JackBe: A Case of Constructing Community with Acquia Drupal

In 2002, brothers Luis and Jacob Derechin founded the JackBe Corp. They eventually found their way to enterprise mashup
software and now offer the Presto "enterprise-ready mashup solution." JackBe is a business to business (B2B) software
company specializing in enterprise mashups that "solve the quintessential information sharing problem: accessing and
combining data from disparate internal and external data sources and software systems for timely decision-making."

Business Challnege
As enterprise mashup software was an emerging market segment, JackBe was faced with a particularly challenging prospect in introducing its Presto platform. The company had to introduce its new software to a market of consumers that did not have a clear idea of what exactly enterprise mashup software meant, much less what its specific product had to offer. JackBe needed to find a way to help its new consumers have a good user experience with this new product; it decided to launch a community that would meet the needs of inquiring customers, as well as to give them a gentle and productive introduction to mashups in general and JackBe's solution in particular.

Vendor of Choice
Acquia is a commercial open source software company. It provides services, products, and support for the open source Drupal publishing system. The company was founded in December 2007 by Dries Buytaert, the original creator of Drupal, and Jay Batson, the company's CEO. As a member of the global Drupal community, Acquia helps accelerate Drupal usage by contributing to the advancement of the core technology and offering products, services, and technical support to simplify the deployment and management of Drupal websites. The Acquia Network provides an operations portal to deliver technical support and site monitoring services to maintain Acquia Drupal sites.

The Problem In-Depth
As a pioneer in the enterprise mashup market, JackBe not only had to tackle the challenge of acquiring and supporting new customers, but it also had to deal with the problem that a general lack of understanding about enterprise mashups, in effect, rendered them with few prospective customers. The market was brand new, so very few businesspeople knew what enterprise mashup software could do. "We were kind of walking around in the jungle and trying to take our religion to people who have probably never heard of it, or us, before," explains Chris Warner, VP of marketing for JackBe. "How do you get people to have a good hands-on experience with a product they've never seen?"

Warner was faced with the age-old chicken or egg conundrum. The software came before anyone knew what to do with it. Therefore, the company needed a tool to educate consumers to help create a marketplace. JackBe decided that a community could fill this need as it would offer an environment where consumers could have a "safe, nonthreatening place with the software," says Warner.

Once the decision was made to construct a developer community, the difficult decision then came of selecting the software solution to build it with. Warner conducted research and found dozens of different vendors offering community related solutions but not one that offered what he specifically wanted. "What I really needed was a community that wasn't just content; I needed one that fused together the idea of me giving content and members putting content up," he says. "I needed that ‘connected to the social networking' aspect of a community. I think of it almost as social content. Not just content, not just social networking; it's a fusion of both."

The Solution
During his search, Warner came across Drupal-more specifically, Acquia Drupal. The price was right, within his $20,000 budget. But at the same time, it offered the sort of functionality he wanted for his community as well as efficient setup and necessary maintenance. Bryan House, director of marketing of Acquia, describes Drupal: "It's what we call a social publishing system. Social publishing is a combination of a content management system [CMS] and, on the social side, it has users with permissions and roles and user-generated content." However, while Drupal is a free and open source modular framework and CMS, many organizations do not have the technical acumen or support to build and maintain open source solutions, which is where Acquia fits in.

JackBe-a relatively new, small company that at the time was working to build its community solution-was not in a position to ante up for many of the content management and community platforms on the market. "We considered a number of options/vendors including traditional proprietary software, software-as-a-service, and open source products such as Drupal," says Warner. "Ultimately, [with Acquia Drupal] the total cost of community deployment was nearly 50% less than a comparable proprietary solution." Interestingly, Acquia Drupal had only recently started business itself when JackBe was looking for a community platform. House says, "JackBe saw the news that we were announcing our company, and they reached out to us." Acquia connected JackBe with one of its partners, Trellon, an internet strategy and development firm that specializes in open source software, which constructed the developer community site for them.

Within 2 days, JackBe's website had 90% functionality with only 56 lines of custom code, all of which was done for less than $20,000. According to House, "What JackBe got was a robust developer community where developers could come in, create profiles, interact with other people in the community, share code, demonstrate expertise in areas, and get information about what's happening." House explains that the community was a great regeneration tool for JackBe and that in almost 100% of the deals that JackBe closes, someone from the other company has joined the JackBe developer community. "It's a great hands-on way for people who are going to be using the software to come and get a firsthand feel for it," he says.

The flexibility of the Drupal solution was another key factor in JackBe's decision-making process. "One real reason I chose Acquia Drupal, in addition to everything else, is that Drupal is an incredibly robust open source piece of software with modules developed by the community," explains Warner. "That's a quality that-while I didn't go looking for it-once I found it, I really couldn't do without it. Those modules gave me kind of a safety net."

Drupal modules offer extra features that do not come with the core Drupal. Instead of paying someone to customize his software package, Warner was able to look for modules on his own via the Drupal community on Drupal.org. It is as easy as downloading a module, installing it, and turning it on; then, the feature is in place on the site. The first module used by JackBe was one to add forums to the community. Also, "we put a lot of value on the modules that help us understand what our community members need and want, including modules for polls, content popularity/ranking, and inbound referrer tracking," says Warner. He has used more than 25 of the available modules since the site went live and has the flexibility to quickly add new feature sets. According to Warner, "Needing a genuine customization to my software package tends to be expensive and, over time, can lock you into whatever software you have. Then you can't upgrade; you can't migrate." Having more than 3,000 modules to choose from (with the community continuing to develop every day) makes needing costly customization or developing the desire to migrate to a different solution far less likely.

The Outcome
According to Warner, JackBe's developer community now has about 2,600 members, the community's web traffic has doubled in 9 months, and overall traffic on the site has gone up 100%.

House believes that this is, at least in part, a result because JackBe chose Acquia's solution. "Drupal out of the box is designed to facilitate very strong search engine optimization," says House. The community has "all of these very technical topics, such as ‘enterprise mashup with oracle,' which now show up in Google." Acquia Drupal offers a module called Pathauto. This module transforms URL paths that are usually a confusing combination of letters and numbers into a URL path that refers to what is on the actual page. This allows the site to be much more search engine friendly.

This community has been not only a traffic driver for JackBe but also a valuable provider of insights into the marketplace. Warner says, "There's the kind of market feedback you get in a community versus the traditional either anecdotal stuff where you have one sales rep in a room and you get feedback from exactly one customer or the alternative, which is really extensive systematic market research, which you might pay to have done on your behalf." He continues, "The community gives you the best of both worlds; there's 2,600 individual voices in my community, I have one place to go and listen to them all, so I get a very intimate and very detailed kind of feedback on what resonates with people, what works with people, and what doesn't work for people, and that is infinitely valuable."

JackBe has found that the community is not only beneficial for its customers but for its employees as well. In addition to providing JackBe employees with insights into customer sentiment, Warner says, "It's actually become a place where co-workers engage with each other. We're distributed all over the world, and as a result, it's very difficult for us to get in sync and stay in sync on things." Almost every person in the JackBe Corp. goes to the community daily in order to give his or her own feedback or post comments. Some use it to aid in their sales, marketing, or recruiting efforts as well. Warner is proud to say that "it's a huge productivity boost where if we wanted to get that kind of synergy for all of these people at my company around the world in some other way, I struggle to think what would do it as effectively for practically no additional money. I might just be the luckiest man on the planet."