Professionalising the Joomla Organisation

Over the weekend of January 17-19, 2020, a group of Joomla enthusiasts from around the world were invited to participate in the Joomla Forum For The Future, in Marbella, Spain. Under the guidance of several facilitators invitees were tasked with envisioning the path forward for Joomla under four broad streams - Market, Community Re-engagement and Re-igniting, Technology, and Professionalism.

In order to solicit as many views as possible, participants could (and did) move between different streams over the three days. The professionalism stream, facilitated by Hugh Douglas-Smith and Ian Moncrieff MacMillan, focused initially on brainstorming the challenges and possible solutions facing Joomla as we move into the 2020s. Final sessions focused on developing actionable steps towards a more professional, sustainable Joomla.

Key topics raised included -

  • Product Development and Management
  • Organizational improvements
  • Professional roles
  • Non-Volunteer Contributions

Product Development and Management

Joomla is a community-oriented organization that, over the past 14.5 years has grown and diversified remarkably. We identified the need to define a formal process of product development - to be market led and product led.

Current Joomla development practices are based on the original process adopted by the Production team to develop the source code of Joomla. This is based on definitions primarily authored by the production team. Features are created by individual contributors and members of the core team and ultimately approved by the release manager. This process is implemented within the production team.

To improve product development, we propose the implementation of a professional product/project management methodology. This change will incorporate well-known industry processes, roles, responsibilities, and tools for project software management. Overall, the new process will increase the relevance, productivity, visibility, transparency, and accountability of product development. The exact nature of this methodology will arise through study of industry leaders, discussion with experts inside and outside the Joomla organization, and consultation with the Joomla community.

The Joomla roadmap should be a single point of reference and both a guiding and common communication tool for the whole organization. It's currently owned by Production and based on who wants to do what but it often has no direct relationship to what the market may require. The Marketing Team, supported by relevant market research, needs to be an integral part of the development of any roadmap.

The product roadmap and the associated information should be managed objectively, and be professionally maintained by a Product Manager. 

Organisational Improvements

Clarity of Purpose and Openness

We need more clarity of purpose, with each contributor clearly understanding what their role in the community is and how their contribution is valued. We also need openness - sharing what each contributor does, what roles they have, their purpose and responsibilities, as well as any resources or knowledge obtained and used during their time with the project.

Some teams have this to a degree, but it's not clearly visible and accessible to others.

Information should be managed centrally, not just by teams for themselves, it should be handled more like a business/organization instead of as an ad hoc group.This will improve “institutional memory” and minimise new teams and team members constantly “reinventing the wheel” when there is inevitable volunteer turnover.

We propose that, as soon as possible, a RACI analysis be conducted, outlining who is (or should be) accountable, responsible, consulted and informed within the entire Joomla organization -

  • Responsible: the person who performs an activity or does the work.
  • Accountable: the person who is ultimately accountable and has Yes/No/Veto.
  • Consulted: the person that needs to provide feedback and contribute to the activity.
  • Informed: the person that needs to know of the decision or action.

Succession, Guidelines, Support tools & Documents

Succession between major roles should be accompanied by a standardised handover of all relevant documents - eg guidelines, process descriptions, logins etc. A personal handover is ideal, but if for any reason someone needs to leave the project on short notice it may not be an option.

This should be the responsibility of the person acting in the specific role, but also for the team itself where it relates to team-specific actions, processes and other relevant information. Ultimately, each Department Head is responsible for ensuring this process occurs efficiently and smoothing.

Standardised tools are required to make it possible to centralize all the information, allow for quicker onboarding on teams, and additional search capabilities should make finding answers easier.  A community-wide standardised approach will increase the efficiency of the organisation as a whole. Good tools and good communication can dramatically decrease duplication of effort and allow volunteers to focus on doing what they are good at and contributing in the best way they can. We recommend an audit of the existing tools used by teams and a decision on standardising them across teams wherever possible.

Professional roles

The forum identified three new, paid, roles that could significantly improve the development of Joomla as we move forward.

We believe the first two, Product Management and Administrative Support are urgently required to facilitate near-term goals of the Joomla project and should be engaged as soon as possible. The third, overall Project Management, may be the most important for the long-term future of the Joomla project and will require significant thought and community input for how best to implement. Additional paid roles may be considered as we move forward. Some team leaders have reported working in excess of 70 hours a week in their volunteer roles with Joomla. This is simply unsustainable.

Proposed Staffing

Product Management

We strongly believe that Joomla needs professional product management to oversee and guide the development of a market-led Product Roadmap for the Joomla project. This would be an individual or team who is occupationally responsible and accountable for helping volunteer contributors plan and reach milestones as outlined in future roadmaps.

Administrative support

We believe Joomla leadership, including Team leadership, spends too much time on tactical tasks, ie day to day management and administration, rather than on strategic tasks, ie leading teams and working towards an exceptional future product.

We therefore recommend that OSM or some future Joomla entity employ an administrative assistant to take on general administrative tasks, including enabling better communication and coordination between teams, tracking the status of various administrative type tasks, such as report writing and publication and volunteer onboarding, as well as tracking and responding to general enquiries from the public.

Overall Project Management

Finally, we believe that for Joomla to reach its potential, a full-time paid position responsible for overseeing the entire Joomla project is required. Joomla currently has over 100 active team members and countless others contributing to code, user groups, and other community activities. It is simply too complex an operation for an entirely volunteer workforce - most of whom also have separate full-time employment - to reliably and efficiently contribute to without professional support.

Joomla Forum for the Future - Professionalism

It’s important to note that we do not see employed staff as necessarily replacing volunteers, but instead as enhancing and enabling the work of volunteers and allowing them to focus on the areas they love and have the skills and knowledge to contribute. We also do not envision that these are the only roles that may require full-time staffing. As Joomla moves forward, other roles can and likely should be filled by full-time paid positions. It is unsustainable to expect volunteers to continue to contribute full-time (and more than full-time) hours to maintain the project.

Non-volunteer Contributions

Department plans should be defined according to the roadmap, but this may lead to specific tasks needing to be contracted out as no contributors are either willing or able to undertake it as volunteers.

This is not a new initiative. In the past, with varying degrees of success, Joomla has contracted individuals and organizations to contribute to the Joomla project. This has ranged from marketing consultation to paid development work.

We propose formalizing this process as an integral part of the Joomla organization. How this would be done needs to be further defined, however we have looked to similar organisations for inspiration. Two examples are a bid or tendering process, and sponsored contributions.

Bid / Tender process

Team leaders, in consultation with their teams, could define essential tasks that currently lie outside their skills or available volunteer time to complete in a timely manner. These tasks would be submitted to a relevant person or body (eg Project Manager or Department Head) for assessment as suitable for a paid solution. Tender specifications would be published and individuals, teams, or organisations may then bid to complete the work.

Crucially, existing community members would be encouraged to bid for the work. This would help otherwise volunteer contributors to prioritise their work on Joomla, as for these specific tasks they will now be paid for their contribution. Of course, the selection board may also elect to award a contract to an entirely third party bidder.

Sponsored contributions

In some instances individuals or organisations may have a particular requirement for a feature or bug fix within the Joomla core. In this case they may offer a sponsorship or bounty to individuals, teams or organisations that are willing to undertake the necessary work. A process for prioritising requests and assessing bids will need to be established.

Joomla Professionalisation Steering Committee

At the end of the three day forum, volunteers were requested to continue the work of the professionalisation stream. Anibel Sanchez, David Steadson and Wilco Alsemgeest accepted the challenge. Additional input was requested from participants in other streams and Chris Keen, Marianela Quemé, Llewellyn van de Merwe, and Niels Braczek volunteered their assistance.

This team wishes to thank and acknowledge all others who participated in the professionalising forum - 

Alison Meeks, Christopher Justice, Chuck Wadlow, Daniel Dubois, Dror Lamden, Eric Lamy, Heather Burns, Javier Olivares, Martijn Boomsma, Rene Kreijveld, Søren Beck Jensen, Todd Woodward, Victor Drover, Yannick Berges, Yannick Gaultier and anyone else we have missed!


This document is a report of the Professionalism Room at “Forum for the Future”.
These notes should not be considered final or approved decisions of Open Source Matters, Inc.