Open Source for Government - PSEICT Conference - British Council Case Study using Drupal CMS


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  • I work in the Civil Service as a Senior Manager in the British Council’s Digital division helping to transform the organisation to a “Digital by Default” business. I manage Agile technical teams and outsourced suppliers to refresh the British Council’s global digital estate across over 100 countries and have used both G-Cloud to procure consultancy advice, Drupal CMS development as well as traditional OJEU I’ve a background in commercial, media and education sectors using both proprietary and Open Source solutions. Here’s me at Google developer day in 2008. I don’t always wear a suit.
  • What is the British Council? A little background - Formed more than 75 years ago The British Council is present in more over 100 countries and works with millions of people each year connecting them with the United Kingdom through activities as varied as Arts events to English language learning and administering English Exams. We refer to our work as ‘cultural relations’ and it has a value of £1.2 billion for the UK economy . Like organisations across the private and public sector, the value of digital presence is becoming more apparent – a digital by default customer first approach with user-centred design as promoted by Martha Lane Fox and the Cabinet Office With budgets increasingly tightened, a bigger emphasis is being placed on obtaining growth through this channel. For that reason a digital programme was established to upgrade and transform the organisation’s global digital presence to enhance its engagement with partners and customers over the next three years.
  • I’m going to focus on Drupal CMS as that is the Open Source product I’ve been most closely involved with in procuring at the British Council. However, we also use a range of other Open Source tools and systems like Wordpress CMS or Bugzilla for issue tracking. On the education side we use Moodle for course delivery.
  • Plenty of choice and flexibility
  • On launching the new Corporate UK Home we noted Website 4x faster; partly due to better modern design; partly due to superiority of Drupal over our legacy CMS 100% uptime in first 2 months; better than previous CMS; due to robustness of Drupal and easy integration to a Content Delivery Network edge delivery service worldwide; out of the box
  • We recently launched a refresh India website As you can see English language education is a large part of what we do as well as Arts and inter-cultural events
  • Challenges when introducing the idea/concept of open source into the organisation When the programme began, our first challenge was to identify a CM solution that will enable us to satisfy the functionality required to support broad scope and of our activities – as mentioned, Arts events, English courses and examinations Then factor in the language aspect as we will be offering our sites in an increasing number of languages to largely match the 100+ countries we are active in and you have a sense of the scale of the programme. So we needed an extensible solution that could deliver our user-centred designed web and mobile sites to our varied audiences. A number of approaches were considered and a decision taken to adopt an Open Source solution by way of Drupal
  • Why open source open source offers a number of advantages, the ones attractive to us… Primarily, we are getting a great deal of coding expertise and solutions for free as we can draw on the given Open Source community's work to date. Testing costs are reduced as in essence, the code is tested by the community of users already. Indeed there is a Darwinian aspect to open source as the code that does not work well and may be problematic is ultimately abandoned Code that works well is taken up and constantly maintained & updated for the benefit of all users. Another financial argument for Open source is that it does not attract annual recurring license fees. But also importantly, the use of open source frameworks is also aligned with the UK Governments strategy and recommendation on technical solutions as we are all under pressure to reduce costs whilst working to the public benefit. It may be of interest to you that there really was no resistance from inside the business to move toward Open source. Admittedly some people who are not familiar with OS or didn’t quite get the concept, but those who did embraced it.
  • Reason Drupal was selected A couple of OS options were also considered. Factors that attracted us to Drupal is that the software is maintained and developed by a community of more than 630K global users and developers. This collaborative ethos sits well with a public service organisation line the British Council Drupal is essentially a framework with a vast array of building blocks that offer a for you to build whatever you want. The elements we wanted had modules available that had already been tried and tested so we’re effectively getting the best practice for free. In terms of security there are constant security testing and fixes updates and improvements. With closed source, we wouldn’t necessarily know about a bug or a fix with the system unless the supplier decided to release an update. Conversely, with Drupal, there is continuous fixing and security updates that are released on a weekly basis. We outsourced that maintenance to an expert supplier. Bear in mind UK government is a target for hackers particularly the British Council as we operate in challenging environments such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Drupal is rapidly becoming the open source CMS of choice for public sector and government websites. Indeed Drupal powers a wide range of public sector websites around the world. and and The Whitehouse and NASA in America as well as commercial like the NS&I bank. which goes a long way to illustrating how that the technology is tried and tested and can support the needs of these large enterprise installations.
  • Our next challenge was identifying suppliers In order to facilitate the speedy procurement of Drupal services we put in place a roster of suppliers, with worldwide coverage, that can be engaged by way of  mini-tenders for specific projects and other discrete pieces of work. Procurement cycles using ITQs through the framework reduce our purchase time to weeks rather than months. The British Council initially invited over 200 companies worldwide to register their interest in being a supplier to us.  Using rigorous assessment and selection criteria this number was reduced to 14 suppliers who clearly demonstrated expertise and experience in key capability areas, System Architecture, Design and Build, System Testing, Support & Maintenance, and Content Migration. Contracts and rates already have been negotiated and agreed with all 14 suppliers in preparation for the work packages that they will be invited to tender for. We also started using the G-Cloud when that became available. That has now opened up access to smaller SMEs who perhaps would not be able to afford the rigorous process of an OJEU tender process. We are responing to Government targets or ICT spend and have purchased consultancy advice and Drupal development via this route. I spoke at the Think G-Cloud conference recently about this.
  • The project so far At this stage we have re-launched a large part of our UK facing site and our site for India. We still have a long way to go, although we expect the process to speed up after the first few country sites are built. In terms of lessons learnt, these are some points that may be of use to you… Take time to understand how Drupal works natively and then how you can build upon it. Something of the scale we are undertaking means that you need Drupal expertise in house even if you plan to outsource. I would advise against asking a supplier to deliver on a specification alone. It’s important to have a good sense of different approaches in Drupal and development options that are available. In Drupal you can still go and write bespoke or custom code to meet a requirement that does not follow Drupal standards or conventions. Ideally to try avoid using Custom code unless you know what you why you are doing so and there are clear reasons – if you diverge from Drupal standards you need to maintain the code and so won’t be taking advantage of the benefits the Open source model offers. Being a public service organisation we feel strongly that we want to contribute back to the Open Source community so we want to ensure that any work we commission follows Drupal standards and guidelines. We own the IPR so we can release it under an Open Source licence You may want to consider doing work to simplify the UI if you plan to roll out access to the system widely. As you will not want to train all users in Drupal. We are working to make the User Interface easier for our users and simplify the training process. Be open to a range of products. We use Wordpress for our smaller country operations where the sites are simpler. That lets us roll them out quickly – plan to deliver 2 a week from next year
  • Open Source for Government - PSEICT Conference - British Council Case Study using Drupal CMS

    1. 1. Open Source for Government Creating A Level Playing Field Peter Edwards British Council, Digital Technology Manager 8th November 1
    2. 2. IntroductionPeter Edwards Peter on left at Google Dev Day 2008Digital Technology ManagerThe British 2
    3. 3. 3
    4. 4. TopicsWhat is Open SourceWhat is DrupalThe Drupal Market PlaceHow and Why Drupal for the Public SectorCase Study - The British CouncilQ and 4
    5. 5. What is Open SourceA program or software in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge. “Free” testingOpposite to Proprietary – Sharepoint / ImmediacyOpen Source Frameworks – Drupal / Wordpress / 5
    6. 6. What is Drupal•An enterprise level Content Management System (CMS)•A Open Source Framework and Architectural Platform•Thousands of Modules•Extensible•Secure•Community Committing Back 6
    7. 7. The Drupal Market Place• 10 Years in Development• 20,000 active developers / 1 million members• Drupal suppliers and consultants across the globe• No vendor lock in• User Groups and 7
    8. 8. The British Council – A Case StudyHave been using Drupal for websites for over 6 8
    9. 9. Corporate UK 9
    10. 10. British Council 10
    11. 11. 11
    12. 12. Why Open 12
    13. 13. Why 13
    14. 14. Suppliers and 14
    15. 15. Story so farLaunched• Corporate UK, India sitesIn progress• France, Korea, Japan websites - many to go!Smaller sites using Wordpress• www.britishcouncil.hrLessons:• Learn how Drupal works first• In-house technical expertise to manage suppliers• Work with community – contribute back / 15
    16. 16. Any questions?Email:peter.edwards@britishcouncil.orgLinkedIn: 16