WordPress in Enterprise: Interview with Dave Coveney

Dave Coveney Photograph
Dave Coveney

Back when I was at WordCamp UK I attended a session on using WordPress in Enterprise. I made a video of the session but I went to upload it yesterday, fired up my laptop and it wouldn’t switch on :( In the meantime, however, I interviewed a couple of the panel members by email so that any of you who couldn’t make the session can still have the benefit of some of their sage advice.

Today’s interview is with Dave Coveney. Dave is Director of Interconnect IT, a Liverpool-based web company that has built websites for the likes of Telegraph Media Group, Greenwich PCT and Informa PLC. He also gave my favorite presentation at WordCamp UK – he even gave away Skittles! Yum.

Okay, here he is:

1) How do you use WordPress in Enterprise?

We don’t! We’re not really a large company, so we have a WP website, of course, and we will probably use WP for our ticketing system in the future. However, we do implement WP for a number of Enterprise clients. For example, one multinational gas company uses a WP site as a way for users to anonymously flag up safety concerns. They also use various other blogs for internal communications on a range of matters.

2) What applications do you run alongside WordPress?

One of our clients, Lloyds List Group, uses WP for marketing landing pages. The forms on these (Gravity Forms based, incidentally) then feed directly to Salesforce.com, allowing their sales teams to follow up the generated leads. Other clients use APIs from other systems to help show information, for example flight information on the NATS (National Air Traffic Service) corporate site.

3) What sort of issues do you face?

Getting WP into the intranet is a tricky one. Ultimately, Sharepoint is the corporate darling – and for good reason. The infrastructure it requires is well understood, it has amazing workflow and security capabilities, and at the same time it can power a corporate intranet and even, should you wish, an external facing website. However, Sharepoint is clumsy for standard corporate communications. Trying to face off Sharepoint with WP will *always* fail, because they are not the same offering. Instead, WP should be sold as an ideal solution for running hub pages and internal and external communications sites. For now, WP for intranets is going to be largely limited to smaller organisations. It’s brilliant for companies of, say, twenty or so people and probably up to around 100+. But in an organisation of 50,000 it just doesn’t have the tools required, and they’re a long way from being available.

Interconnect IT logo4) How do you deal with the fast release cycle?

We don’t! We actually review the reasons for changes and then carry out upgrades at our convenience. However, that’s not for everybody – you have to understand what the security bulletins mean, you have to have a properly secured server, and you have to have good working practices. It would be nice if there were frequently patched, stable enterprise releases that had no more than annual release schedules. One day, a company with a lot of enterprise clients will fork or create a WP distro in such a way and it will be one step closer to getting broad acceptance of the system.

5) What sort of processes do you have in place for upgrading WordPress?

We have staging servers running copies of the live site. We test the upgrades here first, and develop an upgrade plan. We then use this to upgrade the main sites promptly. There are always backups available in order to allow for a rapid roll-back if required.

6) What advice would you give to anyone planning to use WordPress at enterprise level?

Go for it, but don’t think it’s the panacea to all costs and savings. Be prepared for resistance in many quarters, and get your explanations of the benefits *and* disadvantages in order.

7) What your essential plugins for using WordPress for enterprise?

That’s an open ended question and I don’t think there’s any answer as each implementation is different! WPDirAuth is useful for LDAP authentication. A lot of our stuff is custom and unreleased, so we can’t really list those out.

(header image CC license Dunechaser)