Garage shop to Enterprise, Drupal style

It’s been quite a drastic couple of years for me in the Drupal world – from medium-sized Drupal site implementation, to tiny scale DIY projects and ongoing support, now back to an enterprise-level Drupal shop.

I started learning 4.7 several years ago, working on my own site.  At the time I was at CompuMentor, by then a sizable technology nonprofit, and with my background in project management I was put in charge of a couple of $20-$40k Drupal projects – which turned out quite well, I might add, thanks in huge part to design and implementation partner FloatLeft.  I was also one of a handful of staff singing the praises of this open-source CMS, not only to nonprofit clients but to CompuMentor as well, which has now not only adopted the technology on a large scale, but exerts its gravitational pull on a galaxy of great independent nonprofit Drupal consultants.

I changed jobs and went to a school part time, where I began nudging at ePortfolio development on Drupal.  I was also keeping a hand in some small – tiny – DIY projects.  I learned a hell of a lot about how far you can take Drupal without coding – and where you hit some real limitations unless you’ve got PHP skills.

Now I’m doing work for large a web development shop.  Perhaps more like a department store.  It didn’t quite strike me until I read an (old) post by Josh over at Chapter Three:  a lot of Drupal shops (in fact, many of the ones I am familiar with) are not prepared to handle enterprise-level Drupal development and support.  Support especially.  One of the commenters on his post nails it – the challenge is with enterprise-level Service Level Agreements.  Most 3-10 person dev shops don’t have extra bodies to ensure all-hands-on-deck when something goes south; at least, not at that scale.

Now I’m working with a company that does this kind of thing on a regular basis, and does have the bodies and experience to do it.  AF83 has a history of building and supporting large community sites answerable to, for example, one of France’s biggest telecom agencies.  You better believe they’ve got a wicked SLA.

And now all of a sudden, I worried we’re too big.  Most of the Drupal calls for work are asking for a developer or two, billable at an hourly rate.  For companies to request enterprise-level production, Drupal shops need to prove an ability to build and support these kinds of sites – which they won’t do unless they see a market for them. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation – and I’m not sure which one is us….

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