Drupal in Japan

Drupal Growth in the Land of the Rising Sun

Drupal in Japan

Japan, the country known as “the land of the rising sun”, is home to a deeply rooted culture of respect, spectacularly fresh cuisine, and some of the politest people in the world; but it is also the birthplace of the Toyota’s renowned manufacturing system. Toyota’s manufacturing system, Lean manufacturing (or simply “Lean”), is a systematic method to minimize waste without sacrificing productivity and quality. In practice, this means reducing anything and everything that is not adding value to the final product. 

Lean manufacturing involves using a set of principles to achieve improvements in productivity and quality via continuous Kaizen (a Japanese word meaning “change for better”). These principles were adopted many years ago by the organization I work for, CI&T, a Brazilian company and global technology solutions partner, to deliver digital solutions to the world’s biggest companies. This time, CI&T has delved deep into the Japanese market by leveraging Drupal to take on projects at the top of digital transformation. 

Taking into account (1) The historical relationship between Lean and Japan; and (2) The CI&T experience leveraging “Lean” and agile projects, one would think that implementing agile techniques in software development process would be simple and quick, right? Unfortunately, the reality is different. Companies in Japan tend to be comfortable with their current situation of having reliable numbers and metrics, even if it’s a product of obsolete processes and systems. As digital values change, the Japanese market seems to be taking a different course from the rest of the world. This could also be explained in part by the overzealous nature of the Japanese culture. The Japanese have an inclination to be grateful towards sites, systems, and processes that have benefitted them over the years. 

Nevertheless, the Drupal community in Japan may not be huge, but it has been growing consistently. We also see contributions on Japanese translations growing fast and regularly observe several Japanese contributors pushing bug fixes and improvements. Monthly meet-ups are also available for people to discuss Drupal issues, present custom features, or to learn more about the powerful framework. There is even a Slack channel for regular communication and collaboration. Moreover, we at CI&T have learned that the Drupal learning curve in Japan is also not that steep. At the beginning of 2016, CI&T was faced with a huge challenge: to create and transform products with teams that had little to no Drupal knowledge whatsoever. However, through active participation in immersive training sessions known as DOJOs (another Japanese term meaning “place of the Way”), CI&T quickly became the largest Drupal 8 Acquia Certified company in Japan.

CI&T globally also recognizes that contribution is a key concept in Open Source projects, and has participated in the many ways of getting involved in the Drupal Community: giving user support, writing documentation, translating documents, testing or developing features, and even holding Drupal themed hackathons and organizing/sponsoring Drupal events. Giving back to the community is an important and effective way of selling Drupal in Japan as it allows us to provide resources to those that may be interested in adopting Drupal as an enterprise CMS, thus creating more business opportunities. 

Given that technology grows in an exponential way, companies are forced to adapt or be left behind. HTML pages with simple CSS were replaced by CMS systems, with elegant and responsive layouts. Spreadsheets were replaced by web systems that were designed specifically for client’s needs. These improvements have been increasing the final user's expectations and continuously raise the bar. Moreover, as the market grows bigger, the number of competitors naturally becomes higher. Innovation becomes an essential ingredient in a successful company and instrumental in overcoming the competition. This is the context in which Drupal serves as a huge advantage in the Japanese market. Paired with amazing out-of-the-box CMS capabilities and a collaborative open source atmosphere, utilizing Drupal in Japan alongside CI&T’s lean expertise has allowed us to have a market differential and focus on what really matters: maximize value activation for our customers and their clients. 

As soon as companies start to open up to the idea of replacing the traditional HTML website with a Drupal CMS, it is then possible to also start introducing lean concepts. CI&T has taken advantage of this change in mindset to produce a successful example of lean transformation with Drupal: Astellas Pharma Inc..

Astellas Pharma Inc., a Japanese pharmaceutical company with worldwide presence, had an ambitious goal to renew their global website, as well as update each individual local country site. Each website’s objective was to provide important pharmaceutical information in a timely manner, and to create and maintain a channel between the company and its stakeholders. Given the vast number of websites included in this global rollout, reusability between sites was an important factor to keep in mind to optimize efficiency. Drupal, with its standards, features and module add-on capabilities, quickly became the technology of choice and has indeed proven to be flexible enough to serve the needs of more than 40 different local websites. 

Perhaps what is even more significant than the above project choosing Drupal as their chief technology, is that they started to get involved in changing their own internal processes. As they became increasingly open to this new way of thinking, they began to publicly embrace and spread Lean methodology through press release interviews and country-wide IT events, praising both agile and Drupal. This has been a great step in propelling the lean transformation in Japan, although there is still much to be done to bring more digital projects towards a fully lean mindset. 

I believe that this will be a worthwhile challenge, however, as Japan’s ever-growing IT industry and growing number of companies looking for alternatives against their competitors create a favorable environment to catalyze digital transformation, with Drupal at the forefront to start a lean revolution.