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DrupalCon 2019 Executive Briefing: 10 Critical Take-Aways

by Dave Terry
April 17, 2019

birds eye view of DrupalCon Seattle attendees

DrupalCon Seattle represented the 12th consecutive year I've attended the North America gathering that draws Drupal enthusiasts from around the world. Mediacurrent had an extremely strong representation with:

The time is always intense, but a tremendous learning opportunity to stay in tune with what is happening in the Drupal ecosystem. I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel, attend Partner events, meet with customers, watch the State of Drupal keynote (aka the “Driesnote”), and connect with many Mediacurrent teammates in 1×1s or informal conversations. I've also started to watch some session videos I had previously earmarked.

Here are my top 10 takeaways in no particular order:

1.  Open Source Software (OSS) has incredible momentum in the marketplace.

When we started Mediacurrent in 2007, there were not many companies willing to go “all in” on Drupal or open source software - my oh my, how the times have changed. Drupal adoption is now at least 10x that of Adobe Experience Manager and Sitecore combined (Source: Experience Digital Freedom With Acquia). Venture capitalists continue to pour funding into emerging open source companies like our partners, Pantheon and Acquia. 2018 saw some huge open source acquisitions by technology giants: IBM acquired RedHat, Salesforce bought MuleSoft, Adobe purchased Magento, Microsoft bought Github...and the list goes on. Open source rapidly transformed from a trend in the mid-2000s to completely mainstream. 

2.  The audience makeup of DrupalCon continues to pivot.

This year, the Drupal Association and organizers of the conference took a huge leap of faith. DrupalCon had developed a reputation over the years of being very developer and technology-centric. The 2019 program balanced the traditional Drupal builder’s perspective with a strong emphasis on an emerging audience of non-builders and end-users, including marketers and executive leadership. The new program provided the Mediacurrent team with the opportunity to share thought leadership as a full-service digital agency, including strategies for personalization with Drupal for the Content & Digital Marketing track and presentations at the Executive, Higher Education, and Library Summits.  

Cultivating diversity and inclusion in Drupal was a central theme at this year’s event. Dries shared that 1 in 30 websites in the world use Drupal — and with that enormous global reach comes great responsibility to bolster diversity within our own community. Not only will this improve collaboration and unlock our full creative and innovation potential as open source software creators, it will also build a bridge of understanding between Drupal’s amazingly diverse audience of billions of end users. Toward that goal, nearly half of DrupalCon presenters were from underrepresented groups with various sessions centered on the theme. (Mediacurrent was proud to be a part of the conversation with the session Shout for the Silent: Putting our Privilege to Work for Inclusivity).

3.  Make way for modern web frameworks like Gatsby.js.

This year’s DrupalCon echoed what our development team has experienced firsthand. As Gatsby.js continues to grow and evolve, this modern web framework—and others like it—have simplified and cleared barriers to decoupling Drupal. If you stopped by the Mediacurrent booth, you may have seen a demo for our Rain Install Profile, built with Gatsby. 

4.  Drupal 9 should be on your radar

Get ready - Drupal 9 will ship in just over one year. If you’re running on Drupal 7, don’t wait to upgrade. With a simpler-than-ever upgrade path, getting from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 will be, in the words of creator Dries Buytaert, "really easy.”  

Consider these benefits of upgrading to Drupal 8 before the official release of version 9:  

  • Better development experience
  • Modern authoring experience
  • Powerful layout building
  • Continuous Innovation
  • Easy upgrades
  • Improved media management
  • Improved theming experience
  • Decoupled content delivery
  • Better performance
  • Better multi-lingual

Source: DrupalCon Seattle 2019 Driesnote

5.  Improving the customer experience is the top priority.

The most common pattern among global brands is continuing to come down to a proven, simple adage: customer satisfaction. Forward-thinking executives are innovating to stay ahead in today’s digital landscape. The winning brands have complete autonomy over the customer buying journey, and they do it personally and seamlessly. Drupal is the platform driving this change in large part because of its flexibility - wondering what to do with that new marketing tool you just purchased? Let Mediacurrent spin up a custom Drupal module and integrate it with your MarTech stack. CMOs need to pivot and move expeditiously. This is why buzz-phrases like 'Agile Marketing' were heard loudly in the DrupalCon hallways.

6.  Data is golden.

Smart companies rely on data to make informed decisions. This is not a new concept, but it was interesting to see how advanced organizations are leveraging analytics and data models to drive change. For example, Medicacurrent’s case study session showed how a leading state government website leans on Drupal to collate trends and engagement activities to deliver the best possible service experience for constituents.

“Data matters in service delivery. You can't managemuch less improvewhat you can't measure.

Data helps us understand both how users interact with the service and what their experience was with us. Collecting, analyzing, and surfacing this data as actionable information to content authors and service operators makes data-driven content and service improvements possible.”   

- Julia Gutierrez, Engagement Manager, Massachusetts Digital Service 

7.  Staffing and talent models continue to be challenging.

The war on talent is real. At the Executive Summit, we had a break-out session to compare notes on how companies are handling staffing issues. The responses were mostly predicated around mitigating risk with a combination of: a core in-house team, off-shore capabilities to perform more commoditized work, and a trusted, primary digital partner like Mediacurrent to provide specialized expertise and strategic leadership. Value is also at top of mind. There was much more of a realization that “you get what you pay for.” During the Driesnote, he noted how wise buyers are selecting partners that are actively engaged in the Drupal community.

8.  Giving back and community involvement is winning.

Over 10,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations are now contributing to Drupal. Mediacurrent continues to consistently maintain a top 5 worldwide ranking. Seeing this level of involvement from adopters of Drupal is near and dear to my heart. Almost 5 years ago I talked about how critical engaging enterprise adopters was going to be in order for Drupal to truly scale. In short, Drupal remains one of the largest and most thriving open source communities in the world.

9.  Headless and decoupled: Replacing the traditional CMS.

Emerging technologies like JAMstack and static site generators have ushered in a new era of options for decoupled architectures in 2019. Increasingly, this focus on flexibility is putting Drupal a notch above competitors like WordPress, Sitecore and Adobe. With DrupalCon Builder Track presentations like Introduction to Decoupled Drupal and React and Demystifying Decoupled Drupal with Contenta CMS, Mediacurrent is at the forefront of what’s next for the future of decoupling Drupal. 

10.  Drupal continues to solve complex, ambitious digital problems.

The driving force behind Drupal’s vision continues to be simplicity. A significant advancement toward this goal is the upcoming Layout Builder, shipping with the 8.7 release on May 1, 2019. This powerful visual tool empowers content authors to create one-off pages more easily, supporting more advanced use cases like layout templates and workflows—all with full accessibility. If you missed it, check out the Driesnote to see the Layout Builder demo. Dries also emphasized how Drupal’s target audience is continuing to evolve. Does Drupal target specifically the enterprise? His narrative is “not necessarily” - Drupal is for any “ambitious” organization regardless of their size.

Final Thoughts and Thank Yous 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What am I missing? If you are an organization that would like to further discuss how Mediacurrent can help with your open source based web strategy, please contact us today. 

Finally, thank you to all the conference organizers. The Drupal community is primarily led by volunteers and am extremely grateful for all of their hard work. Until next year - see you in Minneapolis!  


Meet team member, Dave Terry

In Dave's role, he leverages a wide acumen of business and entrepreneurial experience to execute operational objectives. Dave plays a key role in forging strategic partnerships, developing efficient processes, recruiting top talent, and the acquisition and management of enterprise-level accounts.

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