22 October, 2019

Building a Cloud Migration COE – Centre of Excellence

Using a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) to Transform the Entire Enterprise

In his Medium article Mark Schwartz of Amazon provides the introductory preface to an article that explores the dynamics of establishing a Cloud ‘COE’ – Centre of Excellence.

An interview with Milin Patel, the Principal Architect and Co-Founder of Rearc and formerly the Head of DevOps of Dow Jones, talks about Dow Jones’s move to the cloud and DevOps, and the organizational changes this shift inspired.

Fundamental to their transformation strategy was the use of a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) to gain leverage across the enterprise for the change initiative. It is tempting to think of a CCOE as just a team of experts who can be consulted for their knowledge of operating in the cloud.

But as Patel points out, a CCOE can be much more than this: it can be the driver of change across the enterprise, the focal point for transformation that is broad as well as deep — the Archimedean lever that moves the world, or at least the enterprise.

The interview does an excellent job of setting the scene – Dow Jones is a 125 year old news media organization being onset on all sides by a new digital competitive landscape.

At the time, Dow Jones was following a waterfall project management approach, which required planning, budgeting, and capital expenditure in advance before the technology could be tested. Additionally, the data center hardware procurement and installation process took anywhere from one to three months.

This meant their ability to respond with innovative new digital products of their own was slow and limited, and so led by then CIO Stephen Orban, how an AWS senior director, they underwent a wholesale transformation to Cloud-based DevOps.

The CCOE’s mission statement was to figure out the right tooling and practices that would empower our development teams to deliver awesome digital experiences for our customers with agility and confidence. It was given the autonomy to make the necessary design and process choices rather than being forced to operate within the boundaries of what the organization already knew or was comfortable with.

CCOE Action Plan

Milin recommends a six point CCOE action plan:

  1. Forming the Team – Cluster together the core expertise, within a context of cultivating an innovation culture.
  2. Deliver Some Quick Wins – Identify and migrate ‘low hanging fruit’ projects.
  3. Acquire Leadership Support – Communicate with and achieve executive buy in.
  4. Build Reusable Patterns and Reference Architectures – Develop commonly used functions as reusable templates.
  5. Engage and Evangelize – Involve all teams across the organization, through lunch and learns, online learning courseware etc.
  6. Scale and Reorganize – Build on this expanding momentum to extend the DevOps culture and tools across the organizations.

Enterprise Maturity Model

This action plan needs to organized around a ‘how to get from here to there’ journey, underpinned by a maturity model to plan that route.

Stephen Orban, AWS leader and author of ‘Ahead in the Cloud‘, describes in his Medium article an example framework for such a maturity model, The Journey Toward Cloud-First & the Stages of Adoption, published September 19, 2016.

He identifies that from his experiences, organizations progress through four main stages of Enterprise Cloud Adoption Maturity:

1 – Project Basic Cloud skills Enterprises start with a few projects to begin to understand how they can leverage the cloud to meet a business need.
2 – Foundation Cloud Centre of Excellence Once an enterprise has gained some benefit from the cloud through a few projects, it tends to make some foundational investments so it can scale that benefit across its organization.
3 – Migration Standardized Cloud Migration patterns As the enterprise builds a cloud foundation and gains experience with more projects, it typically becomes easier and more compelling to migrate existing IT assets to the cloud.
4 – Optimization IT Cost Reduction As the gravity of an enterprise’s IT footprint moves from its own (or its MSPs) data centers to the cloud, it typically finds itself in a much better position to optimize both its IT footprint (costs) and its business capabilities (products and services).

Conclusion

The challenge of modernizing a very legacy-centric IT development team to one utilizing Cloud Native DevOps practices on a daily basis can seem a daunting one, however as the authors demonstrate, it’s possible to break this journey down to a number of manageable steps, guided by those who have successfully been through this transformation.

A six point action plan for establishing a CCOE - Cloud Centre of Excellence, featuring @schwartz_cio, @stephenorban, @rearcio : Click to Tweet

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