digital, software) and innovation in any area of business, healthcare, education or the arts.

Though we are up against some very worthy competition from "FixYourStreet" and "Assisted Domestic Robot", we are confident that the LGMA came up with the product of the year.

Of course, Annertech will be there on the night to wish the project every success.

Oct 17 2014
Oct 17

Worried about the different Drupal and SSL security announcements made this week?  Here's what you need to know.

Drupal SA-CORE-2014-005

On Wednesday, the Drupal Security Team released a highly critical security update (SA-CORE-2014-005) for Drupal 7.  If you have a Drupal 7 site that isn't on the latest 7.32 version, it is extremely important that you upgrade your sites or apply the patch immediately!

This isn't your regular Drupal security announcement, which, while still important to upgrade, may or may not affect your particular site.  This vulnerability affects every single Drupal 7 site out there.  And since the announcement, proof of concepts (PoCs) have been popping up on the internet.  

The vulnerability involved is a SQL injection vulnerability, which allows the attacker to send specially constructed messages to the site and ultimately can lead to arbitrary PHP code execution, access to all your site's and user's data as well as the ability to modify it.  What makes this particularly bad is this vulnerability doesn't require the attacker to already have privileged access to the site - any anonymous user can do it.  Thankfully there is a security release available and you can, and should, update today.  

If you host your site with Annertech, or are one of our support clients, then rest assured that your site is safe.  All vulnerable sites were patched within minutes of the announcement being made.

POODLE

However, #drupalsa05 isn't the only security vulnerability announced this week. POODLE is yet another.  It transpires that SSLv3 has a design flaw that allows the plaintext of secure connections to be calculated by a network attacker.  SSL is used to protect your information from access and modification when browsing sites over https, and now if you're using a browser over the same wireless network as your attacker, then you may be suspectible if using SSLv3.  SSLv3 is nearly 18 years old and newer, stronger versions are available.  The methods vary, but you can protect yourself against this vulnerability by disabling SSLv3 support in your browser configuration, depending on your browser version. IE6 on Windows XP for example doesn't support anything newer than SSLv3.

If you provide hosting services, it is also possible to protect your users being attacked too.  You can configure your webserver to disable SSLv3 and the steps vary depending on the web server or application being used.  Again, if you host your site with Annertech, we've already taken this precaution for you, otherwise get in touch with your hosting company to see what measures they've taken.

So, whilst the threats are severe, the fixes are simple. Make sure that your website is not open to attack.

Jun 30 2013
Jun 30

Another great day, and the final day, of Drupal Developer Days Dublin! The conference continued with more excellent sessions and, of course, sprinting.

There were a few sore heads after the party last night, but it didn't stop people turning up this morning for the first sessions at 9:30am. Yesterday saw two Annertechies presenting sessions, and today continued with another Annertechie session, this time from Anthony on "Maps and Openlayers". Unfortunately, I continued in my trend and didn't make it to this one either, as, during the final session of the day, I was busy wrapping things up and tearing down posters so we could be out of the building on time.

As it happens, it wasn't quite the final session of the day. I had to give one to wrap up the event, including sharing some final numbers on the event. As the slide above shows, there were:

  • Over 210 attendees
  • 24 sessions
  • 2 workshops
  • 1 job speed dating event
  • 120+ people sprinting, over 7 days
  • Over 120 commits to Drupal core, including 85 commits made on Irish soil
  • And many people (including me!) uploaded their first Drupal 8 core patch

Before I sign off this final blog post of the week, I really need to thank some people, without which I couldn't have organised this event:

  • Mike, Drupal Ireland chair and Annertech project manager, who managed my time both in work and on Drupal Dev Days, and who made sure I stayed on top of things
  • Conor, for organising all the tea/coffee, sandwiches and cake!
  • Edward, for taking the lead on the website development, design and for designing the t-shirts too
  • Eoin in DIT, for helping secure the venue in DIT - which they gave to us entirely for free!
  • Heather, for all her promotion and sponsorship wrangling
  • Gary, Louis and Paul for managing the t-shirt stand all weekend
  • Andrew, José and the numerous other volunteers who contributed their time
  • Gábor, chx, xjm and YesCT for helping promote the event and encouraging people to come

Thank you all for all your help, and thanks to everyone who came too. It's been a really great week, although an exhausting one! I'm looking forward to the next Drupal Dev Days, wherever that will be. However, for now, I'm looking forward to getting to sleep!

Thanks everyone!

Jun 29 2013
Jun 29

Day 6 of Drupal Developer Days Dublin, and Day 1 of the sessions, got underway today. Over 200 people are in attendance for this part of the conference, and there's a great atmosphere around the place.

There were many great sessions on today. Unfortunately I was running around for most of the day ensuring rooms were ok, wifi stayed up and the tea/coffee kept flowing, so didn't get to see many of the sessions. However, the couple of sessions I did manage to sneak into were fantastic, namely "Multilingual Drupal 8 - what to look forward to?" from Gábor Hojtsy and "Dependency Injection in Drupal 8" by Kat Bailey.

I didn't even get to two sessions given by my fellow Annertechies! Alan presented a session on the new templating system in Drupal 8, Twig, while Edward gave a session entitled "Think CSS" which looked at the history of CSS, gave an overview of writing maintainable CSS and its future.

Lunch today was sponsored by CommPress, and our caterers went that extra step further and added the sponsor's name and the #drupaldevdays hashtag to the packaging, which was a really nice touch. However, Conor had organised a special surprise for all the attendees - blue cupcakes in the shape of a Druplicon! They even turned your tongue blue :)

Following the sessions came the offical party (sponsored by Freistilbox) in the The Odeon bar just up the road. We had the whole of the top floor to ourselves, and they even put on a summer BBQ outside. Of course, the sprints continued with many coders returning to the sprint rooms after the start of the party fesitivies.

Last day of Dev Days is tomorrow, for which there should be some more great sessions, and some last minute patching ahead of the code freeze on Monday.

Jun 28 2013
Jun 28

Drupal Developer Days Dublin continues! Day 5 of the event saw even more people arriving and the start of the event "proper", with 2 workshops and our new "Job Speed Dating" event.

The day kicked off with the Community Tools Workshop, and then followed in the afternoon by the "Upgrading Your Modules to Drupal 8" workshop, which was actually so popular we had to move it to a larger room!

However, the main highlight of the day for me was the introduction of a new event at Drupal Dev Days - "Job Speed Dating". It's not your normal job fair type affair. Instead each of the companies looking to recruit, gave a 2 minute pitch from the stage and then prospective candidates chose which companies they want to chat with and took a time slot from each. They were then given 5-10 minutes to have a chat and exchange details. Employers can then follow up with the most interesting candidates later if they wish to talk further. Overall, it seemed to go quite smoothly with a number of sponsors taking part, including Annertech! Here's hoping some fruitful conversations were had!

T-shirts also went on sale today, with a variety of colours doing the rounds, depending on whether you're a sponsor, volunteer or attendee. Be sure to get yours tomorrow if you haven't already, they're selling quickly!

Drupal Dev Days begins in earnest tomorrow, with our first day of sessions. I can't wait!

Jun 27 2013
Jun 27

And the sprinting continues! Each day more and more people are arriving and again the sprints are continuing on into the early hours of the morning.

However, tonight I didn't join the sprinters - instead I went to the first official social evening of Drupal Developer Days Dublin, which was held in the Against the Grain bar on Wexford St. It was a really good night, with lots of new faces who just arrived in Dublin today ahead of the workshops tomorrow. It was a welcome break to step away from the laptops and event organisation and just go have a few drinks and enjoy each other's company.

Jun 26 2013
Jun 26

Drupal Developer Days Dublin is really under way now, with more and more sprinters arriving every day. There's a really fantastic buzz around the place.

The big highlight for me today was actually being able to find the time to do some sprinting! At the sprints last night I was able to work on some Drupal 8 core issues, but as the lead organiser of the conference, being able to find the time during the day and not having to run around sorting out various issues, is a big thing for me. It may not happen again during the conference, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to do so today.

Some of the issues I worked on were:

Fingers crossed I'll find some more time to sprint at this conference, but I'm not holding my breath :)

Jun 25 2013
Jun 25

Things were a bit crazy here today at Drupal Developer Days Dublin. Turns out there were some problems finding and gaining access to the sprint venue last night (I knew I should have gone along!). That combined with the fact that the venue not being able to stay open later than 10pm and some attendees wanting to sprint late into the night, a new evening sprint venue was called for.

As it happened, a new venue wasn't that tricky to find. I already had a list of backups from the other venues I'd researched in the preparation for Dev Days, so after a quick call and a little bit of anxious waiting, the Fitzwilliam Hotel on St. Stephen's Green came to our rescue. I really must thank Lorna in the Fitzwilliam for being so helpful and for sorting it out so quickly for us.

I'm actually writing this blog post from the new sprint venue in the Fitzwilliam and it's great. There's plenty of space and power strips, though the wifi is a little shaky on one side of the room, but I'm sure they'll be able to sort that out for us once we report it in the morning. The staff are very accomodating today.

Here's to another great sprint day tomorrow!

Jun 24 2013
Jun 24

Get ready, get set, GO!! After months of preparation, today marks the first day of Drupal Developer Days 2013 being held here in Dublin in the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and organised by yours truly. Of course, there are many volunteers involved, including Mike, Conor, Heather, and others but more about them in another blog post.

For this first part of the conference, there are no sessions, with just full day code sprints from Monday to Thursday. It's the first time that we've held week-long sprints at Dev Days, and mainly driven by the API Code Freeze that's happening the day after Dev Days finishes - 1st July.

It's been a successful day so far, with almost 30 people attending the sprints, including a big turnout from the Multilingual Initiative team. There were some teething problems to begin with, mainly in relation to wifi, but the staff at DIT were amazing and got that sorted fairly quickly.

The sprints continue tonight in TCube which is a coworking space, but also provides space for meetups. Unfortunately I'm unable to attend tonight, so here's hoping they're able to find it ok!

Get your ticket now!

Mar 20 2013
Mar 20

We're delighted to announce that Annertech will be sponsoring the upcoming Drupal Developer Days 2013 being held in Dublin later this year. We've signed up as a silver sponsor and are really looking forward to the event.

Drupal Developer Days is an annual European event that brings together the people who develop, design and support the Drupal platform. The event will feature dozens of sessions and panels from some of Drupal's best contributors, providing developers and site builders with a chance to both learn and share their knowledge with other Drupal professionals.

This year's event is particularly special. Drupal Developer Days 2013 coincides with the final days of development prior to Drupal 8 code freeze. In light of this, this year there will be a week-long Drupal 8 core code sprint in the week leading up to the Drupal Developer Days event.

It should be a brilliant event, and there are only a limited number of sponsorship slots still available, so please help support the event.

Support Drupal Developer Days too!

Aug 27 2012
Aug 27

Following Greg Dunlap's (heyrocker) call for sponsorship funds at DrupalCon Munich, we at Annertech decided to do what we can to help.

Greg is the initiative lead on the Configuration Management Initiative (CMI), which is aiming to introduce a new configuration management system in Drupal 8. With CMI, configuration in Drupal will no longer be held in various tables in the database, but rather in YAML (YAML Ain't Markup Language) based configuration files. This will make it easier to do code driven development, and hopefully eliminate the need to use the Features module or write custom update hooks in order to deploy configuration changes.

CMI is something that Annertechies are eagerly awaiting and really want to see happen in Drupal 8. However, there is a long way to go before this dream will become a reality. As a small organisation, there is not much we can contribute in terms of developer time, however, we are committed to do what we can to help make this happen. So I'm delighted to announce, that Annertech will be sponsoring Greg for his work on the Configuration Management Initiative.

If you would like to help or get involved, please visit http://drupal8cmi.org.

Is there anything we can help you with?

Jul 12 2012
Jul 12

Encouraging your online shoppers to make donations just became easier! We recently released a new Drupal module, Commerce Donate, which allows visitors to your site to add donation products to their Commerce shopping cart.  

A donation amount widget is provided alongside the "add to cart" button, allowing users to choose from four pre-defined amounts to donate. In addition, we've added in an "other" option to allow them to enter in an alternative figure of their choosing. The default options can be overridden by enabling the Commerce Customizable Products module and editing the amount field on the donation line item type.

However, one of the nicer features of the module is the ability for the user to add a donation to their order in the middle of the checkout process! This way you can encourage users already committed to making a purchase, to donate to your organization. We're also working on a new feature which will make suggestions to the user to round up their order to the nearest Euro or 10 Euros (or dollars or pounds or whatever your unit of currency may be) as another way of encouraging users to give a little extra.

Mar 05 2011
Mar 05

DrupalCon Chicago is only a few days away and here at Annertech we're really looking forward to it. Alan and I are both flying out tomorrow and will be there for the week, allowing some extra time for sight-seeing and the code sprint on Friday. Both Alan and I are presenting at the conference. Alan and Randy have a session on Git on Drupal.org: It's easier than you think! and of course, my own one (with my co-presenter Jim Berry) on Coder: Upgrade your modules to Drupal 7.

Other highlights of the trip for me are going to the Welcome Party in the Field Museum, meeting an old colleague of mine from my Doolin Technologies days and, of course, the Drupal Trivia night on Thursday. This is actually an event the Drupal Ireland gang are organising. Many thanks to Conor, Síle and Deirdre for helping Alan and myself put together the questions. Word of warning, there are some tricky ones in there, so don't forget to study! We've even got a few prizes, including some Irish whiskey and Drupal Ireland t-shirts. Also major kudos to Tiffany and the rest of the DrupalCon Chicago team for all their assistance.

So here's to a great DrupalCon - we hope to see you there!

Jan 05 2011
Jan 05

Drupal 7 has finally been released! It took close to three years and lots of effort and contributions from the community to make this happen. This new release sees a whole load of new features and other improvements, from image handling in core to support for the semantic web through RDFa markup. Particular emphasis was placed on the user experience in this release, so both accessibility and the administrative user interface have been vastly improved.

In order to celebrate the release, the Drupal community are hosting release parties worldwide this coming Friday, 7th January. Annertech will be attending the two parties being held in Ireland, one at 7pm in the Longstone Pub, Dublin and the other at the Dew Drop Inn in Galway. Be sure to come along and join us!

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web