From 2009 – 2014 I owned and operated a web agency called Artsmith Media. In 2014 Artsmith Media merged it’s team into the xTuple team in Norfolk, Virginia. For five years Artsmith Media was a team of web enthusiasts, designers and Drupal developers specializing in building large, conversion focused Drupal sites for many customers in the non-profit and small/medium sized business sectors. Our team also built a distribution of Drupal called Code Driven Drupal (CDD) that was focused on building Drupal systems in a Code Driven Environment. It allowed us to build Drupal sites in dev, stage, and production environments and by keeping all configurations out of the database we were able to quickly move code between the three environments and use Github repositories to manage branches of the sites. The system increased our development time drastically. Suddenly projects that used to take about 500 hours could be completed in less than 150 hours. The extra time allowed our team to focus more heavily on project planning, requirements gathering, user experience, design and discovery work. This led to a lot of growth in both project size and number of customers.
In 2013 we partnered with xTuple, an open source ERP company, to help them build a B2B eCommerce system using Drupal. They had been working on the system for about a year and a half and were building it using Drupal Commerce. Our team stepped in to help them finish the product in preparation for a demo at an upcoming conference. In the Fall of 2013 we presented the B2B eCommerce platform at an xTuple user conference and the feedback we received was incredible. It quickly became obvious to myself and the CEO of xTuple that we were onto something big. After several months of conversations and negotiations we worked out a deal to move the entire Artsmith Media team into the xTuple team which became xTuple’s new Web Services Group.
Over the last 2 years we continued to improve the system, now called xTupleCommerce, and in 2015 we launched several production systems for customers all around the country. xTupleCommerce is a Drupal eCommerce system built on our CDD distribution that integrates with xTuple’s ERP. Customers (mainly manufacturers and distributors) use the xTuple ERP to manage the back-end of their business including accounting, inventory management, customers, vendors, sales orders, products, etc. xTupleCommerce allows our customers to continue managing product information in the ERP but display the product data and sell items via the eCommerce store-front. As orders are placed on the eCommerce site, sales orders are created in the ERP in real time. When product information changes in the ERP the product descriptions are updated on the eCommerce site in real time. Customers are able to manage their account in the eCommerce site and the updates flow into the ERP immediately.
Overall, the project was a massive feat and we very proud of what we’ve accomplished. We continue to receive great feedback from our customers and we are learning that our customers business processes are improving due to the system. They are reducing time on the phone taking sales orders and answering redundant customer questions. In the past, their customers would have to call in orders, or call with questions about products. By making all the product data available through the website the phone calls have slowed to a halt but the orders continue to come in. Now our customers can focus on growing their business, building strategic marketing campaigns and continuing to build and sell new products.
Through the years of operating Artsmith and building xTupleCommerce I’ve learned a great deal about building and managing startups. Everything I’ve ever worked on has been bootstrapped and I’ve gained a lot of respect for building great products on a tight budget with limited resources. As a team we’ve grown over the years and we continue to improve our productivity and approach to building products and eCommerce systems. We’ve learned how to overcome challenges, how to meet ambitious deadlines and when to say “no!” But we’ve also learned how to properly assess risk and what ingredients are required for a successful product.
Now that the development of xTupleCommerce is coming to completion I look for 2016 to be a successful year of implementing many solutions for new and current xTuple customers. We look forward to continued growth as a company and with our customers.
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