Staffing Your Enterprise’s Cloud Center of Excellence

Stephen Orban
Mar 18, 2016 · 4 min read

“The future depends on attitude, aptitude, and gratitude — not on knowledge.” ― Debasish Mridha M.D.

Starting small, iterating, and growing based on what you learn is a recurring theme in any successful Enterprise Cloud Journey. I discuss it often in my posts, and encourage you to apply that same iterative thinking as you create the team of people that will lead your organization’s Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE).

You’ll start by enlisting a small number of forward-thinking individuals that are willing to learn and excited about how the cloud can impact their organization. Three to five people are enough to make a noticeable difference right away. Then, each month, evaluate the impact the CCoE is having on the organization, make adjustments, and grow the team as the number and size of projects they influence grows.

How do you know when you’re choosing the right staff for the job?

Executives often ask me about the types of people to look for and where/how they can hire those people. Typically, I’ve found that attitude is just as important as aptitude, which means any large organization already has the people it needs to leverage the cloud. Look for people with a genuine enthusiasm and interest for learning something new. Chances are, you have plenty of people in your organization eager to use the cloud for their projects, and they shouldn’t be hard to find. It’s fine to augment the team with talent hired from the market, but don’t wait to get started until you do so. If every organization waited, we’d be needlessly stuck in deadlock for talent when it’s easy enough to manufacture our own.

Ideally, the people on your CCoE team will come from a diverse set of roles and backgrounds. These can include (but shouldn’t be limited to) application developers, system administrators, network engineers, security practitioners, IT operations, and database administrators. Bringing a diverse group of expertise together will give you a team with a broad range of perspectives and likely lead to a more complete platform. This team’s institutional knowledge of your existing products and processes will help guide their decision on how to create and govern the most fitting cloud best practices for your organization.

The “as-a-service” model that most cloud services provide also lends itself well to a cross-functional point of view. Many server and database-administration tasks, for example, are now automated and can be controlled by software. It’s still necessary to have those who understand how to optimize applications on servers and databases, but the tasks themselves will benefit from someone who knows how to write code to automate them.

This blending of disciplines is one of the factors behind the rise of DevOps, as well as one of the reasons the CCoE is commonly named DevOps and staffed by roles that sound like DevOps engineers. While “DevOps” and “DevOps engineer” are fairly new terms in technology vocabulary, I believe the concepts have been around for decades. Most individuals playing these roles today come from a variety of disciplines and/or specialties and want to expand their horizons and deliver a more diverse value to their organizations.

Of course, every enterprise will have it’s share of change-averse individuals existing alongside its cloud champions. Sometimes all it takes to convince more hesitant employees is a nudge in the right direction. I’ve talked to a few enterprises that did this by staffing their CCoE with one or two skeptics. If you have leaders in your organization that carry a lot of influence and are wary of your cloud direction, you might consider tying their success to how quickly you’re able to gain value from the cloud by putting them in or around your CCoE. This method needs to be managed carefully, but I’ve seen it work as a force-multiplier for cultural shifts. As these skeptics learn more about how the cloud can benefit your business and their careers, they are more likely to start championing the direction and encourage others in the organization to follow suit.

I’ll cover where in your organization the CCoE should report in my upcoming post on how to funnel all of the best practices through the CCoE. For now, I’ll just mention that where it reports is less important than the executive support it receives. Your CCoE should be high enough in your organization’s power structure that it can create impactful change.

What’s your experience been staffing your CCoE? Are there other strategies you’ve found for making the team gel and be successful? I’d love to hear about it!

Keep building,
Read My Book: Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT

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.

These best practices, and a number of others, are now available in my book Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT).

AWS Enterprise Collection

Tales of AWS in the Enterprise

Stephen Orban

Written by

Husband to Meghan, father to Harper and Finley. GM of something new @AWSCloud (formerly Head of Enterprise Strategy for AWS). Author of “Ahead in the Cloud”.

AWS Enterprise Collection

Tales of AWS in the Enterprise

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