In my last post, we discussed the advantages to getting a headstart on Drupal 8 before its official release. Once you make the decision to become an early adopter, you’ll need to put in some work to adopt your skillset and bring your organization up to speed. Based on my experience leading the early adoption of Drupal 7 at Examiner.com, here are several best practices for helping you and your team get ahead.
Jump in the water.
Hands-on experience is essential. You can read all the documentation on Drupal 8 you want, but the best way to learn is to take on a project. If you’re not ready to do a public website, develop a company intranet, or do something simple, like a marketing site. More on this later, but the point is, you need to actually practice Drupal to become good at it.
Put together a plan.
If you’ve got a team of developers and end-users to bring up to speed, don’t allow them to blunder around aimlessly. Have a plan. At Examiner.com, we gave every developer a Drupal 7 sandbox and small projects and supported them with office hours led by our experts.
At Acquia, our support team uses what we call the mitosis method, where you pair someone experienced with someone less experienced. After a couple of training sessions, the pair splits and forms new pairs, passing the knowledge on down the line. This is an extremely effective method for bringing an entire team up to speed together. Whatever plan you choose, stick with it. You want to move forward as a team.
Learn the basics.
Drupal 8 offers more out-of-the-box and more point-and-click capabilities than any other version before it. This allows you to leverage more non-technical people in your site building, operations, and management. So before you start coding, learn the power of what you can do without coding first.
I recommend installing Drupal 8 core on Acquia Cloud for free to become familiar with the framework. Check out the new user and admin interfaces and site building capabilities. You’ll find you can build impressive sites without ever having to write a single line of code.
Now you are ready to code. The best way to learn is to take a module you’re familiar with in Drupal 7 and convert it into Drupal 8. This will give you a deeper understanding of the differences between the two versions. Start with a simple, small module and move on from there. Eventually, we need to upgrade all the Drupal 7 modules. So as an added benefit, you’re doing a huge service for the community. The more you give, the more you get back. For example, people reach out to me all the time for help and advice. If I know someone is a contributor to Drupal, I’m going to prioritize that person over someone who is not giving back.
Commit to a project.
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, take on a project. I recommend taking on a big public project and breaking it into smaller chunks. If that sounds too overwhelming, look for a small internal project. Every organization has systems to update and challenges it’s been putting off. Not only will you learn by doing, you’ll solve a business need and gain internal recognition in the process.
Attend events, meetings and sprints.
If you need additional support, you’ll find plenty in the form of Drupal 8 events, ranging from those that are purely informational to here’s-how-it-works sessions to hands-on sprints, where you get together with other people and write code.
Every DrupalCon event features sprints. The final day of DrupalCon Barcelona is a big sprint day that draws hundreds of Drupalers. You can literally show up having never written a line of code or ever used Drupal. We’ll put you into a group based on your interests and a mentor will walk you through your first contribution!
You could well end up sitting next to a world-class expert willing to spend time helping you get up to speed. Why? Because someone helped that person in the past and he or she understands the more people we bring into the community, the stronger, more powerful we become, and the more we can do together.
If you can’t make DrupalCon Barcelona, you’ll find a plethora of other events almost every week around the world. Many of these have a sprint associated with them where you can come and get started and get some support.
If you haven’t already started learning Drupal 8, you’re already behind. Each version of Drupal is an entirely new platform, so the earlier you get learning, the better. As an organization, it behooves you to develop your own internal expertise, so you’re not completely reliant on consultants. And if you’re new to Drupal, this is a great time to join the community and get in at the beginning of a lifecycle.
Remember, the best way to learn Drupal is to jump in and start swimming. Action is better than no action. With that in mind, I've added a few links to Drupal 8 resources to get you started.
Getting Started with Drupal 8: 3 Resources Worth Checking Out
1. The Ultimate Guide to Drupal 8 This is an early, "big picture" guide to Drupal 8 by Angie Byron, the Director of Community Development at Acquia.
2. 10 New Features in Drupal 8 Core Steve Burge of OSTraining has taught thousands of people how to build websites, and he has a special interest in Drupal. So he knows what's valuable to learn, and why.
3. A Drupal 8 Success Story How about a real-world story about an early project to build a Drupal 8 site? Mediacurrent, a leading web firm, explains why one of their customers, Manhattan Associates, decided to adopt Drupal 8 early, and how they pulled it off. Acquia's David Aponovich is also on this webinar, teasing out the lessons for web builders who are eager to jump into Drupal 8.