3 phases of cloud adoption - lean enterprise lesson learned
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3 phases of cloud adoption: Lean enterprise lessons learned

Drew Firment
Drew Firment

Getting an enterprise to the cloud can feel like learning to fly. If only it were that simple. It’s more like trying to invent space travel to colonize an alien planet while your homeworld is self-destructing – with members of your own crew trying to sabotage the operation.

When enterprises set their sights on the stars, several common missteps can leave them earthbound. If you’re leading your enterprise from the Stone Age to the Cloud Age (possibly dragging your teams along, kicking and screaming) the key is to adopt an approach  where continuous innovation is the new bottom line and speed is the name of the game. This requires a Cloud Center of Excellence.

Cloud Center of Excellence: Preparing for liftoff

During my 20-year career at Capital One, cloud adoption transformed the company into what is now essentially an enterprise-scale FinTech startup. The company accelerated their transition by effectively leveraging API-driven cloud services from AWS and implementing a massive talent transformation.

Achieving escape velocity from legacy approaches and on-premises data centers and transitioning to a new operating model requires disciplined leadership with a long-term commitment to innovation. Executive leadership must invest time, resources, and budget into the sponsorship of a Cloud Center of Excellence.

What is Cloud Center of Excellence?

“A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a cross-functional team of people responsible for developing and managing the cloud strategy, governance, and best practices that the rest of the organization can leverage to transform the business using the cloud. The CCoE leads the organization as a whole in cloud adoption, migration, and operations.” — Cloud Management Report 2017

The Cloud Center of Excellence must continually evolve to keep pace with cloud innovation. Of course, predicting evolution can be tricky when we don’t know the forces that will shape adaptation in the multi-headed beast that is the enterprise. But there are three common phases you can expect to see in a successful cloud adoption.

Stages of an enterprise’s cloud adoption journey

Simon Wardley is a Leading Edge Forum researcher who helps clients anticipate market and ecosystem developments. Applying his design principles of Pioneers → Settlers → Town Planners toward a cloud adoption program offers an effective approach for navigating the evolving journey. 

1. Exploration of Public Cloud Services

The first steps on the enterprise cloud journey are all about exploring and iterative experimentation with the underlying public cloud services.


  • The team: During early adoption, the core team should consist of pioneering engineers with aptitude and attitude – full-cycle engineers with experience in the current state of operations and a strong desire to translate existing data center platforms into cloud services. (This team should have scars from previous expeditions and experience with security, network, and access control.) Meanwhile, the small teams should leverage agile techniques to break things daily  and collect the data that will determine patterns of future success.
  • Keys to success: An executive sponsor is absolutely essential during the early phases of cloud adoption. The sponsor must be a strong advocate, provide plenty of air-cover, and actively engage with the core team to remove impediments and barriers to success.

2. Expansion for Cloud Governance

Once your cloud pioneers solidify early successes into identified patterns, the focus turns toward scaling prototypes into products and services that are consumable by the enterprise. By listening to a broad range of internal customers, the settlers refine the patterns and help the understanding grow.

When cloud services start to scale across an enterprise, it’s natural to place a heavier emphasis on governance and controls. A key advantage of cloud-native architecture is the ability to engineer your governance by leveraging the API-driven services to access real-time controls and compliance.  A great example of engineering your cloud governance is Capital One’s open source tool, Cloud Custodian. Originally developed internally by pioneers using serverless, it was scaled across the entire enterprise by settlers, and driven toward open source commoditization by the town planners.

  • The team: The core team should no longer be considered the most cloud-savvy department in the organization. After implementing a cloud talent transformation program, the core team should pivot and begin curating new and improved patterns from other divisions. Elevating other departments beyond your core team’s existing capabilities is a key early indicator of achieving escape velocity.
  • Keys to success: At this stage, it’s imperative to focus on scaling the early understanding of cloud to the rest of the enterprise  –  achieving critical mass of cloud fluency is the only way an organization can sustain a transition to the new operating model. When just 10% of randomly distributed committed agents holds an unshakable belief, the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed.

How do you pull this off? Invest the time and money into a multi-dimensional cloud education program. An engaged workforce armed with compelling context and content will dramatically accelerate your organization through the “trough of despair” and ensure more attraction versus attrition. Instead of outsourcing your cloud training to human resources, tightly integrate cloud education as a core function on your program team. Leverage certifications as a benchmark for cloud fluency and set a minimum goal of 10% enterprise-wide.

3. Cloud Optimizations and Enhancements

As the cloud journey matures, it should lead toward the commoditization of services that result in more cost-efficient, faster, and industrialized platforms. In highly regulated industries like financial services, the organization depends on these town planners to ensure customers and regulators can trust what’s built.

  • The team: Be sure to involve your operational teams starting on day one of the cloud journey. Since operations is 24×7, consider leveraging a cloud-capable MSP for interim support to lighten the load during their talent transition.
  • The trick: Innovation: It’s not just limited to the early stages and pioneers  –  it’s also found in the operational stages of cloud adoption. For example, evolving engineering teams to embrace the concepts of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) offers innovative approaches to manage operations. SREs can contribute to enhancing the platform  –  completing the cycle as higher-order services continuously evolve.

Constant evolution

Using the principles of constant evolution, a well-designed Cloud Center of Excellence with an integrated enterprise training program will accelerate your enterprise’s transition to the new operating model at startup speeds.



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