How to Create a Cloud Center of Excellence in Your Enterprise

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” -Archimedes

So far in my Enterprise Cloud Journey series, I’ve discussed the importance of the role of the executive, educating your staff, giving that staff time to experiment, and (re)considering how you engage with partners. This post introduces the next best practice, which is arguably the hardest to implement, but also the most impactful when it comes to creating change in your organization: creating a cloud center of excellence (CCoE).

In 2012, I was fortunate enough to be named the CIO of Dow Jones, who, at the time, was a storied, 123-year-old organization with a strong brand, prolific content, and loyal customer base. My job was to shift the technology group’s focus toward product development in order for the company to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive environment, improve operational excellence, and drive down costs.

There were many levers we pulled over the course of our ever-evolving strategy to achieve these goals, including in-sourcing talent, leveraging open-source, and bringing in cloud services so we could focus on the business. But possibly the best decision we made was to create our CCoE, which we called DevOps, to codify how we built and executed our cloud strategy across the organization. I knew from seeing change-management programs succeed and fail throughout my career that having a dedicated team with single-threaded ownership over an organization’s most important initiatives is one of the most effective way to get results fast and influence change. My Enterprise DevOps series covers some of these experiences in more detail.

© Les Chatfield https://www.flickr.com/photos/elsie/

Since then, every enterprise that I’ve met with who has made meaningful progress on their Journey has a team of people dedicated to creating, evangelizing, and institutionalizing best practices, frameworks, and governance for their evolving technology operations, which are increasingly implemented using the cloud. These CCoE teams start small, develop a point of view for how cloud technology can be responsibly implemented at scale for your organization, and, if implemented properly, can become the fulcrum by which your organization transforms the way technology serves the business.

Over the course of my next few posts, I’ll explore how enterprises are doing this through the following dimensions:

Build the Team

I recommend putting together a team of three to five people from a diverse set of professional backgrounds. Try to find developers, system administrators, network engineers, IT operations, and database administrators. These people should ideally be open-minded and eager about how they can leverage modern technology and cloud services to do their jobs differently and take your organization into the future. Don’t be afraid to enlist those with little to no experience — attitude can be just as important as aptitude, and chances are you already have the people you need in your organization.

Scope (and Grow) the Team’s Responsibilities

Your CCoE should be responsible for building the best practices, governance, and frameworks that the rest of the organization leverages when implementing systems on (or migrating systems to) the cloud. Start with the basics: roles and permissions, cost governance, monitoring, incident management, a hybrid architecture, and a security model.

Over time, these responsibilities will evolve to include things like multi-account management, managing “golden” images, asset management, business unit chargebacks, and reusable reference architectures. Make sure you don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis, and you will naturally evolve your capabilities with practical experience.

Weave the Team into the Other Best Practices

All of the best practices I’ve been writing about are dependent on one another. To be successful, your CCoE needs to: find a tremendous amount of support from the executive team; consider how to train the organization on CCoE methods; embrace experimentation to stay relevant; stay abreast of the best tools and partners for your environment; own the organization’s hybrid architecture; and become a key player in any cloud-first strategy.

I’ll discuss each of these in more detail in the coming weeks. If you have any experiences that you’d like to share or areas you’d like to me to cover as I progress through the series, I’d love to hear about it!

Keep building,
-Stephen
orbans@amazon.com 
@stephenorban 
http://aws.amazon.com/enterprise/

Note: Create a cloud center of excellence is the fifth of seven best practices I’m writing about in my Enterprise Cloud Journey series. The other six are: provide executive support, educate your staff, create a culture of experimentation, engage partners, implement a hybrid architecture, and implement a cloud-first policy. Stay tuned for more on each of these.