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Loosen control the Open Source way

A couple of weeks ago a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of one of the largest mobile telecommunications companies in the world asked me how a large organization such as hers should think about organizing itself to maintain control over costs and risks while still giving their global organization the freedom to innovate.

When it comes to managing their websites and the digital customer experience, they have over 50 different platforms managed by local teams in over 50 countries around the world. Her goal is to improve operational efficiency, improve brand consistency, and set governance by standardizing on a central platform. The challenge is that they have no global IT organization that can force the different teams to re-platform.

When asked if I had any insights from my work with other large global organizations, it occurred to me the ideal model she is seeking is very aligned to how an Open Source project like Drupal is managed (a subject I have more than a passing interest in).

Teams in different countries around the world often demand full control and decision-making authority over their own web properties and reject centralization. How then might someone in a large organization get the rest of the organization to rally behind a single platform and encourage individual teams and departments to innovate and share their innovations within the organization?

In a large Open Source project such as Drupal, contributions to the project can come from anywhere. On the one extreme there are corporate sponsors who cover the cost of full-time contributors, and on the other extreme there are individuals making substantial contributions from dorm rooms, basements, and cabins in the woods. Open Source's contribution models are incredible at coordinating, accepting, evaluating, and tracking the contributions from a community of contributors distributed around the world. Can that model be applied in the enterprise so contributions can come from every team or individual in the organization?

Reams have been written on how to incubate innovation, how to source it from the wisdom of the crowd, ignite it in the proverbial garage, or buy it from some entrepreneurial upstart. For large organizations like the mobile telecommunications company this CDO works at, innovation is about building, like Open Source, communities of practice where a culture of test-and-learn is encouraged, and sharing -- the essence of Open Source -- is rewarded. Consider the library of modules available to extend Drupal: there can be several contributed solutions for a particular need -- say embedding a carousel of images or adding commerce capability to a site -- all developed independently by different developers, but all available to the community to test, evaluate and implement. It may seem redundant (some would argue inefficient) to have multiple options available for the same task, but the fact that there are multiple solutions means more choices for people building experiences. It's inconceivable for a proprietary software company to fund five different teams to develop five different modules for the same task. They develop one and that is what their customers get. In a global innovation network, teams have the freedom to experiment and share their solutions with their peers -- but only if there is a structure and culture in place that rewards sharing them through a single platform.

Centers of Excellence (CoEs) are familiar models to share expertise and build alignment around a digital strategy in a decentralized, global enterprise. Some form multiple CoEs around shared utility functions such as advanced data analytics, search engine optimization, social media monitoring, and content management. CoEs have also grown to include Communities of Practice (CoP) where various "communities" of people doing similar things for different products or functions in multiple departments or locations, coalesce to share insights and techniques. In companies I've worked with that have standardized on Drupal, I've seen internal Drupal Camps and hackathons pop up much as they do within the Drupal community at-large.

My advice to her? Loosen control without losing control.

That may sound like a "have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too" cliche, but the Open Source model grew around models of crowd-sourced collaboration, constant and transparent communications, meritocracies, and a governance model that provides the platform and structure to keep the community pointed at a common goal. What would my guidance be for getting started?

  1. Start with a small pilot. Build that pilot around a team that includes the different functions of local country teams and bring them together into one working model where they can evangelize their peers and become the nucleus of a future CoE "community". Usually, one or more champions will arise from that.
  2. Establish a collaboration model where innovations can be shared back to the rest of the organization, and where each innovation can be analyzed and discussed. This is the essence of Drupal's model with Drupal.org acting as the clearing house for contributions coming in from everywhere in the world.

Drupal and Open Source were created to address a need, and from their small beginnings grew something large and powerful. It is a model any business can replicate within their organization. So take a page out of the Open Source playbook: innovate, collaborate and share. Governance and innovation can coexist, but for that to happen, you have to give up a measure of control and start to think outside the box.

NY.gov on Drupal, one year later

The web has done wonders to make government more accessible to its citizens. Take the State of New York; NY.gov is a perfect example of taking a people-centric approach to digital government. The site lets people easily access state government news and services, including real-time public transit updates, employment resources, healthcare information, and more.

One year ago, The State of New York redesigned and relaunched their website on Drupal in partnership with Code and Theory and Acquia. Today, one year later, they’ve nearly tripled the audience to more than 6 million users. The most-visited part of the site is the services section, which aligns well with the governor’s priority to provide better customer service to state residents. Annual pageviews have quadrupled since launch to a record high of more than 17 million and mobile usage has increased 275 percent.

For more details, check out the press release that the State of New York published today.

Acquia and Drupal helped save Cisco $400 million USD

At Acquia Engage, our annual customer and partner conference held last week, Cisco's Jamal Haider spoke about the tremendous savings ($400 million USD!) that came from building its support community on the Acquia Platform and Drupal. The company transformed its support organization into a valuable self-service portal for customers, leading to a 77% deflection rate for customer service calls.

Using Cisco's support community, customers can access detailed, multilingual technical information on all of the company's products and services, including advice from experts, events, documents and videos. The site boasts more than 38 million visits a year and 600,000 active users. It is faster, more flexible and more user-friendly than ever before. In addition to massive cost savings, Haider cites Drupal's feature velocity as a main reason for the company's move away from Jive.

Check out Network World's detailed article on Cisco's experience.

Cisco support community

Announcing Acquia Content Hub

The explosion of content continues to grow. With more and more organizations managing multiple sites and digital channels, the distribution of content is increasingly difficult to manage. Content can easily become siloed in different sites or platforms. Different data models make it challenging to access, update, and replicate content changes across your sites.

Today, we're excited to announce Acquia Content Hub, a cloud-based content distribution and discovery service. Content Hub serves as a central content repository or hub that allows for bidirectional distribution of content between different platforms. Content Hub lets authors and site owners reuse content from other sites, commerce platforms, and more. To facilitate sharing between all these different systems, we normalize the content, and provide centralized tools to search and discover content within your network of sites. In addition, Content Hub can automatically keep content consistent across different sites (publish-subscribe), mitigating the risk of out of date information, all while respecting workflow rules on the local destination site.

I'm excited about the launch of Content Hub because I believe it will become a critical building block for creating digital experiences that are smart, personal, contextual, predictive, and continuous across digital touch-points in our lives (see Big Reverse of the Web). It's an ambitious vision that will require organizations to better leverage all of their content and data. This means that eventually all data has to get linked: from textual, audio and video data, to customer information and customer support data, to sensory and contextual customer information. To process that amount of data, we will have to build smart systems on top of it to create better digital experiences for the customer. Last year we launched Acquia Lift, and now 12 months later we're launching Content Hub -- both are important steps towards that vision.

WPP-Acquia Alliance: a milestone for Drupal

Today Acquia announces the WPP-Acquia Alliance, a global partnership with the world's largest communications services company. This isn't just a milestone for Acquia -- I believe it to be significant for the Drupal community as well so let me tell you a bit more about it.

WPP is a marketing company. A very, very large marketing company. With more than 188,000 people in 112 countries, WPP's billings are nearly $76 billion USD and its revenues approach $19 billion USD.

The reason that the WPP-Acquia Alliance is interesting for Drupal, is because WPP's primary client is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The influence of the CMO has been on the rise; their responsibility has evolved from "the one responsible for advertising" to having a critical role in designing the customer experience across all the customer touchpoints (including the websites). The CMO often has a deep understanding of how to use technology to deliver an integrated, system-wide customer experience. This is one of Drupal's strengths, and bringing organizations like WPP into the Drupal fold will help bring Drupal into the office of the CMO, grow the adoption of Drupal, and expands the opportunity for everyone in our community. If you believe, as I do, that the CMO is important, then I can't think of a better company to work with than WPP.

WPP will connect its Drupal developers from several agencies under one umbrella, creating a Drupal center of excellence, and the world's largest Acquia-certified Drupal practice. Globant, Hogarth, Mirum, Possible, Rockfish, VML and Wunderman are some of the agencies who'll be contributing to the WPP-Acquia Alliance, and building innovative Drupal applications for global clients. Acquia will provide WPP its open cloud platform, solutions for multi-site management, personalization tools, and more.

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