How to Get Started with a Cloud Center of Excellence

By Florence Tadjer and David Pool, ISSI Senior Consultants

In our previous blog post, we talked about the key signs that your company should establish a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE). If you’re facing stagnant growth or problems in scaling your business, a CCoE can create a flywheel of business success by supporting innovation and scale in the design, delivery, and support of cloud services. A CCoE can reduce or eliminate team silos and help cross-team collaboration by aligning teams and resources at a company-wide level. And a CCoE can help you recruit and retain quality cloud talent in a competitive market by demonstrating a commitment to cloud growth and excellence.

Regardless of your company’s size, organization hierarchy, or geographic reach, there is always a need for a centralized body of knowledge that will be used to make decisions, decide strategy, shape governance and policies, and guide best practices. A Cloud Center of Excellence serves as that body of knowledge. And equally important, having a CCoE is increasingly a requirement for companies – especially managed service providers – that want to do business with the major hyperscale cloud providers.

So, what are the basic steps to consider when implementing a CCoE? We’ll first discuss the essentials – who needs to be included in a core CCoE team – and then will talk about the less tangible but equally important task of getting organizational alignment and executive support.

Building a CCoE Team for Planning and Execution

An effective CCoE touches the entire organization, from the creation of business-growth strategies, to the way it communicates with customers, to how internal teams collaborate. Because of this, the CCoE needs to be planned, supported, and managed by employees representing at least a half-dozen skill sets across the company. They need to be selected carefully for the motivation, demonstrated competence at their own jobs, and the time-management skills required to dedicate part of each work week to CCoE tasks.

The most effective CCoE teams we have seen in our consulting practice are usually comprised of employees from professional services, sales, solution design, marketing, delivery and support, and human resources. They operate within a CCoE structure that includes an all-up cloud business office that is responsible for strategy and aligning with the company’s goals. Beneath the cloud business office are teams that support and promote cloud evangelism and adoption activities; security and governance; service management; customer engagement; products and services; and talent management.

CCoE teams also help define and enforce standards and best practices, from daily management of cloud workloads, to implementation of governance and security policies, to creating service catalogs and enabling internal digital transformation.

Getting Buy-in from Executive Leadership

In our experience, the companies that seem to understand the need for a CCoE yet fail to implement them typically share one common characteristic:  They do not gain full buy-in and ongoing support for the CCoE from executive leadership.

This point is hard to overemphasize. A CCoE makes a lot of business sense when viewed as a hypothetical in conversations or in presentations. It can bolster long-term business success by becoming the locus for a cohesive corporate strategy. It can help eliminate internal silos, improve internal and external communications, and it can dramatically improve customer service. 

But it takes time and resources to build – often many months or longer. And it requires a commitment from top executives that it will be a permanent feature of the business. They need to understand that it’s just as important, if not more so, than having an Accounting or Sales team. A successful CCoE will only work with strong, consistent, and vocal support from senior executives who understand and enforce the importance of the CCoE to the entire company.

Examples of Making a CCoE Work – or Not

We’ll provide two brief examples of this principle at work.

The first is a smaller cloud partner. Their entire business is based in the cloud, and they were working towards becoming a managed service provider. They had a strong roster of skilled solution architects with deep knowledge of AWS. But they lacked consistent, documented, and repeatable processes. The result was a lot of re-inventing, which cost them time and money.

Following some strong recommendations, they implemented a CCoE. And they did it well, with strong leadership support. The CCoE helped them onboard customers faster and identify process bottlenecks more quickly. Plus, it gives the entire company—including leadership—a much clearer view of what they have sold versus what they actually deliver. By the time they got through an ISSI-conducted audit, they were already seeing the benefits of the CCoE.

On the other hand, we know of larger companies that have seen the overview of a CCoE structure. They seem to understand the benefits. Yet we’ve encountered multiple instances of companies where six months or even a year later there is little or no movement towards implementation. It is clear that in most or all of these cases there was not strong executive support.

For cloud partners to succeed in this market, a CCoE becomes more than a nice-to-have. It’s an imperative for business success.

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