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Understanding the Role of the Enterprise in Drupal

There is a trending topic I am seeing being discussed a lot more in the open-source software and Drupal community. The point of conversation focuses on what the role should be of enterprise organizations?  Especially, those that are or have already adopted Drupal as their web platform of choice. First, for the purpose of this article, lets define an “enterprise” as an organization that places a high value on their web properties and has a six-figure (100K+USD) annual budget. 

This is a sensitive topic. There can be a potentially negative stigma that large commercial companies who are driven by profits, investors, and other financial motives could tear apart the fabric of what makes the Drupal community so special. At the Drupalcon Austin CXO event, I happened to sit next to an executive from a large, very recognizable brand who said he would like to help contribute to Drupal more, but was not sure of the best way to do this or if the Drupal community really wanted his support.

To preface, we must recognize Drupal's current position in the CMS landscape. Of the "big 3" open-source CMS players (Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal), Drupal is clearly tailoring itself to the "enterprise." Some might argue that this is a byproduct of Acquia or other service providers' (including Mediacurrent) influence on the overall direction of the platform. Frankly, I see Drupal catering to the enterprise market as a positive.  We must recognize that Drupal's strengths (modular based architecture, scalability, flexibility, cost savings, etc.) are best suited for this market. The Drupal community cannot and should not attempt to be a "one size fits all" framework. Historically, this generalist approach leads to products or companies becoming less relevant and highly commoditized. We must concede that Wordpress, our friendly competitor, is better suited for the small business market that includes blogs and micro or personal sites that do not require heavy replication.

Here are some ideas on how enterprise organizations can get involved with Drupal:

  1. Sponsor local Drupal events in your region. I am still very surprised about how few enterprise companies get involved with Drupalcon/camps at the sponsorship level. For example, of the 9 platinum sponsors at Drupalcon Austin all were service providers of 100 or less employees.
  2. Allow "company" time for employees to contribute back to Drupal.
  3. Become a Supporting Partner of the Drupal Association.
  4. Share your company's experience with Drupal by writing a case study.
  5. Mention Drupal in press releases or marketing campaigns that announce new website launches.
  6. Maintain modules that solve a specific use case for your organization.
  7. Share your knowledge. There are many companies that form their own internal Drupal user groups - why not makes these available to everyone?
  8. Make sure your Marketing team tracks "before Drupal and after” results, which will showcase total cost of ownership (TCO) savings and help further evangelize the benefits of adopting an open-source based web strategy.
  9. Stop sending out RFPs and form partnerships within the Drupal ecosystem.  It amazes me how many companies rely on RFPs, which often amounts to guesswork v. choosing the partner who offers the most value or has a demonstrated track record of solving the problems they need help with.

Why do some enterprise organizations struggle to create a culture of engagement and giving back?  The core problem is awareness. If executives could directly correlate the value or return on investment (ROI) that contributing has provided we can begin to move the needle. I would argue that by adopting the suggestions I've outlined the benefits will be tremendous - benefits like higher employee retention and fostering an environment that promotes professional development for their web/Drupal team.

I firmly believe that the engagement of commercial companies is critical to Drupal's long-term viability. To its credit, the Drupal Association and Dries are listening and appear to be aware of the magnitude of this issue. Some recent facts that speak to this:

  • The Drupal Association added two new Board Members from commercial companies.
  • Dries has talked about the need for "trust currency" as a way to give attribution to companies who contribute code.
  • Case studies are becoming in an increasing point of emphasis on drupal.org.
  • Webinars and blog posts are being organized that give the perspective of those who need and purchase Drupal services.

Again, some will argue that I am naturally looking at this issue from the prism of a company who caters itself to the enterprise. This is a fair assertion. However, it does not negate the fact that the Drupal community must find ways to embrace and take full advantage of the plethora of new resources, funding, people, knowledge, etc. that can result from increased outreach to the enterprise companies that are adopting Drupal at record numbers.

What are your thoughts? How can enterprise organizations get involved with Drupal? I would welcome your feedback.

Additional Resources

10 Reasons Enterprise Marketers Choose Drupal

EBook: Preparing for a Drupal Website Redesign

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