Cloud Center of Excellence: Overview and Building Blocks for Success

3 min read

A popular trend to accelerate the pace of digital transformation, such as the adoption of cloud, is to set up a Center of Excellence (CoE) or Center of Competency (CoC).

This is a specialized team construct that can go by many other names — including Transformation Office, Accelerator Team, Technology Excellence Office, etc. — and vary in scope from being exclusively technical to being holistic with a focus on new ways of working, contemporary roles and innovative technologies. Sometimes a CoE will focus on specific areas, such as DevOps (DevOps Center of Excellence) or SAP (SAP Center of Excellence), but we believe this is a limiting view.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will use the term Center of Excellence (or CoE) and focus on holistic cloud scope (i.e., people, process and technology) to show how you can use a building block approach to leverage this concept for your organization. This material is shared based on our global experiences helping clients across industries define, design, launch and/or operate CoE type structures.

What is a Cloud CoE?

A Center of Excellence (CoE) is an enduring construct designed to define, accelerate and scale knowledge and best practices across an enterprise.

No matter what it’s called, a CoE should be holistic and transformative in scope so that new capabilities can be piloted and scaled out. This means not only writing about technology, but also helping build it in a co-creation approach and then enabling others so they become self-sufficient in new capabilities. Additionally, having holistic scope removes artificial silos and allows for unified capabilities and maintenance and execution of roadmaps with maximum impact.

Why do you need a CoE?

For a transformative area like cloud, a CoE “provides IT with a way to express […] cloud strategy, enable the business to choose the best solutions, and […] gather and disseminate cloud best practices.” [1] This is a proven construct and over 70% of enterprises have a similar team within their organization. [2]

Key benefits of a Cloud CoE

  • Helps you go from fragmented teams, inconsistent processes and a project mindset to an agile, product-based Operating Model with new ways of working.
  • Provides rigid governance based on traditional IT processes that allows for selected autonomy, enabling faster time to market.
  • Allows you to move from competing priorities and an overlap of effort to a consistent and integrated roadmap with metric-driven prioritization to ensure value.
  • Transforms traditional roles and struggles to upskill for new technologies to an experiential talent framework with opportunities to scale via rotational models and train-the-trainer methods.

How can you get started?

To start thinking about a CoE with holistic scope, you should consider a few areas:

  • User enablement: Start by defining contemporary new roles in alignment with business needs and accepted industry trends (i.e., the adoption of Site Reliability Engineering). Then, redefine role profiles and associated skills and enablement using learning journeys to upskill and/or attract new talent.
  • Delivery integration: Start by re-imaging governance and processes so that legacy practices don’t impact new capabilities. This can be achieved using value stream mapping to streamline end-to-end journeys and creating Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed (RACI) Matrices to show clear ownership. Finally, organizations may need to carefully evaluate policies and procedures for common tasks to identify opportunities for granting teams freedom for decision making.
  • New technology platforms: Start by establishing or revisiting reference architectures as a base for technical deployments. Having a well thought out design and corresponding architectural decisions upfront will help minimize surprises in the future. After there is agreement from all stakeholders on architecture, utilize automation to codify and digitize architectures for deployment.

Get started with a Cloud CoE

Center of Excellence (CoEs) can take many different forms, but they may not be appropriate for all organizations. To get started, we utilize a discovery and diagnostic methodology to identify the right next steps and meet clients where they are in their unique journey.

Make use of our free business framing — a half-day workshop — to learn about our Garage design-thinking techniques and apply them to your business problems. And, more importantly, ideate on how IBM can best solve them with our IBM technology powered by the IBM Garage methodology. Contact us and learn more via the IBM Cloud Expert Labs page.

[1] Gartner: How to Build a Cloud Center of Excellence, Lydia Leong (VP and Distinguished Analyst)

[2] Flexera: Flexera State of Cloud 2022

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