Stumbling Towards FinOps

Change takes time

The transition from one paradigm to another is never as quick as we’d like, or as it seems in memory. Today, it’s difficult to recall the resistance public cloud, as a method for providing key services such as computation and database, faced in an earlier stage. With this in-mind, let’s consider the difficulties I’m seeing in the field as organizations struggle (I think that’s the right word) to adopt FinOps principles to their cloud usage.

To level-set, let’s take a look at the FinOps framework diagram from the FinOps Foundation:

FinOps Personas

The graphic shows that FinOps is a cross-disciplinary team effort requiring, for success, the participation of people from various departments and disciplines within an organization.

The principle is very simple and straightforward but, as we know, change is hard. This is what I’m actually seeing in organizations:


Even some of the largest enterprises, with tens of millions of cloud spend, often misunderstand (or resist) what’s required to build a real FinOps practice and fail to accomplish their goals.

Consider, for example, the story of Fredric (based on a true story)

Crawl, Walk, Run and Stumble

Frederic works for a multinational materials science company valued at many billions of…well, pick your currency. I’ll call the company Augustus Global or, AG. AG has a significant investment in cloud – Azure, AWS and GCP and a correspondingly large series of cloud bills. Finance is perplexed; what is generating tens of millions worth of cloud spend? Why is this spending increasing?  IT provides purely technical explanations that confuse and annoy the business and no one seems to understand what to do beyond, reduce.

Your Cloud Bill Doesn’t Play Favorites

Fortunately for AG, Frederic is familiar with FinOps and suggests the organization build a practice to gain insight into the sources of spending but also, more importantly, create a strategy to optimize with business goals and targets in mind.

That was the good news. The not so good news, for Frederic, was that despite pledges from all the identified stakeholders to participate in the process, to, in other words, fulfill their role within the FinOps Personas Framework, Frederic found himself carrying the entire burden: reporting, optimization and operation. AG turned what should have been a cross-organization activity, into something one person, our overworked Frederic, was tasked with controlling and reporting on to leadership.

Instead of placing the organization within the crawl, walk, run, hierarchy of cloud FinOps practice, this shortsightedness creates a situation of perpetual stumbling around. Frederic tried his best, but the work of the team cannot be done by one person.

Why does this happen?

Change is hard. Just as cloud modernization faced significant resistance from traditional IT and from business leaders concerned about losing control, FinOps, which is still in its infancy, is facing, if not resistance, a form of benign neglect or misunderstanding (sometimes willful). 

Let’s say you’re Frederic. How do you move past the stumbling phase? 

  1. Recognize there’s a problem. You can’t make any progress if everyone is talking around the issue
  2. Find champions within key areas. Odds are, someone in another part of the organization understands and is willing to help. The key is finding your allies to build a team
  3. Start with a PoC that shows the value of applying real FinOps principles (for example, a review of one AWS account, Azure subscription or GCP project from a FinOps perspective – what are the cost sources, what tags are in place, how aligned with business goals is the technical stack?)
  4. Study the FinOps Framework (no need to try to reinvent the wheel) and participate in the community.
  5. Don’t be shy about contracting outside help to get you started. Of course, you have to choose wisely; there’s a growing number of providers doing FinOps-washing (calling a practice ‘FinOps’ which is little more than simple reporting) 

Change is hard. But it’s possible, through persistence but also, the demonstration of effectiveness and value, to make change possible. It happened with cloud and it will also happen with FinOps. Good luck out there!

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