The European Drupal business community has emerged from the boom years ill-equipped for a more competitive environment. Clients report low satisfaction, staff are frustrated or burning out, and Drupal is losing ground. What can we do to fix these problems, in line with the values of the Drupal community, to have a bright future for Drupal businesses that we can be proud of?
In 2011, the talk of Drupalcon London was that 'The Elephants Are Coming', with the adoption of Drupal by major enterprises and the international IT firms that serve them.
That started a boom period for Drupal agencies in which customers were knocking down the door and the money kept coming. But, most agencies struggled to become sustainable businesses. Clients found that project and account management, as well as quality control, was poor, leading some to build their own internal teams, and others to switch technology again. Staff found that leadership and management in the agencies was poor. The agency founders themselves struggled with moving from being developers or designers to being business leaders needing to manage people, finances, sales and more. And the wider community didn't really seem to get how companies fitted in, apart from paying for pizza.
As a result many Drupal agencies lurched between boom and bust, internal squabbles, and high churn of staff and clients. Others moved away from being Drupal agencies.
In 2018 we now have the most enterprise-ready version of Drupal ever, but a business ecosystem that is in poor shape to take it to the clients it's designed for.
We can solve these problems, and the best place to start is by looking at the values we share in the Drupal community. We need to build businesses that fit the community, and a space in the community where businesses can fit. We need to build businesses for the long term, rather than just cashing in on a boom. We need to build businesses to be proud of.
I'm Steve Parks, and have been in leadership positions in large and small Drupal agencies, and seen (and made many of) the mistakes that I describe. I've run my own businesses since 1997, and have also written a series of books on entrepreneurship for Pearson. I'm a business geek.
In this talk I'll share my own experiences and ideas on how Drupal agencies can shape up to the current market need, as well as learning and thoughts shared by others from around the Drupal business community.