5 Tips for Implementing a Strong FinOps Program to Unlock Cloud's Potential

By implementing FinOps principles, organizations will be better equipped to control cloud costs without compromising performance, says Sam Clark, technical account manager at DoiT International.

5 Min Read
financial chart inside a cloud

What the cloud has unlocked for businesses is astonishing. It powers performance across an enterprise by moving data where it needs to go, offers access to vital applications, and enables collaboration of teams regardless of where members are located. Its benefits range from efficiency gains such as reduced IT management, to technological advantages like being able to leverage a cloud service provider's (CSP) latest innovation.

However, with those benefits come potential pitfalls. Management can be a challenge for bootstrapped organizations, and the consequences of failure are significant. Consumption of resources can go unchecked, test deployments forgotten, and services remain running even though they're no longer used. And now that every company is working with AI — and a whole new class of tools and services have emerged for sifting through mountains of data — poorly managed compute costs have skyrocketed.

This has given rise to the importance of FinOps, a management practice promoting shared responsibility and accountability for a business's cloud computing infrastructure and costs. By creating cross-departmental collaboration among business, finance, technology, and engineering leaders, companies can gain visibility into costs and a deeper understanding of their complexity. This can help right-size a budget to achieve an optimal balance of performance, quality, and cost for workloads and services.

Related:How FinOps Can Help Optimize Cloud Spending

The following five tips can help teams implement a strong FinOps program.

1. Bridge the Gap

When it comes to the cloud, there's often a gap between those who care about budgets and those who drive costs. Quite simply, their goals are often very different. This is especially true when an employee with a company credit card can spin up resources and incur costs unchecked — a far cry from past requisitions that required approval from accounting first and weeks to process.

This, in essence, is why FinOps came to be. Training stakeholders to speak on topics like both DevOps and finance helps bridge the gap between functions, providing comprehensive insight to better control the cloud. There are products that can help with cloud management, but they won't resolve issues alone. The best tools are those that focus on reporting in a way that leaders from varied positions can understand and discuss using shared data and a common language.

2. Drive Behavioral Change

As valuable as reporting can be, the data is meaningless if it can't drive change within the organization. The FinOps Foundation has revealed organizations face great difficulty getting engineers to act on cloud cost optimization recommendations. As part of the foundation's annual State of FinOps survey, 40% of all respondents rated this as their top FinOps-related challenge.

Related:7 Cloud Finance Metrics to Track to Better Control Cloud Costs

Companies that are fully advanced on their maturity journey are the ones that have made a commitment to changing user behavior. They've not only put into place reporting that shows where purchases originate but have built objectives and goals throughout the organization to ensure progress. When actions are identified, teams are motivated to take them and drive them to completion.

3. Build a Culture

A cost-aware culture, as prescribed by the FinOps Foundation, enables companies to better understand, optimize, and control cloud costs, all while making more data-based spending decisions. You have to change the culture at the organization so everyone is accountable to cost and feels ownership to bring about improvements. No longer can groups rely on centralized authority to identify and drive operational change — they must proactively and consistently own the problem themselves. Distributed ownership and responsibility for cost efficiency is the cultural goal here.

The key is to begin establishing this as early as possible. Trying to put management controls into an environment after it has scaled becomes significantly more difficult. If you embed a cost-aware culture in 10 employees, the next 50 people you hire will ramp right into it, creating an environment of accountability that will grow right alongside the business. 

4. Shift Left

Companies that embrace FinOps and make good operational decisions are doing what they call in software development "shifting left." Traditionally, this referred to software quality and testing processes, and reflected attempts to conduct testing earlier and earlier in the software development cycle. Applying similar concepts to FinOps simply means injecting cost consciousness earlier in the cycle, too.

Remember, employees driving cloud expenses are often not cost-focused, so taking action when an issue has been identified isn't high on their list. Make sure efforts to instill responsibility and ownership are particularly heard and followed by these professionals.

5. Collaborate and Communicate

Bringing the cloud under control isn't something done alone. Teams require a mix of intelligent technology and insight from experts versed in analytics, optimization, and governance of cloud architecture. Seek out consultants with deep experience and the certifications to back it up. When it comes to technology, look for a comprehensive FinOps platform that will help you understand, optimize, and take control of your cloud spend.

Additionally, leaders from the departments must communicate. A weekly or biweekly meeting between the head of finance, engineering, and occasionally a product person can unearth significant cloud savings. Just ensure these meetings are action-oriented, starting with discovering opportunities and then setting tasks and dates for moving ahead. This will help assess if the execution was right, what was achieved, or if more time is needed to vet an action.

FinOps Is Here to Stay

The cloud is constantly changing — just look at the pace at which CSPs release new features and services. It's simply not possible to be completely optimized unless you're constantly following the action. Just remember the cost of your bill is only part of the story. With so many factors influencing that tally, it's easy for costs to stack up, so it's essential to ensure the cloud is a quantifiable expense of doing business.

Consider this: In just five years the FinOps Foundation has grown into a community of over 16,000, with 10,000 certified practitioners and 48 of the Fortune 50 companies represented. FinOps is clearly here to stay. Implement its principles, along with the tips outlined here, and you'll gain newfound visibility for controlling costs without compromising performance.

About the author:

Sam Clark is a senior technical account manager at DoiT International. He possesses more than 25 years of experience in the technology sector, with a dedicated focus on cloud expertise spanning the last decade. Specializing in optimizing cloud operations and cost efficiency, he champions the principles of FinOps via webinars, podcasts, and blog posts.

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