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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."

In a way, the Telegraph didn't have a choice about changing the way it did computing. The wretched financial situation it faced forced a reevaluation of its IT practices. It couldn't continue down the same road, so it changed direction. If it didn't face such a financial crisis, the Telegraph could have tried incremental, minor changes - the traditional "cut travel, training, see if we can ask our vendors for a little contract relief" - in the hope that somehow things would get back on track in the future.

This attitude accounts for today's more typical "we're looking at cloud computing and think it may play a role in the future, but we're just doing some minor things with it now in one of our smaller divisions." In other words, we don't want to disrupt our practices too much, because that would be really, really hard. The Telegraph didn't have the luxury to adopt that attitude, because following it would have put it out of business.

Second, the Telegraph's experience provides evidence of how cloud computing supports IT becoming a value provider rather than a cost center. As long as IT conversations are dominated about investing capital in infrastructure, and the majority of its budget is devoted to "running the business," it will be placed with the other internal service organizations and excluded from discussions about how IT can help frontline business units deliver greater value.

Many discussions about the role of IT in enterprises cite the "consumerization of IT," which is a code for easy-to-use, intuitive devices. A different way to interpret this consumerization is the fact that IT now infuses new consumer products; that is, our world is developing a data-centric perspective, even if we think of it differently by characterizing it as digital music, or table apps, or whatever. The reality is, all of these consumer initiatives (and the business initiatives that echo them) can't exist without IT. IT groups that fail to move rapidly to support these changes, in part by relying on specialized apps and infrastructure providers, are going to be banished to the nether regions of companies.

Third, and finally, the Telegraph provides an instructive lesson in how rapidly the business world is changing and how imperative it is to move to an IT approach that supports it. Ten years ago the newspaper world was one of the greatest industries extant, with net profit margins well north of 20 per cent. Today, it's a wasteland of red ink, layoffs, and mergers. Ten years from first to worst. That's how quickly. It's a mistake to view the churn and chaos of newspapers as somehow isolated with no implication for one's own. The increasing digitization and IT infusion (aka, the consumerization of IT) will affect every industry, and IT organizations have to be prepared for more change in the next five years than in the previous fifty. When change is afoot, it's critical to be nimble.

Bernard Golden is CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus, which specializes in virtualization, cloud computing and related issues. He is also the author of "Virtualization for Dummies," the best-selling book on virtualization to date.


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