Live Poll: FinOps Teams & Priorities

J.R. Storment
J.R. Storment in Member Calls
18th July 2019

We performed a live poll during our member call to find out how FinOps experts build their teams and what their priorities are.

(A full video of the presentation is available for FinOps Foundation Members)

FinOps is continuously evolving, with best practices constantly being refined and honed. So in our member call last week, we performed a live poll of members on three key fronts: team size, team roles and FinOps focus. Founding Member Joe Daly from Nationwide led the poll and the discussion around it. We’ve posted the poll results here along with a couple choice insights, but there’s a lot more to learn from the full member call.

Question #1: How big is your FinOps team?

On the surface, it appears that most FinOps teams are only one or two people, but there’s more to the story. While the number of dedicated FinOp team members might be small, many companies spread FinOps duties across a wide swath of their organization by having FinOps councils, teams or regular meetings. So while only a handful of people are focusing on FinOps full-time, a larger team across multiple departments are taking FinOps leadership within their own areas of responsibility. It’s a practice that dovetails nicely with the essence of FinOps — spreading cost responsibility and ownership to the edge of the organization while still retaining centralized control of key elements.

There was also some interesting discussions around when to expand the team based on the size of your company’s cloud spend. As one member put it, “The amount of millions of dollars you are spending should equate to the number of people in your FinOps team.”

Lesson #2: What roles on your team?

Roles and titles will vary significantly from company to company, so with this question we left options open to provide a general idea of how people prioritize the abilities of their FinOps teams. Since the dedicated FinOps teams tended towards the smaller size, the weighting of roles towards data analysts or people with diversified skill sets made sense, but the amount of responses for “Other” was surprising.

It turns out that a number of respondents had engineering, tools and automation roles on their FinOps team. By adding these roles directly to their FinOps team, people were able to build out cost-saving automation (such as tagging or rightsizing scripts) without having to take up engineering time. While it might not work for all organizations, it’s an approach which allows teams to take advantage of the speed of cloud.

Lesson #3: What are your biggest FinOps concerns?

The word cloud above, highlights a theme we see all the time: the foundational problems — and some of the hardest — are chargeback, forecasting, team structure, and related items that sit in the Inform stage of the FinOps Lifecycle, not the Optimize phase.

When we think of cloud cost management, it’s easy to gravitate to things like RIs, cost optimization and direct savings, but those are only small pieces of the wider FinOps picture. If you want to be successful with FinOps, you have to take that extra step to develop more holistic thinking. Education is an essential step in accomplishing this, and one rife with potential pitfalls.

One of the biggest ones? Going too far, too fast. There’s a lot of moving parts in FinOps, and trying to grasp them all at once can seem like it’s just too much. It’s better to focus on one part, give people time to find some success there, then expand into other areas.

You also need to give them the chance to fail. Sometimes people need to burn their hand to realize the importance of FinOps. It can sometimes be an expensive lesson, but it’s a lesson they won’t forget, and the long term benefits can far outweigh the short-term loss.

Additional Lessons from the Q&A

As always, one of the best parts of the call was the discussion between the members where they brought their expertise together to help solve FinOps issues for everyone.

Want to hear the full conversation and take part in future live polls? Join us in the FinOps Foundation!