This is a transcript, for the video, see The APQC - Their background, and Why They Chose Drupal.
[00:00:00] Michael Meyers: Hello, and welcome to another Tag1 TeamTalk, the podcast vlog of Tag1 Consulting. Today. We're going to be speaking with the technology leadership at APQC, the American Productivity and Quality Center about their Drupal journey from first selecting the platform to their recent migration, to Drupal 9.
[00:00:18] We're going to cover why they first chose Drupal, when they chose to upgrade, and why they chose to stick with the platform and their experience and challenges along the way. I'm Michael Myers, the Managing Director of Tag1, and I'm joined today by two special guests. There's John Tesmer, who's the Executive Director of Information Technology, and Jim Gillilan the Senior Architect and Lead of the Technology team.
[00:00:41] Jim's really well known in the Drupal community. He's neclimdul on Drupal.org. He's made a lot of core contributions and has been a longstanding member of the Drupal Security team. Jim and John, thank you guys so much for joining us today and for sharing your story.
[00:00:58] John Tesmer: Happy to be here.
[00:00:59] Yeah, looking forward to it..
[00:01:02] Michael Meyers: So John, to set the stage, you know, could you tell us a little bit about APQC, you know, the awesome things you guys are doing, what the organization is about.
[00:01:12] John G Tesmer: Absolutely. So APQC is unique in the world in a number of ways. We are about 40 years old. We're a nonprofit and we have three components to our mission, which basically is to identify best practices, related to sort of business operations, surface those best practices, distribute them as widely as possible and connect individuals to further the development of those best practices.
[00:01:35] And the way that we do that here at APQC is through, typically a research calendar, where we go out and do research. We have a website where we disseminate that research and we have quite a lot of events, including two major conferences each year. We're bringing professionals from around the world and every industry together here in Houston, Texas, to talk about best practices for process, knowledge management, finance, supply chain, HR, IT, that just any kind of business process you can imagine. So we, we love what we do here and we love sharing. So happy to be a part of this.
[00:02:11] Michael Meyers: Yeah. Every time I talk to you guys, I think, wow, like everyone should be a member of this organization.
[00:02:16] Like there isn't a company that I'm, haven't been part of, no matter how great it is that, you know, isn't struggling with these problems. Is this something that's exclusively for organizations, you know, is there information for individuals like myself within a company that want to make it better?
[00:02:33] John G Tesmer: Yeah. I mean, as a part of our nonprofit mission, we host lots of individually focused webinars, to help people learn about, you know, sort of up and coming things in these different areas, you might think, you know, back of the house, operations are just kind of settled states of affairs, but, you know, technology changes and process changes and regulatory changes happen all the time.
[00:02:51] And you as an individual can register and go to a lot of our webinars, at no costs. And there's all also all kinds of documents and things you could download from our website, but the majority of our content, and, and really the sort of benefit of, of APQC is from our organizational memberships.
[00:03:06] So organizations pay a membership fee to us, and as a result, every employee inside of that organization gets access to the content that we produce annually. So, right now we've got about, I want to say a little more than 9,000 pieces of content in our knowledge base. And the vast majority of those are available mostly just for members.
[00:03:24] Some of that is published. So, you know, again free or, or put out into the world and the terms of, blog posts or, you know, webinars or knowledge-based articles type things. But, but most of that content is available for members and it's organization based. Now you probably are employed by a company that is a member we had about 500 members globally.
[00:03:43] And if you aren't, we'd be happy to connect you with just let us know.
[00:03:48] Michael Meyers: Awesome. Yeah, I think, you know, yeah, there isn't an organization that wouldn't benefit from participating in what you guys do. So from, from a, web technology standpoint, you know, like you said, you have a lot of different audiences, documentation conferences, how are you guys using technology to satisfy the mission of the organization?
[00:04:11] John G Tesmer: Gosh, I'll take the first stab at this and then Jim, you know, hop in, but, we couldn't achieve our mission without technology. First of all, you know, you can't imagine the, trying to, to distribute best practices to 152,000 registered users across the world without giving them a simple web based tool to, to access that knowledge.
[00:04:33] You know, in the days before we had websites, you know, in the early nineties, we were just kind of getting stuff out there. We were sending faxes out. We were, you know, sending out pamphlets and magazines and booklets and, you know, your reach is, is limited kind of economically in that sense. And then the days that have transpired since we've really kind of doubled down on technology, You know, our website is the, the key kind of delivery mechanism for all the research that we do.
[00:04:57] Our conferences are enabled by our website. So all the registration workflows, all of the speaker profiles and speaker management happens through our technology platforms. Our ability to send content to people through our marketing platform is all done through our technology stack. I mean, it's, it's extensive.
[00:05:15] We couldn't do our job without it.
[00:05:17] Jim Gilliland: Yeah. I'll say that. APQC has a lot of different products that, that we give out to members. So, and that process needs to be pretty seamless. And Drupal has given us a lot of tools where we can allow somebody to register for the site and we can figure out how to connect it to a membership we can.
[00:05:34] And then we can grant access to, you know, dynamic databases metrics, or this white paper or whatever part of the site we need to through Drupal's, access controls and all those sort of tools that it gives us. So it's been a great tool for us.
[00:05:48] Michael Meyers: There's a lot of complexity under the hood of what you guys are doing, you know, multiple levels of access, controlling permission, you know, on the structures to get access to this content, number of internal systems that you guys are integrating with to make all this seem seamless to me as an end-user.
[00:06:05] You know, it's, it's, it's pretty crazy, you know, it's, it's amazing how. Well, you guys make it look so simple and easy when, you know, it's really deceptive, you know, there, there is so much going on under the hood. And I, you know, we'll dig more into that when we get into this technology and some of the integrations that you guys, you know, did to make this happen.
[00:06:26] But first, you know, you guys have been a long standing member of Drupal. When did you guys first adopt Drupal? What version was it? And do you remember, you know, some of the reasons or considerations? I know, I know that was a long time ago.
[00:06:41] John G Tesmer: Yeah. I mean, I can kind of talk about the pre Drupal world and kind of the transition.
[00:06:46] And then Jim was, was the guy that kind of brought us full on into it. I mean, prior to, the, the current well actually, prior to the prior version of Drupal that we were on, we used interwoven. And we had, you know, full interwoven Oracle, and you know, the, the web 1.0, if you will, of content management systems and platforms.
[00:07:05] And, you know, we're, as much as we try to be a big organization, we're really just 65 people in one building on one floor in Houston, Texas. So some of those tools are excessive for us. I mean, those tools are enterprise grade, hundreds of thousands of employees and stuff like that. It's, it's expensive to maintain them and very costly and time consuming to manage over time and also changes.
[00:07:28] I mean, you don't own the code base, you know, integrations would become very difficult and, maintaining things over time. You're kind of at the behest of, you know, whoever it is, whether it's Oracle or, you know, Java or. You know, Sun, you know, that goes back in time, but that's kind of where we were. And I think that, I was here at the time, but I was a business owner as opposed to the IT person.
[00:07:47] I remember the conversations being around, the cost of the maintain, hard to get features in, et cetera. And that's when we started looking at Drupal as a platform and then Jim came and saved us.
[00:08:00] Jim Gilliland: Yeah, I guess it was about 10 years ago that we launched the Drupal 6 site. And they, they were in the middle of the project when I came in and I helped them through the deployment process of getting the site ready and finished.
[00:08:14] And, I stuck around and it's been, a great even back in Drupal 6, there was a lot more, but you had to kind of build up from scratch in Drupal 6 there weren't, you know, the entity systems and things like that. They're in it's modern versions of Drupal, even back then the flexibility that it provided, Was great for the business and that kinda led to, us sticking with it.
[00:08:35]Michael Meyers: So you guys were on Drupal 6 for a while, and then, you know,, D6 reached end of life. And, you know, John, you mentioned, you know, Interwoven and Oracle and all these closed source systems. One of the great things about open source, I think is that, you know, because there isn't vendor lock-in when, when Drupal 6 reached end of life, you weren't, you know, kicked off the platform.
[00:08:59] You know, there wasn't like a vendor just said, Hey, we're walking away. You guys were able to leverage, you know, Drupal 6 long-term support LTS, which for Drupal 7 is now called Extended Support. You know, from your perspective was that, you know, something that was critical to the business.
[00:09:17] John Tesmer: Yes. You know, we, we put a lot of customizations into our Drupal 6 site, and it wasn't just a matter of just, you know, pick and place into a new version. So being able to sort of reflect on what our business needs were and, and really have that time to make the appropriate decision and kind of build the case up.
[00:09:36] I mean, as I mentioned, we're a nonprofit, you know, we don't operate on, on margins. We have, you know, good years and bad years and, you know, we do the best we can to serve our members and the general public, with our technology stack. So having that, that opportunity to get a long-term support that protected the integrity of our data, protected the integrity of our systems and allowed our business people to kind of make the appropriate choice for them.
[00:09:59] It was a win for us. It was a big deal.
[00:10:01] Jim Gilliland: Yeah, and I can speak to a little bit behind the scenes before we chose to stay on Drupal 6 LTS is that we were looking at it and we realized that it was going to be a big lift to move to, you know, any new site is, a big investment of time and resources.
[00:10:19] And, we, you know, maybe we could pull it off before Drupal 6 was done, but we weren't confident in that. And there was so many new things that we wanted to look into,
[00:10:29] To leverage a new platform that we, that having the ability to, reach out to Tag1 and go through their LTS support gave us the flexibility and time to step back and come up with the right solution and come up with what we really wanted in the new site. And, you know, work through that process at our own pace rather than, being, you know, thrust into it and just kind of,
[00:10:54] Michael Meyers: There's nothing worse than being controlled by your technology. Technology should enable your organization, not control what you do. And so, you know, I think that's a big advantage of LTS, whether you're just going to go into a maintenance mode or continue to build on the platform, it gives you a lot of breathing room to make a business decision.
[00:11:17] As opposed to being forced into something for technical reasons and, and, you know, for that alone, you know, I think, it's, it's a great option. So you know, you were on LTS and, and, you know, you were primarily in maintenance mode at that point. You guys weren't doing a lot of development. When, you know, was that when you started thinking about, you know, when are we going to upgrade, how are we going to upgrade you?
[00:11:39] Is that you said that it gave you kind of that breathing room. Was that the start of that process?
[00:11:45] Jim Gilliland: Yeah, so we, once we, you know, realize that, you know, we were going to, that we were going to need to stick with the LTS for a while. We started reaching out to some different groups to help us kind of figure out what we're going to do with your site.
[00:11:57] So we, we ended up landing with a company called Happy Cog and they walked us through, some, some process, some early process of figuring out what we wanted with the new site. And it was kind of open at that point, Drupal wasn't the only option we were looking at. Different solutions like WordPress or Joomla, or just wide open bore on what could fit.
[00:12:18] And, obviously we had experience with Drupal, so that was kind of a prior, like there was some weight there that that was definitely something that we kinda like to stick with. But, as it went through that process, it just, we realized that it, it really did align with what we were wanting to do and the flexibility we're looking for.
[00:12:35] So, we ended up sticking with, and decided to move forward with that project with Drupal 8.
[00:12:42] John G Tesmer: I think our, our, our decision was also influenced by the great support and the great community and the great ecosystem that we found in working with Drupal 6 over the years. You know, as, as Jim mentioned, we had Happy Cog come in and kind of help us through it.
[00:12:56] We work with you guys on the Drupal 6 LTS stuff. So we knew that that Drupal as a platform had a really vibrant kind of robust ecosystem that would be around for some time.
[00:13:08] Michael Meyers: It's pretty amazing how, you know, a lot of the key reasons you guys chose Drupal 6 to begin with are reasons that you chose to stay with Drupal moving forward and, you know, over a decade later, you know, those things were even better, even stronger than they were.
[00:13:23] And we're going to dig more into that in the next segment. You know, John, you brought up, you know, the, the community and how it helped you solve a lot of your challenges. So why don't we wrap up the first segment here? I think, you know, really appreciate you guys giving everybody a background into the organization and why you chose Drupal.
[00:13:39] We're going to come back and in the second segment, and we're going to dig into the, the migration itself and talk about the approach and challenges and where you guys are going from here., To our listeners. If you guys liked this talk, please remember to upvote subscribe and share it out. You can check out our past tag team talks at tag1.com/ttt for Tag1 Team Talks, as always we'd love your input and feedback on this show or any future ideas for topics we should cover.
[00:14:07] You can email us at email@example.com. That's tag the number one.com. And again, John and Jim, a huge thank you for being here with us today and for everyone who tuned in really appreciate you joining us.