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Day Two Cloud 098: Cloud Centers Of Excellence – Should You Have One?

A cloud center of excellence is…a committee. But before you turn away in disgust or despair, today’s Day Two Cloud episode makes the case for having this kind of working group in your organization.

Why? Because a fractured cloud strategy causes organizational headaches. Duplicated services, unnecessary costs, poor security controls, and other problems can arise without a coherent approach. A cloud center of excellence can reduce headaches.

The purpose of a cloud center of excellence is to:

  • Discuss, agree on, and document best practices and frameworks for using cloud services
  • Socialize and champion these frameworks to drive their adoption throughout the organization
  • Oversee and handle exceptions, approve them as exceptions, or amend the best practices accordingly

Our guest and guide to cloud centers of excellence is Fred Chagnon, Principal Research Director, Service Provider Sector at Info-Tech Research Group.

We discuss:

  • The purpose and goals of a cloud center of excellence (CCoE)
  • Whether a CCoE is right for your organization
  • Which stakeholders to include
  • Using CCoEs to share hard-won knowledge
  • The nuances of best practices, policies, and standards
  • Championing best practices vs. policing them
  • The risks of not having a CCoE
  • The lifecycle of a CCoE

Takeaways:

  1. If your IT is centralized, you don’t need a CCoE, but you should still be doing All the Things. Setting guiding principles, socializing adoption, evaluating exceptions. It just tends to flow a little more naturally when IT is not dispersed.
  2. You know you need a CCoE when you have like-minded colleagues in other business units working on problems you’ve already solved. Or who have already solved problems you are now solving.

Sponsor: CBT Nuggets

CBT Nuggets is IT training for IT professionals and anyone looking to build IT skills. If you want to make fully operational your networking, security, cloud, automation, or DevOps battle station visit cbtnuggets.com/cloud.

Show Links:

@fredchagnon – Fred on Twitter

Datanauts 094: Choosing Your Next Infrastructure – Packet Pushers

Fred Chagnon’s Packet Pushers blogs

Transcript:

 

[00:00:00.240] – Ethan
[AD] Sponsor CBT Nuggets, is IT training for I.T. professionals and anyone looking to build IT skills, if you want to make fully operational your networking cloud security automation or DevOps Battle Station, visit CBT nuggets, dotcom cloud. That’s CBT nuggets. Dotcom cloud. [/AD] [00:00:23.860] – Ethan
Welcome to Day Two Cloud. And today we are talking about cloud centers of excellence. What does that mean? Is that just like we get together and bring donuts and talk about cloud and but we do it in an excellent way, whether there’s more to the story than that, isn’t there Ned?

[00:00:39.650] – Ned
It’s not exactly Bill and Ted’s bogus cloud center of excellence, but there’s a lot more to it when it comes to what it actually is and how it moves an organization forward. We got some really amazing insight from from our guest, Fred, whose last name I’m not going to attempt because it’s very French Canadian and I don’t want to offend. But he gives us some great insight on what the cloud center of excellence actually does and where it’s a good fit in an organization.

[00:01:06.010] – Ethan
Fred’s the principal research director, service provider sector at Infotech Research Group, and he knows this topic deeply. Please enjoy this podcast with Fred Chagnon.

[00:01:16.330] Fred, welcome to Day Two Cloud. Hey, you haven’t been on Day Two Cloud but you’ve been Packet Pushers before, somewhere in there and in the past, but not Day Two Cloud. So tell the nice people who you are and what you do.

[00:01:28.390] – Fred
Yeah, sure. Thanks. And I’m I’m Fred Chagnon, I’m a principal research director for Infotech Research Group. And I focus research and advisory in data center infrastructure and in cloud and also in kind of outsourcing to managed service providers. It’s been an area of focus of mine.

[00:01:45.190] – Ethan
Glad I did not attempt to pronounce your last name because I would have embarrassed myself. That sounded very French. Chagnon. And I was going Fred Chagnon? Nope. It’s terrible, terrible man.

[00:01:56.380] – Ethan
Well, welcome to the show. We are glad you are here. And the thing we wanted to get into today, Fred, was cloud centers of excellence, because that is an area of research that you have been involved with that, Ned and I heard that and were like, oh, that’s an interesting topic. Cloud center of excellence. You mean it’s not just the IT people finding out what you can get on AWS and swiping a credit card that you can actually plan for this and that sort of thing. OK, so so start us off at the beginning, Fred, what is a cloud center of excellence?

[00:02:30.940] – Fred
Well, a cloud center of excellence is a brilliant marketing term for a committee, and and that’s how I sort of came about it when I when I first came about the concept of a cloud center of excellence before we called it that, I was working with a state government and the state government had departments that had their own IT functions: Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Department of Child Safety. They all had their own little IT functions. And we were there.

[00:03:01.930] – Fred
They brought our organization in to help them build a cloud strategy. And here they were. They didn’t know anybody. Nobody knew anybody, but they were all making very similar decisions. What they agreed to at the end of this whole thing was that they needed to form a committee. I then took this this idea to a municipal IT conference. I did a talk on what I called cloud by committee, and we talked about all the best practices for centralizing cloud decision making in a decentralized environment.

[00:03:33.970] – Fred
I learned in in the municipal sector they don’t like the word committee. The last thing that a government organization wants to hear is that there’s another committee that they need to be a part of. You know, it was a few years later that I started to see the term cloud center of excellence come about in describing very just just that a central body of an otherwise decentralized IT functions coming together to make collective cloud decisions. But they weren’t using the term committee. So it operates like a committee, but we don’t call it that.

[00:04:09.430] – Ethan
Well committee has is kind of a negative connotation, right? Ned. I mean, I think of a committee and it’s like, who’s bringing the donuts for the committee meeting this month?

[00:04:16.850] – Ned
Yeah. And you also think of like death by committee for a lot of projects is. Yeah. As soon as we lob this up to the committee level. It’s dead in the water because everybody is going to have an opinion and agenda. And how do you get anything done?

[00:04:29.880] – Fred
But Center of Excellence. Now there’s something I want to be a part of.

[00:04:32.950] – Ned
Yes. I want to be excellent in the center as well. So what is this what’s the reason for being for a cloud center of excellence? What should they actually be trying to determine between the donuts and the coffee?

[00:04:47.110] – Fred
Well, after we’ve decided on the flavor of donuts and the particular brand of coffee, we need to discuss and agree upon the strategy of of the cloud, how we’re how the organization is going to use the cloud. I’ve heard the term developing a common framework or or a common set of controls for how cloud is is consumed, how it’s how it’s procured and establish some best practices. And those best practices are are essentially centralized from the the the good stories, the successes of the organizations that are represented at the or represented at the committee.

[00:05:30.100] – Fred
We do that. We we also then drive adoption throughout the organization by taking those best practices and socializing, communicating them, advocating for what’s been discussed and agreed upon and for what reason. So we get buy in and drive that adoption back through the organization.

[00:05:48.970] – Ethan
How technical are we talking here? Are we talking like specific guidance on which public cloud to use and what services within or more general?

[00:05:58.940] – Fred
It can be specific to which public cloud. But in my experience, what I’ve seen is we like these public clouds because of for these reasons. Right. The the cloud center of excellence isn’t meant to be very directive and and dictatorial. It is. It’s more about establishing guiding principles. So so it’s more it’s more likely to see a center of excellence come and say, well, we like Azure and AWS because because they’re FedRAMP compliant or because they’re HIPAA compliant.

[00:06:35.170] – Fred
And we’ve we’ve evaluated those controls and we like them. It’s it’s a lot rarer to see, you know, a center of excellence come in and say, but we like AWS because they’re they’re cheaper and and to have a reason and to have it not apply to another very comparable service provider. So it’s about establishing best practices, explaining why and and really about pushing the decision back to the business unit or the organizational unit that is trying to make the decision.

[00:07:05.920] – Fred
The Center of Excellence is not trying to decide on behalf of the business unit. They’re providing the parameters for that unit to make their own decision.

[00:07:14.520] – Ned
OK, and I think it sounds like this works best in more of a decentralized environment, kind of like you were talking about where it’s part of a government body that has all these different departments that have their own IT groups. But you’d like to have some sort of general, here’s that the way you should go about doing things. But I can’t make you do it that way by fiat. So we have to have some sort of committee and an understanding these are the best practices.

[00:07:39.180] – Fred
That’s right.

[00:07:39.930] – Ned
Is that so? Would every organization benefit from a CCoE? Or is this the sort of thing that really only works in that decentralized environment where you can’t rule by fiat from on high?

[00:07:53.790] – Fred
Yeah, if you look at a very small company their their cloud decisions, their best practices might be centralized to a single individual. Right. Fred makes all the cloud decisions. He is therefore for the Center of Excellence and the Universe, a slightly larger organization has a central IT department that that does make all these decisions, builds these best practices. So they’re doing all the same things that a center of excellence does. They don’t have to call it that. They might call it an IT steering committee meeting.

[00:08:22.980] – Fred
It might already be organically in the lifeblood of other decisions that get made at that organization when all the decisions that are about technology are already centralized. We don’t need to have a function like this. The purpose of the cloud center of excellence, it grows out of that decentralized I.T. where we’re creating a cross-functional body of people that represent all of those decentralized functions. That’s why we do see a lot of it in state and local government where IT units are embedded within specific business units.

[00:08:59.310] – Fred
So any any organization that has that mold where where IT is an embedded function within different business units, I know of a of a telecom provider that has, you know, an IT function for their for their wireless as well as for their for their cable and wireline operations, like separate I.T. departments. They’re all making the same decisions. They’re all working with the same technologies. That’s the kind of organization that benefits from sharing those best practices and collectively deciding on how the organization is going to operate, because at the end of the day, that organization is marching to the same goal.

[00:09:40.360] – Fred
They all want to be rowing in the same direction. So so we want to collect all of that experience into into one place so that they can make a collective decisions.

[00:09:48.720] – Ethan
It feels like it’s not quite consulting, it’s not quite policymaking. It’s just more broad in general guidance, maybe, maybe pooling of knowledge.

[00:09:59.480] – Fred
Yeah, I think that’s a that’s a good way to look at it. I’ve also heard the comparison one of my colleagues intelligently compared it to like a city council. A city council can can tell you this is how we need to behave as a city. This is how things need to operate. But they don’t go as far as enforcing until they get by-law enforcement officers. Well, in a in a in that’s where this metaphor kind of dies. We don’t we don’t assume in in in a city we know we need by-law enforcement officers because we know that there’s people who are not going to abide by our guidance.

[00:10:34.910] – Fred
In an organization. We don’t assume that our employees are trying to go against the collective will of what the organization is trying to do. So we don’t we don’t need to enforce we don’t need to police. Rather, the approach we want to do is we want to set the guidelines. And then and then the representative, the representatives at this Cloud Center of Excellence should go and champion those within the organizations that they’re representing.

[00:11:00.800] – Ethan
OK, so if I’m trying to describe what the CCoE’s goals are. I want to help the organization make decisions, it sounds like that’s that’s the overarching principle, right?

[00:11:15.480] – Fred
More quickly, I want I want to I want to help them make decisions. But but I want to help them make decisions that are influenced by the decisions of the past. Ethan has already gone through this challenge. He’s already vetted these vendors. He’s already done this. So now when Ned comes along with a very similar problem, we benefit by the trails that Ethan has blazed and we say Ned, we’ve already been down this road.

[00:11:41.710] – Fred
This is what happened last time that may be pertinent to you. You know, if that helps you get close to your decision. Great. If that doesn’t. Hey, now let’s discuss that. How is your situation unique? Do we need to amend our our already established recommendations?

[00:11:58.470] – Ethan
Well, it’s interesting when you put it that way, Fred, because on the one hand, it it sounds a little vague, like I’m not sure what this group is really supposed to be doing. But then you put it that way. It’s like it’s knowledge sharing. It’s not an enforcement body where it’s like, oh, if I get tied up with that CCoE thing, they’re going to saddle me with a bunch of documentation and processes to follow and it’s going to be miserable.

[00:12:17.010] – Ethan
It doesn’t sound like that at all. So, no, it’s not rules and regulations, but it is helping everybody within the organization instead of rowing that individual rowboat kind of get on board the same ship and benefit from each other’s knowledge.

[00:12:33.000] – Fred
That’s right. I don’t see a CCoE as a gating approval checkbox in a workflow to get something through to production. I see it only playing that role when something is brand new, when something is happening we’ve never done before. This is the first time that we’ve had to deploy services that are that are that hold data in multiple national, multiple countries. We’ve never done this before, so we don’t have a posture on this. This needs to go to the center of excellence so we can have a discussion about how we as an organization want to treat that sort of situation when it’s not an exception or when it’s not something we haven’t done before, then I don’t think that the cloud center of excellence needs to necessarily see it because the decisions have already been made and the the people within the business units are already already have the guidance they need to help them get closer to that decision.

[00:13:33.060] – Ethan
But that’s distinct from some of the large organizations I’ve been in where we have an agreement with this vendor. That’s the only vendor you can buy from, even if something else made sense, which was always difficult to live with this. This is a different thing.

[00:13:45.650] – Fred
I think that’s a different thing that, you know, that what you’re describing sounds more like a vendor of record or we have an established. So so it’s it’s similar in the sense that both are trying to reduce the time that it takes to to to get to production. Right. And in the case of a vendor of record, it’s more about we’ve already vetted these three vendors so that we don’t have to go to RFP and figure out how to how to solve a problem.

[00:14:16.230] – Fred
But in case of cloud center of excellence, I think we’re dealing with higher level decisions that are that are a bit more strategic than they are tactical.

[00:14:25.200] – Ned
When when you’re composing the people who are going to participate in the Center of Excellence, it sounds like and correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you really need to get Buy-In from every group who is going to be using the knowledge gathered from this center of excellence. So whatever business units that are out there or whatever departments, they all need someone on this center so they feel like they’ve bought into what it’s doing.

[00:14:49.380] – Fred
Yeah, they need they need representation. I think there’s there’s sort of two layers. We we started to see these come organically when we were helping organizations build their cloud strategy. So, again, small organizations developing a cloud strategy can do it very centrally within IT. You go to a larger organization and that’s where you need to pull resources from different areas who want to have input onto the cloud strategy. When we came away from these engagements, sort of like we’ve had all these discussions, we’ve we’ve got these parts of the strategy are well developed.

[00:15:20.580] – Fred
These ones have some gaps. What we found was that team that we brought together to feed into that strategy. We’re going to have to continue to communicate with one another to continue to feed into that strategy, because it’s very much a living document. What we were creating at the time is a cloud center of excellence, essentially. So if I look at who is at the table there, especially when a larger and multi functional, we want the IT decision makers from those disparate business units, somebody who’s accountable for for the the decision and the direction of the specific business unit.

[00:15:56.100] – Fred
They represent somebody who can champion the what comes away from those those those meetings back within their their unit. So so they are accountable for the decisions that are made and they are and they buy into those. There’s also a layer of subject matter expertize that needs to be there to inform the the decision makers. And those are the the architects, the engineers, the practitioners, the technicians throughout the organization. I don’t think they need to show up at sort of every cloud center of excellence meeting if it’s a recurring thing.

[00:16:31.230] – Fred
But when there’s something to be discussed and we need to draw upon the the subject matter, expertize within the organization to help inform, then we want to have a layer of of subject matter expertize to bring to the table as well to so that we can make the right decisions and we can share the knowledge that we have.

[00:16:49.470] – Ned
Right. So you you might have your Azure SME or even maybe like something more specific or Azure networking SME that you’re when you’re discussing network things, you want her at the table giving guidance specifically around networking and then maybe cloud storage. That’s a whole other person. And they’re only going to be there when you’re discussing something that has to do with designing an architecture that involves cloud storage.

[00:17:11.160] – Fred
That’s right. When I think back to that state government example, it was, you know, the the representative there from the Department of Transportation. I remember standing up and just saying, well, let me show you what I’ve done, creating a clustered set of RDS like once we got our databases into Amazon and we got them out of virtual machines and into RDS. Here’s what we were able to do. And so there there’s a whole bunch of people there going like it.

[00:17:31.500] – Fred
Maybe they weren’t in Amazon, maybe they were in Azure. But the whole concept of a cloud native database was like, oh, wow. Like he’s so further along than we are. And and why why should they go their separate ways after that? That strategy meeting? We were we were there having never talked to each other again. Right. They’re all trying to do the same thing.

[00:17:52.020] – Ned
Right. Another really important thing I think you mentioned was that those I.T. directors that are there are the stakeholders. They have to go be champions in their departments for what the cloud center of excellence is doing. Can you expand on what you mean by them being a champion for the cause?

[00:18:10.110] – Fred
Well, they they are being at the center of excellence. They get to see and hear all the decisions that are made. They’re participating in them. So when so when they go back and and things are happening local to the business unit, they’re there to, first of all, say, OK, so we’ve seen this before already. And this is our posture collectively on how we deal with this situation now. And and and they need to represent that.

[00:18:37.080] – Fred
And that’s where they’re champions right there, like I’ve seen this happen. And we agreed it was going to be done like this. And that’s the position that they’re going to represent. And if that doesn’t fit, if they’re getting challenged by their subject matter expertize about whether or not that’s going to work for the given SAP implementation, that is specific to what they’re doing. That’s when it’s their job to say, you know what, you’re right. That situation that I’m representing from the Center of Excellence may not apply here or there may be some exceptions so now.

[00:19:04.020] – Fred
We need to take that to the center of excellence. And I want to I want to bring this to the table. And I want to say, hey, we decided on a on a stance on how we were going to do these types of implementations. And it’s not fitting here. I want to know if we need to treat this as an exception or if indeed we need to amend our posture to. Encompass situations like this. Are we dealing with an exception or are we dealing with something that’s like a new normal?

[00:19:32.280] – Ethan
But again, that’s oriented from a member of the group, not the group dictating what’s right and what that human what that other team within the organization might want to do, so does.

[00:19:41.940] – Fred
Right. So the member of the group, the first thing they do is they represent the the the position of the center of excellence so that every as much as possible the business units can guide themselves by those principles. And that’s how we avoid the center of excellence becoming a a link in the chain that always has to approve everything that’s that’s you know, we want to empower those those directors with the ability to bring the knowledge down and and socialize it within their own communities.

[00:20:15.840] – Ethan
But does the cloud center of excellence produce something concrete, like a report or a set of guidelines or something, something that’s been formalized?

[00:20:25.020] – Fred
Yeah, I’ve heard it been called a well. So there’s a cloud strategy that’s that’s often how it starts, but sometimes that’s a little too high level. So then we decompose that into I like to call it a common set of controls or a framework of controls, which is more tactical, sort of like, you know, how how are we when it comes to data classification. Here’s how we here’s how we deal with the classification and tagging of data, something that is specific about that. So so that’s that’s an artifact that is that is owned and controlled by the Center of Excellence.

[00:21:05.970] – Ethan
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[00:21:30.060] – Ethan
And just when you have your favorite way to set up your cloud environment, the cloud provider changes things or offers a new service that makes you rethink what you’ve already built. So how do you keep up with this? Training. And this is an ad for a training company. So what did you think I was going to say? Obviously training and not just because sponsor CBT nuggets wants your business, but also because training is how I’ve kept up with emerging technology over the decades.

[00:21:51.570] – Ethan
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[00:22:21.450] – Ethan
Maybe you want to go big wide. All righty. There’s a forty two hour AWS certified SysOps administrator course and lots more cloud training offerings in the CBT Nuggets catalog. I gave you just a couple of examples to whet your appetite. In fact, CBT nuggets is adding forty hours of new content every week and they help you master your studies with available virtual labs and accountability coaching. Interested? Of course you are so satisfy your curious mind by visiting CBT nuggets, dotcom slash cloud and figure out if CBT nuggets will work for your training with their seven days free trial.

[00:22:57.750] – Ethan
Just go do it. CBT nuggets dotcom cloud for seven days free that CBT nuggets dotcom cloud. And now back to the podcast I so rudely interrupted. [/AD] [00:23:10.280] – Ethan
All right, Fred, I think we got a good idea of what a CCoE is, what it does, the role it plays in the way that you’ve observed it across several different organizations. So let’s flip this on its head. What’s the risk if I do not have a cloud center of excellence?

[00:23:24.110] – Fred
That’s a that’s a good question. And I think the way I will approach that is how I see centers of excellence or at least the idea of them come to be. They occur in organizations where we realize that several pieces of the organization are making use of cloud and they’re doing it all in either very different and incongruent ways or they’re doing it all the same way and they just had no idea. So. So that means that there are two risks. You’re either doing things differently and therefore have no central posture or really kind of like guidance on how you’re operating. And that’s bad.

[00:24:06.170] – Fred
Or everybody’s in alignment, but nobody actually knows they’re in alignment. And then what we have is a whole bunch of people doing the same thing and they’re not winning from each other’s successes. So we’ve actually wasted a lot of time. So I think that the risks are twofold. Number one, you’re either not doing things the same way, or, number two, you’re you’re basically wasting time where you could have been learning from your peers.

[00:24:28.820] – Ethan
You mean duplicating effort?

[00:24:30.560] – Fred
Duplicating effort? Yeah.

[00:24:32.930] – Ethan
You remind me you mentioned government. I used to work in state government once upon a time, and there was an effort in the state government I was working with to centralize the IT because of that. There was so much duplicated effort. A lot of it was in standards design, how we build out at that time. It would have been like a Windows two thousand server infrastructure. What that’s supposed to look like, there were needs for cross departmental communication where sometimes the systems needed to interface with one another.

[00:24:59.060] – Ethan
But because there wasn’t hadn’t been up to that point any centralized IT, it might as well been people from different planets trying to get their systems to talk to one another. And so there was a lot of synergy just lost and wasted without that centralized thinking and coordination that went on. Now, in our case, it was quite. It became quite rigid and formal, and maybe we became that approval bump in the the workflow that annoyed a lot of people because we did get quite rigid and formal. And you’re saying that’s not what we’re talking about with the CCoE. But but still.

[00:25:33.600] – Fred
I think that’s a really good comparison, though. When you centralized an entire I.T. function, you’re actually creating a shared services organization within your department. And that.

[00:25:44.130] – Ethan
Yes very much.

[00:25:44.630] – Fred
That has certainly its own challenge. That’s a that’s a that’s a huge shift over centralizing. Here are the strategic decision making, guiding principles about using cloud. Right. That’s that’s sort of the the the top layer of what would be that shared services thing. That then allows each individual business unit to retain the control about not what they’re doing, but how specifically they’re going to do it so they can remain still very tactical and close to their their businesses, because what happens in that shared services model is IT becomes very much separate from the business unit.

[00:26:22.760] – Fred
They do things a certain way. And then you have kind of like these champions within the business unit who who end up becoming their own little cottage I.T. people who are trying to bridge the gap between out of touch central IT and the business unit who’s actually trying to get things done. So so I think the center of excellence is a good way to say the business unit can still operate the way they need to operate. We’re just here to to tell you how it’s been done in other places because we’re all on the same mission.

[00:26:54.830] – Ethan
Actually, the centralized I.T. group I, I was dealing with, we had liaisons that accomplished that, that bridging the gap function you were just describing. But it was also formalized in a different way. Budgets, that is, certain departments had the money, the centralized IT had no money. We were zero funded. So that kind of both brought us in and took us out of the equation at the same time.

[00:27:16.680] – Fred
Well, that’s that’s a good question. I’m at the center of excellence. It is it is it funded? And I don’t I don’t think it works if it is. They’re not there to make purchasing decisions. They’re there to guide decisions so that the business units can make purchasing decisions.

[00:27:31.280] – Ethan
Where do you what’s the line item for the donuts if there’s no budget?

[00:27:36.020] – Fred
I’m pretty sure it’s a it’s a BYOD policy, but.

[00:27:42.890] – Ned
It better not be BYOC or I’m out. I just you’ve got to provide me something at least.

[00:27:48.350] – Fred
I don’t know. I never trust free coffee.

[00:27:56.270] – Ned
Fair enough. One thing that and follow me along in this little thought exercise here, when we think about traditional on Prem IT we didn’t build a storage center of excellence or a data center center of excellence, at least not that I’m aware of. What is it that’s unique about the cloud that makes it necessary to have a center of excellence when we didn’t have one for these other IT functions before?

[00:28:21.740] – Fred
That’s and that’s that’s a that’s a great question. So I have spent some time thinking about that. So here’s where I think it’s different. And I use the term I once I used term, we didn’t have a virtualization center of excellence. Right. Nobody decided how we were going to do virtualization. That was like that was the sysadmins, or at most it was the CIO. But we have a cloud center of excellence because because cloud is more, is less of an I.T. decision and more of a business decision.

[00:28:51.200] – Fred
When we’re talking about cloud, we’re talking about a shared responsibility where we’re taking stuff out of our own control and we’re giving some of that control to others. That’s not an I.T. decision. It’s not strictly an I.T. decision that that is a decision that has to involve higher level business brought in that sort of level of of control. So so I think that’s what makes cloud unique in the sense that that we need to have continual oversight. It’s because at some at some level, we’re giving control away.

[00:29:28.970] – Fred
We, you know, cloud is marketed as something that’s really easy to adopt. But it’s like it would be like reading an ad for a day care that says it’s really easy to give your kid over to us, right? Yeah, it is. It’s great until my kid has special needs. And and here’s all the parameters that I need to make sure that I mean, to make sure that it’s a peanut free zone. I need to make sure that, you know, I have requirements.

[00:29:53.600] – Fred
So that’s how we feel about giving our our data, our our systems, our intellectual property over to other organizations to run.

[00:30:07.600] – Ethan
It’s the.

[00:30:08.440] – Ned
So, yeah.

[00:30:09.550] – Ethan
Yeah, it’s that change in control that is driving this and that just made me think of like data governance, governance and regulatory compliance both pop up immediately where there is a business impact if you do it wrong and it is plausible to do it wrong, moving to cloud by just not thinking about those things that effectively.

[00:30:31.510] – Fred
And that’s not a decision that that that the business can just leave to IT, the business has to be involved in in understanding if I go to cloud, where’s my data going to go? Is it allowed to be there? And does it in my still able to. Is it still available in the same way? Does it affect my time to recover? How does that affect my business continuity plan. So. So those are those are business level decisions that are not strictly decided in a in an IT vacuum.

[00:31:04.100] – Ethan
It does feel like there’s a scope issue there though too, because when we talk about cloud as a technology set, it is massive and continues to grow in having guides about best practices and how to do something is awfully helpful. Whereas like Ned you mentioned, I think storage before we didn’t have a storage center of excellence. Well, is why the storage is topically it’s still way more narrow and way more finely scoped than than cloud.

[00:31:37.610] – Fred
And I think the velocity of change in storage, I mean, maybe in the last 10 years it’s been there have been a lot of change. But but the velocity of change and in cloud in the last 10 years has been astronomical.

[00:31:51.290] – Ned
It’s not really comparable. It’s like, oh, you have nVME. Now, look at you. You did it.

[00:31:57.710] – Fred
And I think that that’s that that brings another sort of purpose behind the cloud center of excellence is not only to evaluate these things as they come to the table, but to also review their own posture periodically to make sure that they’re still aligned to what’s going on out there. What changes have happened in out in the market that might affect their posture? Something like GDPR? GDPR is a good example. GDPR comes down May twenty fifth, twenty eighteen and anybody who’s sort of operating in a cloud center of excellence mode has to sit and discuss.

[00:32:34.330] – Fred
What does this mean for us is do we have any data in the EU? Do we have any EU data in our own systems and and now how do we have to treat it? So. So those are the types of discussions that I see happening at these periodic meetings.

[00:32:50.850] – Ned
Yeah, I guess I was focusing more on the constant churn of cloud services and all the new things that are introduced there that you know. You know, five years ago, AWS didn’t really have machine learning, but now it has all this machine learning stuff to figure out how you adapt to that thing, and that’s just continues to be the case. But it’s not just what the cloud introduces. It’s these other governing bodies that impose new compliance regulations that you have to stay in line with.

[00:33:19.130] – Ned
So there’s a lot there. It kind of like initially when I thought of Cloud Center of Excellence, I thought, OK, we put this team together there, a crack team of commandos who are going to go in and they’re going to get cloud deployed and it’s going to be successful. Everyone’s happy and then they disband. They’re gone in the night. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case. Is there a point at which you spin down the center of excellence or is it just going to be consistently there as cloud evolves?

[00:33:46.250] – Fred
So I’ve I’ve seen a lot of centers of excellence spin down, but it hasn’t been for it’s usually because they lose steam. And if I really poke poke at it, it’s it’s because they did all the right things at the beginning. Right. So they established themselves. They got their strategy figured out. They they set some guiding principles. They drove adoption through the organization. And then it kind of fizzles out because when we talk about this with organization, it’s like, oh yeah, I know we had something like that.

[00:34:14.390] – Fred
Look what happened to that? Well, then our SAP implementation was done and that’s when it’s like, OK, so it was really narrowly focused on specifically that one thing and it lacked the the the the broader context.

[00:34:28.910] – Ethan
So if there’s if there’s a top down directive to achieve some specific goal with Cloud and you get that done in the C suites, not bothering you anymore, then it kind of feels like you’re done in some sense.

[00:34:38.420] – Fred
You’re done. And then they go off into the night as Ned said. So but if the if the vision is established, said we’re here to stay, there is a lot of upfront work, there’s a lot of upfront discussions about building those that common set of controls, building the strategy, establishing the common posture, having those really good, healthy debates, gathering the knowledge that’s there’s a lot of upfront work there.

[00:35:03.980] – Fred
But after that, you know, things can get to a point where it’s like, you know, why are we meeting? And if it gets to that point, I mean, it’s not done. It’s the things that that I see influencing the agenda of a center of excellence are new deployments or new strategic initiative, new initiatives that that there’s no guiding principle on that should be on the agenda. So, again, much like a committee of the things that have formed, the committee happened throughout the time between committee meetings and feed the agenda.

[00:35:36.560] – Fred
And then you get to the meeting, you’re like, what are we discussing? What’s the new business? So so the the things that should feed the ongoing meetings once once all that up front work is done, are those strategic initiative changes, external changes in the market? Somebody noticed that AWS now supports something like Lambda and wants to discuss. Is there an opportunity there for us to shift our mind on how we feel about serverless computing? We want to maybe bring in a solution architect to at least explain it to us so that we understand.

[00:36:08.510] – Fred
So I think there’s there’s a there’s an opportunity to keep it alive. One of the big challenges, though, to keep the center of excellence going is reminding the representatives that are there why they are there. They have to feel like this is part of something that there’s a purpose. Otherwise, again, it just it’s another committee meeting. And I’m just I’m not going to go. And that has been brought up as a challenge in organizations that we’ve talked to that were there.

[00:36:37.400] – Fred
Like, we need to make sure that that this this forum that we’re creating is is is well respected, well regarded and isn’t just like another thing people feel like is on their plate, that it’s not part of their yearly performance assessment. Nobody’s evaluating how good they are at it. They actually have a job to do it when the meeting’s over. So if it if it feels like it’s interfering with that, it’s not going to succeed. So it has to it has to be. The representatives there have to know that they’re being a part of a collective decision process that is useful to the organization.

[00:37:17.210] – Ethan
So, Fred, we’ve talked about the members of the Center of Excellence tending to talk about technical things. But there’s also a big business driver here to have the CCoE. So who is actually sitting on the center of excellence? Is it the IT nerds and those kind of folks that are thinking about this stuff? Or is it business people, too?

[00:37:38.960] – Fred
It is I.T. It is. It is technology. So the business folks have a role. I see the business folks there as its periodic guests when there’s an idea that they need to they need to participate in. If it’s the first time that that a particular business unit is getting SaaS and we don’t have a pre established vendor for that kind of SaaS, and we’ve never seen it done in a way that stores data over here in this part of the world or whatever, then in that particular business person has a vested interest in in in seeing how that’s handled and because they’re the shepherd of that particular solution.

[00:38:21.530] – Fred
But the the overall cloud center of excellence is made up of IT decision makers. That’s how I would describe it. So that could be like the collective C suites, the directors of technology at various business units, whatever they’re called, it’s it’s the the IT decision makers.

[00:38:38.030] – Ethan
It’s not the owner of an application who’s maybe a business stakeholder because they don’t need to know or care, especially where what platform their application is riding on. It’s the people…

[00:38:47.600] – Fred
That’s right.

[00:38:47.940] – Ethan
That are delivering that app and want to have that structure around how they do it.

[00:38:52.190] – Fred
That’s right. The application owner is there to make sure that how that’s being cited will still actually do what they need the application to do. They don’t care that that that I’m putting it on on open stack. They don’t or that I or that it’s open stack hosted in RackSpace, they don’t care about that, but they do care about me saying that. And I say and that brings these constraints. And now they’re like, that’s a constraint I can’t live with.

[00:39:18.620] – Fred
And and so now I got to go back to the drawing board. So so in that sense, it’s it is an architectural review board. But the application owner, they’re simply there to represent the interests of their application. In that particular moment.

[00:39:37.210] – Ned
Now, let’s say that, you know, I’m part of the IT group, the closest thing that is a central IT group and I want to get a cloud center of excellence started, who do I have to get buy-in from up above, I mean, maybe not funding because, you know, I’m bringing my own donuts, but who is going to champion this in the upper levels to make sure it actually gets created and socialize it to all the other groups that are in the larger organization?

[00:40:04.960] – Fred
Yeah, that’s that’s that’s certainly a great question. I had somebody ask me that once where he said, OK, so I’ve recognized Fred, what you said about like if you’re making the same decisions as one of your peers off in another business unit and you probably need one of these things too, now who do we go to? It takes a a a you know, one of those leaders who has the ability to rally people to to really plant the seed for this.

[00:40:31.750] – Fred
So, you know, in a in a state government, there is usually a business unit that is that is focused on technology. So so we do see that unit as as the leader of that unit is typically the one who is like, OK, well, I mean, I’m not going to own all the cloud decisions, but what I do have to own is I have to become the sponsor of this thing. And so it’s got to be me who goes out to all these business units and says, hey, we need to come together as as an entity so that we can make collective decisions about how we’re doing these things.

[00:41:03.610] – Fred
I’m going to chair it. I’m going to get it going. But I really want your participation. So it needs to be a leader there who’s willing to to go to the rest of the business units and champion the cause for why they need to bring everyone together. That that the risk of doing of not doing that is that decisions are going to be made in one place. And that’s not good for the organization. So so really what they’re saying is, look, I don’t want to make all the decisions.

[00:41:26.860] – Fred
I want you to be part of this decision or a delegate. That’s that’s how we see these things come to bear. It’s, you know, in our case, as as a team coming into to help write a cloud strategy. It is usually the person who’s who’s been tasked with like you need to own the cloud strategy. And so they’re the ones who are like, OK, well, if I need to own the cloud strategy, that’s fine. But I can’t write it by myself.

[00:41:49.070] – Fred
It’s not for my team to do it. So I need to, you know, with our help and guidance on who should be there, go and pull all the requisite resources together to form that team. That becomes essentially the genesis of the center of excellence.

[00:42:02.980] – Ned
Getting some commemorative mugs made might actually help as well. Just make sure everybody gets their CCoE mug. And they’ll feel like they’re part of something bigger.

[00:42:12.400] – Fred
Badges?

[00:42:14.050] – Ned
You can bring donuts, but you need to put the coffee in. Oh, we don’t need no stinking badges. So sorry, it was right there? The last thing I was curious about is we focused very much on internal resources. Who needs to come in from different business units? Who needs to be members of this org? But lesson get learned outside of the organization and it would be really nice to leverage those lessons as well. So you’re not repeating the work that other people have already done, even if they’re not inside your organization. So do you invite other similar organizations in? Do you invite vendors in to present to the CCoE? How do you bring in outside people to talk to the group?

[00:42:56.590] – Fred
I’ve seen that certainly they fall into that layer of subject matter expertize that I’d want to see present. So there again, they’re not they don’t have they don’t sit on the CCoE. I wouldn’t want to see an AWS or Azure or Google Compute or cloud solution architect with a permanent seat on a state governments or county governments Cloud Center of Excellence Committee. I think that creates a conflict. However, bringing them in as a subject matter experts to talk about a case study, a similar case study to share some best practices that way to talk about a new technology.

[00:43:34.270] – Fred
How are we using machine learning? What’s a good what’s a good use case for it in in this specific industry? Those are those are we’ve seen analysts get invited. So so, yeah, there’s absolutely a place for external contribution and input as a way to to help inform the the the best practices that are the artifact of the center of excellence.

[00:44:00.040] – Ethan
I think you just you hit the separation perfectly. No, not a permanent seat on the board, conflict of interest, et cetera. That that seems plain. But at the same time, Bob from thus and such a consultancy here in the city is going to give us a presentation on this that’s something that that we’re interested in and then take it away Bob, you know, as a one day guest, that sounds perfectly appropriate

[00:44:18.980] – Fred
And even even a recurring guest, but not like not like an every meeting guest.

[00:44:23.770] – Ethan
Right.

[00:44:24.070] – Fred
Because that starts that starts to get a little comfortable.

[00:44:27.950] – Ethan
Well Fred, this has been a very interesting conversation on CCoEs. Give us some takeaways, some highlights that we should walk away from this podcast conversation with.

[00:44:38.100] – Fred
Well, I think it’s important to remember that that CCoE is a a thing that it happens at a certain unit of scale that that not every organization needs what would be called a cloud center of excellence. But everything we’ve talked about, you know, bringing knowledge to one place, sharing best practices, bringing in influence from the outside, all of those things still need to happen. It just might not happen in a forum that would be described as a cloud center of excellence.

[00:45:07.560] – Fred
It might happen in a steering committee. It might happen in a team meeting. It might happen in your head if it’s just you there. And that’s OK. It’s as long as all of those things are happening, I think that the right decisions are getting made. So that’s that’s one thing to remember is like not everyone needs it. I think the other the other takeaway is that, you know, that you need a cloud center of excellence. If you’re in an organization where you have peers that you’re interfacing with, maybe at lunch, maybe at hockey after work or whatever it is, and they’re doing the same things you’re doing, but you’re not talking about those things at work.

[00:45:45.960] – Fred
Right. So if Ethan, you and I are are shooting ball after after work and you’re telling me about the implementation of the RDS database. And gee, would have been really nice if if you had some help. And I say, well, I did that last year. I already went through all those things. I already had a partner help me with all of those things would be nice if that partner could’ve help you Ethan. If you’re having those kind of discussions because your organization is that big and you work in those opposite corners.

[00:46:15.870] – Fred
That’s a signal that that there’s there’s room for something centralized where where these sorts of best practices are shared.

[00:46:24.790] – Ethan
Yeah, exactly. OK, thank you for that, Fred. And for those closing thoughts, how do people follow you on the Internet, Fred?

[00:46:32.310] – Fred
Well, I am. I’m on Twitter. I’m at Fred Chagnon. And that’s Fred C-H-A-G-N-O-N. And I’m on LinkedIn and I do respond to those messages, and so that’s about as, as Internet exposed as as I am.

[00:46:49.000] – Ethan
And that is enough. That is enough. Twitter and LinkedIn, that’s that’s all people need to know to find you. That is lovely. And thanks for your time today. Much. Much appreciated. All right.

[00:46:58.540] – Fred
Thank you for listening back. I appreciate it.

[00:47:00.700] – Ethan
For those of you listening, Fred had to reschedule with us, because as soon as he scheduled, he got slapped with a big project that is like, oh, can we try this a different time? So, I mean, Fred’s a busy guy and made time to record with us today. So thanks again, Fred, and thanks to you for listening. Virtual high fives, because that’s how awesome you are. If you enjoyed the show, if you have suggestions for future shows, we would love to hear them hit Ned and I up on Twitter at Day Two Cloud show.

[00:47:25.090] – Ethan
We monitor that account. Send us your suggestions and we’ll see if we can get a show put together for you. If you’re not a Twitter person, fine. Go to Neds fancy website, Ned in the cloud dotcom. He’s got a form there. Fill it out, send your suggestions into him and we’ll see if we can get it done.

[00:47:39.430] – Ethan
If you’d like more from the packet pushers. Well, hey, there is a weekly newsletter, the Human Infrastructure Magazine, Human Infrastructure magazine is loaded with the very best stuff that we found on the Internet, plus our own feature articles and commentary.

[00:47:50.410] – Ethan
It is free, doesn’t suck, I promise. I contribute to it every week. It really doesn’t suck. We work hard on it. Get the next issue, via Packet Pushers dot net slash newsletter. And until then, just remember, cloud is what happens while IT is making other plans.

Episode 98