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Multnomah County

Multnomah County discovers savings and usability with Drupal

Open-source Drupal proves a worthy replacement for proprietary software

In 2009, Multnomah County (Oregon) began a series of substantial upgrades to Vignette, the proprietary content-management system (CMS) that ran its websites. But problems with the upgrade and uncertainty about Vignette’s future led it to discover the flexibility and freedom of Drupal.

Multnomah County had long hosted its site on Vignette. Consequently, it planned a domain-wide site redesign project to coincide with a planned upgrade from Vignette 7.3 to 7.5. But after a year of attempting to implement the changes, the County had only migrated a handful of the Vignette sites. Meanwhile, Vignette 7.8 was launched, and immediately following an acquisition by OpenText Corporation, Vignette 8 was released. Suddenly, the Vignette product roadmap appeared far less certain.
While the redesign project was underway, Multnomah County hired Joshua Mitchell as Applications Manager. Mitchell was tasked with vetting open-source applications for agencies throughout the County.

How they did it

The web team approached the CIO with a proposal to migrate away from Vignette entirely. With some prior Drupal experience, Mitchell petitioned to launch a pair of proof-of-concept sites using Drupal. Once obtaining executive buy-in, the project quickly accelerated.

In April, the County sent two developers and a manager to the semi- annual DrupalCon convention for a crash course in developing large- scale Drupal websites. By the end of June, the team had launched and received praise for its two first sites. With another green-light from the CIO, the team created a new goal: launching a fully-functional, high- traffic main website by August. That project met its deadline and was declared a success. The web team was given the go-ahead to initiate a migration of all County sites to Drupal.

Mitchell cites several factors for the project’s success and pace. While his background in large-scale Drupal development helped, he attributes much of the credit to his open-source developers, who picked up Drupal very quickly. An additional Drupal developer, hired in June, also helped the project along. Mr. Mitchell points to the value of the Drupal.org developer community, which has created (and continue to maintain) thousands of free functional extensions to Drupal.

The results

For Multnomah County, success was measured in development speed, the tools available for users, and cost savings associated with the project.

Only six months after launching the main site, 45 of 61 County sites had moved to Drupal, with eight more under development. Because the County was able to re-use Drupal design and functionality, new sites took only a few minutes to publish, with content migration taking under a week.

The County recognized cost savings in two ways. First, Vignette demanded over $100,000 in annual licensing costs; Drupal, being open-source software, had none. Second, there were no additional charges for added functionality. The County was able to conserve taxpayer dollars and have more money available for content development.

“With Drupal, we’ve been able to leave behind our proprietary problems,” said Mitchell. “It’s faster to deploy, offers more choices for developers, has easier tools for users, and costs less. Multnomah County considers the move to Drupal a strong success.”

Open source was originally off the table. But after considering Vignette’s usability, staffing, training, and licensing costs, open source suddenly seemed much more compelling.
Joshua Mitchell
Applications Manager, Multnomah County

Company Information

Multnomah County
„Provides access and interaction with County government services
Government
„Drupal user since 2009
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Multnomah County is not an Acquia customer. This case study is intended to demonstrate the value of Drupal in the Government market.