Building an enterprise-level Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)

Interview with Hussain Shabbir,
Senior Director Global Head of AWS Center of Excellence (CoE)

Published: March 4, 2022

A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) gives enterprises a framework for orchestrating their cloud operations. This oversight is essential because every cloud activity has an associated cost. 

For example, if two divisions of a large company create separate cloud environments, there may be many repeating operations created in each environment resulting in duplicate costs. By introducing a CCoE, the company could create a standard methodology that prevents this repetition and thereby reduces cost.

This is just one of the many arguments in favor of creating an enterprise-level CCoE, according to Hussain Shabbir, a Senior Director at Virtusa who leads the company’s global AWS CoE business. Hussain has spent 20 years in the technology industry and has become a leading advocate for building a CCoE on AWS. 

Cloud adoption brings agility and scale to the enterprise, he explains. The shift from a capital-expense model to an operating expense model requires IT leaders to adapt. “There's a low barrier to entry when it comes to actually procuring cloud environments,” Shabbir says. “You need a CoE to govern all of this.”

Shabbir adds that a CCoE helps companies quickly discover untapped markets and innovate with new products, services, and technologies in response to changing customer sentiment.

How is a CCoE defined? 

Shabbir defines a CCoE as a team of company leaders who join forces to drive maximal outcomes from a cloud environment. 

The CCoE creates a framework and provides leadership, strategy, and governance across the enterprise. Key responsibilities, according to Shabbir, include but are not limited to: 

  • Overseeing cloud structure and operations
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of cloud initiatives 
  • Creating governance structures 
  • Devising cloud innovations 
  • Standardizing and automating cloud functionality  

How should a CCoE be staffed? 

An enterprise-grade CCoE may require as few as six, or as many as twenty, personnel, Shabbir says.  While CCoE staffing can vary widely depending on a company’s unique needs, the personnel generally fall into two categories: 

  • Technical. These are leaders of cloud, IT, software development, and other technical disciplines. They have extensive experience in system architecture, operations, and security.  

  • Business. These leaders from conventional enterprise divisions have a strong grounding in finance, governance, enterprise architecture, training, and change management.   

Members should be results-oriented and customer-focused, with a strong inclination toward experimentation and bold action. And they must be able to influence stakeholders up and down the enterprise hierarchy.  

How should organizations structure the CCoE? 

Shabbir advises that there is not a single way to structure a CCoE. It is a matter of finding the right fit for your enterprise. Here are a few examples to think about:

  • People, processes, and technologies. This familiar framework divides responsibilities into broad disciplines such as communications, account policies, and data management. 

  • Skills-centered. A central leadership team provides high-level guidance while satellite teams cover infrastructure, operations, applications, and security. 

  • Time-centered. A timeline for cloud adoption designates steps such as initiation, building and standardizing, migration planning, execution, and optimization. 

  • Business-centered. Leaders oversee teams for strategy, governance, and engineering. The strategy team aligns cloud opportunities with corporate goals. The governance team supervises security, operations, automation, and design. The engineering team creates assets, templates, scripts, and automation.  

The driving force of the CCoE must come from internal company leadership. But many enterprises may use a mix of internal leaders and external specialists working for system integrators or managed service providers. 

How should the CCoE evolve? 

The CCoE’s role can change substantially over the years. Establishing a cloud environment is an entirely different challenge than keeping it running at peak efficiency. 

Here’s one way to envision the evolution of your CCoE over time: 

  • Near term (now). The core CCoE leadership team does almost everything. The divisions into IT, operations, and business will be limited as teams will require proper guidance and structure.  

  • Medium-term (6-12 months). Team responsibilities start specializing with the shift to IT, operations, and business. 

  • Long-term (18-24 months). Team oversight becomes broadly distributed among IT, operations, and business.

What are the limitations of a CCoE?

While a CCoE produces a wealth of benefits, it does impose limitations. Guidelines, guardrails, and committee approvals can reduce the speed, agility, and scale of cloud initiatives to a certain extent. One division within an enterprise may have an innovative idea that it wants to test immediately in the cloud environment. This would require the approval of the CoE, which would have to reconcile this initiative with all the other cloud operations, Shabbir explains. 

“When you have a governing centralized team, then, at least at the start, you lose some of the control that you would have if it was completely decentralized,” Shabbir says. 

These subtleties and nuances of CCoE operations underscore the value of working with a trusted partner that has rich experience in helping companies build and manage enterprise cloud environments. At Virtusa, we can show companies how to create a CCoE that helps them mine the full potential of cloud technologies.  


Guarantee Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) success with Virtusa

Hussain Shabbir

Senior Director
Global Head of AWS Center of Excellence (CoE)

Hussain is a Senior Director and Global Head of AWS Center of Excellence (CoE) at Virtusa. In this role he is responsible for empowering the AWS CoE in terms of Strategy, Solutions and Best Practices. He is also driving the company-wide Cloud Training & Certification Initiative, where Virtusa has achieved 2,000+ AWS Certifications in the last 3 years. He was one of the key founders of Virtusa’s cloud practice in 2014.

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