BMJ Chief Digital Officer Sharon Cooper changed just about every working aspect of the medical journal's content team over the course of 2017. She changed the tools they worked with and the key product they worked on, enabling them to deliver more new content than at any time for a decade, and to do so in multiple languages and to tight contractual deadlines.
Her rebuilding of the team's clinical decision support tool from scratch in just 10 months replaced 10 years of bespoke and arthritic code. The goal was to drive up renewals, make new sales in new territories and to create personal accounts for users in institutions, who remain completely anonymous as they can access the journal via an institutional IP. Exceptional growth figures have subsequently been reported on all fronts.
Her team replaced the back-end content system along with the front end. It used to take up to two weeks of human effort to extract content from the system to send to third parties; now it can be done in a couple of hours. Staff no longer make cups of coffee while waiting for work to save. Clinical updates now take 11 days from start to finish using new processes – it used to take up to a year.
All this new infrastructure was put in place thanks to Cooper's deployment of new capabilities, DevOp and infrastructure-as-code tools that allow environments to be built and taken down in minutes. Agile working allowed a phenomenal amount of coding, with the team creating over 1,000 releases in the 10 months it took to build the new content system. The story point average per sprint rose from 40 at the start of the project to a massive 138 with the entire team working flat-out.
And to cap it all, Cooper also achieved a longed-for goal of switching off a legacy subscription system. Sitting on old and unpatched Windows infrastructure, it still did one essential job: taking data from multiple stakeholders and printing several hundred thousand mailing labels a week. The servers were finally shut off a few days before Christmas – and not a single subscriber or issue was lost along the way.