Although the decoupled paradigm is gaining traction across most sectors, many decision makers and those in roles with financial responsibilities find themselves asking “what are the business cases for going decoupled?” After all, switching from traditionally built, tried and tested web applications can seem risky if there aren’t clear gains in terms of efficiency and cost.
Thanks to our depth of experience producing decoupled backends and frontends across industries, we’re able to present the main business cases not only for going decoupled but also what kind of decoupled solution might best suit your business needs – with or without Drupal. In the first of this two-part series, we’ll discuss what industries use Drupal and the advantages of a decoupled CMS such as Drupal.
Which industries make use of Drupal backends?
Amazee Labs built an award-winning, multilingual, multimarket headless Drupal application with complex content editing and publishing workflows for a renowned central European car manufacturing giant. This system scaled to over 1 billion content revisions in the first year alone. We are also proud to have delivered our famous progressively-decoupled Drupal applications for our clients Sonova, a leading provider of hearing care solutions1 and Zurich Instruments, a global test and measurement company2.
Our sibling company amazee.io is the hosting and infrastructure partner supporting GovCMS, the Australian whole-of-Government Drupal platform, offering Australian government agencies an affordable, secure, reliable and accessible way to manage their content offerings3. In all, over 150 countries use Drupal in some form for their governmental and intergovernmental websites4.
Respected academic institutions such as the University of Oxford as well as most Ivy League schools use Drupal to manage their individual departmental content needs while maintaining brand control from a central system. Amazee Labs has worked on projects for the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies including a decoupled website with an additional touchscreen frontend5 and a website for their BlueValue: Resource Database for Ecosystem Services6 which used Gatsby to organise and redesign an extensive library of content for accessibility and speed.
Media and Publishing
Swiss media giant Ringier Axel Springer Media AG enlisted the help of Amazee Labs in implementing their decoupled Drupal 8 backend in order to deliver content from a single system to their estate of publishing titles which includes the Handelszeitung newspaper. According to drupal.org, 73% of the world’s top 30 media companies, including Disney, Time Inc. and 20th Century Fox utilize Drupal thanks to Drupal’s flexible editorial workflow support7. Firms including The Weather Channel and NBCUniversal are also known to use decoupled Drupal.
Fintech Financial technology companies such as EQi (formerly Selftrade) take advantage of Drupal's well-earned reputation for security to protect their valuable data. Amazee Labs has also partnered with an impact investments asset manager to develop a Gatsby based frontend that consumes the Contentful CMS.
What are the business cases for a decoupled Drupal backend?
If you need best in class content management
Drupal is a world-class content management framework which provides enormous flexibility and customizability when it comes to content design and development. Drupal handles complex relationships between content of numerous different types and out the box supports advanced file and asset management tooling, as well as the functionality to create permission and role-based editorial and publishing workflows. Amazee Labs is an active contributor to a number of core initiatives and contributed modules that enhance and improve the editorial experience, giving us expert knowledge in the field of content management. These content management benefits mean less time wasted doing repetitive administrative tasks, freeing up content managers and marketing/PR staff to produce the content that will take your business to the next level.
A CMS that’s enterprise-ready
Although it has a myriad of uses, Drupal is enterprise-ready out the box. From a development standpoint, it is built on modern technologies, tooling and best practices that help to ensure a stable and robust codebase. One of the other main enterprise benefits of Drupal is scalability; during the development of our headless backend for one of the top, leading global car manufacturers, the system scaled up to over 1 billion content revisions and a production database of hundreds of gigabytes, without suffering from significant performance degradation. Scaling up so easily supports your growth as a business and future proofs your plans against unseen performance issues that impact sales and helps avoid costly rebuilds just to keep up with customer demand.
Although standard Drupal installations generally act as a single application, Drupal also supports multisite and multi-front end applications out the box, allowing content to be created that targets multiple markets and can be consumed by an unlimited number of frontends. For example, a single Drupal CMS instance can support a web app, an iPhone app and a desktop app without having to make any extra development effort on the Drupal side. Not only is this fantastic for content and data integrity (no contradictory content or mixed messages on different platforms if it comes from the same place!) but it means that onboarding developers is faster and easier with a shared knowledge pool, giving them more time to spend developing actual features that pay the bills. Unify your message and your team with Drupal.
In addition to supporting multiple frontends and multiple sites from the one backend, Drupal has in-depth i18n support that allows content to be translated into an unlimited number of languages and territory-specific dialects. The localisation tooling includes integration with 3rd party translation tools, country code based content delivery and support for right-to-left scripts and non-Latin alphabets, letting companies avoid having to build territory-specific web apps at a significant cost each time.
User personalisation is incredibly straightforward in Drupal, with users being able to be assigned specific roles with granular permissions, guaranteeing that users are only able to use the specific features intended for them. User profiles and user-specific data are also supported and Drupal’s flexible content design features are also extended here to enable extra data such as social media profiles and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to be stored and used. These roles can be used for both customer users, in order to personalise the frontend for them and also for backend roles to facilitate the correct editorial and publishing workflows. According to Instapage, 74% of marketers say that targeted messages and personalisation of emails improve customer engagement rates8 while Accenture reports that 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them9. Utilised correctly, personalisation equals increased sales.
3rd Party integrations
Drupal has lots of 3rd party integrations that allow you to manage your workflow end-to-end from a single interface. Drupal supports integration for all major social networks, which keeps your content flow tight. If you have email marketing campaigns, Drupal supports Sendgrid, Mailchimp and many other email marketing service providers. Even other large enterprise data-heavy systems, such as Salesforce, are supported in the Drupal ecosystem giving your organisation full control and a birds-eye view over your content and associated data.
Utilisation of GraphQL APIs
GraphQL is the number 1 choice for decoupled web apps due to its ease of use and cross-platform capabilities. Amazee Labs is one of the maintainers of the Drupal GraphQL integration module, giving us expert knowledge of how to use the technology correctly and effectively. This expertise keeps development and onboarding costs down while maintaining a high bar in terms of code quality and application robustness. Lowering potential technical debt and having fewer bugs is a key side effect of Amazee’s use of GraphQL which in turn lowers development and associated costs.
Who should use a decoupled backend and when?
Decoupled backends are ideal for customers who either already have a frontend or who have plans to deploy further frontend applications across multiple platforms. They are also great for customers who need to manage content in multiple markets simultaneously, especially those with content edits per market or sub-site. Those companies who have creative and complex content design needs suit Drupal very much, as do businesses that require personalised experiences for both customers and admin staff.
At Amazee we value Drupal’s technological capabilities greatly, but for us, one of the best features of the CMS is that it’s stable and versatile enough to play a hugely important role in tech stacks for companies across so many varied and distinct industries. While other tools are aimed at specific markets or niche areas, Drupal has such a robust and rich feature set that it can be used for business-critical operations for companies that span any size, territory and business area – it is a truly world-class CMS in any context.
However, Drupal’s ability to go decoupled takes it to the next level. Not only can Drupal expose its data via GraphQL based APIs, but it also supports RESTful services and XML based formats too – and it can be extended to support even more. Some of our favourite projects to work on have started out as traditional Drupal applications and have turned into decoupled Drupal backends with multiple shiny new frontends. A criticism of earlier versions of Drupal was that although its content management features were best in class, its frontend capabilities were not at the same level. With Drupal 8, that’s no longer the case, since Drupal now supports literally any frontend you can throw at it.
Decoupled Drupal future proofs your website, streamlines development, and saves time on costly maintenance for upgrade work down the line. To us, that represents outstanding business value. Ready to get started on your project? Reach out now.