Drupal in Australia

stovenumerousInternet and Web Development

Dec 4, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Insights into how large
organisations are using
the platform.

in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Drupal in Australia
Drupal is fast gaining a reputation as a high-performing enterprise content management
system. From the White House to Warner Bros, Sony Music to Yahoo!, some of the world’s
biggest brands and most influential sites are being powered by this free, open-source platform.
The question is, why? What does Drupal offer that other
platforms don’t?
Before we answer this, let’s look at some stats. Drupal is powered by more than half a million
people in more than 200 countries. Nearly 1000 members of the Drupal community are direct
contributors to Drupal 7 core, and thousands more develop contributed modules.
Drupal easily holds its own against other popular open-source platforms like Joomla
and WordPress. All three of these content management systems are written in the PHP
programming language, are licensed under the free GNU General Public License and use the
MySQL database to hold and manage the content on a website – yet they are being used in
very different ways by different people.
For example, WordPress is used by 4 million sites around the world and has 4 per cent
penetration of the top 10,000 sites in the world. Drupal, while it is used by only 500,000 sites
in comparison, has 3.6 per cent penetration – pointing to the fact that it powers sites that are
much larger, more complex and scalable.
So who’s using Drupal in Australia, and why?
In his “State of Drupal” survey

from 2011, Drupal founder Dries Buytaert reported that
the majority of Drupal users in Australia are developers, site builders and site admins with
intermediate or advanced skills. Most of these Drupal users had between 3-5 years experience.
In the same survey, he found that the number one opportunity for Drupal is to replace legacy
platforms (14.4%). Close behind this is mobile (13.6%) and IT cost reduction (11.8%). Given
that it’s a free platform with an extremely vast and professional community of developers
supporting its growth, this is little wonder.
And as for whether Drupal suits small business, the mid-market or enterprise companies,
well, there are features of the platform that can be sold into any of these groups. Small
businesses like Drupal because the install is incredibly simple – essentially, what you see is
what you get.
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
For the mid-market, Drupal delivers a flexible architecture, huge choice of modules, content
types and views, and a dynamic and responsive platform for ease of in-version updates.
But it’s at the enterprise level that Drupal truly shines. Given that many enterprises
manage a large number of smaller sites, they can draw upon the same benefits that small
business and the mid-market enjoy when using the Drupal platform. Plus, they can utilise
highly sophisticated features and functionality like multi-server options, content staging,
configuration management and editorial workflow to reduce costs and implement a more
streamlined digital strategy for the many content managers of their sites.
These arguments provide just a glimpse of why major sites like

use Drupal.
To understand it better, Bienalto conducted lengthy interviews with the people responsible
for building some of these enterprise sites on Drupal – to discover what they really think of
the platform.
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Executive summary
To gain a greater understanding of how Drupal is used in the Australian digital marketplace,
Bienalto spoke to a number of local organisations about their use of the CMS platform.
These organisations include:
+ Suncorp
+ ABC Commercial
+ Victorian Department of Justice
In lengthy interviews, the people behind these Drupal implementations explained the rationale
for choosing the platform, the challenges they encountered along the way, the experience of
ongoing management, and future plans for the platform.
Some of the key findings to come out of these interview include:
Why organisations choose Drupal
+ No lock-in licensing fees
+ Huge array of standard modules to pick and choose from
+ Strong community of developers
+ Open source
“We needed something low cost, relatively easy to implement, standards-based, scalable
and modular.”
Marilyn Lambert, Victorian Department of Justice
The design and implementation process

Steep learning curve for in-house developers to get up-to-speed with this complex

Preference for using external agencies to build the shell of a site where in-house
expertise is unavailable

Security can be a big issue during implementation

Preference for standard modules over more complex custom-builds
“Once you learn Drupal, there’s nothing you can’t do with it.”
Chuong Vu, Suncorp
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Ongoing management
+ Again, security is an ongoing issue, with regular updates required
+ Ongoing training of staff is paramount
+ Ongoing management is typically performed in-house
“Drupal has built-in alerts for new versions of modules, security patches, feature add-ons
and so on, which we apply when needed.”
Chuong Vu, Suncorp
Limitations and risks

The Drupal upgrade path requires careful planning and significant resources, as the
platform only supports two versions at a time

The complexity of the platform means that organisations must invest in upskilling and
ongoing training of staff
“We only have one team member skilled in Drupal, so there is risk involved in not having
appropriate resources and relying on one person to maintain the sites and address any
Melissa Firth, ABC Commercial
Drupal mobile capabilities

Mobile is a growing channel for Drupal

The platform has the flexibility and features to build mobile-friendly sites for all
“Most of the latest mobile sites we’ve launched are done in Drupal.”
Chuong Vu, Suncorp
Executive summary
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
About the research
To gain a greater understanding of how Drupal is used in the Australian digital marketplace,
Bienalto spoke to a number of local organisations about their use of the CMS platform. We
conducted lengthy interviews where we asked a series of open-ended questions about their
Drupal experience.
Below is a summary of who we spoke to and how they are using Drupal within their organisation.
Chuong Vu, Team Leader Online New Media, BT Applications, Suncorp Business Services
Suncorp is one of the largest Australian companies that supports and uses Drupal. Its many
major sites – at last count, there were about 30 sites that, together, receive upwards of 3
million page views a week and generate significant income for the business – are all built on
the platform, as are countless smaller and internal sites.
Some of these sites include:
+ www.aami.com.au
+ www.gio.com.au
+ www.suncorp.com.au
+ www.suncorpbank.com.au
Prior to Drupal, many of Suncorp’s websites weren’t on content management systems and
had external agencies maintaining them. A reassessment of profit margins and future growth
was the impetus for the organisation to move to the open source platform.
Having selected Drupal, Suncorp then committed to building a strong team of in-house
Drupal developers to build and maintain the many sites using the platform. Today, Suncorp is
one of the largest Australian teams using Drupal and supporting the local Drupal community.
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
About the research
ABC Commercial
Melissa Firth, Digital Product Development Manager
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has used Drupal for a number of smaller
commercial websites such as:
+ www.organicgardener.com.au
+ www.hitcountry.tv
It will be transitioning away from the Drupal platform, having built in-house Ruby on Rails
expertise as well as a new content management system built using CoreMedia to replace
its legacy system. Future websites at the ABC will be built using these platforms, however,
the organisation expects to be continuing to use Drupal for content sites for at least another
couple of years.
Victorian Department of Justice
Marilyn Lambert, Online Communications and New Media
The Victorian Department of Justice uses Drupal to build and maintain subsidiary websites of
the Department such as:
+ www.courts.vic.gov.au
+ www.seniormastersoffice.vic.gov.au
+ www.vocat.vic.gov.au
+ www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au
+ www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au
+ www.vcat.vic.gov.au
Prior to Drupal, the Department used a content management system that lacked essential
functionality – for example, content managers could not perform simple tasks like add an
RSS feed, share a page, or add video.
Having investigated other Departments’ choice of content management systems – and
seeing that Drupal and Joomla were the top picks – the Department chose Drupal. External
developers were engaged to build the bare bones of the sites, at which point the internal
team took over the empty sites to populate and manage them.
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Why organisations choose Drupal
There are a lot of content management systems out there. Some have ridiculously steep
licensing fees and lock you in to proprietary systems. Others look promising from a cost
perspective but lack the features or functionality that many organisations seek. And then
there are open-source systems like Drupal.
So what sets Drupal apart from other open-source content management systems like Joomla
and WordPress? Why are organisations choosing Drupal over all the others?
Drupal’s core strength – apart from the fact that it’s free – is its flexibility and in-built features.
With incredible support from an enthusiastic and professional community of developers, it
has a huge range of modules that organisations can use to address their many needs online.
It also offers rich support for scalability, with features like caching, content delivery networks
and data replication – giving organisations the confidence that the system can handle large
amounts of traffic.
“We reviewed many well-known content management systems, such as WCM from IBN,
dotNet Nuke, Joomla and WordPress. We found these to be on par with Drupal, but they
lacked the community support and flexibility that Drupal provides. Joomla and WordPress
had the community behind them but lacked the scalability.
“Drupal has a very strong community and a vast amount of modules available, which we
knew would save us from spending time coding and building add-ons to our sites.
“It certainly helps that Suncorp Business Services CEO believed that open source was the way
of the future because it is more flexible, dynamic and responsive than proprietary systems.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Why organisations choose Drupal
ABC Commercial
“Drupal made sense to us because it meant we wouldn’t have to pay tens of thousands
of dollars in licensing fees. Plus, it was big enough and mature enough to give us the
confidence that it would perform.
“Other selling points were the fact that we could do our own updates without being locked
into agency rates – and we could draw from the library of modules to build sites quickly

and easily.
“We looked at WordPress, but decided that Drupal was more robust. One manager was also
keen on .NET – but we convinced him that the smaller scale of our sites meant that costly,
proprietary .NET systems would be overkill.”
Department of Justice
“We had specific criteria – we needed something low cost, relatively easy to implement,
standards-based, scalable and modular. Also, a key motivation in choosing open source was
the size of the community and supporting modules.
“A quick investigation revealed that more and more Departments were using Drupal, and we
knew it would be a great fit with our needs.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
The design and implementation process
One of the selling points of the Drupal platform is its ease of use. With a standardised set of
tools and themes at their fingertips, developers can leverage existing code to build simple
sites quickly and effectively.
Indeed, many complex Drupal sites rely on standard modules – and only a few sites need
custom modules written for them. The good news is that, while it may take longer to build,
these custom modules interoperate with off-the-shelf components and conform to a
standard that other Drupal developers will understand.
“It took 6 months to launch our first site. The set up, ongoing experimentation, training and
education on Drupal was a steep learning curve within the organisation.
“Drupal can be a challenge to master – and you need dedicated resources that you can train
and retrain. Once you learn it, though, there’s nothing you can’t do.
“During the implementation phase, we err on the side of caution and lock down our sites to
minimise risks. We see security as an important issue. It’s a double-edged sword – we rely on
the community for ongoing support, but need tight security strategies in place.”
ABC Commercial
“The implementation of Drupal was fairly straightforward. While we wanted to do it in-
house, we did bring in a Drupal expert to help our front-end developer, who then built up his
expertise on the platform.”
Department of Justice
“Once the IA and wireframes were agreed, implementing on Drupal was a pain-free process.
We used an external Drupal developer to build a shell – they used real text and photos so we
got a site at the test phase that people in the business could really engage with.
“Then, it was built as planned. There were a few modules that didn’t work and had to be
uninstalled, and we certainly encountered a few bugs along the way – like the library of
documents and structuring it so that it’s not a proper relational database – but it has been a
smooth experience overall.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Ongoing management of the Drupal platform
In terms of ongoing management, organisations must decide whether to use in-house expertise
or outsource to an agency. Given that it is a complex platform to master, this is not a decision
to be taken lightly – as a considerable investment is required to train staff in the platform.
Many organisations choose to outsource the initial development work, engaging a third party
to do the more difficult configuration work. Then they upskill a web manager to take on the
ongoing management work – which is much simpler.
There is strong support from the Drupal community, with all standard modules hosted at
. There are currently about 11,000 standard modules and this number is growing
daily. Essentially, there is a module for almost anything an organisation needs.
is also used to find solutions to issues and engage with the community about
maintenance and upgrades. Locally, there are large groups around Australia that meet
regularly to exchange ideas and help each other.
Drupal has reasonable security around the platform, with a permanent security team
checking and patching any vulnerabilities in the code. An important part of any ongoing
management plan is to keep the site and any modules with security notices up-to-date. For
larger sites, this requires making updates on a copy of the site and running it through a full
set of testing.
New versions of Drupal are likely to change more rapidly in their early days – and hence
have more security notices – and it is important to keep this in mind when deciding when to
upgrade to a new version.
“A key focus in terms of ongoing management is meeting minimum security criteria around
preventing hackers exploiting security vulnerabilities and bringing our sites down. But we feel
safe as the community is very responsive to these vulnerabilities and so long as we are
vigilant and apply patches diligently, we are protected from most attacks. After all, the White
House uses Drupal and their site would presumably be a very big target for attacks on a daily
“Drupal has built-in alerts for new versions of modules, security patches, feature add-ons and
so on, which we apply when needed.
“We use up to 80 per cent standard Drupal modules, and about 20 per cent we code for
specific requirements so the module fits in our secure system.
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
“We also spend time looking at ways to extend the sites’ capabilities for engagement –
working within our security parameters to create a space where people can engage. This
requires a comprehensive social strategy and we’re not quite there yet.
“And, in terms of keeping the team up to speed, well, Suncorp has one of the largest Drupal
teams in Australia and we are committed to participating in the Drupal community. We also
use Agile practices such as pairing, attending conferences and have many videos, books and
learning resources available. After all, Drupal learning never stops.”
Department of Justice
“We use a distributed authoring model for content managers, and a simple workflow for
author publishing – out sites aren’t terribly onerous or large.
“We use User Acceptance Testing as both a training and testing platform to keep our team
up-to-speed with the platform. We also draw upon the expertise of external agencies where
required for either active development work or technical support.”
Ongoing management of the Drupal platform
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Limitations and risks with Drupal
One of the biggest issues with Drupal – as with any platform – is the upgrade path.
Moving from one version to the next – Drupal 6 to 7 or Drupal 7 to 8 – is a major task and
requires significant resources. This is because Drupal policy does not enforce backwards
compatibility between major versions.
It becomes more of an issue for complex sites that rely on a large number of community
modules. While some of these community modules are very well supported and will present
no issues at any point in their lives, other modules lag behind the upgrade cycle and may not
immediately support an upgrade.
Users should keep upgrades in mind when choosing community modules – and take into
account how many other sites are using the module. If there are 10,000+ other sites reporting
use of the module, then it is likely that support will be continued.
Another limitation of Drupal is its complexity. It is not an easy platform to master, and it takes
time and energy to learn its many features and idiosyncrasies. But once the learning curve
has been surmounted, most organisations experience a significant increase in usability. It is
important to get it right from the start – it can be easy to build a site that does not conform to
the Drupal standard, which can cause issues down the track.
“The upgrade path requires careful planning. With Drupal 8 coming out soon, it means that
version 6 won’t be supported for much longer as they only support two versions at a time
(currently, that’s 6 and 7).
“Our strategy is to move from Drupal 6 to 7, then wait for Drupal 7 to mature, with all the right
modules and community developer support. It’s a balancing act… and it’s about building for
the future instead of supporting legacy systems.
“That said, as an enterprise, you need a strategy to maintain all the different versions –
including the old ones – to keep the auditors happy.
“Another challenge is the learning curve with Drupal. Unless you have a team to support you,
starting from scratch is hard – it took us a year to build competency in this area. When we
started there were no Drupal agencies out there, which meant we couldn’t get training and
local support.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Limitations and risks with Drupal
ABC Commercial
“We only have one team member skilled in Drupal, so there is risk involved in not having
appropriate resources and relying on one person to maintain the sites and address

any issues.”
Department of Justice
“Apart from the fact that our original Drupal developers went broke and we had to move the
site, there have been no issues or limitations from this content management system.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Drupal’s mobile capabilities
Mobile is a growing channel for Drupal – and indeed the entire digital market. While only

10 per cent of web traffic is currently mobile, it will only be another year or so until it takes
the lion’s share. This growth is mirrored in Drupal’s intention to make mobile the default
platform for Drupal 8 – which has no set release date as yet, but is likely to happen in the next
18 months.
For Drupal users, there is a good deal of flexibility within the platform to develop workable
mobile solutions. It can be used for mobile web and/or hybrid models (wrappers), with one
source that can be displayed on the desktop, iPad and smart phones.
Using Drupal themes, it is possible to create the same site with two themes – one for mobile
and one for desktop – and modify output at the data level to suit different devices.
“With mobile really taking off in the last year – and with our deep expertise in Drupal – we
have been able to build mobile sites on Drupal internally, instead of using agencies.
“We have had a great experience using Drupal integrated with JQuery mobile to build mobile
sites across many smartphones.
“Most of the latest mobile sites we’ve launched are done in Drupal. Drupal can also be the
platform to provide content for mobile applications where the content resides in the Drupal
database to be consumed by the application as required using Web Services.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
Drupal is on the up and up. With Drupal 7 a big improvement on its predecessor, and Drupal
8 set to rewrite the rules for mobile web development, it has certainly proved itself as a viable
solution for enterprises seeking a more flexible and scalable content management system.
Sure, Drupal is a complex platform to master. Most enterprises would agree that it takes time
to develop the in-house expertise and understanding required to build and manage Drupal
sites. But these same enterprises would also agree that the investment pays off.
“For small organisations with one website, Drupal might not be the best choice unless there’s
a Drupal developer in-house. It is not easy to build a proper, easily maintainable, best practice
Drupal site in a day.
“But as a corporation, when you have a core team of highly skilled developers, Drupal makes
sense for its scalability, flexibility, and ability to meet the diverse requirements of the
“Drupal has done a fine job – it bore out the reasons we chose it and gave us the flexibility to
manage our own content.
“Once the ABC has rolled out its new content management system, it will make sense for that
technology to be used across the board. Drupal is certainly not being ditched because of
poor performance.”
Department of Justice
“Drupal gets a 4 out of 5. Every content management system has its idiosyncrasies. But this
one is much more easy and intuitive in terms of what people want to see and use on the web.”
Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
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Drupal in Australia
A Bienalto Whitepaper May 2012
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