A Review of Drupal Business Summit - Boston

Acquia recently hosted a business summit for leaders thinking about using Drupal for their business. If you've ever heard of Drupal, the famed CMS, then you've also heard of Acquia. The two are practically synonymous. While Drupal is the free open source CMS, Acquia is the professional services company supporting Drupal deployments for businesses who need to partner with someone with expertise. They are to Drupal as Canonical or Red Hat are to Linux.

I won't be talking here about Drupal per se, but instead about this conference and the need for business leaders (product managers, information architects, marketing managers, et al) to consider Drupal for their business.

This summit was targetted at business leaders in need of a new system for a wide range of business cases. These range from intranet, corporate site, ecommerce, internal collaboration, and more. With Drupal's open ended framework and support for rich media and responsive design, presenters drew upon multitudes of use cases by large multinationals. Thomas Erickson, Acuia's CEO, gave the keynote. Brands such as Unilever, Mercedes-Benz, NYSE, and many more are leveraging Drupal for hundreds of their sites. Qualcomm's websites are all running on Drupal. And if that's not a strong enough case, WhiteHouse.gov also runs on Drupal. A few presenters even mentioned WhiteHouse.gov as a turning point in convincing their colleagues to switch.

The lobby of Acquia's shared Burlington office.

Unlike the Drupal user groups I attend regularly, this was NOT aimed at IT professionals. And I have to say it was refreshing to view Drupal from a more strategic standpoint for once instead of discussing the finer points of numerous user contributed modules. In the first panel discussion, reps from NPR, Harvard University, and Showcase Cinemas talked about their switch. In ever case, Drupal not only offered a cost savings over existing proprietary solutions, but allowed them much greater flexibility to leverage the platform. Instead of making a call to their vendor asking for a new feature and waiting for a large bill, Harvard and Showcase could instead use internal talent to find modules to grow their Drupal sites' feature sets.

In an afternoon session, Dani Nordin gave a pertinent presentation on budgeting for a Drupal project. For anyone ready to take the plunge, this slideshow accounts for EVERY cost you have to plan ahead for.

In another discussion, Entercom Communications talked about their experiences with Drupal. Entercom is a mid-market radio company. The Boston market is their largest and includes WEEI, WAAF, and others. About 2-3 years ago, they decided to move from exclusively radio to publishing their own content on other mediums. Like many radion stations, their site was a basic template site with no real back end functionality. Drupal was brought in for because they have so many different content types and different ways to display the content. And since Drupal separates out content so well with the many ways it can be published, it was a no brainer. Entercom was also looking for other features such as the ability to manage it's users (journalists, editors, marketers, etc.) and Drupal's roles based security allows for fine tuning of permissions. As a result of their push to become an original content producer and publisher, Entercom has added a substantial additional revenue stream to the company, while massively increasing engagement with customers. Their uniques and page views pre- and post- Drupal are astounding. When asked about the most difficult aspects of working with drupal, the rep responsded that the largest challenge is mMaximizing it's potential. It's a never-ending goal. To a lesser degree, keeping all the modules up to date to the newest version is also an issue, but one that's manageable.

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