Taking Time to Learn Drupal 8

If you and your team want to learn the ins and outs of Drupal 8, try to maintain a thoughtful balance between training and the ordinary workflow. You don’t want people rushing through training, just as you also don’t want to devote too many hours to instruction.

We here at Acquia faced the same dilemma: how can an organization fully learn the more than 200 new capabilities of a new open source platform, but not sacrifice its ongoing commitment to customers? In this blog – the second in a series on Drupal 8 instruction – my co-author, Thomas Howell, and I will share how we determined the appropriate amount of training while trying to maintain the normal rhythm of work.

We started by separating employees into groups to set hours of training. We categorized workers so that we could have a better understanding of what problems we were trying to solve and what technical gaps we needed to fill.

So the "explainers" – basically those who are the faces of Acquia, the ones who explain our products and services to the public – had anywhere from one to four hours of training. They basically need only to talk about the differences between Drupal 8 and past versions, so that amount of training seemed sufficient.

The "assemblers" were in the middle. These were people who do basic theme changes, build sites, and conduct certain architecture work. They may need to discuss Drupal 8 only at a conceptual level, even if it’s reasonably technical, but didn’t need hands-on coding instruction. They received, depending on background and experience, between 10 to 20 hours of training.

The higher level, the "code makers" and "fixers" – typically but not always support people – went through 40 to 80 hours of training. Some of them went as high as 80 hours because they became mentors to others.

Make no mistake: this is a massive amount of time for any organization to work around. Obviously, your organization might have half or even one-eighth the size of Acquia’s staff, and a similar time commitment may simply be untenable. As we’ll remind you throughout this series, what worked for us may not work for you. But we hope that our experience will help you develop a better understanding of how to go about teaching Drupal 8 company-wide.

Despite having a relatively large workforce at Acquia, as a manager I still couldn’t avoid the big elephant in the room. I kept thinking, “Okay, how do we do this? How do we provide people with 40 to 60 to 80 hours of training when we’re basically at capacity all the time trying to deliver service to our customers?”

We found you can do one of two things: you can spread training out over a long period of time, or you can break off people from work and have them not do anything else but learn Drupal 8. We’ll get more into that down the road, including how mentoring and hands-on training helped us.

See you next time.