Serving Drupal’s opportunity

The release of Drupal 8 creates many opportunities for organizations worldwide to build something amazing for complex web solutions, mobile, SaaS, the Internet of Things, and so much more. The Drupal Association is excited to work with the community to create these opportunities.

In our mission to support the Drupal Project, the Association unites our global open source community to build and promote Drupal. We do this primarily by using our two main resources: Drupal.org, the center of our community’s interactions, with 2 million unique visitors a month; and DrupalCon, which hosts over 6,000 attendees a year and provides the critical in-person acceleration of ideas.

Both foster the contribution journey that makes amazing software, and the evaluator’s adoption journey that encourages people to use Drupal across industries to create amazing things. As I mentioned in my recent blog post, achieving our mission helps the community thrive into the future and realize their Drupal dream.

With the release of Drupal 8, we have an opportunity to reflect on how the Association leverages these assets to work for Drupal’s current and future opportunities. Working with our board of directors, we determined that the Association needs to:

  • Re-assess the Project’s needs, and find new ways to support and meet those needs
  • Address a structural issue, to be a more sustainable organization

To do this, the Drupal Association board and I made hard choices. Having invested heavily in supporting the Drupal 8 release and exhausting available reserves, we recognize that the Association now must right-size the organization and balance our income with our expenses. The biggest impact is the elimination of eight positions, reducing our staff size from 25 to 17 employees. Also as part of this reduction, we have reorganized staff to better address the Project’s needs now that Drupal 8 is released.

While we do have our eye on a bright future for the Project through these changes, we’re also painfully aware that we’re not just eliminating positions. We’re saying goodbye to eight people who are important to us—whose contributions we value more than we can describe. We’re impacting the lives of people we care about—people who’ve given a lot to the Project and to others in our community.

Making the Drupal Association sustainable

In early 2014, the Association began investing reserves in building an engineering team for two main reasons: to address critical issues that were slowing down the production of Drupal 8, and to modernize Drupal.org. In doing so, we purposefully created a structural deficit, with the hopes that we could grow revenue to meet the cost of this investment before we drew down our reserves.

Because of this investment, we were able to accelerate the release of Drupal 8 through a roadmap of features like semantic versioning, DrupalCI (continuous integration testing for the projects we host), better search and discovery capabilities, numerous issue queue improvements, and issue credits, all of which positively impacted the release of Drupal 8. In addition, the engineering team has addressed years of technical debt and incorporated more modern services in the site that have made it more reliable and faster around the world.

While revenue grew from 2014 to 2015 by 14%, it didn't grow enough. Last year, we acknowledged that we did not meet the revenue goals that would sustain this investment. We addressed it with a retrenchment designed to extend our runway and see if we could increase revenue sufficiently. All told, while we have accomplished both revenue diversification and growth, it wasn’t enough to fully replace the investment. Then in spring 2016, several things happened on the revenue front that created a significant budget gap:

  • Sponsored work: The Association funded Engineering resources by accepting sponsored work to build Composer endpoints for Drupal projects. After that project was completed, we were unable to line up an additional sponsored project to continue underwriting the Engineering team.
  • The Connect Program: This new experimental program designed to connect software companies with service providers for partnership and integration opportunities did not meet its revenue goals.
  • DrupalCon: DrupalCon New Orleans ticket sales did not reflect the increase we were expecting this year, and we have revised our DrupalCon Dublin ticket sales projections accordingly.

Chart: 2010-2016 revenue and expense trend

"CAGR" means compound annual growth rate.
2016 data is projected revenue and expenses.

Addressing this structural deficit required a reduction of both labor and non-labor expense. Labor is our biggest cost, and we can’t create alignment without cutting roles at the Association. Holly Ross, our Executive Director, Josh Mitchell, CTO, and Matthew Tsugawa, CFO, offered to step down and contribute their salaries to the reduction, as they saw that a smaller organization doesn’t require a full leadership team. Additionally, we are losing three staff members from the Engineering team, one from the Events team, and one from the MarComm team. We are working with these staff members to help them through their transition.

Our second biggest expense is rent. We are working to eliminate the physical office in Portland, Oregon—moving staff to a virtual, distributed team—but those efforts will likely not introduce savings until 2017. We already work with distributed staff and community members around the world, so we have the know-how and tools like Slack and Zoom in place to support this change when it happens.

While these staff reductions are painful today, they correct the structural problem, bringing expenses in line with income. We have conservatively reforecasted revenue to reflect any impact this staffing reduction may have. We can see with our forecasts that the layoffs result in the Association being on healthy financial ground in 2017.

What happens next?

Leading up to now, we invested in tooling to help the community release Drupal 8. Now that Drupal 8 has shipped, the Project has new needs, which are:

  • Promote Drupal 8 to grow adoption
  • Sustain Drupal.org so the community can continue to build and release software

Drupal.org is our strongest channel for promoting Drupal, given that it’s the heart of the community and organically attracts hundreds of thousands of technical decision makers. It provides the biggest opportunity to guide evaluators through an adoption journey and amplify Drupal’s strength in creating new business opportunities through solutions like “DevOps and Drupal” or “Drupal for Higher Education.” These new services on Drupal.org will help evaluators, create value for our partners, and increase revenue for the Drupal Association.

We can also use Drupal.org to better promote DrupalCon. It’ll help grow ticket sales and attract more community members to that special week of in-person interaction, accelerating their adoption and contribution journeys.

Additionally, we’ll expand our efforts to attract more evaluators to DrupalCon. We can accelerate their adoption journey through peer networking and programming that helps them understand how Drupal is the right solution for their organization. We do this today with our vertical-specific Summits (like the Higher Education Summit) and we can do more through relevant sessions and other special programming. And while the Drupal evaluators are there, we’ll connect them with Drupal agencies who can help them realize their Drupal vision.

One thing about our work won’t change: our commitment to the tools you use to build Drupal every day. Though the Engineering team is smaller after today, they will make sure the tools and services you need to build and release the software are supported. That includes things like the issue queues, testing, security updates, and packaging.

Right now, we’re focused on the team as we go through this transition. Once the transition is complete, we’ll be looking at the Project needs and making sure we align our work accordingly. When we make changes, we’ll be sure to keep the community updated so you know what our primary focus is and how we are working towards our vision of Drupal 8 adoption across many sectors.

In the meantime, I invite you to tell me your thoughts on this new focus and how the Drupal Association can best help you.

Comments

Francewhoa’s picture

Congrats to the Drupal Association and all its contributors on courageously adapting to new challenges. Toward better serving the changing needs of the Drupal community :)

Infinite love to all Drupal Association past, present, and future contributors ♥

megansanicki’s picture

It really means a lot to have such encouragement during a time of transition. Thank you! 

Our staff is just as committed to serving the Drupal community as they ever were. Thank you again for your kindness.

 

All the best,

 

Megan

ellioseven’s picture

To the 8 staff members that were unfortunetly let go, thank you so much for your hard work and contributions! 

megansanicki’s picture

I so appreciate you taking the time to say such nice things about our staff. They are all certainly wonderful and talented people. It's always an honor to serve such caring people as yourself.

All the best,

 

Megan

 

gbernier’s picture

The staff at the DA have been amazing to work with and have done a lot in the last 3 years to help bring the association and Drupal into the future. There is no doubt these are very tough times for you all and these decisions are not easy ones to make, but be proud in your ability to make them for the betterment of all.

Best of luck to everyone who is moving on to their next adventure.

Cheers,
Gene Bernier

megansanicki’s picture

Thank you Gene,

I'm so proud of our staff and what we have accomplished with the community - especially with you and your company! It's certainly a challenging time, but we are just as committed as ever to serve the Drupal community. 

Thank you for the well wishes to our staff. They are very talented and I know they will do great things wherever they go next.

 

Best,

Megan

yareckon’s picture

I'm very sorry the revenue growth wasn't there to keep folks working on Community infrastructure full time.  However I am proud of you for being the rare organization that is not just around to perpetuate and build itself, but is willing to adapt itself to the needs of the community it is serving.

Thanks for all of your work, and good luck in your next endeavors to those who are leaving.

megansanicki’s picture

Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm thankful that we have your support during this challenging time. 

Our staff is just as committed as ever to serve the Drupal community. 

All the best,

 

Megan

 

 

bwinett’s picture

So sorry to read about this issue, and the painful changes you've made.

Has anyone drilled into why Drupalcon attendance was lower than expected?  Was it the location?  The state of D8?  Were the expectations realistic?  Are there any learnings we can use going forward to ensure attendance at future Drupalcon's meets expectations?

megansanicki’s picture

Thanks for the kind words about our current decisions. That means a lot to me.

Every Drupalcon seems to have it's own buying cycle and it can be a bit tricky to correlate ticket sales with other stats primarily due to the fact that we move around. For DrupalCon New Orleans, we anticipated higher ticket sales since Drupal 8 was released, however it didn't happen in the way that we anticipated. Yet, I am happy to say that while DrupalCon New Orleans early bird ticket sales was not as strong as past years, sales picked up in the regular and late periods. These have higher ticket prices. In the end, we had roughly the same number of attendees as DrupalCon Los Angeles and just slightly higher ticket sales. 

We don't know yet why people bought their tickets so late this year. It's a new behavior that we will study. In the meantime, the main learning is to budget conservatively and if factors like Drupal 8 help us exceed our revenue forecasts then we all win. 

 

 

Shawn Conn’s picture

Thanks for the information. After hearing Josh's exasperation (and his epic post) during the State of Drupal  NOLA2016DC session, addressing the "why not move to GitHub?" question, it really dawned on me there's a great deal of infrastructure and people's time making drupal.org happen. It inspired me to become an ongoing member to make sure the DA can keep providing this great service (not to mention all the other great things the DA provides). I'm sure there's many other Drupallers who take these things for granted.

I've noticed the CTA banner on d.o. for membership signups. Are there any other plans in the work to grow revenue in membership or in the other sources of revenue?

 

megansanicki’s picture

Shawn,

 

Thank you for your kind words and appreciation for the Drupal.org Engineering Team. We are all so proud of what they work on for the community.

The membership drive is going well and we plan to do future campaigns. We also generate income through other digital programs on Drupal.org such as Try Drupal, found at https://www.drupal.org/try-drupal. It's a great program with Drupal cloud providers that improves our Drupal adoption journey and they pay us for the leads they acquire. We also continue to expand our DrupalCon programming to better serve our diverse audience. For example, we added new Summits - one day vertical educational and networking events. Through this we sell tickets and sponsorship, expanding our income. 

 

 

 

 

AniG’s picture

Megan, I have no real questions or advice to offer. I just wanted thank you for sharing the restructuring efforts at Drupal Association. It is always hard to see team members let go. I am sure they will be able to transition well into their next ventures.

The openness with which you share the workings of Drupal Association is laudable. One of many reasons that make the Drupal community so unique.

I wish you and your team the very best in this finding the best focus for this new iteration of Drupal Association. 

megansanicki’s picture

Hi Ani,

I always appreciate hearing from you :-)

It has certainly been a challenge working through these changes, but it is all done so we can become stronger for the community. I greatly appreciate your support and kind words. We fully embrace transparency and will be sure to keep sharing as we know more. 

Hope to see you at another DrupalCon.

Best,

 

Megan

 

 

mariakatosvich’s picture

thank you so much for your hard work and contributions! They are all certainly wonderful and talented people. There is no doubt these are very tough times for you all and these decisions are not easy ones to make, but be proud in your ability to make them for the betterment of all. the main learning is to budget conservatively and if factors like Drupal 8 help us exceed our revenue forecasts then we all win.

megansanicki’s picture

Hi mariakatosvich,

Thank you for the encouragement and kind words. They are certainly challenging times, but we are moving ahead, focusing on where we can make the biggest impact for the community. There are certainly many learnings from this situation and we fully embrace them in our current and future planning. 

Thank you again for your support.

 

Megan

dddave’s picture

But Megan, you have better things to do than to reply to spam accounts. ;)

I am really interested to learn how the staff cuts are going to project on drupal.org work. I guess we hear about it in the near future?

megansanicki’s picture

Hi dddave,

 

So sorry for the delay in responding. I missed this comment. You ask a great question. We've been processing what we are able to do with a smaller staff and how we can make the best impact with our resources. Drupal.org is naturally a big area of focus during these discussions. We have a game plan now and will be sharing that shortly with a blog post, so stay tuned. 

 

Thanks for the help you provide us to kep things moving forward.

Best,

Megan

 

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