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Why TELUS teams adopted a headless content management system (CMS)

Development · May 31, 2019

Over the past few years, our digital teams were building TELUS experiences across a constantly-growing ecosystem. Our internal teams moved fast to develop, design and distribute content across TELUS’ site. But it wasn’t long before inconsistencies started to emerge across our landing pages. Without a digital platform that was capable of managing content at scale, our customers began to experience a disjointed end-to-end journey online. 

This was mainly because TELUS Digital was operating within seven CMSs. Our team was exerting extensive manual work to create and copy content across a variety of systems. To simplify, content repositories were set up to address the diverse needs of more than 30 digital properties and products. However, the process was inefficient on the back-end and inconsistent on the front-end. 

It became quickly apparent that we needed a set of tools, technologies and practices that were capable of delivering content in a controlled fashion across our digital footprint. 

What we needed in a solution

When looking for a scalable solution, we knew we needed the following:

  • A scalable infrastructure to support our growing content and product portfolio

  • Agility and speed for a cross-functional and cross-geography digital team

  • A set of simplified and unified systems and processes

  • The ability to integrate seamlessly with our existing tools (e.g.: TELUS Design System) 

A traditional Content Management System (CMS) is built for one type of content and optimized for display on a website. These systems offer pre-existing content models that allow team members with little to no familiarity with coding to manage content. This type of CMS is useful for smaller applications but lacks flexibility and efficiency across multiple channels.

A headless CMS offers the flexibility and scalability our teams needed to be successful. This is accomplished by removing the component of a traditional CMS that tightly couples the content with how it gets viewed. The raw content is exposed through a set of standards and protocols that make it accessible for anyone or any application to consume. As a result, teams are empowered to build experiences through a spectrum of digital mediums while ensuring the content scales effectively across multiple channels such as websites, mobile apps (iOS, Android and Windows Phone) and many other mediums such as smart speakers and VR. 

We partnered with Contentful, a content infrastructure that offered us the features we needed to help us solve our problem with scaling. Contentful offers us a number of features that traditional CMSs can’t provide. For starters, Contentful is an Application Programming Interface (API) first CMS which means that a lot of thought has been put into the developer experience and how the content API can integrate with a technology stack. Contentful is also very versatile as the content is not only managed through APIs for developers, but also through the Contentful web application for content editors, managers or writers. Thus, the infrastructure makes this one of the most scalable and reliable CMSs for TELUS.

6 advantages of embracing content as code

A headless CMS has allowed us to simplify our path to production in six significant ways: 

1. Omnichannel readiness

The adoption of a headless CMS has allowed for incredible adaptability. Our content can be repurposed across multiple channels throughout the customer journey. We’re able to manage any type of content (video, music, images, text, code or structured documents) on every channel (websites, mobile apps, smart speakers, wearable tech, etc.). 

2. Reduced time to market

The headless CMS allows our content creators and developers to collaborate and work on projects simultaneously. Adopting this agile approach (using platforms like Contentful and AWS) has enabled us to dramatically improve our time to market. When the Apple iPhone X launched, the new architecture and processes helped us beat the competition to the market. As a result, we were the only company in Canada to offer the new phone during the first 15 minutes after its release. We credit a portion of this agility to our newfound approach of using a headless CMS. 

3. User-friendly

The traditional CMS we had grown accustomed to became more complex as we attempted to leverage the features to improve functionality. The result was a cluttered user interface and a choppy process. With Contentful, we manage the entire experience from one simple UI. We even saw a 30% increase in page speed due to the improved content infrastructure.

4. Flexibility

With a headless CMS, the possibilities are endless. Since this management system has no predetermined content models, our developers are able to build a front end experience in their preferred framework (in our case React) with a content structure that works for TELUS. Marrying Contentful with our developers’ capabilities gives us the freedom to publish content to any platform, while still being able to change their look and feel at any given time.

5. Scalability 

The headless CMS architecture is able to fully leverage the capabilities of the cloud to offer efficient scalability. This is done by removing the “head” that makes up the website in the form of presentation layers, templates, site structure, or design, and maintaining the “body”, otherwise known as the content repository. This raw data can then be consumed by our ever growing types of applications and presented through our Content Delivery Network (CDN) to the millions of customers we have across the country. 

6. Personalization

Once we modeled the content in a way that works for our technology stack, we were able to build personalization services that provided insights to our applications. With these insights, we were empowered to create user experiences that tailored to our customer needs. As a result, we saw a 14% increase in conversions due to personalization integrations.

Coming up next: unifying content, design & code

Our mission at TELUS is not just to empower our customers but to empower our outcome teams, our enablement teams and our partners. The headless CMS empowers our customers by increasing site speed, allowing us to be first to market and deliver consistency while providing a streamlined UI for our team. Managing content through code has been a paradigm shift for TELUS. We’ve been able to unlock business value that a traditional CMS could not provide. 

In the next post, we will detail how we unify content, design and code to empower our users to build seamless experiences for our customers online. 


If you’re interested in exploring opportunities within TELUS Digital, check out our website! We are hiring for Full Stack Developers, Visual/Interaction Designers, Automation Testers, Product Owners, Digital Analytics & Insights Consultants, Implementation Consultants and more!

Authored by:
Tarek Amin
Developer Analyst
Tarek has over 5 years at TELUS, starting off as engineer in training to working in Digital as a developer analyst.
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Nika Karliuchenko
Product Owner
Nika is a product manager with over 10 years of in-depth experience in IT and a proven track record in managing and delivering web development projects.