How to build a cloud center of excellence in 9 steps

A cloud center of excellence brings together expertise from different departments to develop a uniform cloud adoption strategy. Here are some best practices for a successful CCoE.

Organizations that move to the cloud are presented with governance challenges that differ from their on-premises experience. These include limited visibility into their cloud provider's operations, cloud sprawl and cost management, and security and regulatory compliance.

A cloud center of excellence (CCoE) can address these issues.

A CCoE is a multidisciplinary team of experts within an organization. The team develops and leads a strategy to support successful, uniform cloud adoption. It also help business units implement cloud technologies that are cost-effective, secure and efficient.

Let's take a closer look at how to build a CCoE, as well as the benefits, risks and best practices associated with this approach.

CCoE team members

There is no uniform standard for CCoE adoption or team composition. A successful CCoE team accomplishes the goals of cloud adoption and integration that are most relevant to the organization. The CCoE solves problems and overcomes challenges such as technical, security, regulatory and business issues. These challenges vary with the business, its industry vertical and related requirements, and its current cloud maturity levels or capabilities.

However, typical CCoE teams draw from groups across the enterprise. These team members bring expertise from their respective departments and fill out potential knowledge gaps.

Diagram showing types of CCoE team members.


Cloud technology is rarely adopted for its own sake, but rather as a viable option to pressing business needs. Business leaders typically drive the need for cloud adoption to solve problems, such as improving customer experience or saving money. They know where the business is going and can best measure how cloud supports that journey.

Business leaders help align cloud adoption and the CCoE with the organization's particular objectives. They often represent stakeholders responsible for the outcomes of cloud-hosted applications, services and data.


Cloud adoption requires comprehensive technical knowledge. Technology experts know what the cloud can do and understand how to use it. They possess knowledge of cloud architecture, engineering, security and operations needed to use a public cloud provider. They understand how to successfully deploy applications, host data and use services. Technology experts might also bring a strong knowledge of private cloud environments and hybrid cloud computing, enabling the business to pursue more comprehensive cloud strategies.


Cloud is often seen as a disruptive or transformative technology, enabling businesses to pursue goals or accomplish tasks that might be too complex, expensive or risky to tackle in-house. Innovators can come from any group but are often found in technology departments. Innovation experts envision and expand the ways an organization can adopt and apply cloud technology. For example, innovators might use cloud architecture or engineering to enable resilience and high-availability for mission-critical workloads that lack such capabilities in-house.


Whether in-house or in the cloud, running enterprise workloads costs money. Finance and FinOps experts are familiar with the costs of traditional local infrastructure. They possess a thorough knowledge of cloud costs and the complex, highly granular way that cloud costs are billed. Thus, finance experts can best advise the CCoE on cost implications of cloud adoption and utilization. They can also help the CCoE make the most cost-effective cloud decisions while best aligning those cost and budgeting decisions with business objectives.

Human resources

HR experts routinely deal with issues of corporate culture and work processes. Cloud adoption typically affects the way businesses and employees operate -- often related to changing access and management requirements around business data in the cloud. HR experts in the CCoE can help ensure that cloud adoption and usage aligns with corporate culture and prevailing HR requirements.


Businesses must deal with a wide range of legal and regulatory considerations. This requires the participation of legal experts to assist the CCoE members in areas such as regulatory compliance, data retention and protection requirements, workload localization and data sovereignty -- all often on a multinational scale. As businesses adopt the public cloud and its global resource footprint, legal expertise is critical to ensure that cloud adoption and utilization conforms to prevailing legal obligations in every geopolitical region where the business operates.

It's worth noting that every CCoE is different and can involve different team compositions. These can vary over time as needs and issues arise.

Benefits of a CCoE

Business units often fail to share information and collaborate on cloud projects. The result is a shadow IT approach where each department creates its own cloud initiative and establishes separate cloud accounts, resources and practices.

Diagram showing the benefits of a cloud center of excellence.

The outcome for each business unit -- and the organization overall -- is usually mixed. This approach can result in unnecessary project delays, duplicated efforts, wasted resources and cloud costs, as well as security, policy, regulatory and governance gaps that jeopardize the business.

A CCoE can mitigate undesirable cloud outcomes by assembling an experienced, collaborative and cross-functional team of cloud experts to serve as a single ubiquitous cloud resource for the enterprise. Business can reap major benefits from a properly implemented CCoE, such as the following:

  • Uniformity. Establish best practices, guidelines, security and governance for every business unit to adopt. A well-planned and standardized cloud strategy applied to every department or business unit also supports regulatory compliance.
  • Acceleration. Jumpstart cloud projects with greater speed and success than independent trial-and-error efforts. The CCoE provides guidance, answers questions and helps departments complete projects faster than individual business units attempting to learn cloud technologies from the ground up.
  • Efficiency. Minimize cloud usage and contain cloud sprawl to optimize utilization and costs. Adhere to common guidelines and practices to make cloud deployments easier to understand, improve and troubleshoot.
  • Cost control. Although public clouds employ a pay-as-you-go model, enterprises can realize cost savings for large, long-term or ad hoc cloud deployments. Cloud experts know how to spot such cost-saving structures and guide project teams to find available savings for the business. Cost control can help forecast cloud demand and align project budgets with cloud use.
  • Security and governance. The uniformity and collective advice available from a CCoE often extend to critical security and business governance practices. This helps ensure that a business is using cloud technologies and resources in accordance with the best practices related to security and business goals, such as access, authentication, business continuance and proper governance.
  • Support. The CCoE can serve as a single resource for cloud provider interactions. It can assist various project teams with cloud needs and decision-making, answering cloud questions and taking the lead in cloud provider relationships and service offerings.

Best practices for a successful CCoE

Results vary based on industry and organization size, but six overarching factors help enterprises achieve CCoE success.


The success of a CCoE can only be measured against clear and measurable goals. A CCoE established as just another corporate bureaucracy is likely to fail. Understand why the business needs a CCoE, what tangible or measurable benefits are expected from the CCoE, and so on. These goals drive the formation and charter of the CCoE and enable constituents to gauge business value.


The CCoE needs deep understanding of the target cloud, its resources and services, performance with various workload types, monitoring, reporting, auditing mechanisms and cost optimization strategies. This detailed knowledge is essential to answer cloud questions and lead the business through successful cloud adoption.


Team members should reflect a broad cross-section of complementary skills and perspectives. Experts typically include representatives from the business side as well as staff with expertise in operations, infrastructure, security and applications. A CCoE should also include business leaders who can align the goals and policies for adoption with overall business plans.

A CCoE team can only succeed if it receives clear support from the organization.

Form a collaborative team that can share its specialized perspectives to drive the best cloud policies. Interdisciplinary teams are more effective and thorough than teams that have members with similar skill sets. Interdisciplinary teams can also sponsor and drive cloud adoption more effectively than a single cloud evangelist.


A CCoE team can only succeed if it receives clear support from the organization. Business leaders can help the team establish credibility and authority to develop cloud policy, practices and governance. Support must also come from the team's various constituents, such as department heads, employees and users. Support must extend to the organization's senior management team -- if the C-suite doesn't believe in a CCoE, the rest of the business won't support the CCoE.


Cloud technologies are complex, and a fledgling CCoE team can easily be overwhelmed. A CCoE must have clearly scoped and well-defined project goals, especially in the early stages. Teams should start with an array of straightforward cloud projects -- such as simple lift-and-shift migrations -- to bring quick, cost-saving wins to the business. As the CCoE team gains experience and support, it can take on more complex projects and governance initiatives.


A successful cloud CCoE team is never static. Team members should constantly explore emerging cloud services and resources and adjust procedures to meet business needs. As the public cloud changes, the CCoE team must adapt the business to those changes. Team composition should also be adaptable, adding or changing members as needed.

Steps to build a CCoE

A business can build a CCoE based on the following multistep approach:

  1. Set the goals. The first step in any CCoE initiative is to define the mission and goals. Understand what the CCoE is for, what projects the CCoE should be involved with and what results the CCoE should provide. Determine what makes the CCoE successful.
  2. Get business sponsorship and funding. Start at the top with C-suite buy-in. These leaders can recognize the potential benefits of a public cloud but lack the expertise to adopt it across the organization. Business leaders authorize the creation of a CCoE, assign an initial charter or mandate with a set of goals and provide funding to operate the team.
  3. Assemble the team. The business side identifies a technical leader and collaborates with that technology expert to recruit other team members from operations, security, infrastructure, applications and so on. Early CCoE initiatives generally don't include permanent or full-time CCoE roles. The CCoE team comprises employees with existing roles who work on the CCoE initiative as a special project for the business.
  4. Build governance and best practices. One of the team's first efforts is often to establish a governance framework and practices that align with current business requirements, such as continuance and compliance. They also set basic guardrails for CCoE work and facilitate cloud projects. Governance and best practices are not static and evolve over time as CCoE expertise grows and business needs change.
  5. Train the team. As the team becomes organized and its cloud skills are assessed, identify knowledge gaps and fund training as needed. Couple trainings with opportunities to experiment and test cloud tasks.
  6. Set a roadmap. Provide uniform policies and guidance for the public cloud. As the team solidifies, set a vision and strategy for cloud adoption across the business. This roadmap can be broad and cover objectives such as identifying the workloads that can be migrated, implementing monitoring and reporting standards, handling disaster recovery and business continuance strategies, and updating systems and configuration management practices. Update the roadmap to reflect a broader and more challenging mandate as the CCoE team grows.
  7. Measure results. Collect metrics and KPIs related to cloud projects and consider how that data compares to the measures of success established in initial goals. This kind of objective data can help the CCoE and its business sponsors determine whether the group is providing the kinds of support intended. It also helps identify areas where the CCoE can evolve, change and improve.
  8. Gain credibility. Early on, the team builds its reputation and expertise by completing a variety of straightforward projects to demonstrate the value of the public cloud as well as the CCoE team. In this phase, make changes to established cloud policies and practices to optimize cloud use and governance.
  9. Set a long-term vision. Once the CCoE team establishes itself as an effective resource across the business, consider a longer-term roadmap that involves more ambitious and critical projects. This could include migrating more complex applications or driving cloud-first application development and deployment.
Steps to build a cloud center of excellence.

CCoE risks and challenges

Despite the many benefits of a CCoE, an array of problems can reduce the effectiveness of one.

Lack of visibility

Cloud project teams won't use a CCoE they don't know exists. A common mistake is to establish a CCoE quietly and then expect the group to provide leadership without CCoE members making their presence or benefits known. One benefit of a broad interdisciplinary CCoE group is providing awareness of the CCoE across the broader business. Allow the CCoE team and its leadership to make their presence known and be ready to support cloud projects.

Lack of mandate

The mandate, or charter, of a CCoE defines its objectives and goals. Without a clear mandate, the team lacks direction. Some organizations implement a CCoE because the business thinks they should, without understanding how it helps meet their needs and goals. Ensure the organization understands the purpose of its CCoE. A CCoE also needs support from a senior management team that understands the purpose and potential benefits of a CCoE.

Start small and focus on a few achievable goals. Expand to more complex projects after the team is established.

Improper scope

A mandate must match the size, expertise and experience of the CCoE team. A business that expects too much too soon can overwhelm the team and compromise cloud projects that might otherwise be simple for a more seasoned CCoE team. Start small and focus on a few achievable goals. Expand to more complex projects after the team is established.

Delays in cloud adoption

A CCoE succeeds when it drives cloud adoption, so cloud project delays can call into question the team's effectiveness. Treat delays as problems to solve, whether they require support from additional team members or budget to overcome technological barriers. Setbacks are inevitable, but avoid significant cloud project delays or cancellations without clear existential reasons.

Focus on control

Don't make the mistake of focusing on control rather than proper cloud governance. A CCoE is not designed to exert direct authority over cloud implementations -- it doesn't own cloud workloads or run cloud operations.

Provide business units with guidance and processes to maintain the cloud implementation, and advise the business as these processes change. But those business units -- not the CCoE -- have ultimate responsibility for architecting, deploying, operating and maintaining cloud implementations.

Lack of flexibility

A CCoE must be free to test and experiment with emerging technologies so it understands the potential benefits. Don't take a one-size-fits-all approach to every cloud implementation. This can prevent the CCoE and cloud project teams from successfully tackling complex projects as they arise.

Ultimately, a CCoE cannot function as a static team or department. The public cloud is designed to be a flexible, dynamic, on-demand entity, so organizations must build a CCoE that is equally flexible and dynamic to keep up with cloud innovations, emerging security threats and changing business governance requirements.

Lack of metrics

A business can become so consumed by the idea of having a CCoE that it overlooks the actual or realized benefits of one. A successful CCoE must facilitate cloud adoption at the speed of business. For example, if software development cycles are slowed or delayed because the CCoE is trying to impose frameworks or standards on developers, then the CCoE might be off track. Understand what the CCoE is supposed to do and watch the results over time.

Stephen J. Bigelow, senior technology editor at TechTarget, has more than 20 years of technical writing experience in the PC and technology industry.

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