Any sizeable organization focused on developing and deploying cloud-native applications should consider establishing a cloud center of excellence (CCoE). Creating a CCoE will help you successfully leverage the cloud to increase the scale and agility of your business. In a previous article, I discussed the benefits of a CCoE and why you would want to create one in your company. In this article, I will discuss how to do so.
Assuming you are interested in building a CCoE, how do you get started?
The purpose of a CCoE is to provide an organizational focus on cloud initiatives within the company, and to bring order and structure to those initiatives. For a CCoE to be effective, your organization as a whole must buy into cloud computing and want to pursue it. Corporate management must be well-informed and supportive of the endeavors. A CCoE will not—cannot—be effective without company management support. It is not a tool to convince upper management of the effectiveness of the cloud. If you are in a position where you are trying to convince management of the value of the cloud, you should not look at a CCoE as the means to accomplish that.
Once your leadership is convinced that the company needs to move forward with a cloud strategy, the CCoE can help execute that strategy.
A CCoE is most effective when management makes use of the structure as a tool to bring the rest of the organization along and turn it into a cloud-centric organization. The CCoE is the implementation vessel for management’s wishes.
Structure of the CCoE
What should a CCoE organization look like? There are as many possible CCoE organizational structures as there are organizations that need one, so there isn’t a single answer to this question. However, all CCoEs should contain the following critical components:
- The champion. The champion is the person within the CCoE who helps drive CCoE efforts forward. The champion seeks strategic buy-in from senior management, then drives that strategy across the entire organization by championing the effort to the rest of the leadership team. Their job is to convince the organization to move forward in a single direction with respect to cloud operations.
- Embedded ambassadors. This is a group of “mini-champions.” Ambassadors are individuals who work in the CCoE but are embedded into various development and operations teams across the organization. Their job is to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of guiding their assigned teams toward the completion of their cloud initiatives.
- Cloud subject matter experts. These are cloud architects, operational architects, devops specialists, and other senior experts. Their job is to create the technical foundation to implement the cloud strategy driven by upper management. They are the knowledge backbone of the organization.
- Tools teams and operations. These are teams that create and operate the tools and infrastructure needed to support a cloud-centric and cloud-native organization. They work with cloud providers to create and set up tooling for CI/CD, cloud resource allocation and management, inter-service communications, and other common tools and infrastructure needed for the organization to succeed in the cloud. Additionally, they operate the infrastructure required to keep the cloud-based applications and services running, such as Kubernetes clusters, cloud-provisioned resources, etc.
- Analytics. You can’t know if you are successful with your cloud strategy unless you can measure that success. The analytics team is responsible for collecting and managing cloud analytics, application analytics, and other analytics systems to provide feedback to the organization about what’s working and what needs improvement, and basically to answer the question, “Is the cloud working for us?”
- Training. Most individuals in the company either will not have any training in cloud systems, or they will have inconsistent and spotty experience working with the cloud. The training team’s job is to raise the bar on cloud knowledge of various teams within the company, creating the baseline knowledge necessary to make the organization a cloud-centric organization. Additionally, they provide guidance on additional and advanced training needed by key individuals and teams within the company. For instance, they ensure that the subject matter experts have the required cloud certifications. The success of the CCoE often is tied directly to the quality and effectiveness of the training group within the CCoE.
- External ambassadors. Many companies that strive to be cloud-centric will find that they can use their cloud strategy as a competitive differentiator in their market. The external ambassadors are responsible for working with sales and marketing to make sure the company’s cloud-centric message is clear and consistent to the world at large. This might involve giving talks at trade shows, customer seminars, or media interviews. It might involve writing blog posts and external articles. It might involve face-to-face meetings with large and strategic customers.
Central management of cloud initiatives is key
“But,” you might say, “I already have all of these roles in my company. Why do I need a CCoE?” Ultimately what makes a CCoE successful is the value of having centralized management of all cloud projects. By establishing a CCoE, you centralize the cloud knowledge and experience in your organization, allowing you to create and maintain a single corporate cloud strategy. And central oversight of cloud initiatives allows you to quickly and easily see where you need additional bench strength and where you have sufficient capabilities.
This centralized model eases strategic cloud planning, eases decision making, and increases accountability for project success. It improves coordination with cloud partners and vendors, paving the way to better vendor relationships and new opportunities.
Most importantly, the centralized model allows for a common driving force for cloud adoption, providing consistent training, consistent status reporting, and consistent messaging. One single voice with one single, consistent answer increases the credibility of your cloud initiative, increases the confidence of upper management and other stakeholders in your likelihood of success, and increases confidence in your staff, encouraging higher cloud adoption and greater cloud success.
Constructing a CCoE
If you’ve struggled with cloud projects in the past, and found a lack of focus as a common cause of cloud failure, then constructing a CCoE could change your cloud fortunes. A CCoE is a highly effective way to formalize and centralize your company’s cloud strategy, increasing your likelihood of success. A CCoE ensures best practices are consistently and successfully applied to all parts of the organization, and it drives the transformation of your organization into a true cloud-centric presence in your industry.
If you would like to learn more about how to build a CCoE, you might check out my newly released LinkedIn Learning course, Building and Managing a Cloud Center of Excellence. (If you haven’t tried LinkedIn Learning yet, you get one free month.) Besides explaining more about why you need a CCoE, the course explores how to structure and manage the CCoE within your organization.