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Drupal Business Survey 2020: Opportunities, challenges and turning points in an extraordinary year

What is the vision of Drupal business leaders all around the world on Drupal in 2020? For the fifth year in a row Drupal agencies One Shoe and Exove, together with the Drupal Association, investigated how Drupal company leaders experience the current Drupal business ecosystem. Of course, the year 2020 is marked by the effects of the coronavirus but there’s much more to say about doing Drupal business.

One Shoe | 21 dec 2020

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Outcome

This analysis has been published on Drupal.org

Characteristics of the participants

This year, 83 people participated in the Drupal Business Survey. Out of all the participants, nearly 70 % had a CEO/CTO/COO role in their company. Other roles represented in this survey are mainly founders (15.7%), and Directors (7,2%)

Drupal Business Survey 2020 locations of the participants

A majority of the Drupal centric businesses that participated in the survey are located in Europe (49,5%). The rest is located in:

  • North America (33%)
  • South America (3,7%)
  • Asia (12,8%) 
  • Africa (3,7%)

Almost half of the respondents were digital agencies, 20,5% software companies and 18,1% consulting agencies. As we can see from the graph below, most of the respondents are small to midsize companies. The majority of the companies that participated in the survey have been in business for over 8 years. Nearly 40% of all the respondents have been in business for over 14 years. 

We could therefore say that the opinions and experiences of people in this survey are based on years of experience with Drupal business!

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Company Size

Covid-19 impacts Drupal businesses in various ways

As this year comes to a close, we can only conclude that 2020 turned out differently than expected. It brought company leaders new challenges and opportunities. Generally, we can conclude (for now) that the impact of COVID-19 may be less than initially anticipated and entrepreneurs keep doing excellent Drupal business.

In the survey we asked Drupal agency leaders about their challenges and successes of this year. Many participants cited the coronavirus and its consequences as their top challenge: 

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Greatest Challenges

15% of the respondents named 'Covid-19 in general' as the main challenge without further explanation. To provide more detailed information, we have broken down the answers that provide better insight into the impact of the coronavirus on businesses:

  • Covid-19 affecting client projects (13%)

In some cases, the coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on clients and their projects. One leader tells us in the survey: “[Our biggest challenge this year was] covid and seeing a couple of our sectors getting hammered. Seeing projects put on the shelf, cancelled, etc“ But it does not always lead to this. Another participant tells: “We experience uncertainty around some client's future budgets. This has not resulted in any major reductions though.

  • Covid-19 forces remote working (10%)

Working remotely is, and remains, a major challenge for a lot of companies. “Moving to 100% remote after the pandemic [was the biggest challenge]”. Someone else mentions “remote selling” specifically as a challenge. 

  • Covid-19 affecting (mental) health of employees (8.8%)

It won’t be surprising that another big challenge was “Staff falling ill with covid and/or having children at home so staff is pressured and unable to work”. It’s worth mentioning, though, that many company leaders indicate that covid-19 has a great impact on the mental well-being of their staff but at the same time they are very proud of their team. “We have kept our team together during the covid storm” says one leader in response to the question what their greatest success of the last 12 months is. Another one said: “[Our greatest success is] Outstanding leadership from the senior technical team members (non-exec level).” “Maintaining high morale and supportive culture” someone else adds. 

Many Drupal businesses do thrive in 2020

Doing Drupal business in 2020 is not only about facing challenges - not at all. Many participants told us their companies thrived even despite (or due to) the effects of the coronavirus. 

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Greatest Successes

20% of the answers when asked about greatest success are about thriving despite Covid-19:
“We make it through the COVID months relatively well financially after pivoting to clients who luckily benefited from COVID (increased business).” Another agency leader adds: “[Our greatest success is] navigating my company successfully through a world pandemic with results that exceed the pre-covid prognosis!”.

The pandemic as a catalyst for investments in digital

What’s the success factor of these kinds of Drupal companies? Based on people’s comments, it seems there is a rapid digital adoption driven by covid-19: “[We see] increased demand due to companies going more digital during the pandemic”. Another one tells: “We launched a covid-19 site for a major healthcare client.” And: “We've won our biggest Drupal contract ever. We successfully launched our largest ever project despite coinciding with the early days of lockdown. We are educating our clients that the pandemic should be seen as a catalyst for investment in digital.”  

Another big success is launching successful Drupal projects (20%), such as: “We launched a big popular Drupal site (8.x) for German Government with integration (backend) of services” and “We have been building bigger and more complex websites with Drupal.” 

These findings correlate directly with the answers to the questions about the project pipeline, deal size, and win rate.

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Pipeline Development

In the graph above you can see that Drupal project deal size has grown more in comparison with project pipeline or win rates. One business leader explains why: “We choose clients more carefully, because of that average deal size has grown significantly. On the other hand due to the more aggressive competitors sales, we have lost quite many large deals.” What this shift could mean for the future according to one respondent? “The traditional smaller scale Drupal projects are dwindling, of less value. The future is in large scale projects where Drupal is a component of a larger architecture.” Another one mentions the public sector as a profitable one: “Drupal has been "in vogue" in our market right now, especially in the public sector. We see a lot more RFQs compared to last year, and a lot of them are quite sizable.”

The project deal size growth is a very positive indicator and well in line with the Drupal’s growth to the enterprise market. As a part of the sales cost is always fixed and not dependent on the size of the deal, this will lead to bigger margins that will help the companies to develop themselves further.

Expectations for growth from 2021 onwards

The outlook for 2021 and onwards looks positive based on the survey answers. Despite the situation with COVID-19, almost half of the companies expect their business and on-going project situation to improve in the near future.

Only around 20% of the companies expect the situation to weaken in the forthcoming months, and only a fraction of them significantly. This resonates well with the earlier findings of the pandemic accelerating the need for digital services. Drupal being a versatile and flexible platform is getting its fair share of the positive market development.

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Business Impact

Profitable Drupal industries

So, Drupal business is still doing quite well. But in which industries? Each year the Drupal Business Survey asks respondents in which industries their company operates. This is the top 10 of 2020:

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Top 10 Industries

The most popular industry for Drupal projects is the same as in 2019: the Educational sector. With 61,4% this is the sector with the most Drupal projects. It should be noted that “Education” was added to the survey in 2019 and thus 2017 and 2018 show it blank. This is followed by Charities & Non-Profit (55.4%) and Government & Public Administration (50.6%). 

However, if you compare all the industries over the years, the number of Drupal projects in the Charities & Non Profit decreased significantly. This also counts for the Arts & Culture industry. The Drupal platform is evolving towards the higher end of the spectrum with each release adding new sophisticated features. This causes the project sizes to grow which explains the drop in industries that cannot invest heavily on digital platforms. Also, Arts & Culture has been hit by coronavirus this year.

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Top 10 Industries 2

Reasons for clients to choose Drupal, or not

Why is Drupal so often chosen for digital projects? When clients have previously worked with Drupal, they often choose the framework again (60% of the answers). It showcases the fact that Drupal is a good tool for solving their business problems.

It also appears that the consultancy role of the agency is significant in determining the client's choice of technology. In more than half of the answers given in the survey, the client follows the advice of the agency for choosing Drupal. Other major selling points for Drupal are its open source character, flexibility and security. 

Drupal Business Survey 2020 Reasons for choosing Drupal

The main reasons for clients not choosing Drupal are consistent with last year's survey - the same underlying issues still remain today. Main reasons for potential clients choosing other platforms instead of Drupal are: 

  1. Price. For example, prices can increase significantly because Drupal is used at the higher end of the CMS spectrum, and thus development is time consuming and therefore expensive. As one respondent said “Drupal practitioners can handle more complex problems, so they're more expensive”.
  2. Complexity. Wordpress is seen as more user friendly and easier to approach. 
  3. Familiarity. Potential clients don’t seem to know much about Drupal which makes it harder to sell.

Knowing why potential clients are choosing other platforms is key in further developing Drupal and meeting client needs. Reviewing the existing target audience and marketing Drupal for the right audiences, might be things to consider to tackle these obstacles.

Conclusion

One thing is certain: companies - both Drupal agencies and clients - have to adjust their strategy because of covid-19. But looking at the answers given in this study, it appears that Drupal projects are getting bigger and Drupal businesses are growing - provided they operate in the right industries and succeed in working remote. Or, as a Drupal agency leader puts it, "Despite the covid epidemic, we have managed to work together and increase transparency in the business - we are now in many ways better than March." And who knows, the effects of covid-19 may as well accelerate the demand for digital projects.