Choosing a Drupal partner can be a daunting task. You need to write a great RFP in order to weed out the fluff vendors and narrow down your list. However, you could still get overwhelmed from the numerous options boasting experience, expertise, and low rates. You have to be thorough in your search because whatever Drupal project you will be undertaking, it will be a major investment. You need to know that there will be a proper payoff.

In this article we will discuss 10 things to consider when choosing a Drupal partner and what you need to know before signing the Drupal vendor’s contract.

Transparency

Throughout the project, transparency provides peace of mind. Knowing in the discovery phase the vendor has everything covered and will communicate problems as they arise is an important consideration. Some vendors will choose to hide the fact that they do not know yet how to implement something and will opt to “cross the bridge when they get there.” You also want transparency in the pricing. You need to see a very detailed breakdown of costs rather being shown a gross value. This is also very important during the development phase as even though we do not want to change specifications during this phase, we want to know if it is really being followed in the way that the you have envisioned it. North Studio has a tech stack that allows for full transparency, where a you can look in at any point and see the tasks that all of our developers are working on. Our partners love this!

Pricing

Pricing is one of the biggest considerations when choosing a Drupal partner. You don’t only choose for quality, you also consider that the price is within budget. It doesn’t help you if you find a very reliable partner but could not afford their services. However, there is a bit of an underhanded practice going on in this industry, even though it is not always done on purpose. A vendor will propose a low price and then change it once they see the true extent of the work during the proper discovery phase. This confuses and gives the client second thoughts having already chosen the vendor after including the price in their consideration. This can be the result of a bad RFP from the client, which failed to highlight the actual requirements, or it can be the result of bad estimation. This should never happen, and vendors like North Studio are making sure that the estimation process is accurate in order to give clients peace of mind, so that you know exactly how much and how long. This is done by giving the discovery phase a separate price by itself, ensuring that this will be done with utmost professionalism and accuracy.

Superior Project Management

The project management process will give the client visibility into every phase of the project. This can be done with a very competent project manager who is in constant communication with the client with regards to updates and questions that the development team may have. This can also be done with powerful tools. In relation to this, North Studio employs a helpful project management software that can loop its clients into the entire process allowing them visibility into the project at any moment. This saves 25% of the time it takes to communicate via email, especially important when client and vendor are geographically separated by thousands of miles. This translates into further cost savings for you and ties in nicely to the first point on transparency.

Agile Process

The Agile Development Process is a philosophy that does away with a number of unnecessary steps in the development cycle, opting for shorter cycle times of discovery-development-delivery. The project is tackled in smaller chunks, then each chunk is analyzed, developed, and then sent for review by the client before starting a new chunk. This effectively ensures that the client sees the completion of each chunk and will be able to give their feedback so changes can be made early in the process. Compared to a waterfall development cycle where the client sees the product upon completion, thus make changes very hard to accommodate, the agile process ensures that once the project reaches the end, most of the product has already been verified by the client. North Studio has practiced the Agile methodology for a long time and have very experienced scrum masters that can lead the entire process and ensure that everything will go as planned.

Accurate Estimation Process

We have discussed that an accurate estimation process prevents pricing shock for the client. It also gives them a very good idea of how long the entire project will take to complete as well as the duration for each component. This can give the client flexibility on whether to change or remove certain aspects of the project in order to decrease the price or have it completed in a shorter amount of time. North Studio prides itself on its proven ability for accurate estimation and pricing.

Mobile-first Philosophy

Mobile usage is starting to overtake desktop usage in terms of website use, and this margin is only going to get higher. This is because of the convenience of mobile devices. Consider taking out your laptop on a crowded train or bus, it’s tedious and uncomfortable to use in such situations, besides, not a lot of people own or even want to carry a laptop around. A mobile-first philosophy means that a website is developed and optimized with a mobile platform in mind first before making sure that it works on a desktop too. Drupal has supported this for a while now, but that doesn’t mean it happens out of the box. In fact, it has to be intentionally done. So it is quite important that the vendor be very familiar with this philosophy and development approach. If they develop the site using the traditional desktop-first approach, then it could be less optimized for mobile or they might opt to create a separate mobile site. Now you have your cost and duration effectively doubled. North Studio follows this philosophy and have extensive experience with fixing non-responsive websites, so even if you have a desktop only site, we can fix that for you as well.

Technical Solution Architecture

Drupal is a unique platform in the sense that it takes real experience and expertise to know what the different core modules and their functionalities are. When other CMS solutions are a Cadillac, Drupal is a Ferrari. There are also a lot of different add-ons that will fulfill a specific purpose and none of them are created equal, meaning some will be better than others. An experienced vendor will know exactly what their client needs and will be able to define this properly in the technical solution architecture of their proposal. A less experienced vendor might gloss over a few points intentionally simply because they have not yet figured out a solution to a portion of the requested function set. North Studio will be able to come up with a solution architecture upon review of the client’s requested functionalities.

Development and Execution

The largest portion of the project will be the actual implementation. And if everything before it went well, this would go smoothly as well. The experience and skillset of the vendor will now come into full play in this phase. This is when things start to become obvious if the project will complete on time or not. If delays are encountered in development early on, then that is a sure sign of delivery problems. Remember, a project is delayed one day at a time. The reason for delay would be a combination of inexperience and lack of skills, as well as failure in the initial phases of the project – failing to properly design the website, estimate, or define the technical solution architecture properly. For everything to go smoothly, the client needs to be able to rely on the vendor’s experience and technical skill as well as have full transparency on the overall project.

Effective Communication

Another aspect of project management is effective communication. A vendor needs to communicate progress regardless if the client actually asked or not. In fact, they need a system that is constantly updated on project status and details that the client can access at any time. This system must also allow for proper communication so that status and tasks can be discussed easily. It also helps if the project manager is a good communicator, being able to convey status and ask questions with a lot less back and forth due to misunderstandings. This helps with achieving transparency as well.

Support and Maintenance

When all is said and done, and the project has been completed successfully, we go in to maintenance mode. There have never been cases where a product has been shipped without problems, even minor ones. There are no bug-free products, and they always break in one way or another. That is why it is imperative that the vendor’s support and maintenance capabilities are top notch as well, rounding out their overall value to the client. A dedicated support team that can respond in a minimal amount of time is important. And it is not really just response time but turnaround time of issues as well. North Studio has a dedicated support structure that allows them to stay on top of your problems from minor bugs to site downtime, and will guarantee satisfaction in terms of customer support.

Get in Touch

These are just a few examples of what makes a good Drupal partner, but each is very important. Few vendors will be able to tick all boxes perfectly but a combination of any of these that would fit you will work as well. Get in touch to learn more about what North Studio offers.