Mind the Drupal Talent Shortage

  • 16-May-2012

I had lunch the other day with a couple of acquaintances who work at a systems integrator (SI) that does a lot of work for the US federal government (a.k.a., "beltway bandit").

They pointed out that, like SharePoint of yore, Drupal was becoming all the rage among US federal web managers under the current administration. So naturally, this SI went looking for experienced Drupal talent. And could not find any. You see, as readers of our WCXM or Social Collaboration evaluations know, experienced Drupal talent comes in short supply, especially since Drupal fanboys promote it as the hammer for every nail (which it certainly is not). 

So what were these SI managers going to do? What nearly everyone else does: find some PHP developers, train them up on Drupal for several months, and hope they stick around for at least a year. That's exciting for the developer community, but what about you the customer? This sort of dislocation can be very jarring to your project and is something to consider when selecting tools.

No, I'm not suggesting you select some dullard WCXM product so that you can find cheap, unemployed developers. Rather, I'm suggesting that you build hype coefficients into your longterm total-cost-of-ownership calcuations. The more hyped the tool, the more you'll have to spend to get foundational advice. In some cases, a lot more.

And foundational advice is critical to any longterm investment. Ask a developer or architect to talk about their first two implementations with any tool. They'll roll their eyes and explain what they'd do differently if they had it all over again. Fine for them -- they got paid. Tough for you the customer.

Be sure to contract with seasoned implementers with at least 3 projects under their belt with any particular vendor. That's meaningful experience. And with Drupal, it's very hard to find today...

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Peter Morville, Consultant, Author, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web Consultant, Author, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

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