Take the lead with a Cloud Center of Excellence

5 April 2021

In the coming years, double-digit growth rates are expected in terms of investments into the public cloud and IaaS. Many businesses will take the plunge in the foreseeable future or increase existing investments in the public cloud. But how do you, as a business, ensure that a migration to the public cloud runs smoothly and in a structured manner? In this article, Mirco Wienen, Sentia Consulting CTO, explains how the Cloud Center of Excellence more and more often appears to be the answer to this question. And rightly so.

At the heart of a cloud adoption strategy, you need to have a group of resources that are the absolute experts on taking your workloads to the cloud because it’s not easy. Thus, setting up the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a best practice for facilitating successful cloud adoption and governance. It is, in fact, a must for companies that know that they need to make the transition to the public cloud but don’t know how.

With cloud adoption as a strategic imperative underpinning digital transformation efforts, organizations turn to CCoEs to manage the process and ensure organization-wide adoption of best practices.


What does the ideal Cloud Center of Excellence look like?

A Cloud Center of Excellence is a centralized cloud governance function used to bring a diverse and knowledgeable group of experts from across the organization together to develop cloud best practices for the rest of the organization to follow.

It serves as an internal cloud service broker. A CCoE can suit the needs of both agility-focused and efficiency-focused IT, and it is a key ingredient for cloud-enabled business transformation and accelerating cloud adoption by:

  • Driving cross-organizational cloud momentum
  • Developing reusable frameworks and reference architectures
  • Managing cloud knowledge, learning, and sharing
  • Overseeing cloud consumption and plans for scale
  • Aligning cloud initiatives to the business strategy

The ideal CCoE is a vendor-neutral cloud control center, spanning IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS in a multi cloud world, from which the IT department can implement, supervise and manage its cloud projects operationally, including matters such as security, compliance, performance, and cost control.


Means to a successful cloud adoption

To successfully adopt the cloud, businesses must have a CCoE at the earliest possible stage to create internal support. A lot will change within a business, and support will determine the success of the cloud strategy in terms of technology and skills and culture change, and community building. It is crucial to agree about the CCoE becoming a central body for making decisions, implementing the strategy, directing, setting policy, and promoting best practices. A cloud architect would then have a key role in all of this.


Three key areas of responsibilities

Gartner distinguishes three important features of the Cloud Center of Excellence:

1. Cloud Brokerage
The CCoE acts as an internal cloud service broker. Therefore, the right people and resources must be deployed within the CCoE to support the business in selecting, integrating, and adopting cloud solutions. The CCoE provides knowledge and expertise on cloud vendor solutions, standards, and recommendations for the cloud architecture and determines the processes for working with cloud vendors within the business. In addition, the CCoE has knowledge of the wider cloud market and the solutions that may be of interest in the future, ensuring future-proof cloud adoption at all times.

2. Cloud Governance
Within the CCoE, governance plays a crucial role beyond simply ‘keeping control’ and managing costs. It is also about providing guidelines that advocate good practices and point out the risks and guardrails to prevent things from going wrong, even if someone would intentionally make a mistake. The CCoE is in charge of overseeing the organizations’ cloud computing practices, including setting the direction for implementing business-wide policies and associated measures.

3. Cloud Community of Practice
The CCoE also plays an important role in supporting businesses in adopting the cloud and can ensure that there is more support within businesses for the journey to the cloud. For example, the CCoE is responsible for setting up a virtual community, the Cloud Community of Practice (CoP). By setting up a CCoE, a business ensures that knowledge can be shared, information is available centrally, and the right stakeholders are involved.

In recent years, a proliferation of applications and a ‘spaghetti architecture’ have emerged within many businesses. More and more businesses have switched to a more distributed development model and accept that ‘citizen developers’ are active. Due to a lack of governance, every department can build and use (cloud) applications to their heart’s content. As a result, cloud adoption within the IT business unit sometimes goes faster than the central IT department is prepared to support. The result: a total lack of central management of ad hoc cloud projects and a sharp increase in shadow IT.


Take back control of the cloud

How can the IT department (re)take control? The business is currently crying out for a tool that allows the central IT department of mid-sized enterprise organizations to implement the cloud strategy. The CCoE offers a solution. Within many businesses, the cloud journey has not been successful (yet). For example, after the migration, the environment ends up not being fully compliant, too expensive, or unable to meet expectations with regard to flexibility and scalability. The CCoE is a tool that can also play a crucial role in meeting the requirements concerning security, compliance, and costs.

The success of the CCoE ultimately depends on its mandate and the support it receives from the CIO. In addition, it is important that the guidelines provided by the CCoE are realistic with regard to the available resources and skills. It is about what is practically feasible and not about what the ideal situation should be. Finally, the existence of the CCoE does not necessarily mean that the business will automatically come up with cloud projects.


Accelerate business innovation

The predicted growth rates of the public cloud show that many hands will be needed in the coming years to lighten the work on cloud migrations. After all, developments are moving at lightning speed as ever-accelerating innovation cycles are required in order to stay relevant.

Companies without a CCoE risk losing their ability to innovate quickly and their ability to stay competitive in the long term. The opposite scenario is scrambling to establish a CCoE after realizing the costs and missed agility of not having one in place.

Right now, businesses focus on the cloud migration itself. However, it is expected that in a number of years, there will be much more attention for low-code and data-related projects that will have to run within the cloud environment.

The sooner a CCoE is set up, the better this changing situation can be anticipated. In this way, the IT department also takes control in the long term and prevents their cloud approach from remaining ad hoc in nature. These gains in efficiency, agility, and quality are especially vital if the company plans on implementing large-scale cloud migration efforts or is looking to take advantage of the cloud to drive market differentiation and innovation.


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