Every business with a presence in the cloud should have a Cloud Center of Excellence—a team tasked with the responsibility of developing a framework for the business’s cloud operations. One of the most important roles of the team is governing the IT infrastructure and building out best practices throughout the business.
The term Cloud Center of Excellence was allegedly coined by Stephen Orban in 2016. At the time Orban was the Global Head of Enterprise Strategy at AWS (he has since moved on to become the company’s General Manager for New Initiatives at AWS), and his vision for a Cloud Center of Excellence is similar to what many people would regard as a DevOps team - only with more focus on change management.
Orban was writing a blog aimed at enterprise customers when the term first appeared, so not all of his vision applies to every type of business. To put the blog into context, it was the fifth in a series of seven “Enterprise Cloud Journey” blogs that also included topics such as creating a culture of experimentation and implementing a hybrid architecture.
The key message of Orban’s vision is that every business with a presence in the cloud—no matter what its size—should have a team responsible for developing a framework for cloud operations, governing the IT infrastructure, and building out best practices throughout the business. If the Cloud Center of Excellence team fulfills its roles effectively, it should provide the springboard for adopting new technologies quicker to better serve the business’s commercial interests.
How to build a Cloud Center of Excellence team
Regardless of the size of the business or the extent of its presence in the cloud, Orban suggests starting a team with between three and five members. He recommends selecting the team from developers, system administrators, network engineers, IT operations, and database administrators. However, if your Cloud Center of Excellence team is given the objective of transforming operations business-wide, it can be of benefit to search outside the boundaries of IT for suitable candidates.
In our blog “5 Best Practices for Forming a Cloud Center of Excellence”, we propose including personnel from the business’s procurement, finance, business operations, or security departments. Businesses “shouldn’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.”
The Cloud Center of Excellence team shouldn’t only be initially small in size, but have limited objectives during its infancy. Although it’s a good idea to have a game plan with defined KPIs, setting the team too many goals as the outset could result in the team failing to meet any objectives due to “analysis paralysis” - a term often used by Stephen Orban to describe businesses trying to solve problems before they have them by looking at too many “what if” scenarios.
Empowering your team by giving it support and visibility
The best way to empower a Cloud Center of Excellence team is by giving it support and visibility. Orban says executive support is essential for the team to plan, execute, and govern a business’s cloud transformation; while our post stresses that it’s impossible for the Cloud Center of Excellence team to achieve its objectives without complete visibility of the infrastructure in order to assess spend and efficiency.
Support and visibility can be a two-way street if you give your team access to a cloud management platform such as CloudHealth. Our “Perspectives” enable business leaders to view factors such as cost, usage, and performance by dynamic business groups (i.e. by department, cost allocation code, budget owner, project, etc.). This gives business leaders visibility into how their departmental budgets are being used, enabling them to make better-supported decisions.
Our policy-driven automation capabilities can also accelerate the speed at which a Cloud Center of Excellence develops by “governing by exception”. Alerting the team to potential violations of organizational policies, rather than have team members reviewing data for violations that may not exist, frees up time for the team to push ahead with building out best practices throughout the business - increasing the likelihood of a successful cloud transformation.