Technology & Innovation

Fundamental 1: Mapping the route

May 14, 2015


May 14, 2015

Riva Richmond

Former editor

Riva Richmond is Director of Digital Media at The Story Exchange, a nonprofit digital media project that tells the stories of women entrepreneurs in articles and videos. Previously she worked as a Senior Editor with The Economist Intelligence Unit's Thought Leadership team in New York. She has reported and written about technology more than a decade, much of that time focused on information security and privacy issues. Prior to her current position, Riva was a freelance journalist writing for The New York Times,, The Wall Street Journal and other national publications.


Mapping the cloud maturity curve

Now that cloud technologies are infused into our home and work lives, the question is no longer whether cloud is hype but whether clinging to the old and failing to make full use of the new are costly mistakes. But are companies stepping back to ensure business and cloud strategies are fully aligned?

Cloud technologies have gone mainstream. At home, we connect with friends on Facebook, send messages via Gmail and listen to music on Spotify or Pandora. We save all our files to Dropbox or iCloud so we can see, hear and read them our smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

It’s becoming a similar story at work. Like many companies, The Economist Group recently moved all of its communication to the “cloud”— a catch-all term for technology consumed as a service over the Internet. Google now serves up our email, helps connect colleagues around the world via Hangouts and Google+, and keeps track of our schedules and meeting rooms. Cloud applications also help us find talent, manage employee days off and benefits, track ad clients and code invoices from anywhere at any time. 

Our technology staff can’t necessarily control and customise these tools as they might have our old applications. But they’ve calculated that the benefits of cloud services outweigh such drawbacks.

Time to get rid of old IT baggage

No longer are companies asking if the cloud is hype or a fad. Now they’re more worried whether they’re making costly mistakes by clinging to old technologies and enduring the headaches of managing them.

Why not turn technology over to somebody whose core business is technology and focus on publishing a great newspaper or country report or offering insurance or running a world-class rail system? Why not reach new customers by marketing on social media and via email? Why not buy, sell and pay using one of the many services that offer companies, large and small, easy on-ramps to the digital marketplace?

But fully capitalising on these technologies requires effort. Thought and planning are required for companies to move beyond efficiency and cost savings to also reap growth from new opportunities.

Think big, picture 

To get there, executive leadership must do the strategic work of stepping back to look at the bigger picture: What are your company’s business objectives? And how could cloud strategies get you closer to them and advance your company’s overall business strategy? 

Take the experience of David Jack, chief information officer (CIO) of Hyperion Insurance Group. He confesses that earlier in the cloud revolution at a previous employer he drifted into cloud services. Now he’s asking deeper questions about company goals—is it to save money, get better service, deliver company services better?—and making a more conscious effort to ensure that technology selections address the business strategy.

Mirror, mirror on the wall: who has the clearest goals of all? 

CIOs must cultivate this wider vision as well as set specific goals and a plan to meet them. “Be clear about what you focus on,” Mr Jack says. “What we’ve done is map [priorities] across five years. Are we focusing on delivery, quality or price of service? In each year, what is going to be the most important to us?”

Cloud is helping Hyperion innovate and deliver products more effectively than the competition, he says. “We have so much immediately available [computing] capacity, we could fire up so many cloud environments that we could deliver something in two days”—be it a prototype, pilot or test site. This quick work has supported an array of new business ideas and ventures.

To fellow CIOs struggling to win executive buy-in for cloud initiatives, he offers pragmatic advice: “Just do it. Then people can see what is possible,” he says. “The way you get the business close to IT is to grab two or three issues that are already close to the business, and then show the CFO that you have got him or her off the hook in lightning-quick time. Find a pain point and then fix it.”

Reality checks and balances 

In a year long research programme, sponsored by IBM, The Economist Intelligence Unit is exploring how companies develop and carry out mature, fruitful cloud strategies. We are now in the first, foundational phase, when we explore what is required to achieve maturity. In a research report [LINK] and several blog posts, we explore what we have identified as the “fundamental five” elements of success. 

In the next phase of the research, we will examine whether companies have these fundamentals in place, where the most critical challenges lie and what they need to do to leap ahead on the maturity curve. 

Let’s begin the conversation. How do you define the strategic underpinnings of cloud maturity? What has your company done to build a solid foundation to support cloud-meets-business success? Leave your comment here or share it on Twitter with

By Riva Richmond, former Senior Editor, The Economist Intelligence Unit


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.

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