11 May 2017

Diversifying our technology strategy

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Earlier this year, I formally took the position of the first CTO of Wunder. In this post, I would like to share my vision for where we are headed in terms of technology strategy.

Over the years, the work we have done has led us to be recognised as a leading partner for delivering agile Drupal projects in all of our markets. This experience has also been complemented with other technologies, from fancy user interfaces created with Angular or React to powerful data analysis solutions built with Elasticsearch. However, we need to expand this ecosystem.

Drupal will continue to play a central role in most of our projects for a long time, but we recognise that today’s web projects are not based on a single technology, and that trend will continue. The breadth of technologies involved in a project can sometimes be overwhelming. For a developer, it is very difficult to work on becoming an expert on all fronts while continuously honing our Drupal skills. The path we have chosen is to complement our teams of Drupal experts with specialists in complementary technologies.

I will follow up on the individual technologies with dedicated blog posts, but here are some highlights of technologies in which we are currently investing:

Symfony

We were early adopters of Drupal 8, and for us the biggest benefit was to leave many Drupal-specific concepts behind in favour of more widely used ones. This change was driven largely by the adoption of Symfony components, but even more by a Symfony-like way of structuring code in general. It’s a major step from classic web development towards proper software engineering.

Symfony is a great tool that has evolved over the years and has been infused with best practices gained from practical experiences. By pushing our expertise with this technology we are becoming better engineers, not only to understand Symfony as a low-level library on which Drupal relies, but also to be able to use it as a very powerful tool on its own.

Elasticsearch

I have been a loud advocate for using Elasticsearch, talking about it at Drupalcon and wherever I could, and it has become a key part of our standard toolset. Elasticsearch is more than just an improved replacement for existing solutions like Apache Solr, it's an accessible yet powerful database and search engine whose features make it easy to create interfaces (not just search) that guide the user along the way. The demand for data-driven projects where fuzzy matching and ranking based on relevance play a bigger role than pre-defined rules has increased, and we have even seen demand for our Elasticsearch expertise outside of Drupal. Learning the Elasticsearch API is easy, learning data analytics is not, most of our focus will be on the latter.

Drupal Commerce 2

Even though Drupal Commerce is technically just a set of Drupal modules, it has always been an offering on its own. Building e-commerce applications is not just about functionality, it's about security, compliance with regulations, optimisation, privacy and a lot of domain-specific knowledge. Drupal Commerce 2 addresses these requirements much better than previous versions, thanks in part to a major redesign that takes advantage of the Symfony approach used in Drupal 8. The possibility to easily and cleanly integrate with third-party systems has been particularly convincing for our teams. Our first experiments have been successful, we will be launching our first Drupal Commerce 2 project in a few weeks and we have more coming!

React & ES6

Decoupled applications have been hyped quite a bit over the past few years, but beyond the hype we see that it's an application architecture that can bring a lot of benefits for many types of projects. We have had experience with a multitude of frontend frameworks in the past, but React has turned out to be the right tool for us to standardise on. That's not to say that React will be here forever (it won’t), but we are also focusing on raising the standards related to Javascript practices and much of that is relevant no matter what framework we are using.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

While the relationship between machine learning and web development are less clear than for the other technologies mentioned so far, it's undeniable that machine learning and artificial intelligence in general will play an increasing role in all digital projects. There is already a great amount of SAAS possibilities, and many of these can create a lot of value combined with Drupal – from conversational interfaces to intelligent content analysis and generation. The overhead for becoming an expert with machine learning is quite high, but the size of our organisation means we have the possibility to dedicate resources to this topic.

A note on Open Source

Open source has always played a big role in our projects because it fits well with our philosophy of working openly, collaboratively and transparently – and we really believe it’s the best way to create healthy, long-lasting relationships with our clients. Open source requires commitment, and when our people have a clearer personal focus, it also makes their commitment to specific open source projects even more relevant.

In the end what matters is that we continue to create great digital projects together with our clients. Our working model based on open collaboration with an agile approach stays unchanged, we are just making a couple really cool additions to our toolbox.

 

Does this sound like the kind of technology world you want to be involved in? Then take a look at our open positions, we are hiring in all of our 8 offices throughout Europe.