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Cloud Services

Establish an Effective Cloud Center of Excellence

Mar 25th, 2019 10:46am by
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Ennio Carboni, AWS Product Line, CloudHealth by VMware
Ennio Carboni leads the AWS Product Line for CloudHealth by VMware where he and his team develop solutions to challenges for companies using AWS as their backbone to cloud computing. As a leader, he is focused on sustainable growth and cultural transformation. Ennio has been with CloudHealth since 2017 and brings over 20 years of IT leadership experience.

As technology matures at breakneck speed, so do the roles needed to support innovation. Even just a short five or ten years ago, few could have imagined the titles emerging within businesses today: AI Developer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chatbot Specialist… the jobs of the future are here.

To remain competitive, organizations must adapt and create roles that can drive future innovation. Over the last year, a new role has developed to focus on centralized governance: cloud custodian, cloud steward, cloud czar — whatever terminology a business chooses — this position is critical as the cloud evolves as a strategic component in an organization’s overall business strategy.

While a leadership team may start the process of bringing in this new role, an individual can only be successful if the full organization embraces change. “It takes a village” and cloud is no exception to that rule. Regardless of an organization’s current cloud maturity, they should consider promoting cross-organizational support for cloud by establishing a “Cloud Center of Excellence” that promotes best practices and efficiencies and that is designed with a company’s culture and cloud environment in mind.

The CCoE, as it is commonly referred to in our world of growing acronyms, is an individual or a team that is tasked with the governance of the cloud infrastructure. This team defines and manages automated policies, analyzes cost, usage, performance, and security across environments, and makes recommendations on capacity planning, modeling, and forecasting. The CCoE exists to ensure everyone within an organization embraces a culture of cloud (not just cloud technology).

So, how does an organization create a cross-functional role or role(s) that are responsible for ensuring a successful cloud transformation?

There are several best practices an organization can implement to encourage a “cloud culture” for the betterment of business.   

  1. Define the role you seek: You must start by clearly defining the job you are looking to fill. Contrary to what some might think, this role does not need to be held by someone with extensive technical skills. The person who takes on this role should understand cloud, but must also be able to serve as a uniting role that helps establish:
  • Overall awareness and understanding of cloud;
  • Keeper of cultural and intellectual migration
  • Cloud management and vision;
  • Cloud governance policies, and
  • Cloud KPIs for reporting.
  1. Stop. Collaborate and listen: Once you’ve agreed upon the parameters of the roles you wish to establish, you’re on to the next (arguably most important) step: collaboration.

While cloud computing is generally “owned” by the IT department, there are stakeholders across the organization that should be involved in decisions as it affects their day-to-day business. Procurement, finance, business operations and security teams are all responsible for aspects of the cloud environment. Efficient collaboration across teams is a MUST and the CCoE should act as the bridge connecting all those units to ensure cloud transformation is a success. This is no easy feat, but following step one will foster transparency early on and lead to less friction along the way.

Case in point: you deploy an application via the public cloud and need your CFO to agree with the deployment using a “pay as you go” pricing model, so costs won’t spin out of control. The procurement team will then need to form an agreement with the public cloud vendor and financial/operational expertise must be applied to ensure the infrastructure is used efficiently, integrates with the existing budgeting system, etc.

Most often, some parts of a newly deployed application will require re-architecture to leverage the innovative features that the public cloud offers (auto-scale, serverless, microservices, etc.). Additionally, a security team will need to conduct their own analysis of the deployment to ensure all security best practices are deployed.

This is where the CCoE becomes the most important part of the organization. Without agreement on each piece of the puzzle, you have parts of the organization left out, cost overruns or risk security vulnerabilities.

  1. Establish what success looks like: Going into a cloud migration, there are a few things that every enterprise is looking to achieve — cost savings, increased efficiency, flexibility and greater value. But, with so many variables to this equation, it is important to establish baselines and measure success through KPIs.

Visibility is critical to successful measurement. If you can see into your usage, infrastructure cost and performance on a weekly, monthly or daily basis, you will have a better indication of what needs to be done to reach the goals you have set to accomplish. Some key KPIs to consider for cloud include measuring infrastructure cost per unit (CPU, storage, etc.) or Cost of Business transaction (cost for processing an online purchase) to quantify your cloud’s performance.

While each business or business unit might view success in a different way, allowing diverse stakeholders to set KPIs can help to ensure support across the organization and enable everyone to better meet their desired outcomes.

  1. Empower your people: As much as some would like to believe that cloud is a magic bullet, it is necessary to understand that it takes hard work, motivated teams and investment to create a successful transformation. Most of all, there must be agreed upon business objectives that are translated into accurate technical requirements and governed by cost, security and compliance models.

The Cloud Center of Excellence should be established to help foster a culture of success by bringing in motivated team members from across the organization to support cloud transformation. Teams take pride in ownership and when given the chance to make a marked change, can have an amazing impact on a business’ evolution.

As cloud management in the enterprise matures, it becomes more critical than ever to create a centralized role that can work across operations, engineering and lines of business (LOB) to ensure consistency, accountability and efficiency.

The CCoE must find the subtle balance of giving departments and LOBs the freedom to take advantage of all the benefits the cloud offers, while simultaneously ensuring centralized governance to protect the business and drive efficiency.

This article was contributed by CloudHealth by VMware. VMware is a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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