This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0 - Read how use or adaptation requires attribution

Using a FinOps Bingo Board to Encourage Optimization

By Kate, FinOps Practitioner

Here’s how we used gamification via an idea called the FinOps Bingo Board to encourage improvement with cloud cost management and FinOps practices at our organization.

Context & Goal

As a small team in our organization, we have done a lot of work to meet with teams to understand their spend in the cloud and make sure they know the levers they have to optimize their footprint. Our scale is 5 FinOps employees for 5,000 applications so 1-on-1 meetings isn’t going to scale well.

Our goal with this competition was to make a department in our company learn what FinOps is, identify immediate actions they can take to optimize their footprint, and understand how they can continuously improve this footprint. 

Development & Implementation

The department we chose to test this game out in has about 100 engineers and 14 different teams with  more than$1M in annual spend across three cloud providers.

We had seen people try to do a competition before where whoever reduced costs the most in a certain time period won the game. This was not a successful story of gamification because the application that won was an app that got deleted and cleaned up part-way through the competition.

As a result, we knew the winner should not be decided based on dollars and cents. Instead, we wanted it to be an equitable experience, regardless of how big an application was. To do this, we devised a bingo card that had 16 activities for teams to do to:

  • a) learn about FinOps, 
  • b) explore and use the self-service reporting available for them 24×7, and 
  • c) save some money

Some of these tiles were really easy (like tell us what FinOps is or how much your application cost last month) and some required effort (such as making sure all instances are within one family of the most modern type or there are no unattached EBS or RDS snapshots for my application). Each team received 1 point for each tile they completed and 2 bonus points for every row, column, or diagonal they filled out. The winner in our game was decided based on whoever had the most points at the end of the time period (12 weeks) and they would receive glory, swag, and some internal rewards.

Our expectation for this event was that maybe one team would go crazy and do the entire board, but that the 2nd and 3rd place teams would be decided based on who had more points. We launched this at a department town hall and provided updates every week during a “Show and Tell” hour the department has. Additionally, the FinOps team was available via Teams, Slack, email, and office hours to answer questions.

There were a ton of questions. Everyone was so excited to dig into their spend and see in detail how their actions affected the spend trends and how we could optimize the footprint. The reporting had always been available but now we were guiding them to it rather than waiting for them to stumble upon it.

As teams completed tiles, they submitted a form with the team name, activity completed, and any additional notes. The notes were super important because that is how we calculated the cost avoidance that was a direct result of this competition. Everyone wanted to win so the weekly updates were essential to keeping them engaged and encouraging them that there was still time to catch up.

Results & Lessons Learned

At the end of the competition, 9 out of 14 teams had completed the entire bingo board! They were super excited about the competition and the different levels of difficulty across the tiles. 

A lesson learned here is to expect the unexpected – we didn’t know who the winner was since everyone finished so we ended up doing the 1st/2nd/3rd prizes based on who completed it first but gave some internal rewards for those who completed the board. 

Additionally, we recognized over $75K in annualized cost avoidance from the efforts of the teams during the competition and after the fact (we made them add us to tickets in the backlog for future rightsizing or cleanup initiatives). In that >$75K are efforts that were in the thousands each month in addition to less than $0.10 – the message we wanted to send by capturing every effort is that the pennies add up and matter; it’s always important to do the right thing.

Another lesson learned was to make sure you have good substitutes for each tile for the different cloud vendors. We hadn’t fully thought that through and made some substitutes on the fly (e.g. instead of EC2 shutdown, we looked at VM curfew in Azure).

All in all, it was a huge success and we’re currently in the process of rolling this out to another department in the company in addition to looking to expand this for our SBU sometime later this year.