Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

The cloud and the grass – a business fable

with 8 comments

Once upon a time there was an expansive lawn that was of the lushest shade of green you can possibly imagine. It was so because it was tended by gardeners who took pride in the health and appearance of their lawn: they mowed it when it needed mowing and watered it when it needed watering. Moreover, they did so because they loved their work and got immense satisfaction out of seeing the beautiful results of their handiwork.

So spectacular was the lawn that people would come from far and wide to admire the green expanse – children would frolic on it  while their parents watched indulgently as they munched their way through the huge hampers they brought to picnic on. The children would tire themselves out playing while their elders did the same eating. They would all then lay themselves out on the velvety verdant-ness and drift away into dreamland, aided by the perfect afternoon sunshine.

As they drifted away into sweet slumber, many of them would think, “If there is a paradise, this must be pretty darn close to it…”

One day the owners of the lawn, the folks who paid the gardeners a not insubstantial sum per month were looking at their monthly accounts. They realized that their financial standing was not as healthy as it was prior to the GFC (Yes alas, even owners of paradise have been affected by the mess caused by the erstwhile Masters of the Universe). Their financial advisers suggested that they outsource the tending of the lawn to professionals who were experts at that  sort of thing.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” said the Adviser in Chief, “We know some consultants who are experts at this sort of thing.”

The Adviser-in-Chief was as good as his word – the next day, the owners got a visit from a guy in a suit who, for reasons of privacy, we shall call The Consultant.

The Consultant told the owners  not to worry, he had just the solution to their problem. “Forget these expensive and slow gardeners,” he said, “what you need is The Cloud.”

Now anyone who is anyone at all has heard of The Cloud  – and so had the owners. “The Cloud!” they exclaimed, “Yes, we have heard of The Cloud, but pray, tell us: how will it solve our problem?”

“It’s simple,” said the The Consultant, “The Cloud will water the lawn and thus tend to its wellbeing. You don’t need gardeners, The Cloud will look after your investment. But what’s really interesting for you is that The Cloud will cost you a fraction of what the gardeners cost.” Then, pulling out a slickly produced dossier, he continued, “Here’s an analysis done by an Independent Analyst.”

(As a pointless aside we note that the Independent Consultant’s name happened to rhyme with word “Gardener”).

The owners read the analysis and were duly impressed. They decided that this Cloud business was a great idea. It  would help them cut costs and maintain (hey, even improve!) the quality of their lawn. It sounded like a winning proposition.

There was a downsize though (editor’s note: I think he means downside):

The owners soon realized they would have to let the gardeners go. This would not be easy as the gardeners had been in their employ for many years. However, the owners prided themselves on being pragmatists – they had, after all, overseen a successful venture for many years. Now, to maintain it, they would have to change with the times. This was, after all, The Age of The Cloud.

Many Difficult Conversations ensued and eventually the gardeners were shown the gate (paradise has no doors, I’m told, but it does have a gate…of a somewhat pearly appearance.)

The Cloud thus took over the tending of the lawn. And as they say, all was well in paradise: the lawns were regularly watered and the grass grew…

…and it grew, and it grew. It grew to such an extent that visitors no longer found the lush greenness as welcoming. From kids perspective, it hard to frolic in grass that’s to tall and from a grown-up’s view, it is impossible to picnic in.

The owners complained to The Consultant. The Consultant brought along a legal expert who knew all about the services the owners had bought and (more importantly) those they had not. The expert affirmed that the package the owners had bought did not include any mowing services…only watering was included. The owners had not read the fine print.

(One can’t blame them – tell me, is it easy to read last two words of the previous line.)

Understandably, many acrimonious arguments ensued – words were said that shouldn’t have been said, things were thrown that shouldn’t have been thrown (although, at people who ought to have a few things thrown at them).

The owners thought about the good old days when the lawn was being looked after by people who had a stake in it, and who cared about it. The Cloud was an entity that was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Why would it care for a piddly patch of green?

The owners realized that the survival of the lawn was at stake. If they wanted the lawn to return to it original state of perfection, they would have to swallow their pride and admit they had made a mistake.

The question was: would they?

…and there I have to leave the story because I know not what they did.

There is a moral to this tale, however, and it is that clouds don’t give a damn about grass.

Written by K

November 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Perhaps should be read with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Grass


    Tim van Gelder

    November 6, 2012 at 8:00 am

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for reading and for the pointer to the book.





      November 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

  2. The art of conveying ideas through story telling is proving to be working. You found your niche, keep on using it.


    Shim Marom

    November 6, 2012 at 11:42 am

    • Hi Shim,

      Thanks so much mate! I am not exaggerating when I say that your words of appreciation and feedback have encouraged me to go down this track.





      November 6, 2012 at 7:57 pm

  3. Really nice fable Kailash, this is one of these posts that is the warning before the storm.
    I have conversations here with my work colleagues and we’ve often commented that with current information behaviours of organisations a move to the cloud will see many many untended lawns, in fact information landfills will start to develop and here’s where there business model is pretty sweet for cloud providers who will be in years to come set to make a lot of money from information storage. There’s a point where the amount of information becomes so large that it can be extremely costly to prune back or get rid of and its never a case of just deleting it as no one likes to delete anything, so many organisations will end up paying a lot of money over time for piles and piles of information that are too big to do anything about. Perhaps we have a new alias for Information Lifecycle Management people – Information Landscapers, kinda fits in rather naturally with the whole Information Ecology angle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_ecology , now where’s my Enterprise weed whacker.


    Andrew Jolly

    November 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      I love the term “information landfill” – it captures, rather nicely, how we (ab)use the near unlimited diskspace we have at our disposal. I reckon you ought to trademark the term or at least stake a claim on it, as I think it is going to become a popular one.

      It is an empirical fact that information once stored is rarely thrown away (“You never know when you’ll need it!”). Since this seems to be pretty much universal, there is probably some evolutionary reason for it. At a more mundane level, it is akin to that storage closet or bottom drawer where all the unpaired socks, random lids, broken toys and other completely useless artefacts end up. And so you’re absolutely right: organisations will end up paying for data landfills which they cannot clean out because they fear they might discard something significant.

      I like the idea of landscapers too. The challenge of course is that information landscape is all too easy to modify compared to a physical one, and we know that when something can be changed easily, people will change it in ways that suits them without regard to whether or not it fits the overall “look” of the landscape. The information management role is changing in interesting ways.

      …so yep, I think you need to find that Enterprise weed whacker asap 🙂

      Thanks again mate for a very interesting comment.





      November 14, 2012 at 7:36 pm

  4. […] to cloud offerings. The cloud  brings with it a different set of problems, but that’s another story.  Suffice to say that the above highlights, once again, the main theme of the book: that […]


  5. […] I’ve been playing with Videoscribe, a nice tool for creating whiteboard videos. As an exercise I set myself the task of “video-fying” a business fable I wrote some time ago. So here it is, the video version of  The Cloud and the Grass: […]


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