September 30, 2016
Part three of our table talk! This week the agency owners of Achieve Internet, Stauffer, ActiveLAMP and Facet Interactive discuss the power of Drupal as an integration point.
Jordan Ryan: Are any of you selling, in particular with Drupal, the power of integrations or integrating with other systems? Kind of like the microservices decoupled…
Chris Stauffer: To a certain extent, but it’s kind of more selling them for me on the power of Drupal as an enterprise platform, then in that initial requirements-gathering process, talking to them about what other ancillary applications and legacy systems they have to tie into. Then once you’ve identified that, then selling them on the fact that you’ve already tied it in with Salesforce five times, and that’s not really that big of a deal anymore because you kind of know how to do the Salesforce thing. I’m just using his example, but I’ve found that when I’m able to speak to the fact that you’ve already done that integration four times, then it becomes not necessarily a risk. I remember back in the old days, I would always think that every time I integrated into another system, that that was my largest point of risk on the project, was I’m going to plug into something else. Now, if someone tells me I’m going to take Drupal, and I’m going to plug that into Salesforce, I go, “Eh. I don’t know. It’s probably only ten grand, maybe; maybe 15. Depends on how complicated it is.” But my blood pressure didn’t raise at all. Whereas back in the old days, with all custom systems, since a lot of that integration wasn’t already there, and I had to do it from scratch, and there weren’t modules that did it, it was way scarier. Or integrating with Facebook Connect. The first time I did that, it scared the $#@! out of me.
Ron Huber: Especially a week later, when they change the API.
Chris Stauffer: When they changed the API and it blew up in my face before it was going to go live. You mean that time?
Ron Huber: And it was your fault, of course!
Chris Stauffer: Of course! That did literally happen. We did a project for Unilever, and we were launching a Facebook app, and it blew up like a week before the demo.
Ron Huber: That’s right.
Chris Stauffer: Yeah, it was horrible. But nowadays, a lot of those prewritten integrations, I’ve already done them so many times, and they’re so mature, that it’s like, “Oh, Facebook integration. Yeah, whatever, dude. Sure, no problem.”
Jordan Ryan: One click. Not quite.
Chris Stauffer: Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far. Does that make sense? During that requirements gathering process, one of the things I tell clients a lot about Drupal, too, is when you hear me say, “There’s a module for that,” you should smile. When you hear me go, “Ooh, I don’t know if there’s a module for that,” that means you should frown because that’s what I just did to your budget. When I say there’s a module for that, I’m going to get it done, and it’s going to get done quick and cheap and efficient, and everything’s cool. But the minute I go, “I don’t know if there’s a module for that,” then that means it might take me 100 hours or 200 hours to pull off what you just asked me to do. Whereas, I might have done ten requirements that were all out of the box for the same price as that one requirement, which is going to be custom.
Ron Huber: I hate that term, out of the box. It drives me nuts.
Chris Stauffer: But you get my point.
Ron Huber: I totally get your point, and you live it, and et cetera. We consider ourselves a integration company. I feel like why people come to us is because we have so much experience in integration. There’s other shops that do Drupal. That’s not the problem. Frankly, you can get Drupal done in eastern Europe or whatever. It’s all the integration and the API, and then of course, the management side of it. It was what should you be integrating? What should you be doing? Those are the real questions and why I think you hire a US-based firm, as opposed to somebody that’s just building off of your requirements.
Chris Stauffer: Well, I think, Ron, for me, the difference, kind of building exactly on what you’re saying, is that the US-based developers have the ability to get thrown a curve ball and still hit it. Whereas, the overseas developers, when you throw them a curve ball, they don’t know what a curve ball is or what they’re supposed to do with it. They just know, “I was told to do this, and you gave me that, and now I’m completely lost, and I don’t know how to handle it.”
Ron Huber: I want it to work. I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars…
Chris Stauffer: Wasted…
Ron Huber: On ever country possible to be able to supplement our team, and it hasn’t worked for what we do. I think it works excellent for somebody that’s got a three-year roadmap, and you got a product, and you want to … That works perfectly. But if you don’t know what your requirements are and you need it by November 1st, you got to do it here in the US, and you should probably do it pretty local.
Jordan Ryan: Or you need great communication.
Ron Huber: Well, yeah. Just because everybody should hire you, they don’t.
Chris Stauffer: Well, that’s the thing about systems integration, though, is systems integration never actually goes the way it’s supposed to.
Ron Huber: No.
Chris Stauffer: That’s what I meant by hitting a curve ball.
Ron Huber: No, you’re absolutely right.
Chris Stauffer: That systems integration, it’s always like we planned to have that hook up to that, and then you find out that, oh $#@!, it’s not going to work like that.
Ron Huber: It’s a lot of moving parts.
Chris Stauffer: And uh-oh. And the US guy can hang, and the other guy doesn’t.
Ron Huber: Well, it’s not their fault, either. We just have a better communication process. We’ve seen it a little bit more. I don’t think this is a US versus offshore conversation. There’s just a certain element of what it is that we do best and why we’re up here talking about it. I think that as we look at where we’re headed and where Drupal is headed, I think this move into Drupal 8 was really … Not that it’s surprising, from Dries … a visionary move because where we could go, that none of us have even … Well, not really thought out yet. He’s probably ten steps in front of us, right? He knows where we’re going to go. We all just need to catch up. This move to Sympfony based and a different object oriented function is just going to be able to get us there. I think the face of Drupal’s going to change. I think how we maybe sell or how we pitch it or how we use it is going to change, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s still a powerful tool. It might not be our only tool.
Tom Friedhof: One of these scenarios that comes to my mind when we’re talking about all this integration was the example that Dries gave at DrupalCon with ordering food through the Alexa and basically asking Alexa if something was on sale at Trader Joe’s, and basically having APIs talk to each other. Then when the gal at the supermarket updated the little produce and said it’s on sale, that automatically sent a text. It’s crazy how the world we live on is no longer just websites, right? Drupal is no longer just a website. It’s got to work on your phone.
Ron Huber: Well, yeah. Where else are we going to … It’s going into everything, and that’s the other big thing, is we do a lot of medical device work. Then where do you interact with the Internet of things? Where is it that we have to go? Okay, maybe Drupal doesn’t actually show up on a device, but it is the aggregator. Then when you’re trying to get in the backend and figure out, through your portal, where your customers are, where your employees are, where the new products coming, that’s another powerful tool or another version of Drupal that I think is under-promoted and underused, at this point.
Tom Friedhof: But it doesn’t have to be just Drupal. It can be anything. One of the things … We’ve always been a web shop, but we’re building a native app right now. We’re building it with React Native. It’s amazing how we’re tying these services that started off on the web, still using web technologies to build a native experiences on a mobile device, tying it back into a Sympfony application. It’s just amazing, as developers. This is one of the powers and the benefits of Drupal, is it can act as that content store or as that integration piece that these different systems can interact with.
Jordan Ryan: I think there’s something to be said about how, for a while now, Drupal’s community has wanted to get off the island. I think that’s led a lot by how agencies have needed to get off the island in order to start integrating all of these different systems. One of the, I think, opportunities Drupal has is that with all these integrated systems, there really isn’t a leading technology that you could consider a decision engine. When you’re talking about a unified customer experience across many different disparate platforms, Alexa, your iOS apps, there really isn’t a central hub. You either have to build one, or you have to start thinking about your digital strategy with Drupal as that hub that’s going to make that happen. There’s some things that I think will need to happen, as far as Drupal’s infrastructure, in order to make that more accessible, talking to all of these different IoT apps. That has some performance implications if you have a lot of traffic. It’s no longer just page views. You’ve got a lot of personalized content. I think that there’s going to be opportunity there as Drupal continues to evolve.
Chris Stauffer: In my mind, I think that that evolution towards using Drupal as a central hub … I actually think that started happening a while back. In Drupal 7, we’ve been building, for probably a good two or three years, the concept of having a Drupal website, and then having all of your content available via web services that then get ingested into an iOS app. We haven’t done a React Native one yet, but we have done a couple systems where we used like Swift on the front-end and just normal Android development, where we were basically hitting a lot of those Drupal web services. I think the movement towards 8 is making those services more of the focus, but I think that that’s kind of been there for a while now. I think that corporate executives are just starting now to understand, as you put it earlier, that it actually is a central hub, that I have a content management system that’s going to manage my content, but everything else is just a display medium, whether it is a mobile app, Facebook … You know what I mean? There’s a million different ways of consuming content.
Jordan Ryan: It’s the octopus controller controlling all the knobs.
Chris Stauffer: Right. Look at the Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter has millions of content objects, but you can look at it through normal web; you can look at it through mobile web; you can look at it through an Android device. You can look at it through anything. If there’s a device, I’m sure the Hollywood Reporter’s got a new way of looking at it that way. You kind of see what I mean? I think that-
Jordan Ryan: Oculus Rift?
Chris Stauffer: I don’t think we have that one yet.
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