GovBytes: Drupal a CMS of choice for government

There’s a lot of content management systems (CMS) out there, but one seems to be taking government by storm. Drupal, an open source platform has gained favor by myriad federal websites, including the sites of the Whitehouse, House of Representatives, Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security. It has also recently replaced Vignette for websites run by the the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA).

Why Big Sites Run Drupal

So what is making Drupal the choice CMS of government?

For starters, since it’s an open-source platform, agencies can easily share code with one another to improve their websites. The fact that it is open source has saved the Department of Energy $10 million yearly. It has also reportedly made great strides in security, a major consideration for government.

There are obstacles, however. About the obstacles government faces when using an open source solution, Jeff Walpole, CEO of Phase2 Technology had this to say:

“There is a sort of entrenched software industry model, with technology stacks, licensing and entrenched vendors, in part due to long procurement cycles in government. Agencies tend to favor vendors over solutions. But Drupal is as much a framework as it is a product. It is highly customizable and doesn’t necessarily fit within a known purchasing system.”

Do you have experience with Drupal? Pro’s/Con’s?

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Kirsten Burgard

Well, you could have mentioned that there’s also a group of us organizing around open source (Drupal4Gov) and that we’re holding our first (hopefully not the last) Drupal and Open Source in Government event at the Department of Commerce on May 18th. We even finalized the sessions yesterday with room assignments and times! And even better, there will be nodejs, BIRT, LifeRay and Alfresco love, too…all open source projects, not just Drupal.

I’ve been working with Drupal since 5 and I love it. I’m excited about the changes coming up and the ease of use now. But I also love how it integrates with other open source projects. There is a learning curve, everything has a learning curve. And if you aren’t prepared for that, you’re in a world of hurt. But I agree with Jeff, it’s procurement and the purchasing mindset that is the most difficult to overcome.

Rebecca Krause-Hardie

I’ve worked with Drupal for a number of years now. Its very powerful and flexible. It seems that the most popular CMS from simple to complex are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Plone. Ruby on Rails fits in there somewhere but I don’t know it well. Drupal has such a huge support network that its a great choice except for smaller solutions when there is little technical knowledge in house to do the required maintenance and security upgrades.

I can understand the ‘vendors over solutions’ issue, as there are so many vendors who produce vaporware, one wants to have an honest and reliable partner as a first priority…and the stories of people who go in to fix other peoples messes is endless.

Kevin Lanahan

We switched to Drupal a couple of years ago for our agency website. We put out a big contract for development, part of which was to train our staff to learn to use Drupal and develop and maintain the site ourselves. Nobody seemed to worry too much that we weren’t actually buying software and hardware, just services.

Learning curve is steep if you have a static website, and Drupal wants to have ALL your data/apps, etc. But that is where a good contractor will help you figure out how to absorb your legacy apps, work with existing apps and make everything better. I know the feds are big on Acquia, but we’ve had great results with Gorton Studios out of Minnesota.

David Needham

Don’t forget about Capital Camp (July 19-23rd 2012). It doesn’t look like the website has been updated yet, but it will be a great place to learn all about Drupal. As someone who attends many Drupal camps across the country, Capital Camp is one of the largest and best organized Drupal events in the country. You’ll also be happy to hear that much of it is focused directly on Government.