Growing into Change: Push the Pain

By Paul Welty

  Drupal has quickly become one of the most powerful, expansive open source programs for building complex business and nonprofit websites. The White House, the prime minister of Australia, Universal Music, the Emmys, and Greenpeace UK are just some of the high-profile organizations that have turned to Drupal to manage their web presence.   But for all the successes, Drupal and other open source platforms continue to face stigmas in many professional environments. People who wish to convert their colleagues to open source often try to sell Drupal’s simplicity and all the ways that it makes life easier for everyone in the office—from those on the front lines entering information and managing the day-to-day operations, to the C-level leaders who are concerned about balancing costs with performance.   But selling simplicity isn’t all that it should be. In fact, I have come to believe that people don’t make changes based on what’s good for them. Rather, they accept change when their current practices become so cumbersome or awkward that they have little option but to change.   People tend to default to what they are most comfortable with, even when the balance sheet makes clear that change to a new way of doing things is not only less expensive, but will simplify their lives considerably. So if you are ready to move your organization to an open source platform such as Drupal, your first step is to make the existing system as complicated as possible.   I’m not talking about sabotaging the existing network; rather, in the day to day workings of your organization, begin to point out to everyone who touches your website—and that is probably everyone you work with—the ways that the existing proprietary platform is handcuffing their work.   Ten examples of ways that Drupal takes off proprietary shackles follow.   Advanced URL Control--Drupal offers users the ability to control the URL structure of the site without having to alter code or utilize a plug-in.   Meta Tags & Titles—Drupal offers users the ability to exercise complete control over the HTML <title> elements of any page.   Advanced Categories—The taxonomy system native to Drupal is an extremely powerful tool allowing site owners the ability to control categories according to section. Categories are available in hierarchical forms, as well single and parent category options.   Custom Content Types & Views—Managing the custom content types and views are simple for Drupal users. Drupal offers the advantage of using the Content Construction Kit and Views modules to allow for the easy creation of new content types and custom views. Users can accomplish all of this without having to compile any code.   Editing & Revision Control—Drupal can be easily configured to save the newest version of any page each time a page is edited. This feature offers users the ability to view and revert to previous versions of pages as necessary.   Extensive User Management—Drupal was designed for community-based projects and offers a great deal of user role and access functions. Drupal offers the option to create as many custom user roles and access levels as needed.   PHP Templating Options—Drupal uses a theme engine that most users find to be easier to use than the templating options offered by Wordpress. No knowledge of PHP is necessary to adjust themes.   Complete Documentation—Drupal provides excellent documentation through official handbooks, tutorials, blogs, videos, and pod casts.   Cookbooks & Code—Finding and adding features that aren’t native to Drupal is easy. Drupal offers an area of user created code snippets on its site.   It’s important when selling Drupal, or any other open source platform, not to confuse in people’s minds the simplicity of the day-to-day operation with the process the organization will go through to make the transition.   A recent report by Amadeus IT Group, for example, makes the case for open source by stressing the long-term cost savings to any organization that adopts it. But it doesn’t soft-peddle that the actual change will come with growing pains.   “Open source can offer huge benefits, enabling faster innovation and reduced total cost of ownership. Whilst transitioning from closed to open systems is no trivial task, unless this step is taken, businesses risk being left behind as their competitors capitalize on the new possibilities this offers.”   The benefits of open source are clear. How you choose to move your organization requires a deft touch, and a bit of counter-intuition. Change, after all, doesn’t come easy for most. But failing to change, can prove costly to you and your organization.