Why a Cloud Center of Excellence May Be Vital for Your Company’s Future

One of the strongest trends among businesses today is the move to the cloud. Many companies view transferring a large part of their IT infrastructure from on-premises to the cloud as strategic. For them, the most pressing question is not whether to transition to the cloud, but how to make that transition successful, productive, and cost-effective. In comes the Cloud Center of Excellence. But what is a Cloud Center of Excellence? The Gartner research firm has provided a comprehensive yet succinct answer to that question: “A cloud center of excellence is a best practice for facilitating successful cloud adoption.

Why is implementing one such a critical aspect of a successful transition to the cloud?

What is a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)?

A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a cross-functional team of people responsible for developing and managing the cloud strategy, governance, and best practices that the rest of the organization can leverage to transform the business using the cloud. In other words, a CCoE consists of a diverse group of experts who have the knowledge, skills, and experience to help drive the development and implementation of an organization-wide roadmap for transitioning to the cloud.

The cloud migration process will inevitably impact every part of the organization. For this reason, a CCoE must include top-level experts from across the company. This includes not only representatives of IT and other technical, operational, or production functions, but also business process and subject matter experts, and members of the organization’s executive team.

Why does a company need a CCoE?

Transitioning a company’s IT operations to the cloud is a highly complex process that will require many functional areas across the organization to change the way they operate. For example, IT will no longer have complete control over its infrastructure — it must work within the framework established by its cloud services vendor. Spending patterns for hardware, software, and services will be appreciably altered. And perhaps most importantly, the way many employees do their jobs on a day-to-day basis is likely to be significantly impacted.

When people are unsure of exactly why and how they need to change, and especially if they encounter unforeseen obstacles along the way, they tend to slip back into their accustomed pre-cloud ways as much as possible. Eliminating such pitfalls of the cloud migration process is the role of the Cloud Center of Excellence.

A good Cloud Center of Excellence will function as the acknowledged authority on all aspects of the transition. It will establish a unified vision for the entire transition process, and provide detailed, practical guidance needed for each functional area to plan and execute required changes. Vijay Gopal, a CIO at Magellan Health, emphasizes the importance of establishing a CCoE before attempting a move to the cloud: “At the heart of [a cloud migration strategy], you need to have someone who is an absolute expert on taking your workloads to the cloud because it’s not easy. Whether you call it CCoE or not, you have to get away from the white paper-based approach to actually have practitioners to guide you through it.

The CCoE should consist of senior individuals who are widely respected for their expertise, who have the communication skills to evangelize for the transition, and who stakeholders across the company can rely on for trustworthy guidance. Attempting a cloud transition without such a team in place is a recipe for uncertainty, hesitancy, and confusion. The likely result is higher costs, resistance from workers, and an outcome that falls far short of what was hoped for.

What role does the CCoE play in businesses around the world?

The ultimate goal of a CCoE is to guide companies to a rapid, straightforward, cost-effective, and ultimately successful transition to the cloud. To accomplish this, a company’s CCoE will usually focus on the following objectives:

  • Define and trumpet benefits to the company and its workers of transitioning to the cloud
  • Bring together a cross-functional team of experts who have the knowledge and skills to lay out a workable roadmap for the transition
  • Through active consultation with all significant stakeholders across the organization, develop a comprehensive, integrated migration plan that takes into account the challenges each functional area will face
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive framework for cloud governance, including access procedures, security, regulatory compliance, and service management policies
  • Help the IT organization move from an on-premises focus to a cloud-centric focus. This may require instituting an entirely new paradigm for some traditional IT functions
  • Choose or approve a standard set of software tools to be used across the organization. This helps to avoid the confusion inherent in “shadow IT” practices that result from different departments, or even individual employees, using their favorite apps
  • Provide ongoing, active guidance and oversight for all aspects of the migration, and serve as a knowledge and best practices resource to answer the questions of leaders and workers as they move forward in the process
  • Provide continuing visibility to executive management, specific stakeholders, and the company as a whole regarding the progress of the migration effort.

Does your company need a CCoE?

What types of companies should have a CCoE? Is your company one of them?

According to Stephen Orban, any company that has a presence in the cloud should have a team in place that’s responsible for creating a comprehensive framework for the organization’s cloud operations and governance. Orban is credited with coining the term “Cloud Center of Excellence” to describe that type of team.

Of course, in today’s world the term “company with a presence in the cloud” applies to almost every business. With the growth of services such as SaaS (Software as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service), even the smallest businesses are moving some, if not all, of their IT processes to the cloud. Even if your company’s use of the cloud is minimal today, it probably won’t remain so. At least not if you are to stay in business for the long haul.

So, does your company need to implement a CCoE? The answer to that question is almost certainly, “Yes!”

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