Lessons Learned from an Early Drupal 8 Project

November 5, 2015
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With the official release of Drupal 8.0.0 on the horizon, "real world" Drupal 8 stories are becoming more valuable.

Now that the train is actually approaching the station, we all want to know what it will be like to get on. 

Mediacurrent, a leading Drupal design firm, got their Drupal 8 ticket punched early. They partnered with Acquia to launch a Drupal 8 site for Manhattan Associates, a supply chain management software provider, back in August, 2015, when Drupal 8 was in beta. The site has been on the Drupal 8 frontier ever since. 

So what has the experience been like? 

A "real world Drupal 8" series from Mediacurrent and Acquia has been telling some backstories. 

Part one of our blog series centered on Manhattan Associates’s experience as an early D8 adopter. We showed Drupal 8’s mobile-first approach, improved theming, and Twig template system in action. In part two, we saw how Manhattan leveraged Drupal 8’s improved configuration management, new Web services API, and easy internationalization to achieve their business goals.

In the third and final post in our series, James Rutherford of Mediacurrent recaps some of the hurdles they faced during this project and their takeaways.  

Among the high points: 

LESSON #1: CONTRIBUTED MODULES WERE NOT AS FAR ALONG AS EXPECTED.

Although Drupal 8’s core met 95% of Manhattan Associate’s requirements, some additional modules were necessary to complete the project. Mediacurrent found that in the pre-release stage, some Drupal 8 contributed modules were simply not as far along the project required.

One of the ways they dealt with this challenge was to anticipate that there would be trouble along the way. Mediacurrent targeted a conservative number of contributed modules (ten) that they wanted to use. They estimated and planned for development strength in the schedule to accommodate for major issues with those modules, and were able to develop around them. 

Bottom line: It is imperative for those who are evaluating Drupal 8 to gain a concrete understanding of what your business requirements are and how much of that is covered by Drupal 8 core.

LESSON #2: BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN AND BUILD PROCESS

This project has been successful because Manhattan was willing to be flexible in their architectural design and in Mediacurrent’s build processes. The requirements stayed very business-oriented and they tried to stay out of too much technical detail. In areas where there were technical details, they gave themselves room to adapt.

Bottom line: Flexibility is what allowed us to launch an amazing platform for Manhattan that delivers on all the power and promise of Drupal 8. We were able to avoid budget issues and time by being flexible and having great communication between both teams.

LESSON #3: GOOD PLANNING AND RISK MANAGEMENT ARE ESSENTIAL

Mediacurrent and Acquia took a good, hard look at Drupal 8, understanding the competitive advantages of using Drupal 8 and the potential pain points of being an early adopter.

We were able to illustrate these pain points in a way that Manhattan could understand -- and could plan and budget for. Most importantly, we were able to successfully mitigate these pain points during the launch.

Mediacurrent and Acquia did an exhaustive analysis of current Drupal 8 core issues and the timeline for completion on these issues. We repeated the process for the targeted contrib functionality. This allowed us to estimate the correct budget and timeline with lower risk, and helped the Manhattan Leadership to have the information they needed to make the correct decision.

Bottom line: The ability to launch this site on time and on budget came from a smart, up front investment of planning and risk management between Mediacurrent, Acquia, and Manhattan.

There's much more in James's post on the Mediacurrent blog, Leading the Way on Drupal 8: Lessons Learned from Manhattan Associates D8 Redesign.

Definitely worth checking out. 

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Customer buy in

How receptive was Manhattan to the idea of being essentially a beta tester for Drupal 8? What sort of budgetary accommodations were they willing to make? How did you address the fact that updates may require more engineering than a stable version?

In my experience, when aa client is willing to try an unproven, mostly experimental software, they tend to expect the budgetary compromise to come from our end.

Drupal 8's calendar is broken

Drupal 8 seems not yet usable for sites that need working calendars:
https://www.drupal.org/node/2492011