What are the thoughts of Drupal Business leaders about 2021? For the sixth consecutive time, Drupal agencies One Shoe and Exove, together with the Drupal Association, took a deep dive into how Drupal business leaders experience the current state of Drupal business. We are still living in a time where there is constant change in our society. Year two of the pandemic has seen significant and most likely long-term growth in Drupal business for the second year in a row. Now it is time to look forward in order to see what we can do to keep this growth going for years to come.
Characteristics of the participants
77 people participated in this year’s edition of the Drupal Business Survey. 61,1% of the participants have a CEO/CTO/COO role in their company and 20,8% of the respondents are founders.
A majority of the Drupal-centric businesses that participated in the survey have relevant business in Europe (61,1%) and North America (57,2%). The rest are (also) operational in:
- South America (6,5%)
- Australia (6,5%)
- Asia (5,2%)
- Africa (2,6%)
- The Middle East (3,9%)
A big part of this year’s respondents run a digital agency (42,9%), followed by consulting agencies (19,5%) and software companies (18,2%) respectively.
Looking at the chart below, it is clear that small and mid-sized companies are well represented in this year’s survey. While the Drupal Business Survey does see quite a growth in the number of companies having 51-100 employees compared to last year, we also see a significant dip in the number of companies that have 101-500 employees this year. The reason for this change is hard to pinpoint and could very well be a coincidence in the composition of participants. Since Drupal business is doing very well in 2021, lay-offs are highly unlikely and not mentioned amongst the respondents in the survey.
Growth is continuing during and most likely after the pandemic
As the title of this article and last year’s survey showed, Drupal business is doing very well during the pandemic. Based on The Drupal Business Survey, we are happy to note that this year is no different in that regard. When asked what has been the biggest success during the last 12 months, 36% of participants said that their business grew. One respondent says in the survey: ”We have landed some large stable accounts across a wide spectrum of verticals giving us stability.” and “We eclipsed our targeted growth”. suggesting that this growth is bigger than usual and also looks like it is not a short-term ordeal.
Quite interesting is the positive change in pipeline development as seen in the graphic below:
This major increase in business and deal size is possibly happening because of the way clients have been forced into the digital space more in the past two years. As one participant states: “Digitalization is speeding up, and the demand for services like ours is increasing”. By looking at the numbers, this may certainly be the case. This is also reflected in the participants’ expectations for the next 12 months.
Compared to last year’s survey, the outlook on the pipeline expectation is a lot more positive.
How to sustain growth in a post-pandemic landscape
The current situation of Drupal business is very strong. But with restrictions being lifted in most countries, things could change once more. How do we make sure to sustain the growth that we achieved in the past 12 months?
To sustain growth, good margins on Drupal-related services are needed. That is why in the coming period, Drupal agencies need to upsell their services and Drupal itself. It is clear that for a lot of organizations, the need for digitization took a big leap in priority. This means that there are plenty of projects waiting to be picked up. It is essential that we are engaging in projects where Drupal has a good fit for customer needs in order to price projects with healthy margins.
Growing your business means expanding your workforce. As you will read in this article and what you probably experienced first hand this year, is that Drupal talent is scarce. If you want to attract ample talent to take on the increased workload, you need to offer competitive salaries. Stagnating your growth in your workforce will lead to an overload of work and a halt in growth.
3. Being able to handle too much work
If you however still find yourself in a situation where you can no longer deal with the amount of work, don’t hesitate to act accordingly. You can easily decrease the amount of work without your revenue stream taking a hit by raising the prices of your Drupal services. This will of course attract fewer clients, but the clients that will request your services will pay more.
Most popular Drupal industries
Drupal business is thriving in 2021. But what industries are the most lucrative for the Drupal companies? Each year the Drupal Business Survey asks participants in which industries their company operates. This is the top 10 of 2021:
The most popular industry for Drupal projects is the Charities and Non-profit sector with 68,8% of the Drupal companies having clients from this sector. This is a big change from last year, where the Charities and Non-profit sector was served by only 55.4% of the respondents.
The runners-up are Education (59,7%) and Healthcare and Medicine (51,9%) finishing our top three.
While serving the Charities and Non-profit sector is a noble effort, it should be noted that this sector focuses heavily on reducing operating costs to ensure most of the money flowing to the charitable or non-profit cause. Drupal can, of course, help them to reduce costs at other areas of their operations – but at the end of the day also Drupal agency costs will be on the line.
The Education sector and Government & Public Administration – fourth most popular – are known for investing heavily in digitalization, especially now due to pandemic and public subsidies given to digital transformation. Prices in these sectors are typically lower than in private sectors. This is however balanced with long contracts, a steady flow of work, and certainty that the invoices are paid.
Besides the top industry being different from last year’s edition, we do see a significant drop in the Media sector. This is a trend that requires attention because this is an industry that is usually good for some interesting contracts.
This year, the Drupal Business Survey also asked participants what industries they think are the most promising moving forward. This is what they had to say:
The answers to this question are in line with the current most popular industries except for one major difference. The current number one, Non-Profit, only scores 5% of the answers here. This might be due to the high number of companies already working on it, or low-profit expectations. Another curious thing is that most people (19%) do not see any particular industry standing out. People elaborate with: “I think this is more a question of the size of projects not of their industry.” and “Drupal is pretty ubiquitous these days.” It is true that Drupal can be used in all industries, as all of them require communication platforms, and in smaller markets companies cannot be industry-specific. Going forward, industry focus is relevant to keep Drupal on the growth trajectory, as the harder to penetrate industries require attentive work within the industry to gain an understanding of the business and references to win new clients.
Lack of Drupal talent is an ongoing struggle
Like we mentioned above, the lack of Drupal talent is still one of the biggest challenges the Drupal business community is facing. When asked what the biggest challenges have been in the past 12 months, 27% claimed that recruiting has been their main concern. “We’ve been on a growth path so it feels like we’re forever recruiting” clearly states the case at hand and what this lack of talent means for the growth of Drupal businesses.
Hardships in finding and hiring Drupal talent has been an ongoing theme in the past Drupal Business Surveys. The last 12 months have also shown us a new challenge in recruitment: employee churn.
Employee churn fueled by the pandemic
As one participant states: “Several long-term staff members have been enticed by other job offers. This appears to be a global issue of staff re-assessing their personal priorities.” and “It’s getting harder and harder to find and retain talent”. Looking at these answers, it seems that the pandemic has triggered people to rethink their situations and values, and take actions. For Drupal companies, it perhaps broke the normal cycle of daily work and started a period of employee churn.
Beware of the vicious cycle
The danger of an understaffed workforce can be the start of a vicious cycle that is tough to break. By not having a big enough workforce in a growing company, there will be too much work per individual. This overload in work, combined with the toll the pandemic took on people, could cause more people to develop mental health issues and burn-outs – a concern among 8% of the survey’s participants. This will leave you with an even smaller workforce thus the cycle begins anew.
Take good care of your employees
Based on the survey findings, a priority going forward is to invest properly in your workforce. The companies should do their utmost to make sure that their staff is healthy, happy, feel safe, and can handle their workload. This will help with stability, make it more attractive for new hires to stay and will prevent a lot of concerns cascading through your organization down the line. One participant stated that “Give raises through the pandemic.” has been their biggest success as it lays a great foundation for stability.
Challenges regarding Drupal’s popularity
One thing that stood out to us while viewing this year’s results was the number of participants being worried about Drupal’s popularity decreasing in the coming 12 months. When asked: “What are you most worried about regarding Drupal business in the coming year?”, 28% responded that Drupal’s popularity decreasing is their biggest worry. Leaving ‘Nothing’ (23%) and ‘Recruitment’ (19%) as a respective 2nd and 3rd place.
The Drupal Business Survey dove deeper into the major reasons, and we found out that the competition from cloud CMS platforms is a big factor. “Competing products and content as a service CMS platforms are slowly gaining ground and eating into areas where Drupal was traditionally dominant such as sites/platforms that needed more than basic customization.” and “Clients currently on Drupal 7 choosing a different platform rather than migrating to Drupal 9” are clearly showing how people experience the current perception on Drupal in their day-to-day activities.
How to overcome these challenges
Drupal is naturally still a very strong option in a lot of situations, and it has its own edges, such as high flexibility and configurability to cope in different situations. So, it is up to Drupal business owners to make sure we play to Drupal’s strengths and market Drupal in a way that attracts the best kind of projects. The SaaS CMS platforms are getting better and are attractive to a lot of people, and their development should be followed closely to maintain Drupal’s competitive edge. We need to make sure that we are not competing with these new platforms – or WordPress for that matter – in fields where Drupal has additional challenges to overcome. It is also extremely crucial to compete with value and not with prices, as the race to the bottom will erode companies’ ability to develop themselves and their offering further.
That is why it is very important to take a close look at what the client is looking after, and check whether Drupal would be a good fit. It is also good to know whether people are enticed by the open-source ecosystem or would rather work with something else.
Reasons for clients to (not) choose Drupal
What makes clients pick Drupal? The Drupal Business Survey is happy to report that ‘having used Drupal before’ is no longer the number one reason for working with it. This means that people have other motives to choose Drupal and it’s not just out of habit. Drupal being open source is the number one reason with 63,6%. Another great development is the fact that more companies use Drupal because it is the best fit for their business requirements, and that it is no longer picked because of low costs. This again plays well into the narrative of upselling your services and Drupal to the right organizations.
The main reasons for clients not choosing Drupal are still playing a part in the well-known points of improvement. The top three reasons are:
- Price. Prices can increase significantly compared to competitors because Drupal is on the higher end and more time-consuming to develop. As one respondent said “Prizes and the amount of necessary efforts to drive drupal projects.”
- Inferior UX. Competitors like WordPress and SaaS CMSes are seen as a lot more user-friendly.
- Maintenance costs. Again a cost-related challenge where maintaining a Drupal site is usually more expensive than with its competitors.
It is important to know why companies choose Drupal for projects and why they choose other CMSes. With this knowledge, it is possible to reassess Drupal’s position in the market and adjust the proposition if needed.
Drupal’s strength has always been an active development community that builds the product further. Drupal companies play a major role in the contribution, as they pay the salaries for most of the people contributing back to the platform.
The Drupal Business Survey researched how and why companies contribute. The diagram below shows the amount of companies contributing to the certain facets of the project.
Almost all companies (80-85%) contribute documentation and code changes, and around half of them help to fund the community with donations and sponsoring events. The share of companies contributing has stayed roughly the same compared to the previous year. Major drops are in organizing events, which is natural due to pandemic, and donations, which is explained by a bigger funding drive that took place in spring 2020.
The main reason for not contributing is lack of time, mentioned by several companies that do not give back to the community. This resonates well with the overall situation with finding and hiring Drupal talent.
Fortunately, these companies are a small minority and the company support towards open source Drupal project continues to stay on a high level.
As said multiple times already, Drupal business is at a high. But it is now up to all of us to keep it that way. Pick your learnings from this past year and make sure you market your services and Drupal to the right organizations. This will help you increase your pricing, keep a close eye on your workload and attract more talent with interesting salaries.
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