In the beginning, Drupal had an ambition

Published by Ales
on 4 December 2017

Since Dries' keynote at the DrupalCon in Vienna how Drupal is for ambitious digital experiences, it became somehow more obvious how does its founder see the future. And what the agencies should focus on in a more than ever competing world of content management systems. Although we have to admit that some of the agencies already embraced the idea of building their businesses on delivering such digital experiences. 

So what does differentiate ambitious digital experiences from, let's say, websites? Or "just plain" digital experiences? And what qualities an ambitious digital experience has? It is by no means a simple endeavor to cover all the aspects of such an experience; this is why I will divide it into several parts. And try to cover as much as possible. But first I will start by clarifying the terms ambitious digital experiences one by one. I believe there is no need to lose too much space on Drupal, as we all know very well what is it capable of delivering. 


From ambition to ambitious

I don't want to dwell too long and try to figure out how Dries came about this idea but there had to be an underlying ambition. An ambition to steer Drupal (and agencies) in a direction where we would be able to differentiate ourselves. Not just from direct competitors but also from simpler SaaS solutions. So, there is a clearly defined and stated ambition by Dries what he thinks Drupal should aim for. And he is ambitious in achieving that. But the more important issue is that this ambition is also nurtured in digital agencies to embrace the idea and become (more) ambitious. Some of them have been already doing this, focusing their business on ambitious digital experiences, some of them embraced the idea but not fully incorporated it into its daily dealings with clients, and there are probably also some agencies who still cope with accepting it.

Back to ambitious. What do dictionaries say about this word? It is an adjective. And it can mean having a strong desire and determination to succeed. Some synonyms are motivated, eager, energetic, committed, driven, enterprising,... And the other meaning is connected to digital experience. A piece of work intended to satisfy high aspirations and also difficult to achieve. Bulls-eye. An ambitious digital experience for whatever client does have high aspirations, it does have a set of goals it wants to achieve with it and, of course, there is a lot at stake. But is it also difficult to achieve? Probably the harder part of this journey is getting clients who appreciate and utilize the value of such a digital experience. The technical part of delivering it should be the easier part of it. 




Digital, experience, digital experience

Let's start with digital. The most obvious definition would be the opposite of analog. Digital involves or somehow relates to the use of information technology. Computers distinguish just two values, 0 and 1, so all the data that the computer processes must be encoded digitally. As a series of ones and zeros. But again, let's move away from the technology debate and focus instead on what digital should represent and what can deliver. Somehow that doesn't feel it is enough. We have to move away from simple definitions and focus not on what digital is but to understand it as a way of doing things. To create it more concrete McKinsey's Dörner and Edelman broke down this definition into three attributes:

  1. creating value at the new frontiers of the business world, 
  2. creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and 
  3. building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.

We will return to those three attributes at a later time. But with defining digital as a way of doing things we are coming closer to creating experiences. Any digital device is just a tool until used in such a manner it creates an experience. 

Let's look at what dictionaries say about the experience. It can be a noun or a verb. If noun it can mean these two things. First, it can mean a contact with and/or observation of facts or events. Second, an event which leaves an impression on someone. Let's stick with the simple for now and build up to a digital experience. 

If we just merge the meanings of two words and try to come up with the definition of our own, we could say that digital experience is an interaction that takes place between an organization and a user by the use of digital technologies. Gartner does not have a definition of digital experience (they do have DEM - a Digital experience monitoring which is defined as an availability and performance monitoring discipline), but according to Mick MacComascaigh digital experience can be regarded as: "a composite set of experiential elements — including content, design and functional elements — delivered over a digital channel that has the highest probability of prompting any of the desired set of predefined behaviors."




Drupal and ambitious digital experiences

Content management systems play an important role in delivering digital experiences, but just managing the content does not deliver those ambitious experiences we want them. So we could move the debate away from what technology to use as a CMS to digital experience debate. For instance, when talking about a CMS, a question about the costs will be raised rather sooner than later. If we can talk about digital experiences we would probably not be talking about the cost, but about the ROI. And away from publishing content to communicating. From counting clicks and how easy-to-use it is to analyzing behavior and usability and learnability. From how efficient is a CMS to the effects of digital experience. 

Because in the end experience is much more than content. And best digital experiences should be natural, intuitive. And focused on the customers. 


I will focus on aspects or elements of ambitious digital experiences in the following blog posts. If you want to stay on top of it and deliver digital experiences focused on your clients' customers get in contact