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A Dormant Drupal Opportunity?

Gartner, one of the leading technology industry analyst firms, published their list of the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2008 back in October 2007 at their Gartner Symposium/ITXpo event. I was at the event, but somehow missed the press release. Karthikeyan over at Seeking Alpha just posted a summary that brought it to my attention.

The good news is that Social Software category is on the list. This category includes many different point technologies including blogs, wikis, tagging, bookmarking, and social networking. Here’s what they have to say about it:

Social Software. Through 2010, the enterprise Web 2.0 product environment will experience considerable flux with continued product innovation and new entrants, including start-ups, large vendors and traditional collaboration vendors. Expect significant consolidation as competitors strive to deliver robust Web 2.0 offerings to the enterprise. Nevertheless social software technologies will increasingly be brought into the enterprise to augment traditional collaboration.

The great thing about Drupal is that it does all of this AND also does traditional web content publishing/management. It’s not blog software with wikis bolted on, nor is it wiki software with blogs bolted on, or a web publishing/content management system with wikis and blogs bolted on. It’s an architecture for doing all of these and more, mixing/mashing them however you want. I think the genius of what Dries and the community have done is to reduce all of the aspects of social software to their core DNA: content nodes and membership, and then build a platform that could be infinitely extended to allow the assembly of almost any style of online social interaction.

So when Gartner says there will be “consolidation” I think they are correct. But mergers and acquisitions of proprietary companies is not the only way that consolidation happens. In many ways, Drupal is already there from an architectural perspective. And it has a huge community and behind it. Those are massive advantages.

But there are a few obstacles holding Drupal back from becoming Gartner’s poster child for social software. Drupal is often pigeon-holed as yet another CMS, which is a 20th century term that completely undersells what Drupal is capable of. I’ve asked my peers at Acquia to stop referring to Drupal as a CMS because it is so limiting. In my view, Drupal is a social publishing system that can help workgroups/teams collaborate and help companies build powerful communities around their content and products. That’s way more than an old school CMS. How we talk about Drupal shapes how we think about what’s possible.

But it’s more than terminology - it’s about ecosystem. Gartner says that “social software technologies will increasingly be brought into the enterprise to augment traditional collaboration”. But who exactly is going to bring in the social software solutions built on Drupal? How many Drupal shops do you see out there doing projects for internal collaboration for Fortune 500 companies? A few, but I don’t think I see as many as I would expect.

My guess is that one big reason for the focus on external facing sites is that there there has been a lot of easy money out there for doing brochure-ware web sites and community makeovers with Drupal. Perhaps that party will continue to go on for a long time. I hope so. But Garter is pointing the way to another opportunity for social software for team collaboration inside organizations.

Microsoft is making $1B per year in software alone with Sharepoint in the internal team collaboration market. And their partner community (their equivalent of Drupal shops) is making even more money as described in this CRN article where it says the following:

Sharepoint offers a long-term revenue stream for partners, with deals averaging around $125,000 in services revenue, ranging from around $20,000 for small and midmarket projects, to more than $2 million for large enterprise deployments, according to Patton.

“Not only are the [Sharepoint] deal economics good, but there’s a relatively small upfront investment in training, sales and marketing needed, which means fast profitability,” said Patton.

It’s not atypical in the proprietary software world for the service provider channel to make 5-7X software revenues. So that would mean about $5-7B going to Microsoft partners building Sharepoint solutions for clients.

I know, I know - Drupal isn’t Sharepoint and Sharepoint isn’t Drupal. But companies appear to be ready to open their wallets to help people collaborate internally, Gartner is calling attention to social software as a way to do it, and Drupal has most of what’s needed.

So, what do YOU think?
1. Do you think we should put the CMS term to bed?
2. Would it be possible to grab some of that team collaboration social software market opportunity for the Drupal community?
3. Why isn’t there already a billion dollar Drupal services ecosystem for team collaboration? What’s missing?

I look forward to seeing the comments.