Destination Approaching for Flight Centre's Drupal Journey

16 August 2013

Brisbane: Brisbane-headquartered travel agency Flight Centre is going through an extensive shift to the open-source Drupal Web platform for its set of websites, which jointly manage millions of page views each week.

The shift, away from IBM Web Content Manager has been in progress for almost a year now, as per Flight Centre's area leader of digital solutions, Jamie Glenn. The travel company is about two-thirds of the way through the transition, Glenn said. The company has about 30 brands and some 60 websites.

“We've done all the simple sites and the more straightforward ones, and we're doing a lot of the core architecture for our more complex sites at the moment,” Glenn said.

With some of the bigger sites Flight Centre is doing a “section by section cutover” to Drupal, rather than “a big bang approach.”

The company was formerly using IBM WCM, together with some “in-house plumbing”. Glenn said that IBM had begun moving to incorporate WCM more with its WebSphere Portal offering, “and we didn't want to go the way of Portal”.

“We looked at upgrading the WCM tool itself and we struggled to do that probably for about six months to a year, and then that drove us to say “Well we need to move on. The world's moving on.' And we went out and started searching for another tool.”

When it came to opting for a new content-management system that would give improved agility, Flight Centre considered both proprietary and open source options, testing five different CMSs over a period of six months.

“Open source probably fits more into the culture and the way we run things here, but we did look at some of the commercial packages as well,” Glenn said.

The level of support for Drupal in Australia, the size and state of the community around the open source project, and finding a good partner (Acquia, the company founded by Drupal's creator, Dries Buytaert) all aided tip Flight Centre over the edge and decide the CMS.

“We're agile in our way of doing things and happy to rely on the community as much as we are on a particular vendor,” Glenn said.

Besides, acquiring support from Acquia, Flight Centre drew on local Drupal shop Technocrat for guidance and architectural training. However, most of the transition itself has been managed by the company's in-house Web development team, which has almost 40 staff.

“One of the key skills we were also looking for from Acquia was that planning and technical account management role," Glenn said.

“We wanted to make sure the investment decisions we were making were appropriate and in line with the community [so] we didn't set ourselves aside from the open source community or get ourselves into a corner. It's that level of expertise and knowledge that's been really valuable.”

Originally there was inadequate experience of Drupal within Flight Centre's Web development group, but the company has been carrying out training in batches of eight or so people.

Glenn said the Flight Centre switch to Drupal must be complete by Q1 2014.

Read more: Drupal Web Development Brisbane

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