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Design your cloud center of excellence for constant evolution

Accelerate transformation at supersonic speed with a well designed cloud program enabled by committed change agents. Learn More!

Jun 26, 2023 • 8 Minute Read

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Amazon CTO Werner Vogels took center stage at the 2017 AWS Summits in Sydney wearing a custom T-shirt emblazoned with “Werner Against the Machine” — the chest insignia of a modern superhero.

As the ultimate committed change agent disguised as a CTO, Werner leverages his AWS superpowers to save businesses worldwide — using speed, analytics, flexibility, and the power to take flight from “hostile” database vendors.

For most enterprises, supersonic speed is the most elusive superpower. It’s also the most necessary. Cloud solutions like AWS lend organizations extra speed, agility, and overall business value. But many still haven’t shifted to cloud from on-premises or hybrid solutions. 

Luckily, an AWS Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) can be the driving force you need to quickly adopt — and continuously evolve — cloud technology at scale.

What is the AWS Cloud Center of Excellence?

The AWS Cloud Center of Excellence is a team of cross-functional experts that empower an organization’s cloud journey. They create a cloud migration strategy that aligns with business needs, adopt and enhance new and existing cloud technologies, and encourage cloud fluency across the organization.

The AWS Cloud Center of Excellence team becomes an essential mechanism for large organizations hoping to efficiently migrate from a private cloud or on-premises data center.

What are the elements of successful cloud adoption?

TL;DR – speed matters

This gravitational pull prevents many enterprises from gaining momentum and taking advantage of the cloud, at least at the speed required to avoid death by the fast and hungry. The only way out of this dilemma? Create a AWS Cloud Center of Excellence and develop a cloud migration strategy with best practices that prioritizes speed and continuous innovation.

During my twenty-year career at Capital One, for example, speed at scale was the modus operandi. Capital One’s agile mindset and DevOps culture made it possible for them to rapidly adopt cloud technology and transform the company. This accelerated transition was powered by the API-driven cloud computing services from AWS, enabled by real-time access to big data, and fueled by a commitment to the open source community.

Gaining the supersonic speed needed to achieve escape velocity from on-premises data centers requires bold leadership with a long-term dedication to innovation. While technology plays a leading role in any cloud strategy, talent transformation holds the real key to success. No magic pill exists, but organizations that go all-in with a AWS Cloud Center of Excellence often take a leap in the right direction.

Cloud adoption with a AWS Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)

If your enterprise wants to achieve cloud adoption with supersonic speed, you need an executive team willing to sponsor and invest resources in a AWS Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)

Design the AWS Cloud Center of Excellence for constant evolution across your organization

TL;DR – transition matters

An AWS Cloud Center of Excellence, or CCoE, makes early cloud adoption easier to navigate. But it will need to continually evolve in order to keep pace with cloud technology’s rapid rate of innovation. Because of this, you should design your cloud program framework with intent and purpose.

Design the AWS Cloud Center of Excellence for constant evolution across your organization

To get started, your AWS CCoE and cloud program leaders should observe the flow of value within your organization and then design an adaptive structure and migration strategy that evolves alongside the internal needs of the enterprise. 

Simon Wardley infuses these concepts of flow and transition within Wardley Maps, his value chain mapping strategies. Simon’s design principles of Pioneers → Settlers → Town Planners (PST) offer an innovative approach to navigating an organization’s cloud adoption journey. Each group handles a different stage of the journey, leveraging their unique talents to innovate and problem solve.By using this methodology, organizations gain astute situational awareness and learn to move from exploration and expansion to overall enhancement throughout their cloud journey.

Stage 1: AWS Cloud Center of Exploration

The pioneers explore

Embarking on a cloud journey requires a tremendous amount of iteration and experimentation with the underlying AWS utility compute services. During the early stages of your journey, create a core team of innovative engineers with plenty of aptitude and attitude. 

Stack this small, two-pizza team (a team that can be fed with just two pizzas) with battle-tested engineers who have deep experience and understanding. They know how critical functions currently operate and how to translate existing data center platforms into cloud center services. They understand security, network, and access control best practices and how to troubleshoot issues when they arise.Each day, these pioneers will leverage agile techniques to break things — and collect the data that will determine solutions and patterns for future success.

Each day, these pioneers will leverage agile techniques to break things — and collect the data that will determine solutions and patterns for future success.

ProTip 1: An executive sponsor is absolutely essential during the early phases of cloud adoption. As a strong advocate for the cloud, the sponsor provides plenty of air cover and actively engages with the core team to remove obstacles from the board.

Stage 2: AWS Cloud Center of Expansion

The settlers expand

Once the pioneers identify patterns and solidify early successes, turn your focus toward scaling prototypes into consumable products and services. After listening to a broad range of internal customers, the settlers refine patterns and help grow understanding throughout the organization.

How we know what is knowable, or epistemology, is much different in the cloud versus on-premises.” — adrian cockcroft

At this stage of cloud operations, it’s imperative to focus on scaling early understanding of AWS. Achieving critical mass of cloud fluency is the only way an organization can sustain a transition to the new operating model. 

The Social Consensus Through the Influence of Committed Minorities shows that when just 10% of randomly distributed agents hold an unshakable belief, the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed.

In other words, organizations that invest the time and money into a multi-dimensional cloud education program will reap the benefits. An engaged workforce armed with compelling context and content will dramatically accelerate your organization through Simon’s “Trough of Despair” and ensure attraction rather than attrition.

During the enablement phase, your core cloud operations team should no longer be considered the most cloud-savvy department. By unleashing AWS Cloud Center of Excellence superpowers upon thousands of developers throughout the enterprise, your core CCoE team should pivot and begin harvesting new and improved patterns from other divisions. Elevating other departments beyond the core team’s existing capabilities is a key early indicator of success.When cloud services start to scale across an enterprise, it’s natural to place a heavier emphasis on governance and controls. With AWS, you can engineer your governance by leveraging the API-driven services to access real-time controls and compliance.

ProTip 2: Instead of outsourcing your cloud training to Human Resources, tightly integrate cloud education as a core function on your program team. Leverage AWS certifications as a benchmark for cloud fluency and set a minimum goal of 10% completion enterprise-wide.

Stage 3: AWS Cloud Center of Enhancement

As your organization’s cloud migration and AWS CCoE mature, they should lead to services that result in faster, more cost-efficient platforms. In highly regulated industries like financial services, the organization depends on town planners to ensure that customers and regulators can trust the final product.

At this stage, organizations largely shift focus from adoption to enhancement and operations. While it may seem surprising, innovation isn’t just limited to the pioneers in the exploration stage. It’s also found in the operational stage of cloud adoption. 

For example, Capital One’s Terren Peterson evolved the mindsets of engineering teams by embracing the concept of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) and using innovative approaches to manage operations.

Their SRE teams leveraged industrialized utility functions to manage compliance and controls with Cloud Custodian, a function-based policy rules engine. These teams also contributed new functions to the ever-expanding platform — completing the cycle as higher order services continuously evolved.

The origin of the service itself demonstrates the pioneer, settler, and town planner design principles at work. Originally developed internally by their pioneers, the platform was scaled across the entire enterprise by settlers, and finally driven toward open source commoditization by the town planners.

ProTip 3: Involve your operational teams on day one of your cloud journey. Since operations function 24x7, consider a lift and shift for a subset of their workloads. Leverage a cloud capable MSP for interim support to lighten the load during their talent transition.

Best practices for successful AWS cloud adoption

Hit these key stages along your journey to create cloud natives and sustainable cloud transformation:

  1. Executive sponsorship: Align on business requirements and bring stakeholders on board with you. Create your AWS Cloud Center of Excellence.
  2. Education: Train and educate technical and non-technical employees on the cloud.
  3. Experiment: Validate proof points and define architectures, patterns, and governance. Then measure, monitor, and iterate.
  4. Hybrid operations: Provide centralized expertise, guide decentralized innovation, and publish guidance and guard rails for how to adopt cloud successfully.
  5. Program ROI and plan: Plan the build and/or migration of applications, perform ROI or Total Cost of Ownership benefits analysis, and iterate and validate assumptions.
  6. Organizational change: Define and manage business change strategy including policies, processes, and economics. Provide additional training. 
  7. Cloud-first strategy: Create your vision and incentivize team members to follow your lead.

With a AWS Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) and these organizational design best practices, a cloud management team can continuously cycle through the explore, expand, and enhance stages. Over time, this approach will accelerate cloud adoption at supersonic speeds.

Ready for your transformation to blast off?

Two-thirds of organizations say they don’t see the benefits they expected with the cloud. A Cloud Guru can get your organization to the cloud (and its benefits) faster. ACG for Business provides everything you need to transform your talent — and your business.

Drew is an AWS Community Hero, Alexa Champion, and maker of dad jokes.

Follow on Twitter @drewfirment. #WePowerTech