Telegraph reaches the cloud: CIO details the three-year journey

The newspaper group's IT chief on Google Apps, and datacentre footprints

While cloud computing regularly tops lists of the most strategic technologies CIOs should be looking at, many IT chiefs remain sceptical of the benefits of hosted systems.

Not so for Paul Cheesbrough, CIO of the Telegraph Media Group (TMG) - one UK business to have really taken the cloud bull by the horns.

According to TMG's IT chief, the main objectives of turning to cloud computing were to make the business more agile in terms of developing new technology and to work with vendors who were able to adapt faster than the traditional technology refresh timescale. recently caught up with Cheesbrough to see how the project is going and find out how the shift to the cloud has paid off.

TMG is now coming to the end of a three-year cloud-based technology transformation, which has seen a significant amount of its back office technology move into the cloud.

Telegraph CIO Paul Cheesbrough

Telegraph Media Group CIO Paul Cheesbrough
(Photo credit: TMG)

The first stage in TMG's shift to the cloud came in the form of moving its 1,400 users to Google Apps in summer 2008. Every user within the company now uses Google's email and calendar system as well as Google Docs and Google Sites.

As well as the Google Apps implementation, TMG also moved to's CRM technology for the sales and call centre teams in early 2009, as well as adopting a cloud-based HR management system provided by SuccessFactor at the start of the year.

Now, two and a half years since the cloud transformation began, TMG has a large number of its business applications sitting in the cloud.

However, according to Cheesbrough, not all technologies will follow them into the cloud.

"We took a view that a lot of things that are unique to us as a media company - things like content production and content packaging - we consciously decided to keep the technology, systems and the talent for managing those systems on site and in house and alongside that we were trying to use the cloud to transform a lot of the back office functions and to try and both save money but also do things more efficiently," he told

One area that has remained relatively untouched by the move to the cloud until now has been the financial side of operations, something which Cheesbrough intends to remedy during the final six months of the project.

The company has decided to implement FinancialForce, a cloud-based financial application developed by and Agresso.

TMG already runs an Agresso in-house financial package which is used for general ledger and company accounting, but Cheesbrough said he wants to make this in-house technology "more connected to the cloud" by using FinancialForce.

"We've taken part of our financial workflow and we've lifted it into the cloud. So we use [FinancialForce] to maximise the power of the cloud but also to bridge back into the on-premise finance application that we've got which we're not ready to replace yet."

As the company keeps much of its advertising sales-related financial data in the cloud with's CRM, it made sense to use FinancialForce, which runs on the same platform, to manage invoices and billing for customers, he said.

The current system sees the company...