September 09, 2016
We got a few shop owners together at DrupalCamp LA 2016, at UC Irvine to talk Drupal. This is Part 1 of 5 of that conversation, talking about using Drupal 7 or Drupal 8 for new projects that we're building.
Tom: Hey guys, we’re here at DrupalCamp LA 2016, at UC Irvine. We’ve got a few shop owners here. We just wanted to have a conversation and kind of give you a look at what we’re doing at each of our shops. I think that first, let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves.
Ron: Ron Huber from Achieve Internet. We’re in San Diego and Los Angeles, do a lot of healthcare and entertainment. This is my tenth year at DrupalCamp LA; been sponsoring it forever and been at a number of these camps over the years.
Chris: My name is Chris Stauffer. I’m the CEO of Stauffer. We are a Los Angeles based development firm. We focus on Drupal as well as a bunch of other open-source technologies. We work with a lot of LA’s usual suspects, specifically in the entertainment industry and a lot of stuff in higher ED lately, as well.
Tom: My name’s Tom Friedhof. I work with ActiveLAMP. We also are LA based; we primarily work with higher education. We work with non-profits and enterprise organizations. Tinker around mostly in Drupal but we’re also doing some Symfony, Laravel, and Node as well.
Jordan: My name’s Jordan Ryan. I’m the CTO of Facet Interactive based out of Manhattan Beach. We’ve been doing a lot of enterprise solutions architecture for Drupal Development. We’ve started to move into marketing intelligence using some Symfony based applications with Mautic. Small shop, looking to grow.
Tom: Sweet. I think, here we are, it’s August 2016, Drupal 8 is finally out, so I kind of want to start this conversation by asking the question, “Drupal 7 or Drupal 8? Where are you guys at?”
Ron: I tell you, this is really an interesting conversation. Of course, we want to do Drupal 8. Right? It’s the new thing we want to get out there, but we just had a big entertainment company - and we’re working on the site now - we pitched them Drupal 8. We really tried to get them to go and they said, “No.”
It wasn’t ready, the modules weren’t ready. When it comes out, when it launches in early December, Drupal’s going to take a hit for it because it’s a big name. It should be in Drupal 8 and it’s going to be recognized. People are going to say, “Why wasn’t that in Drupal 8?”
We did our best to pitch them and they just wouldn’t go. They were all pros. These are people that have been building Drupal sites for ten years for Disney and DC Comics. These guys knew what they were doing and decided not to go that route.
Now, we have four other projects that are Drupal 8 sites in-house that they said, “Okay, whatever you guys say is what we’re going to do.” It’s still the debate of whether we should be doing that. I think that’s the problem right now, is if the community doesn’t feel that it’s ready, then we have a marketing issue more than we have a technology issue.
Tom: Yeah, true.
Chris: Yeah. For me personally, I actually don’t think that Drupal 8 is quite ready for prime time yet. The primary reason for that is, when I’m going out and gathering requirements and things like that, I know right now every single module that’s out … Well, I shouldn’t say I know every module for Drupal 7. That would be a ridiculous statement to make.
Ron: You’re a smart guy, but-
Chris: I know - let’s just call it the majority of the Drupal modules that matter - so when I’m architecting a system, I know for a fact that I’m not going to step on any landmines. I know what Drupal 7 can do and I know what it can’t do, and it’s very easy for me to scope and frame projects using Drupal 7.
With Drupal 8, most of the projects that I’ve gone through, I’ve scoped it kind of with that same mindset of Drupal 7. Then I’ll have the boys go check it out and see if this is a possible candidate for Drupal 8, and it keeps failing because basically there are specific contrib modules and things like that that simply aren’t ready to hang.
In my mind, once all those contrib modules have caught up and I stop running into, “Oh, yeah, sorry Chris, we’re not going to be able to do that because of X,” that’s when we’ll start actively selling Drupal 8 projects. Right now, for me, the biggest one is making sure we can do features because I want all my code checked in-
Ron: I heard you say that earlier.
Chris: You know? When I can check all my code in, then in my mind I’m ready for big boy enterprise development, but if I can’t check my code in, then it’s not ready for prime time.
Tom: We’re kind of in the same boat as you, Ron. Same boat as you as well, Chris. We’ve been developing our Drupal 8 since last year; we’ve been pitching Drupal 8 to our clients since late last year, and you know Drupal 8 was released in November, but we’re running into that issue as well, where organizations just don’t want to take that leap and develop on Drupal 8.
We have managed to be able to convince some organizations to take the leap, and this is where I’m kind of the fence, or I guess divided, with building on Drupal 7 or Drupal 8. I have a technical background, I’m a developer, and developing on Drupal 8 is just a much better experience.
It’s like, why would you develop on this old system? It just doesn’t feel good to develop on Drupal 7. I feel that it’s our jobs as development agencies to encourage and push that innovation to our clients, our prospective clients and say, “You know what? If we build this on Drupal 7, yeah, it’ll take maybe four, five, six months to develop this, but six months from now, when Drupal 7 is really being put on the shelf because Drupal 8 is the new thing, how are you going to feel?”
You know, it’s a little bit more of an investment up front to develop on Drupal 8? Our team, we’re engineered focused, we’re all engineers on our team. Well, not all of us, but the majority of us are engineers, and so if something doesn’t exist, we’ll code it. We won’t necessarily upgrade-
Ron: You’re investing in it. I totally get where you’re at, because we did that from 5 to 6, and 6 to 7, and got burned a few times where-
Chris: It screwed up my budgets on my projects when I did that.
Ron: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris: I ended up losing money when I did that, because I promised a client I’m going to do X, and then it doesn’t do X, but I’m on the hook for X, so now I have to go build X, and not get paid for X.
Tom: The key word Ron used there was investing. That’s an investment, you know?
Ron: You have to be in the right position to be able to do that, right? It has to be the right client; some clients are, “Hey, that deadline is September 1st, and you’ve got to make that.” Well, you can’t make that decision in Drupal 8, because you don’t know what landmine you’re going to come into.
Jordan: I think to that point, what minefield are you running through? If you can see where the mines are and you can say to the client, - this is something that we do when we do the architecture phase - if we can see where those mines are and say, “Do you want to tackle that, defuse that?”
If they say no, well then I say, “We either have to push this back a few months until it’s ready to be taken on, or we need to talk about what’s your horizon for upgrading this once we do this the first time?”
Jordan: Then they kind of get a different framework to make the decision, because you don’t just present them with the opportunity of this update, you have a future web project and that’s a different paradigm. You have to use in order to sell, sell on the investment.
Ron: I don’t think we’ve done a good job as Drupal is talking about what the cool things are coming out in 8. It’s just the new version, right? There are some great technology that is in future releases, and if we start talking about how you’re not going to get that in 7, and how in Drupal 8 if you make the investment or you take that, maybe we shrink down this initial project, but in six months or a year from now when this is released, then you’re really going to be able to take advantage of mobile, you’re really going to be able to take advantage, your SEO is going to improve.
Whatever that is? That’s a different pitch that I haven’t used yet, and it’s something that I learned today.
Chris: I liked Tom what you said earlier, in something. It was an angle that I hadn’t actually thought of until I just heard you say it, which is actually playing on the fact that there’s not going to be a transition from 7 to 8, if you go with 8 now, because I know one of the Drupal pain points that I’ve had in the past is, I upgraded a client from Drupal 6 to 7, and proceeded to charge the client a $150,000 to do that.
They kind of looked at me like, “Oh my god, you are crazy. You’re going to charge- wait, no. But Chris, I don’t get anything new?” I’m like, “You get security patches now.” They’re like, “Dude, you literally just took me for a hundred and fifty grand, and I don’t even get anything like new.”
Ron: We just won’t do that anymore. I don’t need even pitch that.
Chris: It’s getting to a point where I didn’t even think about what you had brought up, to say like, “Okay, well, maybe if you did go all the way up to Drupal 8, then really, on a total cost of ownership, you’re going to dodge that hundred and fifty large transition from 7 to 8.
Jordan: Yeah, and that’s a great term, “total cost of ownership.”
Chris: I hadn’t thought of that angle, but that’s a good one.
Tom: I think there’s another piece of that as well. They may be dodging the hundred fifty thousand dollar upgrade, but if you’re going to early adopt, as modules come into the ecosystem, you know you’re developing custom code to fill in the gaps where the contrib system hasn’t caught up to date yet.
Tom: As those modules come into the ecosystem, there will be some of that budget that probably should be allocated to actually getting those on to the new systems. For example, panels, or panelizer, those are just now coming into the Drupal 8 ecosystem.
You’re not going to completely get away from that hundred fifty thousand dollar upgrade, you may have to use some of that budget to actually get your stuff up to snuff, because you’re developing so early.
Ron: If you have a Drupal 6 site, your site is outdated. You’re not running your business correctly; I don’t care what- there’s no way it’s responsive, there’s no way you’re adopting mobile at all. You’re way behind.
I think those companies that are just worried about whether the technology’s ready or not, are looking at it wrong. Their websites are unproductive, whether they like it or not. I mean, if you’re a small company, maybe it’s not-
Jordan: I think that comes back to a shift in how enterprises and small businesses and medium sized businesses are looking at their digital strategy. You have a platform that you develop, how are you planning to sustain it, right? If you’re not planning to sustain it and keep it up to date, then you’re probably just thinking in the near term of, “Hey, there’s this new thing called the web. I need to get up on it.”
Ron: Works for some people.
Jordan: Which is how some people still think. They’re like, “Oh, I need to put out a new print catalog,” because that’s the old regime of advertising: updating my brochure, not this active, organic application that has more exposure than things like that.
Ron: Those companies, they’re doing their thing but that’s where the marketing comes in. If they’re not actively marketing or they’re using their old ways, what are you going to do for them? Those aren’t who we’re talking about anyways, right? You’re investing as much money into your website-
Jordan: It’s an advocacy that you have to make, is going to the client and saying, “Hey, are you thinking about that upgrade strategy?” There is a support to this, right? You get a lot of people who will come to you and say, “I want a site. I’m starting my business.” These are people who haven’t thought about the long-term strategies sometimes.
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