Do you need a cloud center of excellence?

In the past few years, cloud computing has become a dominant trend in enterprise IT. The benefits of moving to the cloud are clear: lower costs, increased flexibility, and improved scalability. But as more companies move their infrastructures into public clouds such as AWS or Azure, they face a challenge that is often overlooked: How do they transform an organization from a typical on-premises company to a cloud-native, cloud-centric organization?

A cloud center of excellence (CCoE) is an organizational entity that has emerged as a driving influence for accelerating cloud-native transformations. As cloud-based applications become ubiquitous and cloud adoption rates continue to rise, CCoEs are becoming more prevalent in many modern organizations. But what does a cloud center of excellence look like? How does it fit into modern IT organizations? And how can it assist in your organization’s transformation?

There are as many ways to construct a CCoE as there are ways to construct an IT department. At its core, the CCoE is an organizational structure that is designed to accelerate the adoption of cloud products, cloud principles, and a cloud mindset across an organization. In short, a CCoE helps an organization transform into a cloud-native one.

How exactly does a CCoE help drive an organization to cloud success? Here are six ways a cloud center of excellence can help your organization prepare for, and prosper from, its cloud journey.

A CCoE provides best practices and offers an example for the organization to follow.

The CCoE is intended to serve as a beacon for other business units and project teams. A CCoE represents an example of how to operate in a cloud-centric world using cloud-native tools. It is responsible for creating, articulating, championing, and documenting best practices for the rest of the organization to follow. As an organization-wide standard, it points the organization in the right direction and helps prevent some of the common errors and pitfalls from being repeated by every group in the organization.

As the owner of best practices and their requirements, a CCoE engages the various groups within the organization and drives the adoption of these best practices. Leading by example and acting the role of the respected leaders is critical for cloud success.

Besides cloud-specific processes, a CCoE provides best practices in a variety of related areas, including providing standardized coding practices and use of specific development methodologies and tools. This includes use of microservice architectures, CI/CD, and devops practices. It’s important that these best practices are championed by someone able to enforce this adoption across the entire organization, and the CCoE can provide this leadership.

A CCoE provides training for your teams.

In order to be successful in the cloud, your teams must be knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of using cloud services. This means cloud training. But what training does your organization require? The CCoE is responsible for determining those training requirements and for facilitating the training throughout the organization. These trainings could be created and directed by CCoE team members who are evaluating cloud-related products, services, and systems. Or they could be third-party training programs that the CCoE has evaluated and approved.

However the training is executed, the CCoE is responsible for determining the cloud training requirements for all groups within the organization and figuring out how those requirements will be met.

A CCoE creates tooling and standards for the organization.

A pressing problem for any organization going through a major technology transformation is how does it create the tools and implement the standards necessary to thrive in its new reality? A cloud-centric transformation is no exception.

A CCoE must provide basic tools and standards for working in the cloud in clear and consistent ways. It’s a tall order. How do you do deployments to cloud services? What OS image do you use on your cloud servers? How do you create tooling that you can replicate for development, staging, and test environments? And for production environments?

What setups are needed by development engineers to build and deploy cloud services? How do you tag resources so you know who is using them? How do you determine what resources should be implemented? And who makes those decisions?

Can you use this brand new cloud service? What settings of the service are appropriate? Should I use this feature or capability of the service? How do you deploy the service in a standard way across the organization? How do you handle monitoring, logging, and analytics from the cloud services?

How do you configure security settings in the cloud to meet the needs of your organization’s security team and business needs? How do you coordinate and integrate the cloud-related changes with other corporate technology initiatives, such as devops?

Having a centralized group of experts deciding these questions breeds efficiency and avoids chaos. Standard tools and setups ease the cloud efforts of other groups in the organization, as well as ensure appropriate and consistent practices. By leading the setup of these tools and standards, a CCoE improves cloud enablement overall and ensures consistent behaviors and practices across the organization.

A CCoE provides subject matter expertise to upper management.

When an organization undergoes a cloud transformation, it often faces difficult organizational-level discussions. Upper management needs information and expertise in order to make these decisions. That expertise comes from the experience of the CCoE. The CCoE is staffed with subject matter experts (SMEs) who can provide expert guidance and direction on cloud practices. By sharing their expertise with upper management, the CCoE helps promote widespread cloud adoption and a cloud-centric mindset across the entire organization.

A CCoE informs build or buy and other cloud decisions.

An organization needs to make many decisions about which cloud capabilities to use, which cloud providers to use, and how to use them. Should we build that tool we need, or should we bring in a third-party equivalent? These decisions need to be made by individuals who are both experts in the cloud as well as experts in the internal needs of the organization and its applications. The CCoE, with the appropriate expertise in both areas, serves as the perfect group to make those decisions. The CCoE provides expert decisions on which vendors to engage, which services to enable, and which capabilities to utilize.

It’s important to establish organizational structure early in any cloud transformation, in order to prevent decision paralysis and make sure decisions and business objectives remain aligned.

A CCoE manages external cloud relationships.

A cloud-centric organization will have many external cloud partners, providers, vendors, and other external parties that it must coordinate with. The CCoE is a natural place to coordinate these relationships.

Whether it’s being the primary contact for vendors, or attending meetups with partners, or championing company cloud progress with partners and customers, the CCoE’s unique combination of cloud and corporate knowledge provides the experience necessary to manage these relationships.

Having a centralized team in control of these relationships ensures that there is always someone within your organization who knows how these outside vendors work, what they offer, and when they should be used.

So how does a CCoE fit into a modern IT organization? In most cases, a CCoE reports to either the CIO or the head of engineering. This allows it to work closely with other key parts of the organization, such as application development teams, operations teams, and the security team. As a centralized unit that is responsible for all things cloud, the CCoE helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward common goals.

A cloud center of excellence can be an extremely valuable asset for an organization looking to move to the cloud. While any organization can benefit from this structure, the larger the organization and the more significant the cloud transformation, the greater the benefits the CCoE can bring. A CCoE can help your organization through the web of complexity involved in any cloud transformation.

Photo by Alex Wong on Unsplash.

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