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4 Weeks, 4 Events - Where’s Drupal in mid-2016?

Drupal is way more than websites and our community is thriving and making a difference all around the world. That’s the shortest way I can sum it up.

4 Weeks, 4 Events

It’s September, 2016 and DrupalCon Dublin is on next week! In the last four weeks, I’ve had the privilege of visiting and speaking at Drupal “SaunaCamp” Helsinki, Drupal Camp Costa Rica, and Drupal Camp Ghent. I was also part of the team of Acquians and Acquia-partners at dmexco 2016 (a 50,000+ attendee digital-marketing and -advertising trade fair held every year in Cologne, Germany). It made for an intense four weeks!

Selling Drupal without selling Drupal

Drupal is way more than websites now. It is behind digital marketing packages, running mobile apps, powering digital kiosks and signage, helping charities run better, and a lot more. Everywhere I have been the past month, I’ve seen people using our open source toolset to improve their world in some way; to improve their own organisation, to help others improve theirs, to work, sell, or govern better. I wanted to avoid buzzwords, but Drupal is behind many instances of what I can only call “digital transformation.” More and more of us are using Drupal to drive change in our own companies or for our clients, but it’s not about Drupal:

“It’s about marketing and business challenges, it’s not about the nuts and bolts, it’s about what people are trying to achieve.” - Jim Bowes, Manifesto, at dmexco 2016.

Drupal powering digital marketing - At Drupal Camp Ghent, I attended a presentation by Dominique De Cooman, CEO of Dropsolid, who really impressed me because Dropsolid sells marketing-as-a-service for small and medium businesses, including: analytics, campaign planning, analysis, and so on (part of their package offering is a website tuned for inbound marketing … hello, Drupal!). Online marketing is something that many business people are beginning to understand they need, but have no idea how to get started with. With Dropsolid, Drupal has a foot in the door, small businesses can do better business, the Drupal footprint increases – win for us!

Acquia's stand at dmexco 2016

Acquia’s stand at dmexco 2016 did not say, “COME BUY SOME DRUPAL!” It said, “Personalization Happens” and featured “live personalization” in the form of a hairdresser and tattoo artist (real, actual tattoos). I asked Acquia’s Central European Country Manager, Michael Heuer why the word “personalization” (and a tattoo artist) were more important than the word “Drupal” at our stand.

Drupal is at the heart of everything we do, but people are not interested in technology, they are interested in doing something with it. We’re not trying to work from the fact, ‘Here’s a piece of technology. We’ve enhanced it and built some services around it.’ It’s more about ‘What do you want to do?’ For example, a lot of companies want to do personalization. So they’re thinking about personalizing content, personalizing the shop experience; they think about personalizing the emails they send out. They want to utilize all kinds of information. We were thinking about how we could get this across. We have a really good personalization technology here, which is based on Drupal and connected with Drupal ...” [And it works with all kinds of other web systems, too, not just CMS’s.] “I wasn’t expecting that so many people would volunteer spontaneously to get a tattoo [11 people did in the course of the 2-day event]. So the first most-asked question was ‘Are those real tattoos?’ and the second was ‘What does Acquia really do?’ And this was what we wanted. It gave us the chance to talk with them.” - Michael Heuer, Acquia

tl;dr: By selling personalization and services that are not about which software we use, we’re still opening the door for Drupal. Start a conversation. Listen to their needs. Help them solve their problems.

Community and business - creating transformation hand-in-hand

There is no dichotomy between “community” and “business.” Drupal Camps and Cons are for the nuts and bolts; how we want to build our futures. But when we’re working with organisations elsewhere, it comes down to understanding their needs, giving them a vision of what they can achieve, and then helping them do that – which we obviously want to do using Drupal somehow.

When I asked him why we weren’t selling Drupal at dmxeco, Manuel Pistner, CEO of Bright Solutions summed up the difference between a tech conference and a business event like dmexco: “Because this is not an exhibition for technical [people]. It’s for more than just coding Drupal or building applications. It’s about digitalizing processes, digitalizing the customer experience.”

I saw example after example of how this alleged business-community gap is being bridged:

  • Dropsolid is a great example of a business need generating more Drupal business over time.
  • Drupal in advertising and more - In Helsinki, the community is the glue between everyone from a global advertising agency centering on Drupal solutions – Mirum – to an individual freelancer who supports his family by contracting out to clients including other Drupal agencies (shout out to Juho!), and everyone in between.
  • Drupal in banking - Drupal Camp Costa Rica was inspiring. Just like in India, the community seems to be young, enthusiastic, and growing. But it wasn’t just students; the largest bank in the region, BAC|Credomatic Bank, was there talking about how Drupal helped them grow their business and reduce costs at the same time... And after my session, we got to talking with them about what they might be able to do with Drupal 8, too!
  • Drupal in everything! - At Drupal Camp Ghent, in the heart of Drupal’s origins in Belgium, people clearly have a deep emotional bond with Drupal and feel connected to its roots. But at the same time, I met people offering (and selling) innovation services, marketing, accessibility and other kinds of value built on Drupal tools, but not selling Drupal!

Drupal Camp Costa Rica 2016 - pura vida!

Drupal Camp Costa Rica 2016 - Pura Vida!

Thank you!

Thank you, friends in the Costa Rican Drupal community for making it possible for me to be part of your camp. My wife and I felt so welcome in your country and at the camp. Thank you, Belgian Drupal community for inviting me to speak at your camp. Though my home in Cologne isn’t far from Ghent, the trip couldn’t have happened without your help. Thank you, Mirum and the Finnish Drupal community for the welcome in Helsinki. Thanks to the Acquia team and our partners at dmexco for an amazing and educational two days. And finally, thanks to my employer, Acquia, for enabling me to do my part for our technologies and our community.

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