Today, we have got a big name in the Australian Drupal industry for our interview. It’s none other than Owen Lansbury, the co-founder of one of the largest Drupal Agencies in Australia, PreviousNext.
Cloudways: Hello Owen, how are you doing? Could you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I co-founded PreviousNext in 2009 with our Technical Director, Kim Pepper. Since then, we’ve delivered hundreds of large-scale Drupal websites for clients across the government, media, higher education and enterprise sectors.
Cloudways: How did you first come across Drupal? What was it about Drupal that sparked your interest?
I’d been working as a UX design consultant and kept seeing clients investing thousands of dollars in poorly supported commercial CMS platforms. When it came to a personal project I wanted to launch in 2008, I did a thorough evaluation of the open source options and settled on Drupal 6 as the most robust and flexible CMS at that time.
Cloudways: Why do you think Australia has become such a great market for Drupal?
Australia always tends to follow major technology trends from the USA and Europe, and when we founded PreviousNext we could see how big Drupal 6 was getting within government and enterprise overseas. Alongside the Drupal community, we used this trend to start educating Australian clients away from proprietary CMS platforms. This was a gradual process, but once a few big clients adopted Drupal, many others followed. Drupal was also perfectly positioned when the government mandated the use of open source software and adherence to web accessibility standards.
Cloudways: You’ve been working in the digital industry for quite a long time, how do you think Drupal compares to other similar solutions?
It’s very easy to get stuck inside the Drupal “bubble” and not be aware of what’s happening within the rest of the CMS and web development world. The main trend that we’re seeing is that any small brochure-style sites are best built with SAAS platforms like WordPress.com or Squarespace – there’s little point in building these types of sites from scratch now. At the other end of the spectrum, Enterprise CMS vendors like Adobe and Sitecore are targeting the “Digital Experience Management” space to manage all digital touch points of large scale clients with their customers. This is the market Acquia have successfully gone after, whereby Drupal is used as the CMS component of a fully managed platform comprised of proprietary personalization tools, digital asset management, and hosting, amongst other things.
Our view at PreviousNext is Drupal 8 fits this higher end of the market and is ideal for clients who don’t want to necessarily be locked into a managed platform but want to take advantage of using Drupal as the unifying technology for a range of best-of-breed cloud services.
Cloudways: How did the idea of founding PreviousNext come about?
I’d been working with a major media company in 2008 on their user experience strategy, and they were just about to spend $50,000 on a half-baked proprietary CMS. I told them they were crazy when Drupal 6 could do everything they needed, so they asked me to pitch it to them formally. I gave Kim Pepper a week to learn Drupal (He was a Java and Ruby developer at the time) to answer any tricky technical questions and we won the project! This made us realize that there’d be a lot of other large clients who were interested in Drupal but didn’t have the confidence to build and host it in an enterprise setting. And so, PreviousNext was born…
Cloudways: What have been some of the challenges you faced when starting out with PreviousNext?
Being good at web design and development and running a business are two very different skill sets that need your full attention. We quickly hired other people into delivering our user experience services. I focused on making sure we had a pipeline of projects and invoices being paid on time while Kim Pepper ensured the technical excellence of our development team was maintained. Without that balance and attention to business fundamentals, we would have quickly failed like 80% of startups.
Cloudways: What do you think about the prospect of Drupal in Australia right now?
Drupal 8 has been received very well by our clients and the market in general, so we expect to see it maintain and grow market share at the upper end of the scale in direct competition with proprietary CMS products. Smaller clients are less likely to adopt Drupal 8 and move to WordPress or SAAS platforms, so Drupal’s overall market share is likely to drop as a result. This isn’t a bad thing, as Drupal suffered by trying to straddle both small and large scale use for too long.
Cloudways: Our readers love to see workplace snaps of Drupal experts. Would you share a snap of yours?
Sorry – we have no photos of our offices, as our team of 25 is distributed throughout Australia in about 5 different offices.
Cloudways: Ok, that’s enough talk about work. What do you like to do in your free time?
The office Kim Pepper and I work from are 100m from the beach, so we’re usually surfing! Ironically, I hate Australian summers and sand, so any holidays are usually somewhere cold.
Cloudways: Last question, have you ever had a chance to try out Cloudways? What do you think about it?
Sorry – we have our own cloud hosting platform that we manage for our clients on AWS and Azure 😉