Newspaper publisher News International is using cloud-based solutions from Salesforce.com, CloudSense and Zuora to fulfil product orders, analyse customer behaviour patterns and process payments.
At the Cloudforce Social Enterprise Tour in London yesterday, Adam Griffiths, chief architect at News International, said there is nothing he wouldn't put in the cloud, as long as the processes were well designed and well architected.
"I don't care whether it's hardware in the basement or sat in the cloud. What I do care about is the agility, the smooth upgrades, the performance, the scalability, the elastic nature," said Griffiths.
"Me and my team could build that if we wanted to, but that's not the business we are in. The business we are in is selling media, and so rather than me build my own private cloud in the basement, I can leverage a product catalogue out of the box."
News International began migrating to Salesforce.com in early 2011, and its entire call centre operations were running on Salesforce's Service Cloud within three months.
The company then teamed up with cloud integration specialist CloudSense, which helped to migrate users and configure products for the Force.com platform-as-a-service (PaaS). News International also adopted CloudSense's Order Management product set, which can be used to assemble different combinations of products to sell.
Since putting paywalls up in front of several of its news websites in 2010, News International has been experimenting with various subscription models, in order to drive adoption. In particular, the so-called "7-day pack" gives readers access to both paper and digital versions of the papers for a fixed monthly price.
"So I want the Times on my iPad Monday to Friday, I want it on my doormat at the weekend, plus I want to get the wine supplement once a quarter, and I want to get the crossword supplement every two weeks," said Richard Britton, managing director of CloudSense.
"We have a catalogue that's clever enough to be able to sell that, and then a fulfilment engine, which is clever enough to say some of these things need set up on the iPad and some of the orders need to be sent off to Royal Mail."
Griffiths said that the paywalls are part of a bigger strategy at News International to build relationships with customers and create more tailored content. The company uses Force.com's in-built analytics capabilities to create detailed profiles of subscribers, which are then used to inform future product development.
Profiling users also enables News International to deliver targeted advertising, whereby companies can ask for their advert to be delivered to a particular reader demographic - Audi might choose men over 40 who regularly read articles about cars, for example.
While many enterprises are still reluctant to put sensitive customer data in the cloud, News International's payment processing takes place on Zuora's software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform.
Britton said that, three or four years ago, the only people using cloud were those who managed to get it under IT's radar. However, now IT departments are getting involved and doing formal assessments of these solutions, in order to make them work for the enterprise.
"First and foremost, Salesforce is a security business. It has to be, because the day they're breached is the day their business model disappears - and that's the same with all of these large industrial-strength cloud businesses that are out there," said Britton.
"There's so much speculation that the cloud won't take off for security reasons. That would never be so. It's in these big companies' interests to make sure they're successful."
Griffiths added that being able to offload a lot of mundane tasks onto the cloud has been extremely empowering for News International's IT department, because it has meant they can now have a role in defining business processes, rather than simply keeping the lights on and ordering new bits of hardware.
"The more our products become digital, and the more they become social, IT is actually the most educated department to talk about that," said Griffiths. "You've now got journalists and technologies working to build something together, so it's a hugely empowering thing. We're now firmly partners at the table."
Over the next year, News International plans to expand its product offerings, improve operational efficiency and improve integration with the newsroom, using tools like Salesforce Chatter to encourage journalists to engage socially with subscribers.
"We've earnt the right to play and now we need to use it to create better products, to create better value, to make more money," said Griffiths.