5 Steps to Build a Successful Cloud Center of Excellence


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Monday, June 21, 2021

Struggling with the complexity and intricacies of cloud adoption and management? Setting up a dedicated Cloud Center of Excellence team may be the solution.

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5 Steps to Build a Successful Cloud Center of Excellence
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Despite the claims of simplicity in vendor marketing, the cloud is a complex beast for companies to manage. Building in control and authority from the start of a cloud migration or the early stages of a cloud-first company’s digital business efforts is key, and should be handled by a dedicated Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE).

A center of excellence (CoE) is the team that drives a business strategy, typically based around a particular technology. In the past they’ve been used to drive the adoption of services and products and create new concepts, but increasingly they support how companies adapt technology services.

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What is a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)?

When it comes to the cloud, many business leaders and users think that the company simply subscribes to a service and off they go. The reality is more complex, with security, data compatibility, archiving and other issues to consider, and as multiple cloud services are adopted, often to replace on-premises services, a careful approach is needed to ensure business continuity and understanding of the productivity implications across the firm.

Enter the Cloud Center of Excellence, which is responsible for overcoming the challenges faced during cloud adoption.

The key role and responsibilities of the CCoE are to identify and understand the business need when it comes to the cloud; to explore the various cloud options that meet the business requirements and ensure smooth delivery, all the while keeping the leadership informed and ensuring the workforce is ready to adopt these new services.

The CCoE is designed to be a cross-functional team, covering leadership, IT, support and functional roles. They’re collectively responsible for the development of the cloud strategy crafting the best practices that will ensure its successful implementation, testing and best practices that the rest of the company will follow, ensuring a smooth migration.

Why you need a dedicated CCoE team

Despite the claims of vendors, the cloud is extremely complex, and adopting cloud either in an ad hoc fashion or with no overall plan is proven to create problems.

There are many horror stories out there. As businesses have become more familiar with the cloud and CoEs become common, fewer disasters are happening, but it’s still possible for cloud adoption or migration to go wrong, leaving an unprepared business in the lurch.

How can a CCoE help your organization?

The CCoE takes responsibility for all the decisions made during cloud adoption. The keywords are “Center”: where it becomes the hub of all information and decision making, and is also tasked with sharing that information, and “Excellence”, where it looks to acquire the best cloud services that deliver maximum value for the company and help deliver the greatest productivity benefits.

All of this takes time and effort, and a CCoE needs the funding, resources and time to build up its expertise, make the right decisions and deliver those excellent results. Fortunately, there’s plenty of research and references for existing examples, such as Gartner’s “Set Up Your Organization for Cloud Adoption Success” and Amazon’s “Using a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) to Transform the Entire Enterprise” These can help organizations new to the concept, provide insights and act as guides to base their efforts.

The CCoE can help deliver true transformation. As Former Head of Capital One’s Cloud Center of Excellence puts it:

“The success of cloud adoption and migrations comes down to your people — and the investments you make in a talent transformation program. Until you focus on the number one bottleneck to the flow of cloud adoption, improvements made anywhere else are an illusion.”

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How to build a Cloud Center of Excellence

When forming your CCoE, there are some steps you need to follow to build a successful team:

1. Build the right team

The CCoE should be a small team of the right people. Too large and decision-making becomes impossible. They should represent management, IT, core business functions and end-users. If there’s a knowledge gap then either a partner is needed or expert help, be it a consultant or new hire, can help the process.

2. Ask the right questions to set up a solid CCoE framework

There are key questions the CCoE should ask before commencing work, all with answers in plain English to establish clarity and avoid ambiguity.

  • What is the ultimate goal? Are we building cloud-enabled transformation across the business or delivering narrower achievements?
  • What is our current digital and cloud footprint, what’s changing and what will we want to add in the future?
  • Is this a business-led process or an IT-led process? Who is driving the change - which should be based around business decisions?
  • How do we ensure business continuity, security and regulatory compliance during the process?
  • What are the cost limitations and deadlines for success?

With those in mind, the team should break up the project into segments and subunits and go about the process of establishing:

  • What is moving to the cloud, what needs integrating? Which teams or departments are involved and in what numbers?
  • Which vendors or providers are likely candidates?
  • Who would provide security, backup and other key services?
  • What is the disaster recovery and fallback plan?
  • What are the goals of the pilot or trial?
  • What does overall success look like?

3. Deliver quick wins and support through a trial

A full cloud migration or adoption is a risky strategy, so there should be a test project to see if everything works. The trial should be a substantial challenge, as the aim is to find any potential flaws. But if successful should deliver a clear mandate for the full project, with quick wins in terms of productivity, savings or time saved.

This can be a lift and shift of one element of the overall project or the adoption of an all-new cloud service that empowers and enables a department to deliver that success. If it all works, then management support strengthens. If there are issues, they can be resolved before the project gets too advanced.

4. Create steps to success

Whatever was learned during the trial and from examples seen in other projects or business, the CCoE should build repeatable steps that make the project understandable to all constituents and workers.

These will cover adoption, deployment, operational steps, management, security and backups. Use these to engage with managers and workers and get their input on what will happen and any additional information they’ll need.

These should encapsulate the needs of business and IT stakeholders, and clearly state responsibilities for issues like governance and security.

5. Build in flexibility

No plan should be a rigid structure - the CCoE should build in flexibility to cope with new problems, unknown issues and changes in business approach or strategy. But the core sections of the plan should be in place and clear to all parties, ready to roll once the green light is given.

With the plan, knowledge, vendors and services in place, it can go ahead with a far greater chance of success than the haphazard adoption of cloud services that some companies still think is adequate.

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