Over the last 7+ years, I’ve talked to hundreds of prospects and customers regarding their strategy for ongoing Drupal-based website support. Most organizations tend to agree that their web presence is the single most important marketing tool they can leverage to engage their target audiences. For universities this may be student applicants or alumni, for B2B companies this might be lead generation, for non-profits it could be engaging donors and volunteers.
There is no denying that the digital movement is here and revolutionizing our customers. Maurice Levy, the long-time Chairman of the multi-billion dollar, ad agency holding company Publicis Groupe recently said:
“Digital disruption is something that is transforming not only our business, the behaviour of our consumer, but the business of all our clients. So I am very much paranoid about the business of my clients and how this digital thing will transform them and I believe there is a lot to do in this area."
There are plenty of metaphors for why proper support, maintenance, and a constantly evolving digital strategy are so important for an organization. The analogy I like the best is that of a garden - gardeners understand that planting vegetables or landscaping is not a one-time endeavor. Successful gardens involve constant pruning, upkeep, and nourishment in order to achieve long-term sustainability. Your Drupal website is no different.
In my experience, there are primarily four options and various challenges/benefits that organizations are considering for their ongoing Drupal support:
1. Bring “in-house” entirely
- Difficulty to recruit and retain top Drupal talent
- Reluctancy to adopt a culture predicated around telecommuting
- A challenge to keep the workload diverse and not montononous, which leads to constant turn-over
- Do not have enough work to keep a dedicated Drupal team busy
- An “echo chamber” effect takes place where the same problems are discussed and new ideas or innovation does not happen
For example, one technology company we are talking to mentioned how they had hired and lost three Drupal developers in less than a year; since turnover was low in other departments they began to further understand the value of partnering with a Drupal agency.
2. Engage an incumbent or some other partner who are generalists (web/creative/marketing services), but Drupal is not their core focus or competency
- Struggle with Drupal and open-source software best practices
- Are often-times indirectly forcing their customer to pay for “on the job training”
- Lack the full spectrum of skills needed to maintain a Drupal site
For instance, a non-profit organization we recently engaged talked about how their former web partner was well-intentioned, but simply getting in “over their head” on certain Drupal tasks. The extra cycles being spent learning Drupal best practices was mounting and the site became more and more brittle over time.
3. Utilize a freelancer or boutique firm on a purely “as needed” basis
- No loyalty
- No contingency plan
- Tasks are reactive only vs. pro-active
- Lack of understanding around the vision and strategy of the organization
- Lack of scheduling predictability (i.e. at the mercy of a freelancer’s availability) and no formal project management exists
Over the last several years, I’ve talked to many organizations who had a freelancer leave them in the middle of the project - on one occasion, all correspondence was halted, on another the freelancer made it known that they had accepted a better offer. This left the organization with no embedded knowledge of their site and months of tracking down documentation.
4. Leverage a Drupal-centric agency that are considered thought leaders and experts
- Dedicated team with a full range of Drupal skills
- New ideas from industry competitors
- The best value for your Drupal dollar
- Responsiveness and consistent approach
- Risk mitigation
“Working with the Mediacurrent team on launching eight corporate websites globally, at the same time, has been an extremely positive experience for Manhattan Associates. They are conscientious, responsive, professional, and knowledgeable about all that is Drupal. We look forward to a long-term partnership and continued success.” - Beverly McDonald, Manhattan Associates
At Mediacurrent, we have gradually expanded our digital strategy expertise and are hiring more specialists in order to become a more well-rounded agency. For example, we are ramping up our DevOps, Security, Creative, and Marketing Technologist areas - this coincides with both internal and customer feedback. In 2014, we were recognized by Salesforce.com as the Best Overall SMB for how we integrate and leverage the Salesforce tool suite.
As you explore your 2015 budget for Drupal support, I would encourage you to think in terms of ROI v. rate/cost. Our VP of Sales talked to a higher-ed university last week and they considered a two student applicant increase around some web enhancements a “win” and a project that could more than justify itself.
Most CMOs and executives recognize the need for an improved “customer experience” in the digital age, but may be reluctant to make a financial commitment. This becomes confusing to investors, buyers, partners, and even employees. The company line becomes “I am not sure we have the budget” to move forward, yet the executive team publicly state how critical customer engagement (e.g. web experience) is to their organization’s business model. In a 2013 study, Waterstone Consulting analyzed and benchmarked the total returns for stock portfolios comprised of the “Leaders” and the “Laggards” in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking. The results were quite telling as illustrated in this graph.
Essentially, those who were committed to improving their customer’s experience were reaping huge benefits. The focus was on value v. cost. In my experience, the organizations that view Mediacurrent as a true extension to their team is where we have the greatest impact. This is backed-up by our proven track record of working with a portfolio of world-class organizations like The Weather Channel, Harvard University, Habitat for Humanity, CARE, and Manhattan Associates to name a few. We become trusted advisors and are in the best position to help an organization with their constantly evolving Drupal, web, and digital marketing needs.
What are your thoughts on hiring a Drupal-centric agency? Do you have any personal experiences that you would like to share?