I spoke with Bram Verhaegh of Beech.it at the 2017 TYPO3 Developer Days in Malmö, Sweden. He told me about how Beech.it applies the lean, open source principles they learned through working with TYPO3 CMS for their clients.
Since they started their company five years ago, frameworks have come and gone, technology trends have risen and collapsed. Being close to the center of the TYPO3 community, and as partners of TYPO3 GmbH, Beech.it has weathered those changes. Bram feels that the benefits of the Partner Program will ensure their business continues to go from strength to strength.
Bram Verhaegh and Edward Lenssen founded Beech.it in 2011, one year after Marc Andreessen declared Software Is Eating the World. Since then, companies have invested in–and been ingested by–code; expressing their business processes in software. Traditional companies have become software companies; they are building applications to run their businesses.
In this vein, Bram confirms clients come to them “with a business process or an organizational question, and we try to solve that with software.” Since companies have realized the power of software, they tend to want to over-engineer absolutely everything. “In first discussions with customers, they have a vision of a gigantic system that does everything. We,” on the other hand, “love the lean approach,” explains Bram. And clients often need help to get there. “Beech.it uses automation to help customers find their ‘happy flow.’ “It’s when their problem is solved, so they have less work and more insight.”
Still, Bram cautions against solving every problem with software. “How many times does this issue come up for you? Twice a year?” Bram is pragmatic, “You don't need to automate stuff if it's never going to be used.” He helps clients figure out if there's an easy non-software solution for a problem, too. Beech.it makes sure that what they build for their clients is affordable and sustainable.
Beech.it brings this kind of transparency and trust-building from the open source world and the TYPO3 way of doing things. “One of our core values is to improve the quality of the products we use continually... That never ends.” Open source gives them the chance to improve their implementations–their skills and practices with their tools, and improve the tools themselves for any and all who use them by contributing to TYPO3 CMS core.
For Bram, it’s a simple business decision. “If you use a lot of [external software] libraries, it means you don't have to maintain a lot of code. We want to maintain the least amount of code possible.” Of course, he says, “If we find a bug in another package, we fix it.” In that way, “everybody gets better.” Win, win. Everyone benefits from open source contribution.
Bram doesn’t hesitate when he discovers something good. The first time he heard of TYPO3 CMS was just two weeks after he finished a website project using another technology. Bram was impressed by what Edward–soon after, his business partner–showed him and wasted no time in switching. “I went back to my company at the time and said ‘Okay we have this website, it’s only two weeks old, but we need to rebuild it in TYPO3.’” That agency and Bram moved to TYPO3 development and have been working with it ever since.
It’s no surprise then that Beech.it was the first company to sign up for the TYPO3 GmbH Partnership Program. It was an obvious choice as soon as they heard about it. “We were at TYPO3 Camp Venlo when we heard Mathias’s speech–TYPO3 GmbH CEO, Mathias Schreiber–about the partnership program, and five minutes later the documents were filled out.”
The business benefits are obvious. When you invest in a partnership with TYPO3 GmbH, the revenue directly pays for core development, testing, sprints, meetups, and so forth. This transparent and measurable financial contribution goes to improving the sustainability of the code base and the TYPO3 community.
Bram also likes that the TYPO3 community has in the GmbH a professional representative to negotiate with big players like Microsoft or Google. Having a commercial arm of the open source software project provides a ‘contract layer’ between clients and the technology. As a partner, they can outsource labor-intensive support and maintenance to TYPO3 GmbH, allowing them to focus on providing high-level services and deliver more value to their clients.
For enterprise-level companies, Extended Long Term Support (ELTS), Service Level Agreement (SLA) support, Project Reviews, and Certifications are the norm for software purchases. For an agency of 25 people, those services would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to provide. Being an official partner of TYPO3 GmbH means Beech.it can offer all the guarantees enterprise IT-buyers are looking for and give decision-makers the confidence that both TYPO3 CMS and Beech.it are a safe investment.
Beech.it uses TYPO3 CMS for projects that need include a content management component. It’s flexible and always up to the challenges they are helping clients to solve, whether matching complex organizational group structures to access rights or a project involving building one system to manage content for users in 50 countries and as many languages. TYPO3 CMS excels here with granular access rights for files and folders, ease of use for site administrators, and support for content translation and multilingual sites.
Collaboration is a big part of Beech.it’s strategy. They have found a niche in the TYPO3 CMS service provider community, specializing in back-end development and collaborating with others when they need frontend work done. It also works the other way around, where a lot of companies come to them for help with specialized TYPO3 application development. They’re open to helping others in the community because what goes around comes around. “If a company has a bad experience with TYPO3 CMS, it’s not the implementation or the agency that’s judged,” Bram explained, “It’s ‘TYPO3 is bad’… If we help another company do a good implementation of TYPO3, then TYPO3 is good. They’ll tell other companies, ‘It’s great to have a TYPO3 website!” And that expands the market for TYPO3, creating more opportunities for everyone involved.
Beech.it benefits directly from investing in being a TYPO3 GmbH partner. Partner fees go directly into improving the overall quality of the software they use to help their clients. The relationships they’ve built in the TYPO3 community further sharpen their competitive edge in a constantly shifting and changing market. By being an active part of the TYPO3 community, they move together forward, and faster; delivering better projects for their clients.