Multisite Governance, Site Delivery, and Other Issues Related to Managing Many Sites: Part 3

This is Part 3 of an interview with Will Eisner, Senior Director, Product at Acquia. Will’s primary focus is on Acquia Cloud Site Factory, which helps organizations create and manage many sites, from a dozen to thousands.

Also sitting in on the interview, via conference line, was Sonya Kovacic, a Junior Product Manager at Acquia who also works on Site Factory.

In Part 1 and Part 2, Will discussed how companies often discover, to their dismay, that they are running their hundreds of Web sites on many different hard-to-manage platforms; and how Site Factory addresses that problem with a managed delivery that uses a common platform with standard components, provisioning, and lifecycle management.

This section of the interview covers how managing many sites is becoming the norm, and how more people now have website responsibilities, and how that leads to the need for new tools like Content Hub.

The interview was conducted by DC Denison, Senior Editor, Technology, at Acquia.

What are the most common types of customers who end up needing help handling multiple sites?

We see a few different kinds of customers, and they’re in different kinds of platform states when they come to us.

One type of organization has already come to the realization that they’ve grown organically in terms of the number of code bases and content management systems they have, and now they’re in an untenable state. So those organizations, they’re looking to bring some sanity, control, and scalability to their lives.

We also have other kinds of organizations that are in a different situation, where they have an old legacy CMS that they were able to dictate to everybody. But the marketers don’t like it it, or it’s nearing the end of its life, and so it’s no longer viable to keep using this old platform. These organizations are looking for something that offers the benefits that these centralized platforms offer but with more modern capabilities, better user experience, and so on.

So an organization wants to centralize on Drupal, but they really want a site that can be as responsive as the platform they are moving off of.

Well, Drupal is a feature-rich modern platform for digital experiences, and that’s what people expect now. Site Factory runs Drupal sites. What you can do in Drupal, you can do in Site Factory. Basically, Site Factory is a platform upon which you run your Drupal sites, but with central control mechanisms and special features: web-based site creation, centralized access control, and the one-step update capabilities that we discussed earlier.

Most people probably think of an enterprise website developer as working on a central site that sums up the brand: a hero site. What’s it like for you, and Sonya too, to think in terms of dozens and/or hundreds of sites? Does it change the way you think about the internet and the web and what’s possible?

Will: One thing that we’ve seen in large organizations is that we’re no longer in the era of the big dot-com. We’re in an era where every major organization that we work with has microsites and sub-sites and dedicated sites that they want to spin up.

They have multiple brands that they want to be able to support. They have regional needs. They have groups that want autonomous control of digital experiences.

It’s rare to find a company that’s just focused on the dot-com now. At least those aren’t the ones that we’re talking to.

Sonya, do you have anything to add to that?

Sonya: The biggest trend I’ve noticed when talking to customers is that the age of having only a few people in an organization creating websites is changing. Since having a digital presence is now an expectation for most companies, there is greater demand to have more websites, and therefore more people within the organization creating websites. What used to be solely a developer’s job, is now being appropriated by other roles in the company, like brand managers and admins. I see this increasing in the future.

So, all roads don’t lead to one main developer in an organization anymore. More people are now sharing that responsibility: they are maintaining their department’s website, for example, so they have to have some autonomy.

Will: It’s funny how there’s a cyclical pattern that you’ll see in technology. Some number of years ago it was all about the big dot-com; now we’re seeing a pattern where individual areas want to have their own digital presence a little bit more. Site Factory is a great fit for those kinds of organizations. Then, once things began getting broken apart, we started hearing from companies who wanted to have the ability to share content more easily across these distributed sites.

Once things are broken apart you no longer have one definitive, authoritative source of content. We have customers coming to us who have been running regional news sites, and they were happy that the sites were autonomous and could do upgrades when they wanted. What they didn’t like was that it was really difficult to share content across sites.

That’s why Site Factory and Acquia’s Content Hub offering are so tied together: because the same people who are running many autonomous sites, they’re the same ones who have content sharing needs.

That’s one of the key use cases of Content Hub.

Yes, the breaking apart causes a need for sharing. So the same dynamic that powered Site Factory is also giving a reason to roll out Content Hub.

Content Hub was incubated out of the Site Factory team. We were the first team that started working on it before it had its own team, because people were asking us about that pain point.

Next time: What Site Factory brings to the table for developers and site builders; and what it offers to highly regulated industries.