Michael Schmid, CTO of Amazee Labs, and I got the chance to talk in front of my camera during the Drupal Developer Days in Szeged, Hungary. As the technical lead of a successful and growing Drupal shop, I was keen to get his perspectives on how the technology of Drupal helps him do business and how Drupal 8 might help him and his clients even more than ever before.
Clicking v coding - love it or hate it?
Early in the interview, Michael talks about how Drupal 7 and 8 look like "tools with a lot of brainwork behind them" with which you can do almost anything, "everything is built so you can configure it on the site, you don't need to code a lot." Amazee Labs employs three back end developers, but nine site builders. Michael hits the nail squarely on the head right here: "All the [non-coding site builders] use modules. That's one of the fundamental things people love and hate about Drupal. Basically a site builder can build a whole site." Drupal remains the only open source CMS of significant complexity, flexibility, and power that is designed from the ground up for the end user. I don't mean for site visitors, I mean for the people who put the sites together, who run the sites on a daily basis, and now with initiatives like Spark, also for authors and content teams who work in the administrative interface day in and day out.
Customers as partners and contributors
Michael talks about how customers nowadays often not only have already done CMS evaluations and specifically ask for Drupal, but that they are now often prepared to pay for more than just the bare minimum of code necessary: Customers don't just want to use Drupal as a tool. They also want to invest in it. The conversation goes something like this: "We can build that specific, new feature for you and it'll take one day of work. It won't be test-covered and it won't be tested by the community [for compatibility, security, etc.]. In total it would take 3 days of work to get it to the point where somebody else can use it. And they say, 'Yes! We want to invest the time!' Most of the time we say let's go 50/50 and Amazee contributes half that work and the customer the other half. So the customer pays more than if there were just getting that simple, untested feature, specifically for that single website. They tell us, 'We use so much of the community's code and work already, we want to give something back.'" This is also a smart investment by Amazee Labs in their own toolset.
Drupal 8 means better business
In response to the question "What in Drupal 8 is going to benefit you as a Drupal business and how is it going to benefit you?" Michael first talks about how Drupal 8 being fully RESTful internally and externally makes it easier to do massive, multiple integrations: "We used to do maybe one integration with another blog. Now we have integrations into CRMs, we get and push data in and out, updates sent to iPhones ... and the underlying technology is now baked into Drupal. We did all the stuff we ever wanted to do for customers; it was just hard because there were so many different ways and now it's just baked in ... and I think in the right way. This all allows us to think outside of the box. It's not just 'We can build websites.' Now we can build whole systems, whatever the system is."
"The other point for me as a Drupal business owner is that I hope it will be easier to find people who can just help us. Especially in Switzerland, most developers who use PHP use it more as a side project, but the really big stuff happens in Java, and .NET. Now that we use patterns that are used in other languages and object oriented programming, I hope that it's easier for people to come in and help us build sites or maybe even allow them to write modules. In the end, I am interested in efficiency for the customer."
Drupal 8: better for clients, too
Still thinking about the benefits of Drupal 8, Michael proposes, "I guess their websites will be less expensive" or they can get a better website for the same budget. "If they want to build a really big website with lots of integrations, it's already there and we will use less time to fix stuff and figure stuff out. The integrations will be done faster." The technology will implement the integrations in a standardized way and thousands of other sites and projects will be doing it the same way; ironing out problems and improving the systems together, the open source way.
Presenter Dossier: Michael Schmid
- Job: CTO, Amazee Labs
- Drupal.org profile: Schnitzel
- Twitter: Schnitzel
- 1st version of Drupal: 5
- Favorite Drupal superpower: "To sit at a client meeting and whatever the client tells me, I know we can do it."
- Group picture Michael mentions as a sales tool: DrupalCon Copenhagen group photo. Photo credit: Morten Wulff – thanks, Morten!