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Plan for Successful Drupal Adoption

Change is hard. In technology, it is also inevitable. Done poorly, it can lead to busted budgets, blown timelines, and bloated scope. Done well, it can transform your organization. Planning is key to successful change--and planning must account for human needs as well as technical requirements.

What is an adoption plan?

An adoption plan for a software project has elements of the following:

  • Product management
  • Communications
  • Project management methodology
  • Risk mitigation
  • Development methodology
  • User acceptance testing
  • Training

Software adoption is as much about managing people as it is about managing technical requirements. A major software project can disrupt routines and affect how everyone works. Without clear expectations and solid communication, an exciting adventure becomes a nerve-wracking rollercoaster. The adoption of a Drupal project is no exception, and successful deployment across an organization starts long before code and configuration. A carefully developed and executed adoption plan gets everyone on board and results in a smoother transition for all of your stakeholders.

3 goals of an adoption plan

Adoption plans ensure quality, limit risk, and balance out competing goals. The three goals of an adoption plan are:

  1. Deliver a product that people want to use
  2. Get people to invest their time in learning and using the new product
  3. Do 1) and 2) on time and within budget

Avoiding the project roller-coaster ride

Adopting a new technology will require a lot of work from people who have other full-time jobs. For your Drupal project you’ll probably need significant involvement from marketing, sales, product teams, and IT at a minimum. An adoption plan will help set expectations for time commitments and responsibilities so you avoid the project roller-coaster.

The roller-coaster looks like this: Before the project begins, a core team of people is very excited. They’ve selected Drupal and it’s going to do everything they need. In the discovery phase of the project previously unspoken expectations and assumptions are spoken--and perhaps not clearly addressed as in or out of scope. The development phase begins based on a feature list that is not prioritized or mapped to business objectives. Content and design teams are late and the project drags on. Excitement has turned to anxiety. As launch approaches, everyone scrambles to test the site before it goes launch and numerous showstoppers are found. Days before--or even after--launch, content editors are trained, but with only a few days to learn they’re very nervous and frustrated. What should have been an opportunity for transformation is at best a bad first impression that your product must now overcome.

The roller-coaster ride results from expectations that are all over the place. Adoption plans keep everyone communicating and level out the roller coaster. In the end, the project generates less drama and key stakeholders come out of the process with higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of stress.

Proficient vs. happy

The ultimate goal of an adoption plan is for people to feel happy about using the new system, and not just be proficient at it. You don’t want people going into implementation feeling resentful. Part of reaching this goal is involving users in the building of the system. With Drupal, so much can be customized to fit specific needs that there’s not reason not to involve users as part the project.

Involving users in product planning is the first step. Demoing functionality early, iterating based on feedback, and setting up formal training and as well as self-help resources will give users the confidence they need to actually *use* the software once it’s ready. And that’s when real transformation can happen--when the people for whom the software was built start using it to achieve their goals better, faster, and cheaper.

The Drupal discussion

The ultimate goal of the adoption plan is to get all of your stakeholders involved in a discussion about getting the best use out of the new technology. Drupal is a relatively new platform for most people, even though the technology itself is 13 years old. Drupal’s flexibility and modularity combined with the power of open source can fundamentally change how your business works. An adoption plan can help you harness that power.

There are going to be unexpected events and a range of reactions to changes. The adoption plan will mitigate the unknown, but there are also certain worst practices that need to be avoided. Drupal encompasses a paradigm shift in the way projects come to life, and old habits can often be counterproductive. We’ll get into the specifics of worst practices and pitfalls to avoid in our next post.

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