In this video, Alex Bremer of 3B Digital shares some of his insights on working with Joomla in an agency setting.
He also shares his view on the J and Beyond conference.
Alex runs 3B Digital with his brother Jack Bremer. The business is based in Battersea, London and currently employs 12 people.
Below the video you will find a transcript of the video, created by the friendly people over at The Transcription People.
Well, my name’s Alex Bremer, I run a business in London, a web development business called 3B Digital, we’re based in South London, in Battersea, which is a lovely part of London, a super place to be, somewhere that our clients are very happy to visit and spend time with us.
I run my business with my brother, Jack Bremer, who is here also. We’re a small business, there’s eight or nine of us at any given time. We’ve bought our Lead Developer, Jordan Worner, and Head of Search, Hugh Williams, with us for this weekend also at Joomla and Beyond.
About J and Beyond
Our experience of Joomla and Beyond – this is our second year – it’s always been good, it’s fantastic to be here. I am no longer a Coder, a Developer as such, I run the business very much from a client liaison perspective, but it’s still wonderful to be here surrounded by the people who build the tools that we use every day. I was talking to somebody the night before last and the expression that came most readily to mind was ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. I am aware that the success of our business and the ability to deliver the solutions to our clients that they most need is dependent very much on the work of the people that are here. So, to be able to meet them, to thank them, to give them feedback and, frankly, just to enjoy their company, is invaluable.
So this is our second year. Last year was fabulous, fantastic, a real eye-opener. This year is better again. The venue is sensational, we’re here in the most beautiful 12th century Monastery in Holland. It’s a stunning location, the weather is sensational. All of this definitely lends something to the event, but all that notwithstanding, it’s been an opportunity for our Developer and our Head of Search to actually meet the people who are building the tools that they use every day and give them firsthand feedback as well as getting tips on how to use those tools better.
So I think for those reasons alone it’s well worth the visit and if this might serve as an opportunity to encourage other people in the Joomla community to come next year to Joomla and Beyond, then I would say it’s a no brainer – come, come with an open mind and you will come every year afterwards.
About 3B Digital
So, as I say, 3B Digital has been using Joomla tools for some time now. We first came across the platform back when it was Mambo and we were actively looking at that point for a scalable and robust CMS that was very easy to turn on and integrate and easy from our client’s perspective in terms of content management. What really struck us almost immediately about Joomla, as it had just become, was not just its ease of use as a CMS – and it was certainly easy to use as a CMS, it was a very strong CMS – but it was really the fact that out of the box it covered so many of the search engine optimisation criteria. And that meant that as an agency we were able to start addressing SEO properly and start offering that to our clients, both on a consultancy level but also on a practical level, actually being able to apply the SEO requirements, both pre and post launch, and that was very important to us, that really helped us move forward as an agency.
So that was the reason we got into Joomla and the years in between obviously we looked for an opportunity to try and use something else – maybe there’s another platform out there that’s better – so we actively do that, we’re always on the lookout, and to date we’ve never found one that really comes close.
They’ve never really ticked all the boxes quite as well as Joomla does, and in those efforts we have become, through attending events like this, very close to the community.
So we’re at a point now where, whilst we remain open to using the likes of Drupal and Word Press, if a client insisted or the requirements were such that it was a, it was essential, the real fact is that we’re very locked in to the Joomla mindset. We think it’s the most extraordinary tool and it has, from running, the perspective of running my business, it has moved us forward leaps and bounds. We’re a better and bigger and busier agency as a result of discovering Joomla.
How do you manage large projects
Well, again, the wonderful thing about Joomla is that, is that you can turn it on really for any size, any size project. I think that originally when we started using it, our feeling was that, that it was suitable only for the large projects. And now, of course, what we’ve discovered is that we turn it on pretty much for any site, big or small; whether the content management capabilities are required or not, we would still use Joomla. But when we’re approaching a large project, again that’s an opportunity to look at whether it requires a bespoke content management system or whether there’s a better tool out there for the purpose, but invariable what we discover is that the best platform is Joomla and so that’s what we use.
So thereafter we find ourselves looking at the various plug-ins and components that are available for it. We’re huge fans of K2, we’ve again started using K2 now even when perhaps the requirements aren’t most obviously best served by K2, from simply a content management point of view, from a, from an ability to give a client a system that is very difficult to get wrong in terms of putting images in and that sort of thing, and K2 is peerless, so we find ourselves turning on K2 quite a lot. But in terms of managing a large project, invariably now we’re not having to sell the idea of Joomla to a client; we simply say the system that we are using has these capabilities, this is how it will look and this is how it will work, and the fact that it’s Joomla simply doesn’t matter to the client at all.
So we’re no longer having to sell the notion of open source, which we were – that was one of the things we used to have to do was to sell the fact that an open source solution is inherently better than a bespoke one – we no longer have to sell Joomla, we simply say, “This is the tool, this is what you’ll be using,” and if the subject of open source does come up, and there are still a few clients out there who believe that a bespoke system must somehow be better than an open source one, that notion goes away very quickly when you point out to that client that should 3B cease to exist or should they decide to go with another agency, all they have to do is find another Joomla agency, and of course there are many thousands out there, and they’re up and running that afternoon, and that of course, that of course really makes the penny drop. When the client realises that to appoint another agency, having used a bespoke system, means starting again from scratch, they tend to, that tends to concentrate their mind.
So Joomla isn’t difficult sell anymore and when approaching any size client it’s now, it’s now the weapon of choice. As an agency, when we go into a pitch like that, we have a fairly set methodology. Jack and I tend to be the business winners but, you know, we work all together in one office, we’re not a remote operation, and it’s very beneficial for the clients to meet the team.
They’ll come to our office, they’ll have a meeting, we’ll look after them and then afterwards, if all looks like it’s going well, we will invite them upstairs to meet our developers and our designers and our Head of Search, Hugh, who is here also, and just talk to them about the project, introduce them, and that helps them to feel very invested. They know that, should they choose us as an agency, these are the people that are actually doing the work, and I think that’s very important.
What are the tools you use?
We have a number of tools that we use to help us through the pitch process from building proposals through to project management, support systems, support desks that we use, all of which the clients become very invested in and use well, and essentially mean that, mean that work gets done. And I know that sounds, might sound a bit obvious, but I’ve been running the agency long enough that it’s, it’s easy to remember the time when projects were managed on the back of an envelope, figuratively speaking, but you understand what I mean by that. Clients would ask where we are with the project and I would have to answer that question by shouting through to the other office, “Where are we with this?”, “How’s that going?” And, of course, now we use tools where that question is answered very easily. Invariably, the client’s already aware before I am anyway by being able to log into some of the tools we use. And these are essential; I think as you grow an agency, as you grow a company and your client base becomes larger and your staff level becomes larger, using project management tools, support desk tools, customer relation management tools are essential, absolutely essential.
There’s a few tools that we’ve found – we’ve used a lot – there’s a few tools that we’ve found that we would recommend very highly, and funnily enough I know that in the talk that is about to begin Jack will be talking about some of those tools and they range from, in the first instance, PivotalTracker is what we use to run most of our projects – not every project, we use BaseCamp and a couple of others – but Pivotal Tracker’s our weapon of choice, it’s the one that works best for us. And post launch we tend to use a tool called Zendesk as our support, support desk system, and that’s been absolutely incredible. When I say that that means work gets done, I’m sure you’d know, Kristoffer, that, how much work can be missed if things aren’t properly documented and written down and tasks assigned and priorities assigned. So Zendesk has done away with all that and that’s been absolutely fantastic.
So what, we use an awful lot of tools and we’re big fans of Google apps, I would say that PivotalTracker and Zendesk were the two tools that have most readily changed our lives for the better in the office.