Starting out on your exiting journey to Public cloud services, you need a place to begin. With a solid Cloud Center of Excellence, you will be ready for all the challenges that emerges on your journey. The cloud Center of Excellence will be the best starting point to also make sure all areas of your business are included. The journey will take you out for a fun roller-coaster ride with good and interesting challenges and great opportunities you never thought about. By utilizing cloud services, the organization will have changes in several areas like strategy, technology, organization structure, culture, processes, budgeting and more. With Cloud Center of Excellence, you will have a safe journey since everyone will be working towards the same goal together. This gives your organization the stability you are used to, at the same time more speed to deliver higher quality with same or less time.
“Centers of excellence (CoEs) accelerate the uptake of new technologies and optimize core capabilities with higher efficiency and lower costs.”– Gartner
Many organizations and business leaders ask, “Why should we invest in a Cloud Center of Excellence when I have so good people in the IT department or partners?”. There are several reasons for that. The top main reasons are:
- You want stability when going on this journey
- Visibility to your strategy for cloud engagement
- Clear governance to help ease pressure, gain higher security and faster development
- Easier discover what you do not know and need more training or external resources to assist
Who should have a Cloud Center of Excellence? Anyone, big or small, who plan on or have started the Cloud journey. Small, medium, and large enterprises. That can be enterprises which are Consumer oriented, Service providers, ISV’s, and anyone else going to public cloud.
“If we do not change how we work, we will not realize the full potential of public cloud” is a phrase I use often and with good reason.– Rasmus Hald, Head of Cloud Center of Excellence at Maersk
When adopting all the goodies available from public cloud services it will become the new gateway to developing new services, providing access to cutting edge technology such as managed servers, PaaS, SaaS, Managed databases, AI, Machine learning and much more. There are also a vast variety of available third party, highly developed ecosystems ready-made for use. With all these services easily available, the enterprise will be liberated from many of the time consuming and costly task of managing old infrastructure. This will free up time and resources to focus on development of the business and adopting new technology to achieve the goals.
Cloud adoption not only represent a major change in IT infrastructure, but also a shift in organizational culture for the whole enterprise. To manage this change, the Cloud Center of Excellence has become an indispensable method of handling this task. CCoE have a key role in the enterprise for the transformation starting on this journey.
When starting your journey to public cloud, you need some stakeholders and sponsors that are willing to be active contributors. Since public cloud bring much more than just a technological platform for IT to serve the organization, there should be involvement from other parts of the organization. With the Cloud Center of Excellence, all relevant parts of the organization will easier mature and adopt since they are all responsible to analyze their own areas and contribute to the CCoE. This will help to analyze and report to the top management on how they are affected and how they plan on adoption together. There is no such thing as solo or silo race in the organization when going to public cloud.
“Cloud Center of Excellence will act as a continuous taskforce to analyze and find solutions for complex challenges in the cloud migration. It will define a clear vision and strategy for your cloud journey, driving the adoption agenda and coordinate across the whole organization. It’s the main bridge and key for cloud adoption success!”
What is a Center of Excellence?
Let us first have a look at what a Center of Excellence is before we go deeper in what the Cloud Center of Excellence role and position will be in the enterprise.
When you want to introduce or look at possibilities in new areas and services for your enterprise you should have a team to investigate how it is possible, what is the requirements and impact on the organization and your customers.
This team will be responsible for introduction of the new capability in the organization. This includes change of culture, new skills, process change or services. By doing this work it will bridge all affected areas of the organization and make sure everyone is on-board on this journey and pull in the same direction.
By having a team like this will help reduce duplicated workloads and resources aiming to achieve economies of scale. For larger enterprise this may be a more permanent team or several teams consisting of right resources according to the task to address. By being a solid team of executives, it will master the continues transformation processes, providing guidance, support, and training to any areas in the organization through the journey.
When starting any journey this team need to set goals and priorities, such as target revenue or efficiency, governance objectives, increased agility, deadlines for projects and revenue opportunities.
The Cloud Center of Excellence team
The CCoE team will have its main goal going to public cloud. Since we know this will impact many or all areas of the organization it need to also consist of more the only IT. Even with the best processes and tools in place it all about the people, how they behave, cooperate, and communicate. The team should therefore consist of a good skill balance between knowledge and methods, business domain skills and soft skills.
To have success with the Cloud Center of Excellence it needs to consist of at least all major part of the organization not only with IT background. For most organizations this includes management, finance, security, IT, product owners, customer account managers , application developers, database administrators, networking and infrastructure architects, IT operations, relevant part of business not connected to IT and more. Depending on what kind of business you have and size there are some common areas that should always be represented in the CCoE. Members of the CCoE will be the go-to resources for the whole organization and therefore need to acquire necessary skills if they do not have that. It can be good to include not only pro-cloud members, but also sceptics to public cloud to make discussions more balanced. Experience say they may become the organizations most valuable ambassadors for cloud adoption going forward.
Managements role in CCoE can vary from being active contributor to being the receiving part of what comes up in the CCoE’s work. The role of Management is to make changes that are required in the organizations structure and culture. Management will always be an important part to make the journey a success for the company.
Since cloud services have a significant impact on finances with the new way it calculates cost the finance department need to be involved to understand and set guidelines for the organization. There are different tools and ways to handle budget and cost in cloud environments. Here are some considerations you need to do:
Cloud cost and budgeting
This is where finance need to involve them self. Cost is very much different than in any other traditional IT solutions. Cloud consumption cost is flexible by what you are consuming. There are other ways of distributing cost to different departments and groups in the business. Good cost management and control will give better services and lower total cost over time for your service. Since traditional IT services are different from the cloud services that you optimally would use it is not possible to compare all one to one. Since you are not using hardware or should also reduce as much as possible the use of virtual machines also you need to look at the total cost. This again is not always direct relevant since there are many other added values to a service that need to be considered as well. This is where the finance department need to adopt and contribute in the organization to anyone that start using public cloud.
How are you going to secure your cloud environment?
Security department is essential to get started on your cloud journey. For security in Public Cloud many things are different from traditional security. Traditional networking and firewall mindset can be used at some degree, but here most other similarities stop. When you start using platform services that can be directly public exposed and connect them together in networks, so your solutions consume many of these services, that makes the security thoughts very different. Here every service should be secured. How are you going to secure a dynamic platform if you do not have an equally flexible security mindset and structure? Security department have a huge task to get involved early and help guide all teams in the organization to build secure solutions and monitoring. This also mean adopting native services that also utilize AI and machine learning for security measures. You can´t do public cloud without considering the impact on security. Your teams should change the game by shifting security left to the product teams and investing in centralized self-service capabilities to provide continuous assurance and improve the overall security posture of your cloud estate. Traditional security gates after a code is developed and need to be validated is harder to do in cloud where the platform is also a moving target. Automation and more responsibility to early stages of development and deployment are key for good security in Public Cloud.
Since there are going to be changes in how you organize the company and how people are going to work you should also include HR in the discussion. This also to help facilitate training for those who need that in the transition to new ways or working and learning new skills. This are not only for the technical resources but can also be that management need to adopt new skills to be good leaders in the journey. This do not exclude others from the list of resources that need skills that can include sales, support, finance, operations etc.
Do not bring to the public cloud what you do not need!
This way you can utilize what is already there and integrated. One of this can be monitoring. If you have a large and integrated monitoring solution for you on-prem workload it will not be suited for public cloud workload and services in most cases. Then it is better to use a solution that is native for Public Cloud. Combining monitoring into one dashboard is usually possible across environments. Then you can integrate your old with the new. This go for many other services as well. What you have for VM deployment on-prem is often not compatible or smart to bring to the cloud. Also managing infrastructure is very much different. You should start managing this with code. Here you can use what is native for your vendor or 3rd-party like Terraform. Start thinking automation instead of how I can make this fast deploy. In the long run you will lose control if you do all manual. Disconnected architecture, automation by design, SaaS over PaaS over IaaS, and many more ways of mindset need to be trained and developed for all that are going to work with you cloud journey.
Getting the Cloud Center of Excellence started
There are several questions that need to be discussed and answered when starting this journey. Here we will look at some of the most important ones.
What skills do we need?
This is one of the very big questions and there is not a one stop answer. You will need to skill several levels of your organization. Starting out with skilling management on what is demanding with public cloud can be good. You also need to skill IT operations and developers. Maybe you also need to skill support and consulting? Do not forget to skill Finance and Security departments since they are a key role in this journey.
When developing skills in management to understand what public cloud is in difference to traditional IT solutions. Doing this right will give you an advantage over competitors that have started their cloud journey without these preparations. If you do not have any in the organization with the skill from a management perspective, you might want to consider hire a consultant with experience that can help you going on this journey. Good and clear leadership in this phase of the journey will make it much easier for the rest of the organization to understand what they are going to do and feel comfortable of this major change that is on the horizon.
For the finance department it is about understanding what it is to have a floating and flexible infrastructure and how to handle this and do right budgeting. You also will change from CAPX to OPEX for the cloud consumption since there is almost none up from investments. Also, there will be a need to set requirements from finance to all departments and areas of the organization on how this should be tagged to have billing go to right accounts. This will give much better reporting on cost and can give the opportunity to predict cost and shocking bills before they arrive. Bill shock have happened to many that do not have control of their expense in public cloud.
IT operations skills
IT operations will have one of the biggest changes of working. If you are going all the way to using cloud native services, there is more then half of what they know today that will be replaced with totally new ways of working. Think about when you have many servers to patch and update software and infrastructure to work with to host these servers? All this will be history. There are new ways to manage the infrastructure and new type of infrastructure to manage. Also, the silos between development and IT operations need to be removed. More details on this can be read in the article on DevSecOps.
Developers will need new skills. Not necessarily on coding language, but on how to think about development. Where they are used to write code to solve a task, they now should think about what service can I use to solve this and write as little code as possible. This way you will have more robust and scalable solutions. This will give your teams better conditions to develop faster and more secure. More details on this can be read in the article on DevSecOps.
Since there are new tools and ways of working with public cloud there are also new ways to secure your environment. This is a totally new area for the Security department as well. All tools you are used to for on-prem solutions are not always usable with public cloud. Here you need to learn how public cloud works and how security is to be handled in cloud solutions to make good security strategy. This is not something that come after a deployment when you want to have it approved for production, but rather at the start as an input to planning the journey. This is also a skill area that everyone should be included from the very beginning. This is a skill that affect everyone in different degree. It will be important to include that already from starting to plan a new application or service for your developers to how your operations team plan for the infrastructure. This can be done in several ways. One is to start with DevSecOps teams that have that responsibility with guidance from the security department. You can read more about this in the DevSecOps article.
There are more areas that need to skill up depending on what business you are in. There is always a good start to get an overview of the skills needed for the most impacted areas of your organization before starting too heavy on your cloud journey. It is better to get a guide to start this the try on your own if you do not have experience.
There are many areas to plan on when you start. Do not grasp over too much to start with. Get it down to all the essentials and start from there. The goal at the end will always change on the way, so it is better to have good next steps and take it with iterations. This journey will take you one many unforeseen sidetracks on the way that you can not possibly plan for. That makes the smaller steps and faster iterations more important to help you get back on you right track. There is always room for failing and start over. That is also easier if you have smaller steps and quick iterations. Planning is a big area that also include what skill do you need in the organization and what technical choices need to be taken. The good thing with public cloud is that there are often many answers to the task at hand and there is usually not just one correct answer. Always plan for failure and make each service independent so you easy can replace it with a better one at any time you need.
Challenges and responsibilities
Since there are so many changes there will also be changes in responsibility. This can seem overwhelming for many. Specially this will be for developers that are used to only think about the code to write. They now need also to think about architecture, security, testing, operations and many more areas they are not used to. This is were skill and good leadership is a key to success. This require the management to understand what is going on as well as having a good CCOE that can guide the organization. This way everyone knows what is at stake and take responsibility and feel unity.
Kickoff workshops are a good way to start. That should gather all this affected departments in to have good discussions on how they are going to be affected. This way everyone has a common understanding on what need to be done and where to go. Common goals are one of the keys to make this journey easier. One of the important things to get accomplished in the first workshop is understanding the differences of where you are and where you are going. There is many that take what is communicated and associate with what they know now and think that it is not so big change. That is a very dangerous pitfall. That makes change harder for employees and easier to fall back on old routines that makes the journey harder.
When starting this journey, it is easy to say you want to do a standard project to move on over to public cloud. That works if you want to do a transfer with little or no change. That is not recommended place to start since you will not get the benefits out from your cloud journey as you expect. “Lift and shift” are most often combined with higher cost and no other real benefits. This is only recommended if you have a very short time to move out from a traditional datacenter. When you have established the CCOE you need to have some tools to make this work. One recommended tool is the agile approach instead of waterfall project. This way you get the best out from you DevSecOps team and what the public cloud can offer. Use tools that fit for you and not get stuck with one tool. Be sure to change it to a different one if it does not work. What works for others may not work for you in the same way.
Meetings and communication in CCoE
CCoE should be sponsored by top management or even the board. This way they have the visibility and foundation to build the best structure and governance for the organization. Also, the CCoE should report more frequent to the sponsors at start to get the right drive and progress for the journey. At the start there is always harder to understand what the actual changes is. Later and shift over to that many think they have done changes but still are doing the same things as before. This is challenging since they take all that is said and documented and associate to what they already know and think there is no change, or think they have done the change already. This is where the CCoE need to step up and update documentation and communication to the teams to get more concrete details that they can work with. Maybe more training is required or changes in policy, culture or even organization.
Cloud Center of Excellence deliverables
The Cloud Center of Excellence should plan for some targets. At first there should be high level targets for documentation and training on security, cost savings targets for first period of deployment, culture changes and maybe also necessary recommendations for organization changes. Most of these areas should be documented in a Cloud Governance model so it is easily accessible for everyone in the organization.
Over time the deliverables for the CCoE should be towards refining governance model, that should be an agile document, and continue the development and governance of the cloud journey. The CCoE should be a go-to place for the organization to coordinate and show the path forward. It will have a central strategic role in the organization for the future as well. Important to also be open to changes and always revisit the goals that are set and adjust them with a good interval (every 3 to 6 month). This way the governance and plans are not hard to change when new services or ways of working have been established and you need to adopt. This will again give you the advantage of having a much more agile solution that can handle market changes easier and have a competitive advantage in the market.
There are many things to think about on your public cloud journey. Not all need to be discussed, answered, or decided at start but, it is important to bear them in mind while traveling. When going on this journey it is good to have someone that have this experience to guide you through and ask many of the important questions and help you find the best answers.
Arctic Cloud Solutions have long experience in migrations and modernizing IT infrastructure, development, and company culture to adopt what comes with public cloud. Anything from IoT company to Travel agency and Finance. All of these have common areas to go through on their journey like Security, Governance, Culture, Cost management and more. Arctic Cloud solution is here to help you get the best solution for your business and your market.