I don't know how other places find it, but in Australia getting not for profit or government organisations to pay for scoping is like pulling hens teeth.

The minute you raise it they clam up.

I recently had long discussions with an organisation about their needs. It resulted in a proposal that wasn't accepted. So I'm going to tell you about it, and why refusal is a risk for them, and why I predict their near future will be long drawn out discussions and scoping on whether to move away from Drupal.

The History

I don't know when, but say two years ago this organisation, had a Drupal primary site, a number of sub sites, and a development and production environment developed. All hosted on internal servers.

They produce and publish massive volumes of publications. The migration from the old to the new system was horrendous for them (in the typical, migrating massive amounts of content, horrendousness). There was one element of the build not completed the way they wanted (no judgement at all on why) and it's bugged them every day since. And, with the migration of every bit of material they ever produced, came the migration of the processes and methods they used to create content.

So we have:

  • a legacy system of publishing work flows that are inefficient
  • a Drupal system that was designed around these inefficiencies
  • a legacy system of publications that may or may not be relevant to an audience

In addition, they have:

  • a consultant’s report on UX changes to make to the display and search of content, as well as detailed analysis (but no final decisions on a new taxonomy set)
  • a Drupal developer on the team (I have no idea who they are, or their skill set)
  • none of the recommendations from the report above have been implemented - despite the bulk seemingly being a modification to a view, a panel, or a taxonomy/content structure issue
  • a sentiment with publishing/communication that "talking to IT, is like talking to a black box"

We have alarm bells here right? The first issue is all about communication and articulation. And knowing how much time it's going to take to unpack that is unpredictable. I'm a fantastic communicator, so I'm not worried about my ability to do that efficiently; however clearly there are cogs that have ground to a halt, and getting all of them moving could be a thing.

I had a chat to one of the heads of IT; he's sys admin and not Drupal. We talked about the server environment for testing purposes, and generally what Drupal support would be there. My questions weren't on needing their Drupal person per se, but rather would I be stepping on toes, would there be resistance and duplication, and if something broke what safeguards were in place? He was really nice, and all my questions at the time were answered.

I spent more time scoping this work than I should have, (or will again), because I found their position interesting. My interest is about how to best support organisations that are a couple of years into their Drupal journey. Disconnected from the developer that did the implementation, yet clearly needing support that is a combination of process, content management and technical.

My analysis is that this organisation is a high risk candidate to switch CMS' within a year. Their consultant report mentioned above, on the last page made that recommendation; as far as I can see only because the consulting company uses another system. The organisation itself also raised Drupal 8. I found this particularly interesting, the complexity of their set up, including sub sites, and the amount of content and effort involved in a migration does not make them a good candidate for a migration in the near future. In fact, I advised not to consider it for a number of years, and potentially not until Drupal 9, but it's clearly something on their mind. Throw into the mix considered changes to team structure, and everything is pointing to “should we switch from Drupal?”

Hands down Drupal is the best CMS choice for them. But I predict they are now going to spend countless hours discussing a move. Within the next year or so they will possibly test the waters and put a migration out to tender, and either get quotes so high they decide to stay where they are, or they'll take a low ball quote to an alternate CMS, the migration will be horrendous (because, complex migration), and they may or may not end up with any tangible benefit in terms of function or ease of use.

My proposal approach was:

  • to quote on adequate time to unravel what they had and what they needed
  • to implement as much of what was already clearly outlined in their previous consultant report, (after all this had already been discussed internally and is easy to get consensus on)
  • to make recommendations on improvements to their existing system and publishing practices
  • to review all the material on a new taxonomy set and make recommendations and implementations based on existing and future content.

Then, with this in hand they could go forth with options for the cost and implementation of addition design changes they wanted to make for the home page.

In my opinion they have a massively over complicated perception of Drupal.  I don't know in their case why that is; but the Drupal community has a responsibility in this by continuing this rhetoric that site building = developer. Drupal site building requires being careful and considered, but it is not a “developer only” task. I'm comfortable with recommending "have one (developer) in your back pocket, in case", but that's if things break, not because there is ever going to be an IA emergency that only someone with php knowledge is going to be able to provide a decision on.

In the end, they felt my quote was too "open ended”. With all the above, they wanted a fixed quote on fixed outcomes. They, like almost every other not for profit organisation I've worked with, thinks this is being risk adverse. But it's not. Refusal to pay for scoping is not risk adverse. It's incredibly risky and a poor financial and management decision. At best they will be overcharged for the risk and unknowns that they are asking an organisation to quote on, at worst it will result in a fixed price project that is unsuitable, stressful, unnecessarily combative, and where at least one side will lose out.

It was nice to talk with them, and they are lovely people, and it was useful to have lengthy discussions with an organisation a couple of years into their Drupal journey.  But, it has cemented my resolve to only work with organisations that pay for scoping. My expertise is worth it.

Mar 13, 2017 By lyndsey

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