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Observability Center of Excellence

Overview

What is a CoE?

By definition a center of excellence is…

A team of dedicated individuals, from multiple functional areas of an organization, that lead the way in exploring and adopting tools, techniques and practices.

The Center of Excellence promotes collaboration, standards, best practice and adoption. It is supported by a community with a rich collaborative knowledge-base reinforced with frequent enablement and learning.

Centers of excellence exist around a host of disciplines including things like security, applications, cloud services and automation. This guide is focused on how to create a Center of Excellence around observability best practices. This will help you drive standards, speed and scale across your organization, and maximize the return on the investment in observability solutions.

Why build an Observability CoE?

Creating an Observability Center of Excellence delivers benefits in three key areas.

Adoption

  • Leads to wider adoption of observability practices, tools and processes
  • Reduces startup time for new teams
  • Breaks down skill silos

Implementation

  • Maintains standards and provisions frameworks for implementation
  • Creates a supported framework for enablement, learning and training
  • Keeps observability fresh, new and part of the every-day

Expertise

  • Encourages collaboration and sharing of success and best practice
  • Enables practitioners to be supported by their peers
  • Helps prevent expertise decay

Successful implementation of an Observability Center of Excellence helps organizations to reduce risk, drive operational efficiencies and improve their service delivery. This in turn helps businesses to achieve their goals and objectives as their applications and services evolve to meet changing demands.

The Observability CoE Core Elements

An Observability Center of Excellence primarily consists of three core elements; the framework, key stakeholders, and the operating model.

The Observability CoE Framework

The Observability CoE Stakeholders

The most important elements of the Observability Center of Excellence are the stakeholder groups. They are:

  • Responsible for the creation, maintenance and support of the OCoE
  • Responsible for selecting the standards and best practices to be included in the OCoE
  • The primary consumers and contributors to the OCoE itself

These stakeholders fall into the three categories (these may be known by other names in your organization).

The Observability CoE Core Team

This is central team responsible for maintaining the Observability Center of Excellence.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining a relationship with New Relic
  • Administration and coordination of accounts and users
  • Onboarding of new teams and individuals
  • Maintenance of resources and knowledge base
  • Promotion of collaboration and sharing amongst teams

Typically this would be a team of 1-3 people with a background in observability and strong familiarity with New Relic. They work 2-3 hours per week on the OCoE alongside their regular role.

The Observability Council

A group of leaders responsible for selecting or producing, ratifying and promoting observability standards across the organization.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Thought leadership and direction
  • Defining and agreeing on standards and tooling
  • Ensuring implementation quality

The size of this team will vary based upon your organization's size and structure. It will consist of individuals from across the organization that have a vested interest in ensuring observability standards are implemented and maintained across the business. Ideal candidates for this function include those with leadership roles in operations, development and support. This is an advisory role that does not require a significant commitment of time.

The Observability Guild

This is a cross functional group of individuals across the organization who have experience and passion for observability, tooling, and are willing to help others. They are the heroes for your Observability Center of Excellence and the main contributors to supporting others and generating content for it.

Guild members are not appointed but should volunteer based upon their passion and expertise for observability.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Answering questions from others
  • Contributing to knowledge base
  • Demonstrating best practice
  • Fostering an environment of self help and collaboration.
  • Attending New Relic technical enablement workshops and events

The number of guild members in any organization will vary and generally increase as the adoption of observability best practices increases across your teams. Being part of the guild becomes just part of doing their day job and something which helps both them and others to benefit from the OCoE.

The Observability CoE Operating model

Finally having understood the entities that make up your OCoE and the key stakeholders who will interact with it, the last element is the Observability Center of Excellence Model which brings all these elements together. Below is a visualization of the model which will be covered in more detail later in this guide.

The creation and operation of an Observability Center of Excellence breaks down into two key stages.

Stage 1 - Creating the OCoE framework that will support the adoption of the selected observability best practices.

Stage 2 - The ongoing maintenance and support of the OCoE to ensure that the best practices and standards, along with the content and enablement materials are kept up to date and relevant.

Stage 1 Ramp Up

The ramp up stage for an OCoE involves introducing the concepts behind the initiative, running a workshop to understand the objectives and primary stakeholders, selecting supporting technologies and the best practices to adopt, and then seeding your OCoE with the assets to support them.

Steps

Collaboration channels

Having determined the collaboration tool of choice for you OCoE we would recommend setting up the following regular clinic and collaboration channels.

New Relic Clinic

A regular open session for the OCoE core team to answer questions, share information and address issues with the practitioners.

Typical agenda for this session would be:

  • Help and support
  • Platform updates
  • Best practice sharing
  • Demos and examples

Typical attendees would be:

  • OCoE core team (coordinators)
  • Guild heroes
  • Practitioners

Messaging Channels

#help-newrelic A channel for all users of New Relic to ask questions, share knowledge and get help.

Typical members of this channel would be:

  • All observability practitioners
  • Guild heroes (providing active support)
  • OCoE core team (providing active support)

#core-newrelic A channel for core team and New Relic CSS to freely communicate and escalate issues and problems.

Typical members of this channel would be:

  • OCoE core team
  • Guild heroes (possibly)
  • New Relic CSM / SA / TAM

Knowledge Base

The knowledge base provides a single destination for practitioners to find standards, configuration, examples, code snippets, quick start guides and other related material that is focused on your organization's configuration of New Relic and implementation of observability best practices.

It provides links out to New Relic documentation and learning tools to support self passed enablement and onboarding.

To seed your knowledge base, New Relic provides a starter kit for building your own wiki-like knowledge base intended to jump start your Observability Center of Excellence.

The wiki skeleton consists of a number of markdown pages that cover many areas of the knowledge base from account information to quick start reference guides.

It is available in Github where you can clone and customize the content to suit your needs.

Stage 2 Ongoing Support

Once the framework of your OCoE is up and running it needs to be maintained to keep the content current and relevant to your objectives. To achieve this New Relic provides ongoing support in four key areas to help get the most value from your OCoE.

Conclusion

By implementing some or all of the guidance outlined in this document you will have put in place the key components to create collaborative culture around your Observability Practice. An environment that will foster passion and develop strong expertise around observability, whilst also delivering business benefits aligned to improving Operational Efficiency, Uptime, Performance and Reliability, Customer Experience and Innovation and Growth.

The Observability Center of Excellence helps your organization develop and retain the skills and best practices that are essential to developing and operating today's complex modern application architectures.

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