Drupal is Not a Product

Stephen Sanzo // June 2012

At least once a week, I get a request from someone that wants me to “demo” Drupal.  The request seems simple enough. The interested party may be comparing options for a web-based technology initiative, has heard the buzz about “this Drupal”, and wants to find out where it fits into the mix of solutions available to them.  In many cases they are looking to compare it to a CMS-type option like Ektron or Sitecore. So, it would seem perfectly plausible to ask, “How does Drupal compare to these other technologies I am looking at?” or “Do you have some kind of comparison matrix that shows features and cost?” All of this dialogue generally leading to a request for a demonstration.

Now, I have given plenty of demonstrations of Drupal - generally showing an existing client site that has features and functionality similar to the needs of my audience. However, I often feel that providing a demonstration perpetuates a key misunderstanding with regards to Drupal. “A misunderstanding?” you say.  Yes. And to clear it up, I want everyone to repeat after me, “Drupal is not a product.”

More specifically, many folks try and compare Drupal to more “finished” software-based solutions. The fact is, Drupal is essentially a software development accelerator, also referred to as a development framework. A key to the misunderstanding stems from all the reasons that make Drupal so great. It’s flexible and powerful. It can replace your current proprietary CMS or your enterprise-level, next generation social networking solution. Through a combination of existing modules and custom development it can literally do anything you need it to do.

So how do you “demo” that and how much does it cost? That is where the comparisons to the other solutions get a bit grayer. Why? Because…”Drupal is not a product.”  So, with that concept – Drupal is only as good as the people you have developing and supporting it. It provides a strong foundation to grow and evolve your web strategy and goals.

Sure, there are smart people doing innovative things with Drupal that are more of a finished product – like Commons or Open Atrium or Commerce. But making the decision to embrace Drupal is only a starting point. The key to having success is recognizing that by choosing Drupal, you are choosing to embark on an ongoing development project. One that can reap great rewards if it is understood that you need the proper resources and expertise to make the most of its benefits.

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