How fast could your Cloud Centre of Excellence pay for itself? Three ways to drive value from cloud control.

Co-authored with Andre Herbst, Account Director at Eighty20 Solutions

The cloud revolution is well underway. With more and more organisations taking a cloud-first approach to both business and technology strategy, it’s the shake-up that has IT leaders around the world trying to keep up with new demands for the people and processes needed to deliver on the promise of rapid application development, automation and innovation across every product and service.

But IT teams simply don’t have the scale and influence it takes to pivot an entire organisation towards the practices that support fast and safe operation in this new space. And this is where a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE) may come in – a multi-disciplinary cross-functional team that can co-create and socialise a framework to support fast, yet sustainable cloud adoption based on clear alignment with business needs and objectives and specific context of the organisation.

Done right, it can become the flexible and empowering resource  organisations rely on to migrate to and build in the cloud with security, consistency and efficiency. At the same time as gaining this control they get to keep the tremendous upside that can be seen when the CCoE also supports experimental engagements with technology throughout the organisation.

A focus on governance and value

At first glance, both the structure and purpose of a CCoE might seem to be just another version of the command and control approach IT have always applied. And it’s true to say that security and governance are definitely a significant part of the CCoE recipe for success. With the turnaround time for app development the cloud makes possible, governance is necessary to stop new initiatives becoming a tangled spaghetti with each strand having ill-defined purpose, or worse, a loose end that can leave data and systems exposed to a security breach, huge cost overrun and significant performance / reliability issues. It’s this kind of chaotic start to a cloud journey that can give cloud a bad name in the minds of employees and leaders – just another miraculous technology that’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Without the CCoE model, IT tends to focus on providing control and central responsibility. A successful CCoE model provides focus on freedom and delegated responsibility. This works best in a technology strategy with a self-service model that allows business units to make their own decisions. The CCoE provides a set of guidelines and established and repeatable controls, used by the business.

What a Cloud Center of Excellence can do for your organization? Cap Gemini 29 September 2020

It’s the kind of stigma that can smear CCoEs when they lean too far towards governance as their primary purpose. Badging the whole initiative as a way to keep the cloud in check runs the risk of the whole team and its mission being badged as successor to some of the more ill-fated Project Management Offices (PMOs) that spring up in large. While the guardrails a CCoE must put in place are essential in the modern setting of cyberthreats and stringent privacy standards, leading with process controls as its reason for existing can make the whole thing into another burden on the business. Just another layer that ticks boxes and stifles progress.  

 

With clear sponsorship at leadership level as well as the right people recruited to the CCoE who embrace automation as the default mode of operation, it can fly the flag for enabling the business to take leaps forward in efficiency and value. Just as the successful PMOs really did unravel the exhausting red tape of projects and stop the more pointless ones from ever getting started, the same applies to CCoEs. By shifting the focus to engaging every member of the workforce with the value cloud adoption can bring, streamlined compliance and governance becomes just one part of this value creation. Instead of seeing the CCoE as an inhibitor, business units and employees know they’re there to make sure everyone feels safe in using the cloud in a manner that suits business objectives and delivers on the big goals. With governance and rules of engagement led by this expert team, employees are guided by a code of practice that’s embedded in both the technology itself and a workplace culture that is now embracing cloud optimised behaviours.

Typically, many transformations do not take off or meander because the value delivered is not clearly outlined to the organization, making the transformation a leap of faith. What can make this leap of faith a leap of conviction is leveraging a governance model that can define and refine the cloud objectives, setting the appropriate metrics that align to outcomes, and rigorous tracking and course corrections to achieve them.

Adaptive Governance to Thrive in an Everchanging Ecosystem, Wipro, April 2021

Sounds too good to be true? Here are just three of the ways we at Eighty20 are seeing best-practice CCoE models driving value in cloud adoption among organisations, here in Australia, and throughout the world.  

Value driver #1: Talent advantage

In days gone by, organisations could develop unique value within their own on prem IT infrastructure. A bespoke platform and the team who built it and knew how to exploit it for competitive advantage were a worthy goal for a CIO. As a platform for growth, the cloud is far more powerful, but it has been democratised. Cloud service providers are not going to customise it for you, which results in a race for the talent that can harness that power quickly and in a manner that matches your strategy and operating model.

 

COVID has made it even more challenging for the supply of skilled labour to keep pace with the rate of transformation organisations are demanding. The search for specialised cloud-savvy talent is becoming more and more competitive which is why a CCoE is now such a worthwhile investment from a return on talent perspective. As an initiative with the potential to uplift the overall cloud capability of an organisation, the CCoE is like the instructor who can teach people to drive well along with an accident protection system to ensure they can’t steer off a cliff. From a standing start, a CCoE can help your organisation get in front of competitors by giving more of your workforce the capability to innovate faster, delivering both greater agility and return on investment from the earliest stages of your cloud journey.

Value driver #2: Financial advantage

As an outsourced service, the cost of cloud consumption can be far harder to control compared with the far more gradual scaling up of on-premises capacity. When the cloud is unleashed and demand from across the organisation surges, the CCoE can be a highly effective gatekeeper for managing demand and the cost that goes with it.

 

To monitor and control an increase in cloud traffic for your organisation in a way that supports, rather than stymies, innovation and growth takes strong financial governance – and more importantly, skills the industry has come to regard as FinOps. App developers and their managers understand their application architectures inside out, but these cloud stakeholders will rarely have the skills it takes to evaluate cloud costs relative to the business and strategic goals. With an effective CCoE model that includes FinOps intelligence, you’ll have an in-built mechanism to measure, monitor and direct more of your cloud spend and scalability towards the apps and outcomes that deliver greatest value to the business bottom line. 

Value driver #3: Automation advantage

Another major driver of cost savings from cloud supported app development is the automation aspect. But knowing what and where to automate can be hard to judge on day one of a cloud transformation. It takes insight into what will work for your organisation along with a shift for people and processes away from the manual interventions we’ve come to expect from our working practices. Cast your mind back five years and maybe you recall the times when applications took weeks to build, servers took months to build on production grade infrastructure, and perhaps three months or more to be tested and verified as secure with a high degree of human oversight. 

 

By bringing rigour and repeatability to the automation approach the cloud makes possible, a CCoE can make a big dent in the people and cloud consumption costs expected from innovation. With well-designed and widely available reference architecture, patterns and blueprints, apps can be built, tagged, deployed and tested in a matter of hours, with security built-in at every stage – embracing the shift left principle throughout the lifecycle.

By allowing the creation of excellent products in very short timelines, the Cloud can slash an organisation’s technical debt to a matter of weeks rather than years. The old-school trade-off between trying to build perfect products or meet super-tight shipping deadlines more or less vanishes. The new way of working in the Cloud squares this circle by allowing access to ready-made, quality code in blocks that can be assembled quickly and effectively to build resilient, scalable, flexible apps.

Maximum Cloud: New ways of working to exploit Cloud’s full potential, Deloitte

 

All in all, a CCoE can keep every one of your organisation’s engagements with the cloud steering towards that north star of greater agility, allowing you to respond faster to change without losing sight of strategy or security. But for a CCoE to succeed, it’s not just a matter of gathering together a team to follow through on this – it’s far more about how they engage with the organisation to fulfil that purpose. CCoEs are change agents and not just when it comes to adoption of new technology. They also have an important role to play in fostering a whole shift in culture and behaviour too.

Get in touch to discover the difference a comprehensive CCoE strategy could make on your journey to cloud maturity.