206: How and why we use Drupal - a business owner's perspective

jam's Dev Camp is back with Alick Mighall, Managing Director of miggle in Brighton. He and I have a chat about Drupal and running your own business in the podcast interview part of this session. He goes on to do a very interesting presentation about the road to Drupal for himself and his agency, including some of the detours through proprietary and in-house software along the way. If you're wondering what Drupal can do for you and your company, listen to our conversation then watch Alick's presentation. Slides and full session video below!

Misapprehension of the day

"I thought--rather unfairly--that things like Drupal were crutches for bad developers because they did a lot of it for you. I now know that to be completely wrong."

Alick and I now agree that a platform like Drupal empowers developers and others by putting the result of more than a decade of collaboration by thousands of great developers in their hands. As a developer at SymfonyLive Berlin 2015 put it to me recently, "I don't want to spend my time reproducing commodity functionality like a user login system or whathaveyou, I want to solve the interesting problems, which is why I outsource the basics to a Symfony or Drupal."

Drupal - positioned for tomorrow

We got to talking about Drupal's speciality--managing content--and how Drupal 8 is perfectly poised to serve the omnipresent Internet we are slowly approaching: "The really exciting thing about Drupal 8 and 'headless Drupal' [Drupal functioning as a back end for other systems functioning as the presentation layer like native smartphone apps, or Angular.js applications, and so on]. We've just recently started working on a project that outputs a JSON feed that is used to populate content across a range of different devices. As the Internet of Things grows, then Drupal's ability as a content store, to be able to manage repositories of content and point them at any IP-enabled device ... I don't see that you can easily do that in other solutions that Drupal might be seen as competing against."

Business in the open source context

"Being a business person in the open source context, to me, goes hand-in-hand with being a business person and the benefits I get out of that in terms of the community that I get through involvement with Drupal. What's great about selling open source to businesses is that you're able to sell in business continuity. Open source is something that allows your client not to have a dependency on you going forward. That's really key. We're always trying to sell our clients self-sufficiency. We talk a lot about operational freedom. Open source fits that really well."

"As a business owner--and running a business can sometimes be a lonely place--I get a huge amount out of the community. When I go to Drupal events and I look at all of the fantastically talented people that are working on the platform ... and its open architecture means anybody can contribute to it. We're all pooling together to make sure that we've got a shared set of tools to be able to deliver on a wide variety of use cases. I find that a really reassuring thing because I am running a small business, but it makes me feel like I am part of something much bigger."

"I've got certain go-to people in the community that we can always talk to about solutions. We've got a variety of people that we look up to for best practices. If we were working in a proprietary way or even if we were working with a range of other off-the-shelf software or other open source solutions, I don't think I would get the same benefits that I do out of Drupal."

"When we come together as a community, we're trying to grow the overall pie. Everything that we work on together has the opportunity of making Drupal much bigger success story. If that happens, there should be plenty of work to go around. The businesses that have great, genuine community involvement don't struggle to pick up work. More and more, we're seeing that clients are asking to see evidence and examples of community involvement as part of their decision-making criteria."

Presentation video - 32 minutes

Presentation outline and slides

How and why we use Drupal - a business owner's perspective

  • The road to offering self-sufficiency on the web
  • Assessing CMSs then building my own ... and realizing the error of my ways a couple of years later
  • Embracing open source
  • Settling on Drupal
  • Finding and developing talent
  • Product v service business models
  • Drupal community, contribution, and partnership
  • And the future?

Guest dossier

Interview video - 26 minutes