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How the cloud changed world's oldest newspaper

Bernard Golden | July 7, 2010
The Telegraph's IT approach can be summed up as "let someone else run operations."

Wright outlined the following benefits his IT organization is realizing from cloud computing:

• It shifts IT from keeping the lights on to delivering customer-facing value. Wright presented a chart showing the changing makeup of IT headcount and how cloud computing supports delivering business value. Over a four year period (2008-2011), IT headcount shifts from 90 per cent "Run the business skills"/10 per cent "Change the business skills" to 20 per cent "Run the business skills"/80 per cent "Change the business skills." Moving to an asset-lite, SaaS-forward strategy lets the Telegraph IT organization focus on delivering application functionality that helps the Telegraph offer more value to its readers (or more accurately, content consumers). In fact, the Telegraph's IT strategy is that 100% of new business ventures will be cloud-based. No software procurement or hardware provisioning looms on the horizon.

• It makes IT part of business strategy development and innovation. Wright made mention that instead of having the "why isn't the ABC app running properly?," he now engages in conversations with business units who inquire "how can we implement XYZ to offer a new services to our readers and/or advertisers?" Cloud computing has changed the role of IT and given it a seat at the business table rather than being relegated to the little kids' cost center table.

• It supports the way the Telegraph's business is changing. Wright described how one of the Telegraph's reporters, who was preparing a review of a digital camera, began by posting a picture of the box the device arrived in. Over the course of a couple of weeks, she posted updates of her progress in evaluating the camera, with lots of photos and comments about her experience getting up to speed with it. By the time her final review was written, she had created a group of followers looking forward to the piece. This kind of engagement is the hallmark of social media, and community involvement is the sine qua non of the business environment of the future. Applications that make it easy to publish and support rich involvement via comments and online video help the Telegraph play in the changing world of media, content, and community engagement.

I was struck by how much the Telegraph is "living the cloud vision." While other companies are performing cloud strategy assessments or implementing pilot experiments, the Telegraph is moving headlong into an asset-lite, cloud computing future.

What lessons can one draw from the Telegraph's experience?

First, to quote Samuel Johnson (in a bit of a nod to the U.K. location of the conference): "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Or, to quote a more contemporary observer, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's Chief of Staff, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."


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