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The Cloud Center of Excellence: A Modern Cargo Cult or Catalyst for Cloud Success?

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What you should know: I am currently working for Orbit Cloud Solutions as Cloud Advisor, but any posts on this blog reflect my own views and opinions only.

In the fast-paced digital world, one term has gained significant buzz: the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE). Touted as the cornerstone for successful cloud transitions, it’s quickly become a must-have for organizations. But one can’t help but wonder if we’re witnessing yet another cargo cult phenomenon. Is the fervent rush to set up a CCoE driven by the real need or is it just a consultant-driven fad? Let’s delve into this contentious issue.

The Allure of the Cloud and the Rise of CCoE

The cloud is no longer the future; it’s the present. It offers flexibility, scalability, and cost optimization that physical infrastructure can’t match. With these tantalizing advantages, the CCoE concept has gained traction. It’s seen as the magic wand that will unlock the cloud’s full potential. But as consultants zealously push CCoEs as an out-of-the-box solution, one can’t help but question whether we’re falling into a cargo cult trap.

Cargo cults emulate successful outcomes without understanding the underlying principles, hoping for similar success. In the IT realm, we’ve seen these practices more often than we’d like to admit. (Especially in adoption of agile practices this is a common (anti-)pattern). Do we truly understand what a CCoE entails, or are we merely replicating what appears to have worked for others? Without the right understanding, we might be setting up CCoEs for the wrong reasons, which can lead to disillusionment when the expected outcomes fail to materialize.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A well-structured CCoE can be a game-changer. It helps align cloud and business strategies, ensuring that the cloud journey aligns with the overall business goals. A CCoE fosters the development of cloud skills and promotes best practices within the organization. But does every business need a CCoE? That’s the question we need to answer.

Getting the Cloud Strategy Right First

Before you rush to establish a CCoE, pause. Your organization’s IT and cloud strategy should be the determining factor. A CCoE is not a panacea for all cloud-related challenges. In fact, a poorly planned CCoE can turn into a resource sinkhole with little to show for the investment. And setting up a CCoE prematurely might even stifle exploration of other cloud adoption strategies that could potentially be more effective.

The key to reaping the benefits of the cloud lies not in blindly adopting a CCoE, but in having a solid IT and cloud strategy first. Define clear goals for your cloud adoption. Align it with your business strategy. Once you have this blueprint, you can then determine the role and structure of a potential CCoE. This approach ensures that your CCoE, if you decide to have one, is tailor-made for your business needs and not a carbon copy of what’s worked for others.

A cloud strategy document that merely parrots the NIST definitions, touts a “cloud-first” mantra, and lists preferred hyperscalers is as useful as a roadmap that doesn’t mark your destination. It presents broad guidelines, sure, but lacks the specificity necessary to navigate the complex journey of cloud adoption. It’s akin to setting out on a cross-country road trip with only the instruction to “head west.” You may eventually reach the west coast, but not without unnecessary detours and potential dead ends.

Such a rudimentary approach is dangerously misleading. It gives the illusion of a plan, allowing organizations to fall into a false sense of security. This can lead to the adoption of a generic CCoE setup, under the mistaken belief that it will automatically address the organization’s unique needs. But a CCoE is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Just like a cloud strategy, a CCoE must be tailored to the organization’s specific requirements, goals, and context.

An effective cloud strategy should be a comprehensive, strategic blueprint that guides your organization’s specific journey to the cloud. It must clearly define what you aim to achieve with cloud adoption, how it aligns with your broader business objectives, and how you plan to overcome potential challenges. This strategy will then inform the creation of a CCoE, if necessary, ensuring it’s designed to meet your specific needs and not just mimicking what seems to have worked for others. This thoughtful, strategic approach is the only way to unlock the full potential of the cloud and avoid the pitfalls of the cargo cult mentality.

Conclusion: The CCoE Conundrum

We’ve come full circle. Is the CCoE a modern cargo cult or a catalyst for cloud success? There’s no definitive answer. It hinges on strategic planning and a deep understanding of your business needs and goals. The key takeaway here is the need for strategic thinking before embarking on a CCoE journey.

Are you thinking of setting up a CCoE? Or have you already set one up? Take a step back and evaluate. Does your CCoE support your cloud and business strategies? Is it facilitating your cloud journey or does it feel like a drain on resources? Use this opportunity to reassess and realign if necessary. Remember, the ultimate goal is not to have a CCoE for its own sake, but to make your cloud journey successful.

Moreover, let’s keep the conversation going. Share your experiences, challenges, and insights about CCoEs. It’s only through open dialogue and critical thinking that we can break free from cargo-cult behaviors and make informed, strategic decisions.

Ultimately, the CCoE, like any other organizational tool, is only as good as the strategy behind it. If we treat it as a silver bullet, we risk falling into the cargo cult trap. But if we see it as one element of a well-rounded, strategic approach to cloud adoption, it can serve as a powerful catalyst for success.

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