The magic often starts with a Drupal decision.

Quite a line, but that’s what we all at Specbee firmly believe.

We're confident the good folks at the Drupal Association would agree with us. They've even crafted a collaborative series called "Beyond the Build," sharing stories of projects implemented with Drupal.

We were recently interviewed for an episode of this series, along with our client, The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where we discussed their website redesign, the strategic selection of Drupal as their enabling technology, and the role Specbee played in shaping their transformative process.

Keep scrolling for the whole scoop.

The Who’s Who

Let’s start by introducing the hosts and guests of the interview “Beyond the Build Episode 3: Specbee and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research”.

  • Kelly Daleney: Director of Development, Drupal Association
  • Nathan Roach: Director of Marketing, Axelerant
  • Sean Keating: Vice President, Digital Strategies at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
  • Jim Barnthouse: Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Specbee

Click to watch the complete video

Lights, Camera, Drupal

When Sean and his team set out to revamp their website, they recognized the critical need for a stable, reliable platform. Given that the website stands as the most significant tool in building, accessing, and growing the Michael J Fox Foundation community, ensuring a well-defined information architecture and intuitive user experience was absolutely essential.

Drupal, with its open-source charm and vast community, caught their attention. In conversation with Kelly and Nathan, Sean reveals more about why Drupal was the chosen one for them.

Open Source Synergy

The Foundation's emphasis on making research accessible aligns seamlessly with Drupal's open-source nature. Open Access Publications and open data repositories are integral to Parkinson's research, and they operate with unwavering commitment to availability, transparency, and openness. The success of this collaboration underscores the powerful synergy between open-source technology and open science principles.

Community Connection

In addition to its open-source nature, The Michael J. Fox Foundation was drawn to Drupal due to its large, vibrant, and supportive community, providing a robust foundation for their digital initiatives. A large community not only ensured ongoing support but also facilitated continuous innovation, keeping their digital presence at the forefront of technological advancements. In contrast to other closed-source, proprietary communities that provided little opportunity to enhance their capabilities or find the right developers, Drupal stood out as a great advantage.

Accessibility Advantage

In the site revamp, Drupal's accessibility features took center stage, aligning with the foundation's goal to reach a diverse audience of donors, patients, families, and industry researchers in the Parkinson’s community.

User-Friendly Research

By leveraging Drupal’s flexibility, the foundation is making significant strides in simplifying the discovery and archiving of Parkinson’s research papers. This directly benefits industry researchers, contributing to a more efficient and streamlined process.

Choosing the Right Drupal Partner

As Sean discusses why Drupal is their preferred CMS, he also talks about the decision to team up with Specbee and enhance their collaboration. The Michael J. Fox Foundation also collaborates with Drupal agency Lullabot to maintain their Drupal website.

He states, "Specbee is currently our top choice for working on projects and adding features to the website. It's been a fantastic partnership."

But what criteria did they consider when evaluating Drupal development companies like Specbee?

  • Commitment to Drupal beyond development - Specbee's commitment to Drupal and significant core contributions to the community, as emphasized by Sean, played a pivotal role in their decision. In their Request for Proposal (RFP), they stressed the importance of finding a Drupal company that is wholly dedicated and committed to the platform.
  • Strong local project management - Emphasizing the significance of local project management, Sean highlights its crucial role in interactions with overseas companies. To avoid communication issues, they sought a company with a local presence model for project management.
  • Aligning Operational Style - Sean stressed the significance of seeking organizations that harmonize with the operational style of one's team. The Michael J. Fox Foundation operates with agility, favoring quick changes, small iterations, and innovation. Engaging with a company that mirrors the preference for adaptability over strict pre-defined structures ensures a collaborative partnership that resonates with the organization's operational rhythm.
  • Consistent and accessible technology team - He emphasized the need for a development team that's consistently available and easy to communicate with—a criterion perfectly met by Specbee.
  • Easy access to leadership team - Sean insisted on staying away from invisible companies. The ability to meet, know, and interact with the leadership team was a non-negotiable, and Specbee delivered on this front.
  • Good references -  Listening to reference stories, especially how Specbee handles challenges, is underscored as crucial by Sean. According to Sean, these aspects earned Specbee "gold stars."

The Takeaway

For nonprofits and organizations looking to start a Drupal engagement and to leverage the Drupal community, Sean shares his valuable insights:

  • Knowledge is Power: Familiarize yourself with the community, technology, and market before diving into conversations with potential partners. But first, start understanding your organization's short and long-term needs/goals.
  • Culture Fit Matters: Look for organizations aligned with your team's work style. Whether agile or more structured, finding a cultural match is key.  Find a partner attuned to your team's way of working for a seamless and successful project experience.
  • True Costs: Don't base decisions solely on cost. Understand the true costs involved in building, configuring, and supporting a solution over time. Recognize the nuanced distinctions in their structures for sourcing engineering staff. It's not merely a matter of comparing hourly rates; delve deeper into the factors shaping those rates. Whether an organization follows a specific cost structure or has a distinct approach to staff sourcing, comprehend the intricacies. Don't base decisions solely on the bottom line; consider the underlying factors that contribute to costs.

Final Thoughts

A big thank you to Sean for the generous words and for selecting Specbee as The Michael J Fox Foundation's Drupal partner.  We absolutely love working with you! Special thanks to Kelly, Nathan, and the entire Drupal Association team for putting together this fantastic video.

Watch Beyond the Build Episode 3: Specbee and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research on YouTube.


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