7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building a CCOE
Creating a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) is often a great way to jumpstart a company’s migration to the cloud and to guide the migration with an eye on best practices and long-term suitability. The company sets up a team of experts on cloud best practices and uses their skills and their passion for the cloud to lend urgency to the rest of the company’s cloud transformation. At AWS, we’ve identified a few ways that organizations can go wrong when setting up a CCOE. In this blog post, Néstor Gándara and Eric Lin, Senior Partner Solutions Architects at AWS, show how to avoid those pitfalls and achieve the full potential of a CCOE.
Guest post by Néstor Gándara and Eric Lin, AWS Sr. Partner Solutions Architects
Companies are moving to the cloud to take advantage of benefits such as increased scalability, high availability, cost efficiency, agility, and innovation. But their existing organizational structures and methodologies often hold companies back from realizing many of these benefits. Many companies build a cloud center of excellence (CCOE) team to evangelize, drive their cloud transformations, and rethink all their processes in the cloud. But if the CCOE is not implemented correctly, companies may not fully realize its benefits. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid when building a CCOE.
1. Lack of Executive and Key Stakeholder Engagement
A common mistake is not seeking support from your executive leaders to help drive the cloud transformation and not aligning the company’s many stakeholders. Unlike technology overhauls of the past, the cloud’s impact is not isolated to the IT group. For example, the cost models, skillsets, and processes required for the cloud are different than those required for traditional on-premises environments. To effectively make changes for the cloud, different teams across many different groups will need to be involved. Human resources may need to hire for new skillsets as well as update existing career paths. Finance will need to update their processes for budgeting and financial reporting. The Cybersecurity team will need to learn how to effectively secure workloads now living in the cloud. And many internal processes will need to be updated to take advantage of the speed and innovation the cloud can provide. If the executive leaders over these different groups are not aligned in the direction and approach for these changes, progress may be slowed.
One of the most important initial steps in building a CCOE is to communicate and seek support from all of the C-suite leaders, who will then help identify and engage the right key stakeholders. At the very least, you need to inform the C-suite leaders and key stakeholders about the benefits and goals of the CCOE. Understanding “why” is required across all lines of business and other stakeholders to secure the necessary support and to ensure everyone is moving toward common goals.
2. Not Understanding Why You Are Building a CCOE
Cloud transformations have a lot of moving parts. Because there’s so much to get done, often under aggressive timelines, companies sometimes rush through motions, simply checking off boxes rather than truly restructuring their organization. They build a CCOE because they’ve heard it is important for a successful cloud transformation. But they do not truly understand why. Just as with all other actions, the build-out of the CCOE needs to tie into specific business outcomes. If you are not intentional with the building of your CCOE to solve specific business challenges, it will likely not add much business value. Simply pulling together a cloud-focused team and labeling it as your CCOE does not automatically yield the cloud’s full benefits. CCOEs should bring together cloud-focused resources from different teams across the organization under one team to improve cohesiveness, collaboration, and a common sense of ownership. And these resources should embrace DevOps and Agile methodologies to drive faster and more effective change. Keep the following key points in mind when building your CCOE.
- The CCOE focuses on your organization’s internal needs and works backward to build solutions that enable delivery teams to build more effectively in the cloud.
- The CCOE creates mechanisms to standardize deployments to align with security, compliance, and service management policies.
- The CCOE also standardizes technical operational procedures for your AWS platform, using cloud native tools and methodologies to manage technical operations.
- The CCOE continually optimizes, improves, and standardizes your cloud platform over time.
3. Lack of Communication
Communication is critical to a successful cloud transformation. By distributing clear and transparent details about its processes, activities, and status, the CCOE maintains alignment with leadership, the different lines of business, and other stakeholders.
Efforts often quickly derail when some of an organization’s executive leaders are not kept informed of changes that impact their areas. These leaders might resist changes because they were not included in the decision-making and can develop a perception that they are purposely being left out of the loop. They may also simply treat the efforts as low priority because they’re unaware of their importance. Many companies don’t realize how far-reaching the impacts of a cloud transformation can be. Almost every area within an organization will be impacted, from a change in how financials are calculated to a change in the types of resources who must be hired.
Below is an example of how to track and drive communication across your organization. Keep in mind that you’ll want to deliver different details to different audiences.
|Cloud migration program leaders
|Customer master team managers
|Customer master team (end users)
4. Still Executing in the Traditional Way
Not adopting DevOps across an organization is a common reason why CCOEs fail to provide value. DevOps is a combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increase an organization’s ability to deliver and execute at high velocity. DevOps-based organizations evolve and improve environments faster than organizations using traditional development and infrastructure management processes. This speed enables organizations to better serve their customers and compete more effectively in the market.
Agile is another methodology that has contributed to the success of CCOEs. But organizations do not always embrace Agile or do not implement it as originally intended. One of the keys behind Agile is to execute for intended business value. If an implementation doesn’t yield the expected business value, the team should adjust its approach or cancel the effort. It’s easy for organizations and teams to fall back on their traditional waterfall methodologies, where their top priorities are to complete a project on time and on budget.
Companies sometimes think all cloud decisions need to be centralized within the CCOE. However, that quickly turns the CCOE into a bottleneck and leads to slow progress. One of the key concepts the CCOE should implement and drive is the use of guardrails. Rather than defining all of the rules and restrictions, the CCOE is most effective when establishing higher-level rules or “guardrails.” These are referred to as guardrails because they keep the implementation teams on track but do not control every move they make. Roads have guardrails, which keep vehicles from going off cliffs or veering into opposing traffic. But the drivers of those vehicles are still free to make decisions about where they want to go.
You may want to consult the “Using a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) to Transform the Entire Enterprise” blog post by our colleague Mark Schwartz. This post explains how a CCOE can be much more than a centralized team of technical experts who are operating and managing your business solutions in the cloud.
5. Trying to Learn Too Many Services Up Front
The cloud has differences from on-premises infrastructure. Employees need to pick up new skills and follow new processes to effectively work in the cloud. In addition, AWS currently has over 175 services and is still growing. Trying to master only a few of the services could be challenging, let alone dozens of them. Businesses can quickly get overwhelmed with all of the choices and burn too many cycles trying to get up to speed on too many of them at once. The most effective way for companies new to the cloud to get started is to seek help from AWS Partners or AWS Professional Services. These resources can help companies quickly select the services that make the most sense for their business objectives and their workloads. Company employees can then focus on adopting those specific AWS services first.
6. Continuing to Own Legacy Responsibilities
A common mistake many companies make is giving employees new cloud responsibilities without alleviating them from their previous on-premises responsibilities. Because the legacy on-premises environments have been around much longer, they often come with a lot of legacy issues, inefficiencies, unresolved software bugs, and aging infrastructure. Environments often have multiple layers of bug fixes , resulting in frequent issues that can take time to isolate and resolve. Failures in these legacy environments often take precedence over new builds in the cloud since they typically support high-priority production environments. So, employees who have existing legacy commitments often find it very challenging to get anything done in the cloud. They are continually being pulled back into on-premises legacy issues. This often leads to missed cloud deadlines, overworked employees, and frustration across the board.
7. Trying to Build a Perfect CCOE Up Front
Just as with most of the initiatives within a cloud transformation, it pays to start small and early. Companies that try to do too much at once often stall and become discouraged. This applies when building a CCOE as well. Often, companies don’t initially have all the cloud skills they need to build their ideal CCOE. Some companies choose to hire cloud-skilled talent before starting their cloud transformations. By waiting to hire and onboard a bunch of new positions, companies lose valuable time in transitioning to and building in the cloud. It’s important to build your CCOE with a core group of cloud-skilled individuals who are capable of implementing quality environments and processes in the cloud.
Once you have this minimum set of resources, you can get started. And you can continue to recruit more talent into the team as you ramp up efforts. Companies can gain a lot of benefits by getting their workloads into the cloud sooner. These early benefits may include increased scalability, performance, reliability, and global coverage. Then organizations can optimize those workloads further to maximize their benefits. When companies wait to launch their CCOE until everything is perfect, they often lose momentum and significantly delay their cloud transformation. The best way to approach this is to start as early as possible with a small version of the CCOE. Many companies refer to this first smaller team as the “cloud foundation team.” Start small and early and make changes to the team, as needed, to ensure it continues to effectively drive progress to the cloud.
Organizations that successfully establish a cloud center of excellence (CCOE) cause a significant cultural shift in IT, since it is a best-practice approach to driving cloud adoption and transformation. Our recommendations are to not reinvent the wheel and to use these lessons learned from previous experiences to avoid any pitfalls. You will avoid the common mistakes, reduce your cloud transformation timeline, and reduce your overall effort throughout the process.
About our Guests
Néstor Gándara is a Sr. Partner Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services. He is Spanish and based in New York City, US. He supports AWS Partners to help customers digitalize and innovate by adopting the AWS cloud platform.
In his spare time, Néstor loves football, golf, IT books, food (especially paella), traveling, and hanging out with his family and friends.
Eric Lin is a Sr. Partner Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services. He focuses on helping partners build and develop successful cloud consulting practices. He has over 20 years of experience in technology. Prior to this role, Eric was a Sr. Advisory consultant in AWS Professional Services, focused on helping C-suite leaders drive their cloud transformations.
In his free time, Eric enjoys traveling, snowboarding, skydiving, basketball, and relaxing with a good movie.