I strongly believe that organisations can generate great value by maintaining their digital freedom.
- Digital freedom is the best way to ensure you own the digital relationships with your users. Successful organisations own their digital experiences (quite literally) and put their employees and end users at the centre to delight and engage them.
- They own the content, code and data so they can ensure user privacy. This is called digital sovereignty. I believe in order to stay free sovereignty is key.
- Open-source Drupal, Mautic and Unomi are the best platforms to see to this digital freedom and independence.
How did I find out? My story.
I was part of the first generation that was professionally active in developing the first meaningful digital experiences - strictly websites, at the time - and I witnessed their growing potential first-hand. In 2007, I started out as a Drupal developer. This experience made me gain a deeper understanding of the technical and functional aspects behind digital experiences and how they could help organisations to create better relationships with their stakeholders. I understood how this ability to connect through a digital experience was generating customer satisfaction and how it increased customer lifetime value or CLV. I also realised that creating relationships with users through a digital platform was incredibly scalable. This made me think about the opportunity that laid in creating value for organisations of all kinds.
I started my career as a Drupal developer and team leader for both digital agencies and integrators. I also worked as an in-house consultant for both Belgian and international organisations. On this website, I contributed a lot of knowledge about Drupal in the period between 2007 and 2014. I'm a published author at Pelckmans publishing house with a Drupal guide titled Aan de slag met Drupal 8. At its peak, the Drupal blog on this website had more than 10 000 unique visitors a month from all over the world. As a Drupal expert and software engineer, it was important to me to contribute to open source and to share my knowledge. It helped me to grow and communicate.
My time as a developer was very valuable to me, because it taught me what an incredible amount of value organisations can actually gain when they are presented with the freedom and ownership to build and evolve their own digital platforms. Time and time again I noticed that the most valuable projects from both an agency, developer and client perspective were the ones where the client would be provided with the freedom to participate and be involved throughout every step of the decision-making and development process. The best results were produced by engaging the customer throughout the entire project, for example by giving clients access to tools and code, by training the customer and working as one integrated team. This way of working is miles away from either the full-service agency or the proprietary tech models. In the latter two cases, the goal is to take as much as possible out of the hands of the customer. While this model certainly can provide a lot of value in certain cases, it does not work for everyone. The main reasons organisations took control over their digital experiences are as follows:
- They can eliminate overhead that is inevitably created by the full-service digital agency model.
- Web teams and marketing departments can go to market a lot faster if they are not being constrained by proprietary tech and full-service management overhead.
- Organisations can empower employees, build new digital know-how, increase collaboration and leverage their in-house business knowledge.
- They keep digital sovereignty. With the arrival of not only the power of code but also data and AI. the need to become sovereign is key.
This, in turn, made me realise that:
- Organisations would increasingly start to take control of their own digital experiences. Personal connections with users and delighting them in a way that is scalable has become an extremely important part of every company’s core business.
- The best partners think long-term for their customers and allow them to learn as much as possible and save costs. They also give them the freedom to participate.
- If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
The best digital experiences put the end user at the centre of attention and empowers organisations’ employees by giving them the best tools to connect with their users. This is exactly how smart companies create customer delight.
Because my belief in this model was so strong, I decided to start Dropsolid, together with Steven Pepermans. In fact, the literal meaning of our company name is Solid Drupal. We put all our money together, borrowed some more from friends and family, and established our company based on this one key idea that organisations would want to take control over their digital experiences and that Drupal would be the platform to do so. We went all out.
The company we looked up to from the beginning was Acquia, which had been started by Drupal founder Dries Buytaert in 2007. Acquia helps the most ambitious brands in the world to build their digital experiences. They bring digital freedom to some of the largest organisations in the world, and they do so using Drupal and their cloud platform. They serve customers like Pfizer, J&J and the US government. The difference between Acquia and Dropsolid is that it wants to be the most open DXP with a low entry barrier.
Back in Belgium, we were dreaming of bringing the same value to our local market with Dropsolid. The European market is quite different from the American one. Europe has far more medium-sized enterprises, with turnovers ranging from €10M turnover to €1B. They need similar services and products to their larger counterparts, but often lack the required budgets and web teams that those multinational companies have at their disposal. So why not build a company that can deliver the required value to that particular market? Our goal was ambitious: to become the leading specialist in providing advice, services and a platform to our European mid-sized enterprises so they too could build open digital experiences that delight users and increase their customer lifetime values.
What followed was a true odyssey of building Dropsolid. I wrote down the entire process in a few lengthy blog posts, where you can find our journey in all its detail:
- Part 1 covers our the startup days, a time when we learned about running a business, funding, hiring & training talent, sales and marketing.
- Part 2 talks about the scale-up stage. This is when we improved our overall product development, growth, vision, mission, values, corporate structure, procedures and business units.
- Part 3 picks up with the hiring of our CTO Nick Veenhof, who built the Dropsolid cloud platform with our team. It also talks about how we shifted towards profitability in 2018. This was the period when we laid out the foundation of the European Digital Experience Company that guides mid-sized enterprises to their digital freedom.
- Part 4 are the 4 years from january 2019 to december 2022 where we went through the crazy covid years, build out a management team of professional, organised ourselves into business units dropsolid.com and dropsolid.io and really became the digital experience company.
Dropsolid is now the European specialist in Drupal & open digital experiences, with 85 experts on the team. We are running at a profit and are growing every year. We give mid-sized organisations (and their agencies) strategic business advice on how to build their digital presence using Drupal. Our cloud platform currently powers more than 1500 Drupal environments.
Our customers are mid-sized, Europe-based companies. Examples include Soudal, TVH, Lotus Bakeries, Kinepolis, Boerenbond, Gezinsbond, ERA, Teamleader,... We provide advice to ambitious SMBs in Belgium, so they too can benefit from our insights and the benefits of Dropsolid’s Drupal cloud platform.
We open-sourced our Drupal installer and we are a Diamond sponsor of DrupalCon, the largest Drupal event in Europe.
Within Dropsolid, I currently have the role of co-CEO. This implies responsibility for our product and all commerical activities of the company. I believe that taking control of digital experiences by adopting open-source Drupal allows organisations to secure their digital freedom. I believe it leads to scalable and sustainable engagement from both users and employees to deliver the vision of the organisation to its stakeholders.
Contact me if your want to give your organisation the digital freedom it deserves
- If you are looking for a way to build long-lasting relationships with your customers, members, citizens, clients, employees, users,... and are considering doing this through a digital platform.
- If you are looking for an expert in open digital experiences and Drupal.
- If you are looking for ways to find more freedom for your organisation’s web teams to take control of your digital experiences, so you can go to market faster and eliminate third-party overhead costs.
- If you are a startup/scale-up CEO/CTO and you want to know more about PaaS & SaaS, startups, scale-ups and digital business models. We can connect and share our experiences and learn from each other.
- If you like to know more about Drupal and you want to know how open source can increase your time-to-market and pace of innovation.
- If you are an investor and and looking to create value together.
- If you are looking for a job on our amazing team, check out our open positions
If you want to contact me? Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org