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AWS: Building a Cloud Centre of Excellence for Digital Transformation

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Transformational change requires strong leadership at all levels of the organization. The feature video from AWS reviews strategies and best practices to help you lead the organization through a successful cloud journey. Central to this is establishing a ‘Cloud COE’ – Centre of Excellence.

Transforming the Enterprise through a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE)

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).

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Leading digital transformation – Creating a ‘Cloud Culture’

In the ITPro article Four Ways CIOs can Drive Digital Transformation the authors propose adopting a data-driven culture, getting line of business leadership buy in, setting performance metrics and importantly organizational transformation are the foundations for fostering and enabling digital transformation.

Writing for TechBeacon Peter Richards, CTO for CloudReach, emphasizes this last point, describing the needs to create a ‘Cloud culture’, the ingredients of which include openness, positivity, and an awareness of the new horizons the cloud offers.

He makes the critical point that the primary role of the CTO is not technology expertise but their leadership behaviours that ensure this new atmosphere of collaboration and innovation is shared widely across the whole organization.

A selection of videos that taps some of the impressive volume of insights AWS offers in these areas, such as The Business Impact of Cloud Adoption, What Transformation Really MeansLeading Your Organization through a Cloud Transformation and Transformation to a Digital Native.

Then more specific journeys, such as transforming IT through a transition to AWS-based DevOps.

This presentation Migration to AWS: The Foundation for Enterprise Transformation from Joseph Pagano provides a complete walk through of the Cloud Migration to AWS lifecycle, from the first business case planning phase through the selection of the right AWS delivery model for your situation, through adoption and growth.

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Digital Business Architecture – Enterprise Architecture for Digital Transformation

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