How to Build and Manage a Cloud Center of Excellence

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, the adoption of cloud-native technology has become a cornerstone for achieving unprecedented scale and agility. For organizations devoted to harnessing the full potential of cloud-native applications, the establishment of a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a common first step in this cloud-native journey. In the past, I’ve written about why building a CCoE will help your organization perform the necessary transformations. But once you’ve decided to build a CCoE, how do you actually do it?

Structure of the CCoE

While there are many possible CCoE organizational structures, there are some common people, roles and capabilities that are critical for any CCoE:

  • The Champion. The champion is the person who keeps the CCoE operating and focused on the organization’s goal. They seek strategic buy-in from senior management, then drive that strategy across the entire organization. Their job is to drive and convince the organization to go forward in a single direction with respect to cloud operations. This person is often the head of the CCoE. But even if they are not the head of the CCoE, they are still the visionary leader.
  • Embedded ambassadors. This is a group of “mini-champions.” They are individuals who work in the CCoE organizationally but are spread out and assigned to 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 cloud strategy that is being driven by the company. These ambassadors can also provide their knowledge and expertise externally to the organization. Often, they are called upon to give presentations at trade shows and conferences or talk directly with key customers and accounts.
  • Cloud Subject Matter Experts. These are cloud architects, operational architects, DevOps specialists, cloud-native champions and other senior experts. Their job is to create the technical foundation to implement the cloud strategy driven by upper management. They form the knowledge backbone of the organization. Additionally, they work with the champion and ambassador to grow and drive the company’s cloud-native knowledge base and thought leadership.
  • Tools teams and operations. These are teams that create and operate the tools and infrastructure needed to operate 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 critical 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, including Kubernetes clusters, cloud-provisioned resources, etc.
  • Training. Most individuals in the company will either not have any training in cloud systems or they will have inconsistent and spotty experience working with the cloud. The training group within the CCoE is designed to grow the level of knowledge and expertise on cloud and cloud-native technologies organization-wide. Additionally, they provide guidance on additional and advanced training needed by key individuals and teams within the company. For instance, they ensure the SMEs have the proper cloud certifications they require.

Central Management

The term “center” in Cloud Center of Excellence is critical. Many companies have these same roles described above scattered throughout their organization. The problem is that there is no central messaging or communications that creates a consistent set of goals and desired outcomes.

As such, the centralized model is an important aspect of the CCoE. Organizationally, all of the roles of the CCoE should be centralized under a single leader within the organization. The leader and the group should be relatively highly placed within the organization at large in order to signify the importance and credibility of what the group is trying to accomplish. This eases strategic cloud planning and decision-making and increases accountability for project success.

Constructing a CCoE

A CCoE is a fundamental organizational strategy that can help effectively transform an organization, increasing the agility of the organization. The CCoE ensures best practices are consistently and successfully applied across the entire organization and drives the overall transformation you strive for.

If you want to learn more about building a CCoE, you might check out my matching LinkedIn Learning course, Building and Managing a Cloud Center of Excellence. (If you haven’t tried LinkedIn Learning yet, you get one free month.) This relatively short course explores how to structure and manage the CCoE within your organization.

Lee Atchison

Lee Atchison is an author and recognized thought leader in cloud computing and application modernization with more than three decades of experience, working at modern application organizations such as Amazon, AWS, and New Relic. Lee is widely quoted in many publications and has been a featured speaker across the globe. Lee’s most recent book is Architecting for Scale (O’Reilly Media).

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