Custom CMS for a Global Pharmaceutical Enterprise

When one of the world's largest companies needed to change everything about how it managed its websites – its content management system (CMS), content creation process, design, hosting, and maintenance – they hired Vertex to redevelop their two flagship sites for the U.S. and international markets. This also included creating the software infrastructure to manage dozens of their other sites worldwide.

The Problem

As a global enterprise with $50 billion in annual sales, this pharma giant was heavily invested in the Tridion CMS, but digital marketing and IT staff found this platform was cost-prohibitive and were unable to keep up with the demands of managing content and application development for the company’s many different brands and digital properties.

With hundreds of public-facing sites in dozens of languages across the globe, this multinational company realized it needed a new strategy and a new CMS for creating, editing, and publishing digital content. WordPress, which is by far the most used content management solution on the web, was a leading contender for this replacement CMS due to its ease of use, extensibility, and customizability. WordPress is also nearly ubiquitous, used for over 30% of the world’s websites, leading to an incomparably rich third-party support ecosystem.

Our Solution

Known for our ability to deploy large and technically complex WordPress sites, Vertex developers were hired to create a pilot system for automating content management, potentially to be used throughout the organization for its myriad of sites. Initially, this was done with custom themes using code and custom fields. However, to facilitate both rapid development and expedited review, we quickly moved to an architecture that combined theme, template, and specialized code development with what was then a recent addition to the WordPress system, Gutenberg blocks.

Vertex developers and client project managers strategized that these content blocks for editing content and building layouts could be used to create design systems that allowed for reuse, faster content creation, and consistency across sites.

Laying the Foundation

Combining themes, templates, Gutenberg content blocks, and custom plugins, Vertex developers implemented design systems in code that were configurable and customizable in the WordPress Administration interface. These design systems provided the customer’s content teams with the ability to “spin up” new detailed pages with no assistance from developers.

When the pilot site proved to be a resounding success, our developers quickly moved on to laying the groundwork for using this new system with the company’s flagship sites – their U.S. site and their international site.

Extending the Framework

The subsequent success of these two flagship sites led to the creation of multiple design systems for even more sites, through the coordinated development of themes, plugins, and dozens of custom Gutenberg blocks using React and WordPress Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) blocks to integrate with themes and plugins. Vertex developers at the same time created multiple additional plugins to further help manage content and functionality such as SSO and content restriction.

Today, Vertex continues to work with the customer and its partners to extend the capabilities of its CMS and to facilitate rapid content creation and publication. We also provide ongoing 24/7 support for all the customer’s WordPress sites.


This system has been such a success that, in addition to the dozen or so sites developed with it to date, the customer has started an initiative to migrate their many remaining sites to WordPress, to further benefit from the ease of use and cost-savings we have helped them accomplish. This project accomplished the following successful outcomes for the customer:

The enterprise went from multiple separate outsourced IT teams to one insourced team for content management and Web development.
Eliminated agency support, saving over $1,000,000 annually.
Saved over $105,000 annually on IT support.
Collected 15 months of solid baseline data.
Reduced average content publishing time from four days to 30 minutes.
Enhanced user experience by reducing page load time by 300%.
Accelerated live site content deployments from 30 minutes to real-time (under 3 seconds).

What We Did
Software Component Development
CMS Theme Development
CMS Plugin Development
Design Systems
Database Administration
Project Management
Testing and QA
Content Migration
Content Editing
What We Delivered
Custom Themes and Templates
Custom Gutenberg Block Components
Custom Plugins
Design Systems