Recap: The First Drupal Business Summit 11/9/10

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I could not have felt more out of place at DrupalCon last April. As I walked around in San Francisco’s Moscone center in a suit, a sea of Drupalers in jeans and all manner of droplet t-shirts, bandanas, and even body art recoiled from me. I was not one of them.

It was funny. But then I started to think about the implications. As a business person, it was tough to find information to consume at DrupalCon, where some of the most well attended sessions featured PowerPoint slides stuffed with snippets of code.

Which is how the idea for the Drupal Business Summit came about: Creating content that helps business people understand Drupal and what it can do for their organizations.

Well the first Drupal Business Summit happened yesterday in New York City, and was a sold-out success. Co-hosted by my company, tmg-e*media and Aquia, the enterprise guide to Drupal, the conference provided rich case studies and discussions targeted at business leaders. Here are session highlights:

Kathleen Reidy, analyst of the 451 group, dissected the Web Content and Social Media space. A key point: Sometimes businesses don’t have an accurate view of where technologies fit in the spectrum. They might compare a content management technology like Plone with a social media technology like WordPress. She had a killer ven diagram illustrating where these products fit.

Next up, Andrew Hoppin of the New York State Senate chronicled his journey of transitioning the state government sites to Drupal. Now senators have their own mini sites that they can manage. And the public can get visibility into the law-making process that never existed before.

I started my panel on resourcing Drupal by saying, “If you’re not worried about the resourcing issue, you should be.” It was the number-one problem attendees cited when asked what their challenges were. Jamie Clark of Zagat survey talked about going to meet-ups and immersing herself in the Drupal community to retain talent. Jay Hartley of Taunton Press described the cultural differences in hiring and retaining Drupal talent. And yours truly and Sandra Matthiessen at Time Out New York outlined the innovative training program we kicked off to “roll our own” Drupal team.

A true highlight of the afternoon was Mike Meyers’ case study. He rolled out, a citizen journalist startup and sold it to the Examiner, who wanted him to work the same magic for them. A massive undertaking, the site is the earliest enterprise Drupal 7 release. In case you haven’t been tracking these things, Drupal 7’s not out yet.

Bob Kerner, a former U.S. Naval crypto linguist, told us his tale of storming into the NYSE, cleaning house and starting from scratch. With management’s support, he ditched a multi-year, multi-million dollar effort that had gone awry and took the enterprise down a nimble, open-source Drupal path, complete with frequent deliverables and truly agile teams. As Bob reminded us, most companies think they do agile but don’t, and also, “Waterfall is a lie.”

Rounding out the afternoon, we saw the great work VML had done on behalf of Cartoon Network. Martin Coady took us to school on how to create truly flexible site that can be managed by the business. For example, rather than taking the easy route and creating a flash movie for CN’s animated-character navigation, VML created small movies nodes that could be managed in Drupal. Now, Martin says, he comes to the CN site and doesn’t recognize it. A good thing! Because the client is completely empowered to change the look and feel of their site on their own.

Thanks to all who helped make the first Drupal Business Summit a success. Future summits will take place in DC and San Francisco.