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Adopting an Agile Approach: How FFW Killed the Website Re-platform for Delphix's Evolving Needs

Delphix’s data platform helps large institutions including the US Army, Clorox, and the University of Manchester meet the moment and transform digitally. Recently the digital agency FFW, a Pantheon partner, reimagined Delphix's website by eliminating the website re-platform in favor of a continuous development approach.

When Kyle Letterle, the Agile Team Project Manager at FFW, was initially approached by Delphix to help them through a major re-platform of their website, he was in a really difficult position. The task at hand: How do you overhaul the website of the industry’s leading programmable data platform in a mere four weeks time? 

For greater context, Delphix’s data platform is responsible for helping large institutions and brands in their digital transformation — from accelerating the U.S. Army’s migration to a new data center to empowering the University of Manchester as they bring innovative digital experiences to remote students. Delphix’s overhauled website had to meet the needs of this diverse client base, allowing its customers to quickly find digital solutions by topic, application, role, and industry. 

Realizing this, the team at FFW had to quickly figure out the best development process for a comprehensive build while upgrading the Delphix site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. The site needed to serve as the one source of truth for all of Delphix's digital content and remain a centralized hub for five languages previously hosted on disparate sites. Not exactly a walk in the park. 

The silver lining? Having worked with Pantheon before, Kyle didn’t have to worry about finding a WebOps solution for hosting and developing new features for this project — meaning he could focus on making high-impact changes and how to best meet the needs of Delphix and its customers.  

Continuous Development for Delphix’s Website

“It’s a great story from start to finish. But it doesn’t finish. That’s the point.”

  • Kyle Letterle of FFW on using continuous development to address the evolving needs of Delphix’s website

Drawing on his experience with agile methodologies, Kyle knew that a major re-platform was likely not going to work, especially given the super-short timeframe and the evolving nature of a website catering to a complicated organization. Additionally, Delphix knew from major site re-platforms of the past that this approach was a significant, time-intensive task. 

The solution to addressing Delphix’s needs without a major site re-platform? Kyle and his team came up with a continuous development agreement, which is a fancy way of saying he gave them a monthly budget that could be adjusted periodically to best suit Delphix’s needs and high-priority items as they moved along in the development process. Really, this meant Kyle and his team wouldn’t have to crunch everything into a four-week window and possibly miss items of importance that Delphix didn’t consider on the first go. 

“It’s a great story from start to finish. But it doesn’t finish. That’s the point,” Kyle keenly stated at his talk during our recent WebOps Summit, referring to the continuous development process FFW set in place to address Delphix’s evolving website needs. 

The Previous Delphix Site 

What Delphix's old homepage looked like when the site was running on Drupal 7. Notice the lack of language selection in the navigation, as Delphix's old site existed in five different versions for each language. 

The Approach: Build, Measure, Adjust 

By using the mindset of build, measure, and adjust, FFW effectively responded to what was working on Delphix’s updated site and what clearly was not. Starting with Delphix’s high-priority items, FFW would build a new feature into the website, then wait for them to measure how users were responding with tools like Google Analytics, before adjusting the site accordingly.

This ability to pivot away from what wasn’t working was crucial in creating a website that truly responds to the needs of Delphix’s users. This way, the site actually reflects how users interact with it, instead of how Delphix thinks users interact with it. That’s a big difference and, ultimately, one factor that drove this project to success. 

“Maybe the most impressive thing that Delphix did, which can be incredibly hard for any organization to do, is to throw out work that did not work.”

  • Kyle on Delphix’s ability to eliminate new features that weren’t resonating with users

Many organizations succumb to the sunk cost fallacy — meaning they continue to invest in what’s not working, due to all of the time and resources they’ve sunk into the project. According to Kyle, “Maybe the most impressive thing that Delphix did, which can be incredibly hard for any organization to do, is to throw out work that did not work.”

Specific Solutions (ongoing) for This Project 

Kyle and his team at FFW implemented a number of solutions, some specific to Drupal and others structured around Delphix’s organization itself, to meet the company’s evolving site requirements and ongoing needs. Check out these specific solutions below:

  • Delphix assigned and empowered a single priority maker for the website’s roadmap, which was a critical component in achieving a lasting, cohesive vision for the site. 

  • As FFW developed more visual components, they became part of a library that could be reused at a moment’s notice in the future. 

  • Workflow and publishing options were built on top of the base implementation, meaning  FFW could adopt the latest and greatest features Drupal 8 offered. 

  • The flexible, componentized Drupal 8 platform empowered Delphix’s content managers to quickly create the pages required for their markets and users in an efficient manner. 

  • FFW alternated focus over time, between larger site-expanding projects and smaller, miscellaneous cleanup and technical support efforts for Delphix — to cover all the bases and make sure all site needs were met. 

  • At times FFW exclusively focused on design and research with no development whatsoever, so the team could create the best possible user experience and a cohesive visual design across all parts of the site.

Why FFW Uses Pantheon’s WebOps Platform

“The UI is really nice. People like me, who’ve never written a line of code in their life, can log-in and do some basic but valuable things and teach clients to self-serve as well — without having to pull developers off their planned sprint or day.”

  • Kyle on Pantheon’s friendly user interface 

FFW is one of Pantheon’s Premier Partners. The global digital agency has worked extensively on consulting and implementing Drupal and WordPress solutions hosted on the Pantheon WebOps Platform. 

Some of Kyle’s favorite reasons for working with the Pantheon WebOps Platform are:

  • Scalable nature of Pantheon’s WebOps Platform means Kyle doesn’t have to worry about his client’s changing web traffic or storage requirements over time. 

  • Tuned for specific CMS that FFW is using to build a client’s site, rather than some catch-all solution that’s not very good at any one particular thing. 

  • Workflows support a mix of long-term work and short-term needs for FFW’s clients. 

  • Multi-dev environments helped create a stable site for Delphix, as Kyle and his team could quickly adopt and release security updates while leaving long-term projects in their own separate path to production. 

  • Sandbox environments (part of Pantheon’s Multi-dev) give Kyle’s clients a space to play and test out new features and ideas without breaking anything.

  • Friendly user interface. According to Kyle, “The UI is really nice. People like me, who’ve never written a line of code in their life, can log-in and do some basic but valuable things and teach clients to self-serve as well — without having to pull developers off their planned sprint or day.”

Delphix's Refreshed Site with Updated Navigation

What Delphix's homepage currently looks like with the site running on Drupal 8, complete with revised navigation. Seeing the continuous development process between FFW and Delphix, the homepage might change in the future as the needs of Delphix's users continue to evolve. 

Revised navigation helps Delphix's users quickly find a solution — based on topic, technology, role, and industry. Notice the language dropdown (above Resources), which gives users the ability to choose between five different languages. FFW brought each language into one centralized hub during the development process. 

Positive Outcomes for Delphix

Over the past few years, FFW has gradually rebuilt Delphix’s site two to three times and redesigned the homepage four different times, and according to Kyle, “who’s to say we won’t do it again?” The continuous development agreement and ongoing roadmap gives Kyle and his team at FFW the flexibility to constantly refine the site to the evolving needs of Delphix and its customers — all without worrying about budget constraints. 

With a major site re-platform, this never would’ve happened, and Delphix would be stuck with what they initially thought was the answer to their user’s needs. And seeing Delphix’s users are as diverse as the U.S. Army and University of Manchester, making this assumption and sticking with it would be a crapshoot, at best.

Perhaps the most significant upside of FFW building the site on the Drupal 8 framework and regularly staying up to date on security updates, Delphix will be able to shift their site to Drupal 9 in the future without a lot of pain points, especially seeing the Drupal community has made that upgrade so attainable. Ultimately, this means FFW did indeed kill the website re-platform while catering to Delphix's ongoing needs, and both parties won’t have to undergo any massive headaches in the future related to a major re-platform. 

Interested in learning more about Killing the Website Replatform? Hear Kyle’s talk from our 2020 WebOps Summit, and check out Pantheon’s e-book for more valuable information that your team can use to ditch the re-platform process for good and take your sanity back with it.

Hero image by Kaleidico via Unsplash.



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Topics Agency Partners, Digital Agencies, Drupal, WebOps, Website Launch

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