Outsourcing Drupal development

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Development Business Drupal

For over 20 years, Drupal has been a top player in the CMS space, but due to the recent explosion of popular platforms and frameworks, it’s more difficult now to build a team of reliable Drupal developers than it used to be ten or even just five years ago.

However, many well-known brands and organizations still rely on Drupal to power their digital experiences, and are looking to not only maintain but advance their Drupal-based websites and apps.

It has become especially strong in the enterprise space, where the need for high-level digital experiences is that much greater, but many leading enterprises don’t have in-house Drupal specialists and so need to look for solutions elsewhere.

The obvious approach is outsourcing Drupal development, preferably in a partnership with a specialized agency as it is able to provide a full Drupal team and/or replacements in the case of any unexpected emergencies.

In this article, we’ll break down the most common cases in which you would want to outsource your Drupal development, and then top things off with some key considerations on what you should be looking for in a Drupal development agency partner.


When to outsource Drupal development

Do you need help from external Drupal experts? If you see yourself in one or more of these scenarios, the answer is very likely yes.


1. You lack an in-house Drupal team 

This is the most straightforward scenario, most often concerning a digital agency whose client needs Drupal for a project. It’s especially relevant for agencies working with a prestigious client such as a government institution; for example, a creative/marketing agency might win a tender for such a client, but the client requires Drupal – what can they do?

Turning down the client would be detrimental to the business and the long-term reputation of their brand, but they typically aren’t able to hire a full internal team of experts quickly enough – and, even if they could, what would they do with them once the only Drupal project they have is complete? Outsourcing takes out the pain in both of these scenarios.


2. Your in-house Drupal team is spread too thin

Similarly, you may well have a strong in-house team of Drupal developers, but they’re already spread too thin working on current projects to take on a new high-value Drupal project for a potential client, no matter how important this client might be.


3. Your in-house team is lacking in either the front or the back end

You or a client might need complex new functionality which requires high-level expertise in both Drupal front-end and back-end development, but your in-house Drupal team lacks the necessary skills in either of these or you only have a few developers available in each.


4. You’re using Acquia DXP but want custom features

While a SaaS product, Acquia’s Digital Experience Platform is based on the open-source Drupal platform – so, if you need custom functionality, you won’t be able to get them until they’re included in the Acquia platform, unless of course you leverage custom Drupal development.

If you’re using Acquia SaaS, chances are high you don’t have the necessary in-house Drupal capacity to roll out custom changes, especially if these are not that frequent, and here Drupal outsourcing is your best bet.


5. You need work on an outdated version of Drupal

A lot of new developers have never worked with an old version of Drupal such as 6 or 7, and they just generally prefer working with modern, more-developer friendly technologies. So, it’s not unlikely that even Drupal developers with 10+ years of experience will be much more versed in the latest versions than one that was released in 2011.

Yet Drupal 7 is still the most popular Drupal version, with around 50% of Drupal websites running on D7. If you need extensive work on a D7 site, either maintenance or an upgrade, outsourcing is the safest and most efficient way to go about it. Learn more about our Drupal 7 extended support offer here.


6. You need a decoupled/headless Drupal implementation

Due to the rise in advanced omnichannel digital experiences, decoupled/headless solutions are becoming more and more popular, and Drupal can serve as an especially robust back end for a strong and capable front-end technology such as React or Vue.

You might even have in-house JavaScript specialists, but lack the Drupal part of the equation for a certain client/project. If this is your only use case for Drupal, it would make little sense to hire full-time in-house specialists to develop and maintain it.


7. You run or work for a nonprofit/non-government organization

Most nonprofit organizations and NGOs need an enterprise-level platform for their digital experiences, but since they are by definition not for profit, they often lack the budget for a capable SaaS solution like Salesforce, and instead opt for the top choice in the open-source enterprise CMS space, Drupal.


Two hands each holding up a puzzle piece and the two pieces are a fit


What to consider when looking for a Drupal development partner

In this section, we’ll look at some key things to consider when looking for the right Drupal agency to partner with, starting with some general considerations and then moving on with some Drupal-specific ones.


General considerations

  • What type of partnership do you want and/or what type of project do you need help with? Do you need a short or long-term partner? Will the partnership involve multiple projects, one large project, or is it just a one-off custom feature? Do you need new features or just support/maintenance services?
  • Do you need a full team or only one or two developers? If you need a full team, how fast can the agency supply it?
  • How will the agency’s developers fit into your team? How can you check their competence and reliability? If the agency is based in a country where English is not the official language, how efficiently will they be able to communicate and collaborate with your team? Is their company culture a good fit with your own culture?
  • How will your intellectual property be protected? Is the agency partner offering white-label services? How do they ensure any confidential information you need to share with them is properly protected?


Drupal-specific considerations

  • Are the agency and its developers engaged in the Drupal community? Do they participate in and sponsor Drupal events? How much and how often do they contribute to the project? Does their contribution consist simply of code contribution or do they also contribute in other ways, such as organizing courses and other events?
  • Are they versed in Drupal tooling and best practices? Do they follow the latest trends and developments of the Drupal project? How do they make sure everyone uses the proper tools and workflows?
  • Have they used Drupal on similar projects as the one you need? Do they have examples of case studies and/or references from industries or types of projects that fit your own niche or project? What kind of things have they worked on in this space?


Choosing the right engagement model

After finding the right agency, you then need to pick the outsourcing model that best fits your needs. This will depend on the type of project you are working on and how much control you want to keep throughout the development process. In this section, we’ll briefly present some of the most common models of outsourcing and what kind of scenarios they are best suited for.

  • Staff/team augmentation: this type of outsourcing strategy typically involves only a few people that provide certain skills an in-house team is lacking. This works best when you have an in-house Drupal team, but need just that little bit of additional expertise on either the front or the back end to develop everything properly and promptly.
  • Dedicated teams: here you’re hiring a full team rather than just one or two developers. This approach is ideal for agencies/companies without an in-house Drupal team who still want to be involved in and oversee the development process.
  • Managed services: with managed services, you’re leaving both the development and project management to your partner agency. This is the default approach for turnkey/fixed scope projects, often utilized by government agencies and nonprofit organizations.


Wrapping up

Outsourcing Drupal development to a specialized agency is often the safest bet with such a long-standing platform, especially if your situation falls into one of the seven scenarios we outlined above. If you happen to be looking for a Drupal development partner, check out how Agiledrop works with Drupal and reach out to us if you’d like to learn more.