Kent Gale, Senior Director of the Client Advisory Team is on the front lines of keeping Acquia's clients happy and productive: "Every day is a pretty intensive exercise in making customers successful ... one way or the other ... either helping them develop, or deploy or maintain and manage their site."
Where's the business in "free"?
Kent has come a long way from his first encounter with open source software. When Netscape created the Mozilla Organization and open sourced its browser's source code in 1998, Kent more or less wrote the action off as a novelty. When Jay Batson called him ten years later about coming to Acquia, Kent wasn't interested. "How can you make a business out of this? Who can have a job if [the software is] free?". Kent convinced himself open source software was a viable business proposition once he understood that any application, free or otherwise, needs "implementation and ongoing caring and feeding ... and that's where you can add value and expertise"
Kent's team of dedicated, hard working Drupal experts helps to fulfill customer's needs and solve their problems. As he rightly says, "The point of any support organization is to make your customers successful." Where Acquia's support differs from proprietary product-support, however, in that it supports any and every custom implementation of Drupal, making it a larger, more flexible, and probably more interesting problem space.
One vital difference in Drupal and open source software is that instead of having one choice (use it or don't use it), everyone who is using Drupal is also working to change and improve it at the same time. Acquia's support team, therefore is also making constant improvements to Drupal and its modules based on real-world problems they encounter "in the trenches" every day with hundreds of clients.
Kent's insight once he wrapped his head around the open source way of doing things: "This struck me as unique and exciting; customers were not stuck with what they had. They could change it on their own. They could wait for the community members to help change it, but they were not stuck. Everybody was in flight at the same time in improving, developing, and using the software."
Making a difference in Drupal
Kent points out that the Acquia Support team helps get patches back into Drupal, but they also help customers (Drupal developers!) focus on best practices, to help them be successful and have a good experience with Drupal ... helping people out of the "Drupal just doesn't work" trap of bad implementations ...
The Support team also makes sure clients who may be new to Drupal or open source understand how it all works. Once the work they're doing is needed by other people, other companies and how valuable it is when they contribute it back. "And we've helped them understand the benefit that they receive by others doing that as well."
Making a difference in the world
Kent gives a great, inside perspective on how the Acquia Support and other teams all pulled together to make sure Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt's largest independent media outlet, was able to cover recent elections in that country. Find more information and the more "official" story here on Acquia.com: http://www.acquia.com/resources/case-study/al-masry-al-youm
In the recording, I say that DrupalCon Szeged was in 2009. It was actually in 2008. How time flies!