Your Enterprise’s Flywheel to the Cloud
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” -Yogi Berra
When I introduced the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) in a previous post, I noted that your CCoE should become the fabric through which all the other best practices on your Journey are woven. In this post, which will conclude the CCoE series, I’ll offer some thoughts on how the CCoE benefits from or drives the other best practices on the Journey.
It’s hard for a CCoE to succeed if it’s not driven by strong leadership. Whenever I talk with executives about creating their CCoE, I encourage them to make bold moves. That means identifying the people best suited for the team, transferring them from their current roles without backfilling them, and shifting responsibility toward the CCoE so the vacant roles don’t matter.
Reporting lines, on the other hand, do matter. It’s fine to put the CCoE in an infrastructure-focused organization, but make sure the leaders of that organization aren’t afraid of what the cloud might mean for them. There’s a good chance that as you grow your cloud capabilities and tip the balance to cloud-based solutions, your CCoE will be the dominant part of your infrastructure team. This requires strong leadership, air cover, and a willingness to continue to move resources into the team as you learn.
Educating Your Staff
The CCoE should be leading the charge to educate the rest of your organization on cloud, how your organization uses it, and evangelizing the best practices, governance, and frameworks that you use to support your business. You already have the people you need to succeed using the cloud, and your CCoE should be their key enabler. Consider how your CCoE can leverage as much AWS Training and Certification as possible, have them layer in your organization-specific content, and scale the delivery of that training to the rest of the organization. When I was at Dow Jones our DevOps team delivered “DevOps Days” several times per year to anyone who wanted to learn more. Others in the industry are doing this, too: Drew Firment, Technology Director of Cloud Engineering at Capital One, drives an amazing CCoE education program to spread cloud expertise throughout Capital One. Check out his blog to learn more.
The CCoE provides the guardrails that allow the rest of the organization to experiment quickly, while enhancing the organization’s security posture. By implementing reference architectures for common application patterns and developing one or more continuous integration platforms, the CCoE can enable dependent business units to experiment in a consistent and compliant way, allowing the organization to run-what-they-build, fail fast, learn, and deliver value to the business faster than before.
Partners are, as I’ve mentioned, there to accelerate your cloud strategy, and your CCoE can help accelerate your partner strategy. You can use your CCoE to stay on top of the evolving partner ecosystem, evaluate new tools, and steward the best practices of how the new wave of cloud tools and consultants are integrated into the complex enterprise environment. Your CCoE should drive discussions with your legal, procurement, security, and other business stakeholders and help them understand your approach to cloud, and what you’re comfortable allowing your partners do for your business. Many organizations templatize their approach to bringing in tools so each business unit has the flexibility to choose from a variety of tools, while others look to drive a single standard. Whatever your preference, lean on your CCoE to drive the approach and template.
Cloud is not an all-or-nothing value proposition, and any enterprise that has been running IT for a significant period of time will run some form of a hybrid architecture. Your CCoE should be driving your hybrid strategy, and develop the standards and reference architectures for how your cloud and on-premises applications can call each other and migrate to the cloud over time. When I was at Dow Jones, our first hybrid “ah-ha” moment came the first time we had a native cloud application we developed call our identity management system that was running on-premises. Our DevOps team studied how Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) worked for a few hours, mapped how we wanted security groups to work with our internal firewalls, and implemented a secure hybrid architecture that allowed our cloud applications to talk to our on-premises assets. This whole process took a few hours. We immediately turned this into an automated reference architecture that we used over and over for similar scenarios. I’ll be covering this best practice in my next post.
At some point, your CCoE will prove to some (and eventually all) of your business units that they’re better off asking themselves why they shouldn’t use cloud for their projects than why they should. Using automation and having reference architectures for your legacy and/or compliant applications will lead to faster time-to-market and you should find that your business units want to work with your CCoE rather than have to be coerced to. This is a departure from the typical infrastructure and application team dynamic in most organizations, and can be embraced and celebrated in a deliberate cloud-first strategy communicated from the top down.
What other best practices has your CCoE found? I’d love to hear about it!
Note: Create a cloud center of excellence is the fifth of seven best practices I’m writing about in my new Enterprise Cloud Journey series. The remaining six are: provide executive support, educate staff, create a culture of experimentation, engage partners, implement a hybrid architecture, and implement a cloud-first policy. Stay tuned for more on each of these.