Re-Platforming: How to Plan Your Next Multi-Site Digital Platform

Mitigate Risks with Drupal 8: Proven Strategies

At Phase2, we help organizations assess the suitability of Drupal 8 in the context of their unique digital strategies. We’ve implemented enterprise platforms on early versions of Drupal 6, 7, and 8, refining our insight into the risks and rewards of early adoption.

The following is excerpted from our white paper, “Drupal 8 for Enterprise: Drupal 8 in a Changing Digital Landscape.” Download the full white paper from here.

The Strategic Value of Drupal 8

Drupal has consistently evolved over the past 2 major releases to more directly address enterprise use cases. The major initiatives of Drupal 8 - configuration management, authoring experience, multi-lingual capabilities, and built in API services - improve Drupal’s ability to support major multi-site platforms. What’s more, major changes in Drupal’s architecture make it better suited to handle the omni-channel requirements demanded in today’s digital ecosystem.

The overall result is a more powerful platform for designers and developers, better processes and greater stability for site builders, and better tools and user experience for your audience.

Drupal 8 Gotchas to Watch Out For

Nevertheless, it would be disingenuous to claim that any new technology is completely risk-free - but there are proven strategies for mitigating these risks. Forging a relationship with a capable technology partner is an excellent way to ensure you are able to surmount any challenges in achieving your digital strategy initiatives.

Here are some potential risks to watch out for, as well as proven and effective strategies to mitigate them.

Account for the Learning Curve in your Timeline

Be aware of the steep learning curve for first-time Drupal 8 projects. Object-oriented programming does result in long-term developer agility, but could take some investment in skills at the onset. Drupal 8 does a number of things differently than previous versions of Drupal, as it has integrated practices and approaches from the broader PHP community. Developers, designers, site builders, and project managers must adjust their practices while they are incorporating this new platform into their repertoire. Account for this learning delay in your timeline, trusting that development will accelerate once the learning period has passed.

Consider the contrib space

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As with any major Drupal release, the contributed module space tends to lag behind the main release. Trying to coordinate a re-platforming with the release of key contributed modules could be risky, and the timetable on porting modules is difficult to predict. Identify modules that are critical for your requirements, and reach out to the contrib team to find out their plan for upgrade. Use this information to design your own code in a way that is compatible with future planned releases and determine if there may be a way to assist in the upgrade effort.

Remember that the ability to extend Drupal 8 core means you may need less modules than in the past. When we built Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s new Drupal 8 site earlier this year, we reduced the number of modules from 114 in the Drupal 6 version, to less than 10 on the new site. This did require an extensive amount of custom coding, so be prepared for that possibility as well.

Account for hosting flexibility

Accounting for changes in your hosting environment is an important step in launching a successful Drupal 8 initiative. The stack and hosting architecture you use today to host a Drupal 6 or 7 site may not work well for Drupal 8. Reach out to your hosting provider and find out their plans for hosting Drupal 8 platforms successfully.

Mitigate Risks by Prototyping

Ensure your developers get the hang of the new architecture of Drupal 8 by creating prototypes early and often. Don’t worry about theming in this stage, just focus on creating minimal viable products to connect key features and functionality. Using prototypes is a low-risk way to test the feasibility of concepts without investing in a full implementation. When it comes to new technology, these trial runs are crucial to gaining knowledge and mitigating risk.

Get Started with Drupal 8

If you believe Drupal 8 is the right fit for your organization, there are a few simple steps to begin the process of upgrading your CMS.

  1. Assemble an internal team. Determine which stakeholders need a seat at the table as you discuss the pros and cons of technology decisions, remembering that this group is probably larger than is at first obvious. Include anyone who regularly comes into contact with your current CMS, including developers, content editors, site managers, infrastructure teams, etc. The more diverse the supporting group, the more ammunition you have to convince executives of the value of this investment.
  2. Determine your financial, technical, calendar, and personnel constraints. CMS development still requires custom development. Is this something your developers are prepared to handle on their own, or will you need external support? How will you prioritize your needs given these constraints?
  3. Find a trusted, experienced technology partner. A dedicated ally is an invaluable asset as you navigate the waters of a new platform on Drupal 8.

Find more Drupal 8 resources at

by Michael Le Du