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4 steps for creating a center of excellence (CoE) in your organization

Learn how we organized our CoE to provide leadership, share critical expertise, and increase technology adoption.
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In working toward driving the value of the hybrid cloud to customers for the long term while innovating and adapting to changing conditions, our IBM CIO Hybrid Cloud Platform team's first step was to adopt the hybrid cloud for our own use. For this reason, we established a Center of Excellence (CoE) team to act as a bridge between the platform and application teams.

[ Discover ways enterprise architects can map and implement modern IT strategy with a hybrid cloud strategy. ]

A CoE is defined as a team of dedicated people with various roles "that provides leadership, best practices, research, support, or training for a focus area." Our CoE's goal is to improve the reach of critical expertise throughout the company, enable widescale adoption of the CIO Hybrid Cloud Platform, and provide thought leadership and direction for the various application teams who are at different stages in their hybrid cloud journey.

This article will explain how we organized our CoE, how the team functions, how application teams can leverage the CoE, and how the CoE will evolve. This is our framework, and we hope it serves as a good example to help you create a CoE for your organization's focus area, as it did for us.

1. Set a mission and strategy

Our CoE's mission is to "accelerate IBM's hybrid cloud transformation." The following four pillars of CoE strategy guide our progress in delivering on that mission:

  1. Data: Data is essential for providing insights into the hybrid cloud transformation. We believe that we can't improve if we can't measure.
  2. Content: We are enablers for transformation. It's a learning journey for everyone. Content is the vehicle for delivering our expertise and driving upskilling throughout the organization.
  3. Relationships: Collaboration, knowledge sharing, code sharing, training, facilitating a community of practice, and (most importantly) acting as change agents are crucial to accelerating transformation. We maintain relationships across the company to achieve this.
  4. Cloud maturity: We establish gates and guardrails, policies and governance, tools and techniques, and best practices to ensure secure, scalable, and stable platforms.

[ Learn how to build a flexible foundation for your organization. Download An architect's guide to multicloud infrastructure. ]

2. Describe the CoE's function

The CoE helps connect several business functions and enables them to achieve hybrid cloud transformation in a scalable way. We are not platform owners or application owners. We are "owners of expertise" for the hybrid cloud transformation. We like to think of ourselves as the organization's collaborative glue. We are facilitators, collaborators, creators, problem solvers, and brokers for the following teams and requirements:

  • Application teams and developers build and run the applications that the company depends on.
  • Platform teams design, build, and operate the platforms that run those applications.
  • Governance, regulatory, and security requirements that are necessary to ensure continuity. We ensure that application teams consider these dimensions when building, deploying, and running their applications.
  • Customer zero provides real-world feedback to our internal engineering teams to develop high-quality products and tell a compelling story about how we are utilizing technology to run our business.

3. Define the CoE team's roles

We have four role categories on our team, although everyone on the team contributes broadly to the efforts needed to deliver on our mission. The following is not an exhaustive list of responsibilities but a brief summary of each role on the team:

  • Data engineers collect and analyze data around our application portfolio and cloud maturity to create understanding and generate actionable insights, particularly around the increased business and financial value of migrating to hybrid cloud platforms.
  • Our cloud enablement architect drives hybrid cloud learning and upskilling in our application teams by implementing new learning paradigms and ensuring a consistent voice in the content and resources we create. In addition, this role is responsible for the end-user support experience.
  • Delivery managers promote CoE resources to stakeholders, track and drive cloud adoption, and build relationships with application teams and other stakeholders as needed to drive adoption of our hybrid cloud platforms.
  • Cloud architects are our trusted advisers and consultants. They generate cutting-edge hybrid cloud migration and modernization models, which are curated, opinionated resources for cloud adoption best practices. They are also responsible for staying up to date on new capabilities coming in from product engineering and figuring out the best way to apply those to achieve our mission.

[ Bring balance to your organization by understanding the 5 elements of digital transformation. ]

4. Drive engagement and adoption

Gamification is known for driving engagement and even some friendly competition, and we are adopting it to encourage our internal applications to migrate and modernize.

We designed a scoring model to capture the attention and interest of the application teams we work with. Our scoring model is comprised of the following two scales:

  1. Platform modernity assigns points based on the platform the application team is deploying to, with our OpenShift-based container platform being the most modern and at the top end of the scale.
  2. Application modernity assigns points based on the number of operational or architectural capabilities that the application team incorporates as part of its migration. We also include scoring for applications that have already migrated and modernized in place. Our initial application modernity dimensions include deploying in multiple regions; ensuring all golden signals and service mappings are in place; increasing the number of microservices, artificial intelligence (AI) services, and cloud services used; and converting from legacy middleware.

We set score targets for each functional area using historical migration data and a few assumptions about modernization opportunities, with a hefty 50% increase to encourage teams to stretch into more modern platforms and application architectures.

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While this scoring model, in its initial iteration, does not include all relevant cloud modernity dimensions, what matters is that we can measure the ones we have defined. As our data capabilities mature, we will increase the number of dimensions automatically scored and expand our scoring model accordingly. The data we are collecting is also used to measure the overall cloud maturity of our application portfolio and track improvements in cloud maturity over time.

Looking to the future

As we look to the future, we are working with some of the latest AI-backed tools to help our application teams modernize more efficiently than ever. We are also looking for opportunities to directly integrate these tools into our platform onboarding workflow to provide a seamless AI-augmented onboarding experience.

While today the CoE is front and center, working directly with application teams, that model will change in the near future. As the platform offerings continue to mature, CoE expertise will become more integrated with the overall platform onboarding experience, guiding application teams to greater levels of cloud maturity in a more seamless and scalable way. The CoE will be in the background, updating for the latest hybrid cloud technologies and with less direct, hands-on interactions with the application teams.

In conclusion, the CoE team is chartered to scale migration and transformation of internal business applications across the company. We engage with application teams to provide expertise and guidance for migrating applications into the hybrid cloud. We act as a conduit between the hybrid cloud platform and application teams. We bring hybrid cloud platform knowledge closer to the application teams and take feedback to the platform teams to improve their offerings. We document our application teams' journeys as case studies and develop models to scale the migration efforts across the company. The result is a dramatic increase in consumption of hybrid cloud platforms in a scalable, secure way that will serve as an exemplary showcase for customers.

[ Learn how IT modernization can help alleviate technical debt. ]

This article is based on How a center of excellence (CoE) team drives hybrid cloud transformation and adoption on the Hybrid Cloud How-Tos blog and is reprinted with permission.

Topics:   Cloud   Leadership   Collaboration  
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Drew McMillen

With more than two decades of experience in the technology sector across both large enterprises and small software development organizations under his belt, Drew McMillen leads the IBM CIO organization’s OpenShift and virtualiza More about me

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