Am I Disrupting You? Your Drupal Innovation Lab

Doug Sisko // March 2013

Low cost. Accessible platform. Readily available, combinable components. Quick to the marketplace. What do all these things have in common? They all describe the tools to be a high-tech innovator. You see it everywhere today. People are finding cheaper ways to provide you with the tools that you use everyday. Think about your smartphone. You download numerous apps, seemingly free, that enrich your life. Many of these apps are built using readily available technologies and platforms. This is the same model of innovation that we’re seeing today with Drupal.

50,000 Foot View of Innovation

What is innovation? There are as many definitions of it as the people you ask, but to keep it simple, it is the application of new ideas or a new combination of ideas applied to the practice of bringing new products to the marketplace. In English, it is producing exciting stuff, that will be embraced by people. Business heavy-weights, like Peter Drucker, have tried to identify the seven sources of innovation, while Clayton Christensen has brought us the idea of disruptive innovation (a new, often cheaper technology, will displace an existing old technology, frequently unexpectedly) — there are numerous and rich ideas and research on innovation. What does this have to do with Drupal?

In Practice

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you don’t want to spend lots of money to reinvent the wheel. Sure, you’ll invest some, but you do not want to write your CMS platform from scratch, nor do you really want to develop a whole suite of features if they’re already available. With Drupal, you have a platform ready to go, without having to write the core functionality. In addition, you have a whole library of features (modules) available that you can readily combine to create even more functionality. Many of the advances we see (think about how often you use your smart phone as a GPS) are through a similar process, using clever and smart combinations of existing functionality.

Isovera worked with Cision USA to implement a new social platform for PR professionals called Seek or Shout. Cision had methodically researched and documented a list of features they would like to see on their new site, inspired by many of today’s social platforms. But they also wanted to do it on a reasonable budget, without having to write everything from scratch. Isovera came in to implement this site, taking great care to build the functionality using many preexisting modules. Seekorshout.com is actively growing, and is a great example of Drupal innovation.

With Drupal, you don’t just have a few smart people behind you. You have an entire community backing you with Drupal.

Some Closing Considerations

After reading this, you may think you need to do no work besides having a rough business plan and installing some modules to create your innovation lab. The reality is somewhat in between. Compared to having to write all your code or being stuck with a non-customizable 3rd party platform, Drupal does represent a fantastic feature-to-budget ratio. However, there are a few things I want you to think about:

  • In most cases, you will need to account for some degree of configuration using modules. What does this mean? Installing the module alone doesn’t mean you’re done — budget time to tweak it, configure it, and make it usable by your end-users and your site administrators.
     
  • Good Drupal developers are scarce. Do not assume there will no development costs, and more importantly, if your “developer” is too cheap, they may not be much of a developer. You may end up hiring more than one developer - this costs money.
     
  • If your site is popular, and sticks around, don’t forget your site will need updates and maintenance. Remember, Drupal is free like kittens, not beer.
     

Start innovating!

Filed under: