Case Study: GraphCMS and BioCentury

BioCentury embraces programmatic content unification and structured content with GraphCMS's powerful content APIs.

BioCentury Case Study with GraphCMS - Enterprise Headless CMS - Content Federation and Structured Content for High Volume Publishing

My eyes lit up at how easy and intuitive it was to do content modeling with GraphCMS. It gives me unlimited possibilities of what we can connect and build based on what we’re looking for.

Jenny Nichols
Jenny NicholsDirector of Publishing at BioCentury Inc.

Increase in content engagement


Decrease in time from idea to publishing

About BioCentury

BioCentury helps C-level biotech executives and investors make business-critical decisions by providing independent deep-dive analysis, high-quality data, and business intelligence on a global scale.

They report on and dissect trends before others, helping you to better position your company for change and to capitalize on that change before your competition. No matter where you are in the drug development process—from idea to patient—they help you answer critical questions, decipher strategic trends, objectively evaluate product and business strategies, and assess competitive, financial, and policy risks.

The Original Setup and the Challenge

Prior to switching to GraphCMS the team at BioCentury worked with a monolithic setup built using Drupal6, with a sitemap of over 50,000 indexed pages. The website had a complex structure of academic articles, archives, whitepapers, and conferences, to name a few. This structure became an overly complex “ball of rubber bands” about to snap at any moment according to Jenny Nichols, Director of Publishing at BioCentury.

The team struggled to maintain the infrastructure, to deliver the content that they wanted to meet their business needs, and to provide a better UX to their subscribers. These challenges made it clear that they needed to completely reevaluate their infrastructure and start over.

Over the years, the BioCentury vision for how to organize and deliver content evolved. Originally the team used a rigid page-based structure that worked - templates with content blocks, headlines, among others. As content trends changed, the BioCentury team needed to be flexible with their content and add other embeddable visual components to make their entries more engagement-friendly and interactive. When beginning their evaluation of a new system, one priority was to find a Headless CMS that would let them migrate all their carefully maintained content that accumulated over the last 30 years and accommodate the ever-evolving content ideas from the content teams.

Moving to GraphCMS

It was necessary for the team to use a tool that could enable greater flexibility for different content types without creating a convoluted infrastructure. During the evaluation phase, GraphCMS stood out for a variety of reasons, but according to David Smiling, CTO at BioCentury, the winning moment was the ease of content modeling, and the way in which relations were instantly populated. The ease of use and intuitiveness of creating structured content is what convinced the team to opt for GraphCMS.

My eyes lit up at how easy and intuitive it was to do content modeling with GraphCMS.

Jenny Nichols, Director of Publishing at BioCentury

Having made the decision, the team set out to complete the implementation. They chose to work with one of GraphCMS’ implementation partners, AE Studio to complete the implementation in two phases - the migration, and the new content creation.

For the first phase, the team started migrating their content from Drupal to GraphCMS, whilst still maintaining both systems alongside one another. The team set up GraphCMS’s schemas to align with their business goals, and to ensure that everything was going smoothly, started transitioning towards depreciating their reliance on Drupal.

In parallel, the publishing team worked closely with the team at AE Studio to model all the content portals, conference pages, and other content types that were necessary for the daily publishing workflows. The implementation with AE Studio went exceptionally smoothly, allowing the two teams to progress quickly and stay on track.

As they neared the end of this phase of their migration, news began to emerge surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. This resulted in a flurry of new content and recent developments that were time-critical and needed to be published on the website. Adapting quickly using GraphCMS and flexibly generating new content enabled the team to seamlessly react to the crisis and disseminate up-to-date information about response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Experience with GraphCMS

From a technical standpoint, GraphCMS empowers the BioCentury team to create any form of content they imagined. As the team adjusted to the new platform and started to model their content, the transition from a monolith system to a headless one had a slight learning curve. With the help of the GraphCMS team, the BioCentury and AE Studio teams were able to find solutions and create workflows that were quickly put into action without falling behind on deadlines.

Today, the content team is easily able to publish and maintain content on their frontend, using GraphCMS as a content hub to programmatically create, edit, direct, and deliver content to the necessary places. The ability for GraphCMS to act as a programmatic content hub with read-and-write operations via API was critical to the BioCentury team. Part of their evaluation was to continue working with WoodWing Studio, as well as their CRM and eCommerce systems. GraphCMS can easily read and write content into the system via GraphQL Mutations. This enabled the team to consolidate all their content into GraphCMS from multiple sources, without sacrificing any of their preferred workflows, and query everything from a single endpoint when required on the client-side.

“The actual subscriber content is sent to GraphCMS programmatically via the Mutations API (sourcing from WoodWing Studio), and GraphCMS acts as a “Content Hub,” connected with our CRM and eCommerce systems, to have our frontend query everything from a single endpoint. The time to market has drastically reduced from over 2 weeks to 3-4 days.”

David Smiling, CTO at BioCentury

The BioCentury team considers the implementation a success after working to migrate and using GraphCMS in production. Having moved from their older stack, BioCentury’s new website is a high performing project powered by Angular, NodeJS, ZoneJS, Express, HammerJS, Stripe, and GraphCMS.

“Realistically for me success is when there’s a content idea and I can easily see my toolkit, and know yes, it can work. And GraphCMS gives me that because the content modelling gives me unlimited possibilities of what we can connect and build based on what we’re looking for.”

Jenny Nichols, Director of Publishing at BioCentury

On the customer success side, the primary success criteria were to judge the efficient delivery to users. By continuing to use their existing publication workflows and stack, the team at BioCentury has managed to build a better frontend experience for their users without making sacrifices on the operations side. After having evaluated their content performance, the BioCentury team found that their user engagement increased by up to 120%, and incorporating GraphCMS into their stack has led them to create an ecosystem of best-of-breed solutions working in harmony, as opposed to a clunky monolithic structure.

“GraphCMS has given us better flexibility to showcase a better UI, incorporating more ideas, and in turn, have let us deliver a better experience to our users. We’ve seen higher engagement and interaction on the content we publish”.

Aaron Gadowski, Director of Product Management at BioCentury

Why GraphCMS?

  • Flexible Content Modeling where content editors are no longer limited to rigid content blocks

  • It is easy to create relations between the fields in GraphCMS is a straightforward and powerful feature

  • Smooth migration which allowed the team to meet deadlines thanks to GraphCMS support

  • Content teams are able to take a hybrid approach with some content being automatically generated through the GraphCMS API while other content is manually put into the CMS

  • GraphCMS easily fit into their existing workflow while giving content teams more power

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