The Drupal Business Survey is an annual survey that aims to give insights into the key issues that Drupal agency owners and company leaders worldwide face. The survey is an initiative of Exove, One Shoe and the Drupal Association and has been carried out this year for the second time. It covers topics about Drupal business in general, Drupal projects and talent needs. This article summarizes the most important findings along with commentary and insights from a total of 239 respondents.
Drupal is growing steadily
The Drupal Business Survey gleaned its data for 2017 from 239 respondents in CEO/COO/CTO/founder role (87%), director role (4.6%) or management role (4.6%), working at Drupal companies with a total of 300 offices spread around the globe. The most popular office location (30.1%) was USA. The second most popular with 12.1% was UK, and after that Germany, Netherlands, India, Canada and France. There were respondents from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania.
Analysis of the data made immediately clear that Drupal is a healthy business:
Drupal project pipeline grows
For almost half of the respondents (48.5%) the Drupal project pipeline grew within the last year. For 28.9% it stayed roughly the same, and for 22.6% the pipeline shrank.
Size of Drupal projects grows
For a majority (52.3%) of the respondents the average size of Drupal project deals grew. For about one third (31.4%) the Drupal deal size stayed roughly the same, and only for 16.3% the size shrank.
Drupal’s project win rate stays roughly the same
Despite the increasing competition in the CMS market, for many (46.4%) of the companies their Drupal project win rate had stayed on the same level during the last year, and about a third (34.7%) had managed to grow their win rate. For less than a fifth of the companies (18.8%) the win rate had decreased.
Drupal’s position as a high-demand service platform is steady, especially for projects in Charities and Non-Profit sector that is catered by two thirds (64.9%) of the respondents. Other popular industries that use Drupal are Government & Public Administration (56.1%) and Healthcare & Medicine (49.4%). There are no major differences in industries served by Drupal companies compared to the 2016 survey results.
When choosing the right platform, Drupal clients trust the technical provider’s expertise: Drupal is often chosen by the clients in result of the provider’s recommendation. In some cases the client’s previous experience or familiarity with Drupal is the definitive factor.
Besides Drupal being open-source and free of licensing fees, the definitive reasons also indicate that Drupal is a reliable and flexible CMS choice with a strong reputation:
“Without -most often than not- being able to precisely explain the reasons for which they prefer Drupal, those who do, sense that it is a better solution for their business; we shall imagine that this is due to the image of the CMS, which evokes a more robust, and serious CMS than the others.”
“Can do anything. Secure.”
Choosing the company
When Drupal is less a dominating factor, other unique aspects are often key factor for clients choosing a supplier, agency or partner. The respondents mentioned trust, commitment, quality, level of service, full service proposition, technical expertise, good reputation and references were important factors for clients to choose upon.
Drupal 8 has a strong place in the market
Drupal 8, the newest version of the CMS, seems to have taken a strong place in the market. The respondents’ new Drupal projects were most commonly (38.1%) built on Drupal 8. One fourth of the respondents stated that they build mostly with both Drupal 8 and some with Drupal 7. For 18% of the respondents most new project were built with Drupal 7 and some with Drupal 8. A few (6.7%) of the respondents said their new projects are equally often built with Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. 12.1% still built all of their new projects with Drupal 7.
Drupal companies broaden their services, skill-sets, techniques and expertise
Remarkably, despite the popularity of Drupal, the survey shows that a lot of Drupal companies have changed their business model over the last year to widen their services and respond to the demand.
The most common way of changing the business model was by expanding services beyond building Drupal websites (35,1%). The data shows that companies start to offer more services, expand their technology stack and work with multiple CMS platforms.
The main reasons behind the changes were changing market conditions (40,0%) or to willingness to grow the pipeline better or faster (49,4%). A respondent explains: “Drupal is too restricted to cover all the market’s needs; furthermore, adding other services allows us to expand our clientele and thus revenues.”
In addition to pure web development – coding the sites – most of the companies provide services such as support, system integration, user experience design, visual design, hosting and mobile development.
Changing the technology stack
The companies also found adding other technologies as a useful way of expanding the technology stack.
More than half of the respondents’ companies used also Node.js, while Angular (43.5%), Symfony (42.3%) and React.js (33.9%) were also commonly used technologies within the respondents. Some used also Laravel (17.2%), Vue.js (9.6%) and Django (5.9%).
Expanding their services by adding other services and CMS platforms to their toolkit
Almost half of the companies (45.2%) have added other CMS platforms to expand their services and getting variety to projects. WordPress is the most usual (54.67%) addition to the toolkit, serving particularly smaller projects, with Magento eCommerce platform and Grav CMS following. For most respondents (69.6%), the reason for using more than one CMS tool is being able to use the tool best suited for the project. For almost the half (40.2%) the reason arose from the client’s’ wishes on the tool.
“WordPress is more popular, and customers want it because of the user experience.”
“There’s still a balle out there between Drupal and WordPress. Clients are not enough informed about the differences, so their opinion is often based on information and visions by previous suppliers”
“We’re adding Adobe and wordpress. Looking into JS frameworks.”
Drupal in a landscape of solutions
Drupal is widely considered as one of the most popular options in the CMS landscape. However, while digital solutions have become more complex, Drupal increasingly often serves as a part of a larger set of solutions. The survey data shows that Drupal companies do this in the belief that the company sells solutions rather than technology.
There’s a broad range of options available for companies to build platforms. Every Drupal organization seeks different combinations of software products and programming languages that they see most important for their projects. There are endless options that excel in their own right.
“Our clients rarely come asking for Drupal (10% of the time). But our technical prowess is a big part of their choice. That skill just happens to be in Drupal due to our own choice of platforms.”
“[Our Drupal expertise is the most definitive factor] when clients approach us for Drupal projects, if Drupal is not the main reason to approach us (the most common case) then Drupal expertise is irrelevant.”
“When it is a Drupal project the expertise is important but we no longer sell Drupal as a major part of projects. We just use it. We now sell the solution.”
“I sell solutions to digital problems, not solutions to Drupal problems.”
The study made it clear that there are often other definitive factors than Drupal expertise affecting the client’s decision of choosing agencies. The clients reportedly value vendor’s portfolio and references of previous projects, reputation, communication, and services that differentiate the agency from its peers.
The Drupal talent factor
According to the survey, Drupal talents are hard to find or finding talents takes a lot of work. Only fraction (10.9%) of the companies say that they find Drupal talents easily. Compared to last year, the demand for Drupal talents seems to split between decreasing (23.4%) and increasing (25.5%) with staying about the same at 36.8%.
With Drupal 8 gaining more and more popularity, most respondents say that Drupal 8 skills are somewhat in demand (38.1%) or high demand (33.5%). 15.9% say that Drupal 8 skills are not in demand.
Most respondents ranked the number of skilled Drupal 8 developers average (40.2%). The responses indicate that Drupal talents are needed, especially skilled Drupal 8 developers due to the fact that Drupal 8 is more complex than its predecessors:
“2016/17 and D8 has been a big shakeout for talent in Drupal. A lot of people who could operate in commercial Drupal delivery in 2012-2015 (with demand outstripping supply markedly) simply will not be viable candidates for Drupal work in 2018. There is no ‘easy” work left and many people who came in during the good times will not be able to sustain careers in the new world.”
The evolution of the CMS marketplace to favor more comprehensive and thus also more complex solutions is favoring bigger companies with stronger competences through a number of experts in specific fields. This causes struggles to small vendors, as mastering clients’ needs requires more expertise than is available on their staff:
“Demand, as a whole, for Drupal seems to be significantly dropping as the increased complexity of each major release of Drupal cuts off greater and greater numbers of the ‘do-it-themselves’ business owning client/builder types. These types are prime candidates for initially using Drupal and then later turning their Drupal site over to a professional company.”
Based on the study results, it is safe to say that Drupal has a steady position in the market, and Drupal 8 has secured its role as the most popular version for new Drupal projects.
The content management market is shifting towards more comprehensive and also complex solutions. Drupal agencies can respond to this trend well due to modern Drupal 8 architecture and also by combining Drupal into larger solutions. This drives Drupal business into larger deals and allows more long-term partnerships with the clients, thus giving financial stability to the companies and also to the community.
On the other end of the market, Drupal also facing competition of low-end solutions such as WordPress. Some of the agencies now offering other content management solutions, WordPress included.
The market might get challenging for smaller companies with only one CMS in their toolkit. Companies that can react to changing market conditions and provide a variety of solutions are going to succeed. Also companies that are able to distinguish themselves from other vendors through a good set of services, specialisation, or excellent customer service will flourish. This is all part of a natural evolution of any digital platform marketplace and it should be seen as a good juncture to raise the Drupal agencies on the next level.
Talent finding challenges indicate that there will be a need for multi-skilled developers with very good technical expertise.
Want to go in-depth?
More detailed results of the survey will be published at the DrupalCon Vienna CEO Dinner on Wednesday, September 27th. The presentation will become available for download afterwards.
Exove delivers digital growth. We help our clients to grow their digital business by designing and building solutions with agile manner, service design methodologies, and open technologies. Our clients include Sanoma, Fiskars, Neste, Informa, Trimble, and Finnlines. We serve also start-up companies, unions and public sector. Exove has offices in Helsinki, Oulu and Tampere, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia; and London, United Kingdom. For more information, please visit www.exove.com.
About One Shoe
One Shoe is an integrated advertising and digital agency with more than 10 years experience in Drupal. With more than 40 specialists, One Shoe combines strategy, UX, design, advertising, web and mobile development to deliver unique results for international clients like DHL, Shell, Sanofi, LeasePlan, MedaPharma and many more. For more information, please visit www.oneshoe.com.
About Drupal Association
The Drupal Association is a non-profit organization headquartered in Portland, OR, USA. It helps the Drupal project and community thrive with funding, infrastructure, and events. Its vision is to help create spaces where anyone, anywhere, can use Drupal to build ambitious digital experiences. For more information, please visit association.drupal.org.