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Justin TravisJun 6, 2023 12:00:00 AM19 min read

Unleash Business Potential with a Cloud Center of Excellence

Unlock Business Potential with a Cloud Center of Excellence


Unlock Business Potential with a Cloud Center of Excellence

Who is Driving Your Cloud Transformation?

In today’s fast-paced business environment, organizations are increasingly turning to cloud solutions to meet their technology needs. To effectively leverage the benefits of the cloud, a strategic approach is essential. A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a designated team within an organization, charged with securely and efficiently driving cloud adoption and management, ensuring a successful cloud transformation.

What is a Cloud Center of Excellence?

A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a cross-functional team that promotes a balanced pursuit of business and technical agility through cloud technologies. A CCoE brings together key stakeholders from different departments to establish and maintain best practices, governance, and standards for cloud computing within the organization.

A robust CCoE comprises two distinct units: the Cloud Business Office (CBO) and the Cloud Platform Engineering (CPE). The CBO’s primary role involves managing Project Management Office (PMO) operations, governance, process management, and organizational change management.

The CBO also ensures that the CPE team’s solutions and best practices align with their client’s needs, encompassing key stakeholders such as Finance, Human Resources, Enterprise Architecture (EA), and Security departments.

The CPE team delivers enterprise standards and technical capabilities, ideally as self-service functions. These enable development teams to meet governance requirements while accelerating cloud adoption. The CPE team actively develops and promotes these standards and technical functions.

Why Have a Cloud Center of Excellence?

A CCoE provides a strategic advantage and competitive edge for organizations using cloud technologies. It allows the organization to realize enhanced agility and operational efficiency. It ensures the consistent implementation and management of cloud solutions across the organization. Additionally, it enables proactive management of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) related to cloud services.

Because of the versatile roles that make up a CCoE, the CCoE serves as an integrator, facilitating communication and collaboration between technical and business units. This proven[AWS, 2018] approach provides the necessary guidance, resources, and leadership to ensure the successful and effective adoption of cloud technologies, ultimately leading to better organizational performance.

Benefits of a CCoE

A well-functioning CCoE provides substantial operational and strategic benefits to an organization, including:

  • Accelerated Innovation: The CCoE fosters a culture of continual learning and technological advancement, leveraging an openness to experimentation and rapid testing. This will lead to a “fail-fast, succeed-faster” approach which drives innovative solutions within the organization.
  • Promotes Organizational Resilience: The bold personalities within the CCoE often challenge traditional practices, leading to the development of new, robust, strategies which enhance the organization’s ability to adapt to change.
  • Driven By Customer Needs: The CCoE is responsible for ensuring that all cloud initiatives are customer-centric. When at its best, a CCoE will build a reputation of consistently meeting and often exceeding customer expectations through its efficient use of new technologies.
  • Promotes Usage of Cloud: The CCoE is an advocate for the adoption and expansion of cloud technologies across the organization. The CCoE drives operational excellence and competitive advantage through new approaches to hard problems.
  • Resilient and Cost-Effective Technologies: The CCoE uses its knowledge and skills to identify the best cloud technologies for the need, which are both cost-effective and highly reliable. This ensures consistent availability of business products to the customers while maintaining an optimal cost.

No CCoE = Unfavorable Outcomes

The absence of a Cloud Center of Excellence typically impacts an organization’s transition to the cloud, causing fragmentation and inconsistency. Key issues arise:

  • Inefficiencies and miscommunication typically result in increased security risks due to a lack of coordinated decisions and communications.
  • Multiple decision-makers and independent teams operating the cloud may lead to conflicting cloud decisions and implementations across the organization.
  • Inadequate cloud governance and risk management can lead to regulatory non-compliance, causing financial penalties and reputational harm.

This lack of coordination can lead to duplication of efforts, incompatible systems, and inadequate security measures.

The absence of a CCoE hinders realizing the full benefits of the cloud due to a lack of standardized best practices and strategic guidance. Without a CCoE, an organization typically misses out on:

  • Scalability: optimizing cloud usage to meet actual demand
  • Cost-efficiency: ensuring the organization pays only for the level of service required
  • Innovation: quickly utilizing new and better technologies

Moreover, without a CCoE, an organization’s cloud strategy may fail to align with its overall business objectives, leading to a sub-optimal return on investment. From a business perspective, the investment in a CCoE is net-positive, resulting in a better bottom line. Conversely, the absence of a CCoE can lead to missed opportunities, increased risks, and hindered business performance.

What Makes Up a CCoE?

Over time, a CCoE can evolve into a substantial business unit consisting of numerous members. However, a CCoE should initially be small but comprised of various roles including solution architects, security architects, engineers, governance and risk specialists, compliance experts, and automation specialists.

Starting with a small, focused CCoE provides the optimal balance of agility, team cohesion, risk management, and resource optimization. This approach lays the groundwork for a scalable, effective cloud strategy. Importantly, starting small does not limit the CCoE’s expansion. As the organization’s cloud maturity grows, the CCoE can scale proportionately, adding more roles and responsibilities over time.

A well-functioning CCoE maintains close relationships with representatives from finance, procurement, and other business units. The CCoE leverages its collaborative ability across these functional areas to drive effective cloud adoption and strategy.

Who Makes Up a CCoE?

Depending on an organization’s size and specific needs, the CCoE’s structure can differ. In smaller organizations, the CCoE team members may stay in their primary roles, contributing to the CCoE only as part of their responsibilities. In contrast, larger organizations may require dedicated, full-time roles within the CCoE to effectively drive cloud adoption and transformation.

Ensuring the CCoE does not become an isolated and exclusive entity, commonly referred to as an ‘Ivory Tower’, requires a deliberate selection process. Ideal candidates are not only respected within the company for their technical expertise and decision-making abilities but also demonstrate high Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This quality enables them to navigate and influence the organizational dynamics without having explicit authority.

CCoE team members are bridges, connecting disparate areas within the organization. Their responsibilities extend beyond the implementation of technology. They are a leading force for driving change, fostering communication, and encouraging technical collaboration across the organization. A carefully composed CCoE increases its likelihood of success, enhances the organization’s technical culture, and accelerates the company’s cloud journey.

When building a CCoE, members should exhibit the following characteristics:

Open to Experimentation: Displays a willingness to quickly test new approaches and learn from failures.

Bold Personalities: Demonstrates readiness to challenge conventional practices.

Focused on Results: Takes an idea from a thought into a successful implementation.

Empathizes with the Customer: Prioritizes customer needs, while demanding excellence from themselves and others.

Influencer: Engages with others to expand the scope and impact of cloud initiatives in the organization.

Example Reporting Structure for a CCoE

A CCoE is a cross-functional team, with members selected from various departments including Information Technology (IT), business, security, and finance. The CCoE itself typically resides under IT. The CIO or CTO is typically the Executive leader of the CCoE. Additionally, the CCoE will have a Director level leader for regular reporting activities that encourages innovation.

A traditional “chain-of-command” approach should still be followed, however, to accelerate cloud adoption, all CCoE members should be empowered to communicate with leadership in all business areas as required. Additionally, CCoE members should be given the authority to make knowledgeable decisions independently, without unnecessary delays.

In a typical hierarchy:

  • For routine tasks: CCoE Members report to the CCoE Director, who reports to the CTO, and the CTO reports to the CEO.
  • For exceptional circumstances: CCoE Members report to the CCoE Director, who reports to the CISO, and the CISO reports to the CEO.

The CCoE maintains a flexible reporting line to the CISO for issues that could lead to a conflict of interest or require special attention.

This structure ensures the CCoE has the necessary expertise and diverse perspectives to drive cloud adoption while aligning with business objectives. Furthermore, because the CCoE is empowered to cut through red tape, and is well-respected in the organization, its members can reach out directly to decision-makers of multiple business units to accelerate innovation and technology efforts. The CCoE, therefore, functions as a strong connection between technology-focused roles and business roles, facilitating communication and collaboration across the organization.

Example Reporting Structure for a CCoE


Example Reporting Structure for a CCoE

Exploring a Real-World Example

Let’s look at the case of Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and examine the advantages they achieved through an effective CCoE implementation:

In 2013, Dow Jones made a decision to accelerate their software delivery process and increase technology innovation[AWS 2018]. Developers and other technology associates were excited to show how their efforts would improve business for Dow Jones. However, they soon realized that because of legacy practices, including an internal requirement to submit all new software changes to a Quality Assurance board before implementation, they were not going to achieve the desired results. Their attempts to accelerate the technology innovation while complying with legacy requirements often required Dow Jones technology associates to be on long conference calls, sometimes late at night, and even then the outcomes were not always successful.

Hence, Dow Jones recognized the need for a more efficient approach and accelerated their journey toward proper cloud migration. Dow Jones set out to build a Cloud Center of Excellence. Fast forward to 2016, Dow Jones began sharing how these CCoE efforts had revolutionized their technology and innovation efforts.

Initial Migration (“Lift & Shift”)

The initial migration efforts were deemed a success as evidenced by the WSJ Asia data center being migrated to AWS’s Tokyo region within six weeks. This achievement demonstrated how an effective CCoE team could realize a near-immediate positive impact. Furthermore, it established that running a production application in the cloud for Dow Jones was not only practicable but also relatively quick to implement, thus reducing apprehension and uncertainty in the organization around cloud adoption.

Operational Efficiency & Innovation

After implementing the CCoE, Dow Jones observed numerous benefits, including:

  • A noticeable enhancement in operational efficiency and innovation.
  • A considerable decrease in production incidents.
  • Successful technology deployments increased significantly from just a few per day to over 100 per day across multiple services.
  • Elimination of time-consuming builds late at night.

This increased efficiency and agility empowered Dow Jones to confidently launch new web and mobile products, enhance user experience and performance, and gave the confidence to venture into new markets.

Establish New Patterns and Scale

The CCoE helped Dow Jones to establish new reusable patterns and reference architecture for the Cloud. Additionally, the CCoE was able to increase cloud engagement and evangelization for the rest of the organization. These efforts resulted in:

  • Standardized technology practices
  • Reduced operational overhead
  • Efficient deployment and operation of applications
  • Increased support for cloud initiatives

The benefits of the Dow Jones journey illustrate how having a CCoE can promote successful cloud adoption, improve operational efficiency, and accelerate the delivery of new products and services.

Key Pillars of a Cloud Center of Excellence

A CCoE operates at the intersection of cloud technologies and business requirements:

  • Cloud Governance: Ensures the efficient, secure, and compliant use of cloud resources by establishing policies, procedures, and guidelines.
  • Best Practices and Standards: Promotes the use of standardized templates and processes to ensure efficiency, repeatability, and consistency in cloud operations.
  • Security and Compliance: Establishes and enforces necessary security standards and regulatory requirements, through policies and technical guardrails, when using cloud services.
  • Financial Management: Responsible for efficient cloud spending and implements cost control measures to ensure a return on cloud investments.
  • Skills and Training: Develops a comprehensive cloud skill set among organizational staff, offering training and encouraging the adoption of new cloud technologies.
  • Change Management: Leads the organization through the cultural and operational changes required for successful cloud adoption.
  • Encourages New Technology Adoption: Drives the adoption of new technologies and fosters innovation to leverage the full potential of the cloud.
  • Vendor Management: Manages relationships with cloud service providers and negotiates contracts to ensure the best service levels and cost-effectiveness.
  • Performance Monitoring and Optimization: Regularly monitors the performance of cloud services and optimizes them to maintain high levels of service.
  • Business Alignment: Ensures that the cloud strategy aligns with the organization’s business objectives and strategies.
  • Innovation and Transformation: Drive innovation and digital transformation by promoting cloud adoption and collaboration across the organization.

How to Build a Cloud Center of Excellence

The CCoE can be a valuable asset to any organization that is looking to leverage the benefits of the cloud. However, building a successful CCoE requires careful planning and execution.

Tips for Building a Successful CCoE

  1. Get Executive buy-in. The CCoE needs the support of senior leadership in order to be successful. The executive buy-in will help to ensure that the CCoE has the resources and authority it needs to do its job.
  2. Define the CCoE’s goals and objectives. The CCoE requires a clear understanding of its goals and objectives. This will help to ensure that the CCoE is focused on the right things and that its efforts are aligned with the organization’s larger business strategy.
  3. Assemble a cross-functional team. The CCoE should be made up of a cross-functional team of experts from various departments, including IT, business, and security. This will help to ensure that the CCoE has the expertise it needs to address all aspects of cloud adoption.
  4. Develop a cloud strategy. The CCoE must develop a cloud strategy that outlines the organization’s goals for cloud adoption. This strategy should be aligned with the organization’s overall business strategy and should take into account the organization’s specific needs and requirements.
  5. Select the right cloud platforms and services. The CCoE is tasked with selecting the right cloud platforms and services for the organization’s needs. This selection should be based on multiple factors, including the organization’s budget, its specific requirements, the ability to quickly learn new services, and security and compliance needs.
  6. Implement and manage cloud solutions. The CCoE is responsible for implementing, managing, and in many cases owning the cloud solutions. This includes tasks such as designing, developing, testing, deploying, and monitoring cloud solutions.
  7. Ensure security and compliance. The CCoE bears the responsibility to ensure that the organization’s cloud solutions are secure and compliant with all applicable regulations. This includes developing and implementing security policies and procedures, communicating with auditors, and conducting regular security audits.
  8. Drive innovation. The CCoE should have a reputation for driving innovation by exploring new ways to use cloud technologies to improve the organization’s business. This includes developing new cloud-based products and services, and finding new ways to use cloud technologies to improve existing business processes.

Cloud Center of Excellence: A Pillar of Security

Security has quickly risen to be a top-level concern for organizations of all sizes. The rapid increase in data breaches, security threats, and costs[Varonis 2023] makes it imperative for organizations to establish an effective security framework. A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) plays a crucial role in ensuring security, compliance, and governance in an organization’s cloud operations.

The extent of the CCoE’s ownership over cloud security varies based on the organization’s technical proficiency and capacity. In certain situations, a CCoE may hold comprehensive control over cloud security, while in others, its role may be limited to shaping policies and steering the strategic direction. In either case, the CCoE addresses security in multiple ways, including:

  • Establishing Security Policies and Procedures: The CCoE sets up security policies and procedures that adhere to best practices. These policies govern areas, including data access, encryption, disaster recovery, and incident response. By setting clear guidelines, the CCoE ensures that all cloud operations are secure.
  • Compliance Enforcement: The CCoE ensures that all cloud activities comply with relevant industry standards, regulations, and laws. This includes standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, and ISO 27001. By actively managing compliance, the CCoE helps prevent legal issues and protects the organization’s reputation.
  • Security Architecture Design: The CCoE designs the security architecture of the cloud environment. This includes configuring network security, identity and access management, and data protection methods. By designing the security architecture, the CCoE can give the organization confidence that its cloud environment is resistant to breaches and protects sensitive data.
  • Security Training and Awareness: The CCoE promotes security awareness across the organization. This includes training staff on best practices, as well as raising awareness about potential threats. By fostering a culture of security, with the support of Executive leadership, the CCoE helps minimize human errors that could lead to security incidents.
  • Incident Management: The CCoE is responsible for managing security incidents. This includes detecting incidents, responding to them, and recovering from them. By effectively managing incidents, the CCoE minimizes the impact of security breaches and ensures a rapid recovery.
  • Security Audits and Reviews: The CCoE conducts regular audits and reviews to ensure that security policies are being followed and to detect potential security gaps. By actively monitoring security, the CCoE ensures that potential issues are identified and addressed promptly.

The CCoE significantly enhances an organization’s security posture with its cloud operations. By establishing a comprehensive security framework, and implementing technical guardrails, the CCoE ensures that the organization’s cloud operations are secure, compliant, and efficient.

Metrics and KPIs: Tracking the Success of a Cloud Center of Excellence

Measuring the impact of a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is an essential aspect of its operation, as it allows the organization to quantify the effectiveness of its cloud operations and align them with business objectives. For an Executive team, namely the CTO and CISO, having access to relevant metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) provides valuable insight into the CCoE’s success and areas of improvement.

1. Cloud Security Metrics

Security is a primary focus area for a CCoE. Monitoring security-related KPIs should be at the forefront of monitoring a CCoE’s success. Key security metrics include:

  • The number of Security Incidents and Events: Tracks the total number of security incidents occurring within a specified timeframe. A lower number suggests a more secure cloud environment.
  • Security Incident Response Time: Measures the time to respond to and mitigate security incidents. A short response time can indicate an effective incident response plan.
  • Compliance Score: Indicates the degree of adherence to specific industry standards and regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or NIST 800-53.

2. Cloud Adoption Metrics

These KPIs reflect how well the organization is embracing cloud technologies:

  • Percentage of Business Applications in the Cloud: Measures the proportion of an organization’s applications that have been moved to the cloud. A higher percentage indicates more extensive cloud adoption.
  • Cloud Services Usage: Tracks the usage of cloud services across the organization. This metric can help identify which services are most valuable and which may be underutilized.

3. Operational Efficiency and Cost Metrics

Operational efficiency metrics provide insight into how well the CCoE is managing cloud resources:

  • Infrastructure Utilization: Monitors the usage of cloud resources to ensure they are not under or over-provisioned. Optimal utilization is cost-effective and indicates efficient resource management.
  • Cloud Cost Optimization: Tracks the savings achieved through efficient use of cloud resources. Higher savings suggest more effective cost management.

4. Innovation and Transformation Metrics

These KPIs measure the CCoE’s role in driving cloud-based innovation and digital transformation:

  • The number of New Cloud Services Adopted: Shows the degree to which the organization is exploring and adopting new cloud technologies.
  • Time to Market for Cloud Projects: Tracks the time taken from the initiation of a cloud project to its deployment. A shorter time indicates a more agile organization.

These metrics and KPIs offer a comprehensive view of a CCoE’s performance. By monitoring these indicators, an organization can assess the effectiveness of the CCoE, making informed decisions to drive further improvements in cloud operations, security, and governance.

How ScaleSec Can Help Build a Cloud Center of Excellence

ScaleSec provides expert guidance and support with all areas of Cloud, including establishing a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) within your organization. Our approach is designed to empower your team and outfit them with the tools they need to succeed.

ScaleSec’s Approach to Building a CCoE Includes

  • Advisory Services
  • Cloud Strategy Development
  • Cloud Platform Selection
  • Cloud Solution Implementation
  • Security and Compliance Guidance

Upon engagement, ScaleSec initiates the process of establishing a CCoE with a thorough understanding of your organization’s unique needs and objectives. We gather insights into your operational plans, cloud aspirations, and security requirements. Following this, our team develops a comprehensive cloud strategy, which includes the recommendation of the most suitable cloud platform & services for your organization.

We can then proceed with the cloud solution implementation, taking into consideration your current IT infrastructure, future expansion plans, and business continuity requirements. This ensures seamless integration of cloud services with your existing processes.

Furthermore, we understand that specific security and compliance requirements are core for many organizations. Therefore, we offer comprehensive Security and Compliance Guidance, ensuring your CCoE is equipped to have your organization adhere to industry standards, laws, and regulations.

ScaleSec’s expertise in cloud security, combined with a deep understanding of business needs, ensures that your CCoE is equipped to drive successful cloud adoption, optimize cloud performance, and ensure comprehensive security and compliance, enabling your organization to fully leverage the benefits of the cloud.

Final Thoughts

A Cloud Center of Excellence, through its cohesive approach to cloud adoption, serves as an accelerator for business transformation, driving innovation, enhancing operational efficiency, and delivering a competitive advantage.

  • Strategic Significance: A CCoE fosters innovation and aids in optimal cloud adoption, aligning with business goals.
  • Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance: A CCoE enhances security, mitigates risks, and ensures compliance through coordinated cloud adoption.
  • Optimization and Cost-Effectiveness: Standardized practices and efficient resource utilization by a CCoE lead to cost-effectiveness and improved business performance.
  • Absence of a CCoE: Without a CCoE, organizations risk insecure and inefficient cloud implementations.
  • Business Transformation: A CCoE accelerates business transformation, drives innovation, enhances efficiency, and provides a competitive advantage.

Throughout history, we have learned that change is inevitable, and it often leads to better outcomes than before. Cloud technologies have exemplified this fact. However, effectively harnessing the potential of the cloud can prove complex and challenging, especially if encountering resistance from individuals within an organization. The technical and business roles a CCoE fulfills in a successful cloud transformation will be increasingly important in an ever-evolving technology landscape.

Unlock the full potential of your business with ScaleSec’s Cloud Center of Excellence. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive cloud adoption and management solutions.


Justin Travis

Justin has over 10 years of experience working in Cloud and Information Security with a background in Financial Services, Sports Media, and Consulting. Justin enjoys helping companies build a world-class security program. He’s impassioned to show companies how security can speed up goals and be a business enabler.


The information presented in this article is accurate as of 7/19/23. Follow the ScaleSec blog for new articles and updates.