What is a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)?

| Author , tagged in
Cloudticity, L.L.C.

As cloud adoption rates continue to grow with every passing day, many modern organizations are making it one of their top business priorities to seek out the best practices for a cloud implementation strategy. 

While switching between on-premises and cloud computing seems like a fairly straightforward task, there are several core pieces of the migration process that need to be put in place to achieve operational excellence. This represents a major potential pitfall as different elements of an organization may have conflicting interpretations of cloud needs and implementation strategies.

That’s where the Cloud Center of Excellence, or “CCoE,” comes into play. CCoE is a team of people who are responsible for managing an organization’s cloud transformation. In this article, we’ll explore:

  • The role of the CCOE team
  • Who makes up the team
  • Potential areas of concern
  • Why an organization's business objectives should include establishing a CCoE as they move towards becoming a cloud-centric organization. 

How Can A Cloud Center of Excellence Help an Organization?

While more companies are embarking on cloud initiatives than ever before, their organizational structure does not always allow for efficient and cost-effective selection and management of core elements of a cloud regime, such as:

  • Cloud vendors
  • Cloud centers
  • Cloud cost

As a cross-functional team, the CCoE can ensure that the cloud adoption is handled with absolute adherence to a best practice approach. At scale, they can develop repeatable processes that will ensure success over and over again, no matter where it’s put into place.

Simply put, the CCoE doesn’t just fill an advisory role. They provide real, actionable guidance to team members when it comes to implementing cloud computing. Their guidance is fully backed and embraced by upper management, giving it a weight that goes beyond simple how-to advice.

It’s important to remember that a Cloud Center of Excellence isn’t a physical location or discreet body. It’s simply a repository of knowledge, practices, and leadership.

Who Makes Up a Cloud Center of Excellence?

CCoE team members include several individuals who are relevant stakeholders in an organization’s transformation to cloud environments. They help to develop cloud resources, identify future costs, and work towards a state of organizational maturity as it pertains to cloud infrastructure. Typically, it’s made of executives, including:

  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Chief Technology Officer
  • IT Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Network and Database Engineers
  • Systems Architect
  • Executive Team members
  • Security teams
  • Senior level IT personnel

Working together as a centralized team, the CCoE leaders drive cloud-enabled transformation. It’s important that they are able to predict trends, manage day-to-day operations and ensure the successful implementation of cloud-based applications.

The presence of individuals across disciplines is a huge priority. Cloud adoption has implications for every department. While it’s not necessary to have each one of them represented by a department head, a discipline-oriented approach makes sure that all stakeholders' needs are covered.

IT and network security are obviously choices to include on the CCoE. Companies need to also include members of the finance, human resources, and communication teams as well. 

What Are the Core Functions of the Cloud Center of Excellence?

There are three generally accepted pillars of the Cloud Center of Excellence. While these are the most common concepts when it comes to core CCoE function, there can be others that are more organization specific. Here are the most commonly cited pillars:

  • Governance
  • Brokerage
  • Community

Each one of these pillars contains a subset of different roles and tasks that the CCoE will implement. The expertise of the team is crucial to successful cloud adoption within the framework of these three pillars.

The CCoE Governance Pillar

Governance comes down to the drafting and implementation of policies and procedures regarding cloud services. First, these policies and guidelines need to be drafted. The effect on the entire organization must be considered. 

The team needs a strategy for the adoption of the policies. They are then implemented through the use of “guardrails.” They ensure complete alignment with the policies that the CCoE develops.

The CCoE Brokerage Pillar

Selecting cloud providers can be a make-or-break decision. Cultivating relationships between vendors and organizational decision-makers is essential to know which vendors will be the best fit. This is just one part of the brokerage pillar. 

Solutions architecture is another piece of the puzzle that is essential to solve for optimal cloud adoption. Working with vendors, the CCoE can help make specific selections that are optimized for organizational needs. 

The CCoE Community Pillar

In some ways, this is one of the most important, yet often overlooked functions of the CCoE. This pillar is all about the transmission of knowledge between relevant parties, selection of leadership, and fostering collaboration.

Without these, any cloud adoption endeavor is definitely headed for trouble. On the other hand, if all of these values are being addressed, it’s much more likely to be smooth sailing.

How Are Members Selected for the Cloud Center of Excellence?

The members of the CCoE need to be leaders. They are going to have an often difficult task of getting buy-in from wide-ranging parts of the organization. The CCoE members need to sell the immense business value in making the change. So, one important aspect of identifying members is their ability to explain things in a convincing and charismatic way.

Expertise is certainly non-negotiable. These individuals need to understand the “why” and “how” behind the decision to adopt cloud architectures. CCoE success requires recruiting highly qualified members from the various teams we mentioned above.

When identifying CCoE team members, companies should look for individuals who:

  • Have deep organizational trust. Implementing change is never easy. The people being asked to change need to trust that the individuals guiding that change have organizational, and customer interests firmly in their sights.
  • Are capable of being courageous. While it sounds a bit dramatic, the courage to challenge long-held practices and policies is often what's required. Shying away from a challenge means that the cloud may never fully be adopted. Think of it as the difference between an explorer who is afraid to lose sight of the horizon, and one who is willing to sail into uncharted waters.
  • Share in a vision of success. The CCoE needs to be unified in its approach. While different viewpoints are a given, if they are widely divergent, it can make it difficult to move in a single direction. This is why it’s sometimes better to start with a smaller team, then slowly build out as time goes on.

What Tasks Will CCoe Members Perform?

The tasks that the CCoE needs to perform highlight the need for expertise. The ability to pivot and adapt to changing conditions is essential. The specific tasks depend on the role of the team members.

A security architect will need to assess the security of the cloud, searching for vulnerabilities and addressing them before implementation. They’ll also create a set of guidelines that will become part of the governance pillar functions. Testing of security configurations is also an essential task, and one that must be carried out thoroughly before sensitive data is uploaded to the cloud.

Cloud engineers that are part of the CCoE will be testing the system configuration both before, during, and after migration. They’ll need to make changes once everything has been completed ensuring optimal performance.

The executive team will supervise and ensure that organizational values and missions are at the heart of the adoption.

What Challenges Do Cloud Center of Excellence Teams Usually Face?

If cloud adoption was as easy as flipping a switch, then everyone would be doing it. The reality is that large cloud projects are challenging, and there will always be hiccups along the way. 

One challenge is the CCoE being seen as the repository for all cloud knowledge within a company. This isn't the case at all. In fact, some suggest that the CCoE team should be justified mainly for the enablement of optimal cloud adoption. They do not control cloud usage within an entire organization, but they are going to ensure that cloud services are functionally available to everyone.

Another challenge that often occurs is friction between the DevOps team and the CCoE. Remember that the CCoE isn’t the end-all-be-all of the cloud within a company. It’s essential not to stifle innovation that occurs within DevOps teams.

Potential Trouble Areas For a CCoE

While there’s little doubt that a Cloud Center of Excellence is the way to go for any organization looking to move to cloud computing, there are a few potential areas of concern. All of these can be addressed through proper planning and skilled communication.

The first area that can often be an issue is a lack of recognized authority possessed by the CCoE. In other words, stakeholders choose not to listen for various reasons. Cloud adoption often means a change in workflows, which can be difficult for some team members.

When the CCoE justifies changes in a way that each team member can see the value, success is more likely. This may need to be done on a granular level, with explanations and illustrations available to individuals, not just demonstrated in a slide deck in a group presentation.

Another common issue for Cloud Center of Excellence teams is a failure to fully adopt cloud architecture. It’s often tempting to stick with traditional standards because the CCoE team will usually meet less resistance. This temptation needs to be avoided, however. A fully cloud-specific architecture needs to be fully embraced for the transition to be successful

Setting policies and guidelines that are too rigid can also be a roadblock to successfully moving to the cloud. The CCoE needs to take an honest assessment of the resources available, and then set the best possible and realistically achievable policies.

This leads to the next point: the ability or lack of ability to adapt over time. Cloud adoption is a challenging but valuable endeavor. It often requires taking the “30,000-foot view,” which means that the perfect can’t be the enemy of the good. Making incremental change is preferable to a futile attempt to change all at once.

CCoE best practices dictate adopting what’s possible now, then continuing to improve over time.

What is an AWS Cloud CCoE?

AWS is one of the most prominent cloud providers. If the CCoE selects AWS as their primary cloud services vendor, then it’s essential that they understand how it works, so they can help guide development teams in developing the proper enterprise architecture. They’ll also need to set guidelines and policies for optimal efficiency and security.

AWS-specific cloud training is widely available from several highly regarded sources. It’s essential that key members of the CCoE team be highly proficient in their knowledge of how AWS works.

What is CCoE in Azure?

Another top provider of cloud computing services is Microsoft Azure. It’s attractive to smaller organizations because of its lower cost. AWS can often be up to 5 times as expensive as Azure. Like AWS, it’s essential that relevant Cloud Center of Excellence team members be well versed in the technicalities of Azure to ensure optimal configuration and trouble-free adoption.

Why Do You Need A CCoE?

A full and complete transition to cloud computing requires deep, cultural change in an organization. It’s well worth the difficulty, however. The scalability, storage options, and speed to market make choosing the cloud the right choice for companies of all sizes and within all sectors. Whatever the challenges, moving to the cloud is generally the way to go.

Some organizations choose to forgo the step of creating a Cloud Center of Excellence. They might not want to take the time it takes to identify the members. They may be reluctant to centralize adoption functions. While several companies have successfully moved to the cloud without a CCoE, it’s clear that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

The CCoE serves as a beacon to guide the rest of the organization. They lead by example, and clearly illustrate the “why” and “how of the transition. It’s difficult to uniformly adopt best practices without a single unifying body that can identify them.

Training is immensely valuable, but always needs to be balanced with the time it takes away from other tasks. The CCoE helps to select training vendors that are both cost and time efficient. When teams are left to their own devices to select training, it’s very possible that there can be conflicting methodologies which can cause major issues down the road.

When it comes to keeping upper management in the loop, the CCoE is essential. This helps to ensure that change is adopted at the upper and lower levels. This is why buy-in from upper management is essential from the beginning.

Finally, the CCoE is indispensable in selecting providers and vendors. This ensures that the entire system works together, rather than patching piecemeal parts, hoping they’ll function.

The Cloud Center of Excellence is Essential to Successful Cloud Adoption

While selecting a team for a CCoE may seem to be an extra hurdle, it’s an essential one. By starting small, organizations can turn this small challenge into a huge win when they successfully adopt and implement full cloud computing. Choosing and empowering a CCoE is by definition a best practice when it comes to navigating cloud migration.

The CCoE leverages the efficiency of centralization, while maintaining the individuality of different departments. Moving to the cloud represents a huge investment in a business, and the Cloud Center of Excellence ensures that that investment is protected and nurtured.

Want to implement CCoE today? Schedule a free consultation with a healthcare cloud specialist and learn how Cloudticity might be able to help.

CTA The Business Case for Public Cloud in Healthcare
Subscribe Today

Get notified with product release updates and industry news.