Lessons Learned from Manhattan Associates D8 Redesign
In part one of our blog series centered on Manhattan Associates’s experience as an early D8 adopter, our partners at Acquia showed Drupal 8’s mobile-first approach, improved theming and Twig template system in action. In part two, we saw how Manhattan has leveraged Drupal 8’s improved configuration management, new web services API and easy internationalization to achieve their business goals.
When Manhattan Associates partnered with Mediacurrent on a website redesign, Drupal 8 was still in beta. In the third and final post in our series, we'll recap on some of the hurdles we faced during this project and our takeaways.
Leading the Way on Drupal 8
Nearing the end of the Drupal 6 life cycle in 2014, Manhattan Associates faced a critical decision: should they upgrade their website to Drupal 7 or take the plunge on the beta version of Drupal 8?
At a high level, Manhattan Associates identified the following requirements:
Internationalization: A best-in-class translation toolset to engage their global, multilingual customer base.
Responsive Design: A fully responsive user experience designed to meet the steady influx of mobile site traffic.
Strategic Marketing: Integration with Google Analytics and Eloqua CRM for a clear window into site metrics, with straightforward editorial tools to quickly publish content.
Drupal 8 was determined to be the best fit for these business goals. While Drupal 7 is incredibly powerful, Manhattan saw that keeping up with the Drupal 8 contrib community was an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in a continually evolving web landscape.
Manhattan Associates teamed with Mediacurrent, and together on August 4, 2015, we launched one of the world’s first Drupal 8 enterprise websites.
In reflection, here are the top three lessons learned from the project:
Lesson #1: Contributed modules were not as far along as expected.
Although Drupal 8’s core met 95% of Manhattan Associate’s requirements, some additional modules were necessary to complete the project. Mediacurrent found that in the pre-release stage, some Drupal 8 contributed modules were simply not as far along the project required.
One of the ways we dealt with this challenge at Manhattan Associates was to anticipate there would be trouble along the way. Mediacurrent targeted a conservative number of contributed modules (ten) that we wanted to use. We estimated and planned for development strength in the schedule to accommodate for major issues with those modules, and were able to develop around them. Of course, some of the modules didn’t function quite the same as they did in Drupal 7.
Bottom line: It is imperative for those who are evaluating Drupal 8 to gain a concrete understanding of what your business requirements are and how much of that is covered by Drupal 8 core.
There may be key components in Drupal 7—especially contributed modules— that are required to meet your business needs. If those modules are not fully ported into Drupal 8 or have yet to reach a stable release, it may be wise to dodge the cost of additional development and wait for that to happen.
By forecasting additional support and mindfully selecting a realistic number of out-of-core contributed modules to work with, Mediacurrent was able to adopt these incomplete modules and finish them out within budget.
Since this project was completed, module development has moved quickly to Drupal 8 from 7. With the much-anticipated release of Drupal 8.0.0 slated for November 19, modules are now in the final porting phases.
Lesson #2: Be flexible in your architectural design and build process
This project was successful because Manhattan was willing to be flexible in their architectural design and in Mediacurrent’ s build processes. Our requirements stayed very business oriented and we tried to stay out of too much technical detail. In areas where there were technical detail, we gave ourselves room to adapt.
As we came across a proposed solution for something in Drupal 8, (for example if the contributed module didn’t supply the functionality we needed, or Drupal 8 wound up working a bit differently than Drupal 7 than originally anticipated) our teams worked together to find a solution. These solutions were not necessarily the same solutions we had planned a year prior, back in October 2014.
Bottom line: Flexibility is what allowed us to launch an amazing platform for Manhattan that delivers all the power and promise of Drupal 8. We were able to avoid budget issues and time by being flexible and having great communication between both teams.
Lesson #3: Good planning and risk management are essential
We took a good, hard look at Drupal 8, understanding the competitive advantages of using Drupal 8 and the potential pain points of being an early adopter.
Mediacurrent was able to illustrate these pain points in a way that Manhattan could understand and could plan and budget for. Most importantly, we were able to successfully mitigate these pain points during the launch.
Mediacurrent did an exhaustive analysis of current Drupal 8 core issues and the timeline for completion on these issues. We repeated the process for the targeted contrib functionality. This allowed us to estimate the correct budget and timeline with lower risk and helped the Manhattan Leadership to have the information they needed to make the correct decision.
Bottom line: The ability to launch this site on time and on budget came from a smart, upfront investment of planning and risk management between Mediacurrent and Manhattan.