Read the 2021 State of FinOps Report

March 2021 Member Call: Enabling Engineers to Take Action

J.R. Storment
J.R. Storment in FinOps Foundation
9th March 2021

We invited the community to join us for a panel discussion on enabling engineers to take action on cloud cost management. It’s the number one challenge identified by our recent State of FinOps 2021 report.

The packed session included a panel discussion including FinOps practitioners from a multitude of companies of different size and cloud utilization scale. It followed with a detailed presentation by Comcast on gamifying cloud cost management as an incentive for their engineers.

Members then had a deep discussion with others both on the video and within our community Slack channel (not a member yet? Sign up!). Watch the full video in our members area.

Introducing Our Panelists

The first part of the call featured a roundtable discussion on ways to encourage and incentivize engineer participation in FinOps practices. 

Our panel included:

Here are some high-level themes that emerged from the discussion.

Everyone Plays a Role

It’s no surprise that while the identified challenge from the State of FinOps report focuses on engineering roles taking action, the panel immediately identified how FinOps-related teammates all across the organization can play their part.

Supporting functions of business need to align with technology teams, and vice versa, to adapt to new challenges that come out of utilizing cloud. If teams are too rigid in their ways, using outdated processes, it won’t work. The group discussed how roles must evolve together.

Build a culture around FinOps education

The panel talked about how it’s critical to teach engineers to understand both the business and cost impact of their work on the cloud. Not all engineers immediately understand that the costs of using their everyday tools has changed with the shift to cloud (e.g. from CapEx to OpEx), nor is this their primary role (they’re there to build the best products possible). So instead of shaming or blaming, it’s time to educate everyone involved with FinOps.

Everyone’s involved in building a sustainable business

The group discussed how cloud costs can affect a bottom line at scale, and even having cash in the bank doesn’t protect the business. From the engineers who generate the costs (to create value) and over to line of business teams and finance teams that track, allocate, and manage those costs, everyone has to play a role in positively affecting the sustainability of the business model (e.g. meeting expectations for shareholders, board members).

Engineers will take much more positive FinOps action once they can see how their cloud utilization generates cost and affects the bottom line. The goal: getting engineering leaders to recognize cloud cost in the same light as finance leaders. All leaders should have a shared understanding and relate to making business sustainable as possible.

Using the right metrics

The group also touched on the fact that without the right metrics or KPIs, engineers (nor anyone at a business) will understand or support your plans for scale or optimization. The costs: limiting how well the organization can scale with its cloud utilization.

Even with adopting the latest cloud services, if you can’t make sense of the spend against real business goals and financial health, what’s the point? This isn’t just an engineering task though– line of business and finance must step in to build better ways to communicate cloud spending and the benefits of optimization. 

Once engineers and developers can connect their key projects, like building the next best product or killer user experience, to optimization through real, understandable metrics, the more likely they’ll repeat those beneficial actions.

These metrics also set the stage to transform FinOps practices into a productive competition. It’s not just comparing cost between product teams, but also efficiency of cloud utilization against business metrics.

This is a great segue into the latter part of the member call about…

… how Comcast Gamifies Their FinOps Practice!

Christopher Dulsky, Sr. Cloud Financial Operations Engineer at Comcast walked the community through the FinOps Treasure Hunt, an internal project that inspires engineers to take action.

Dulsky identified the main problem being that talking about financial information via traditional methods can be overwhelming and boring. Instead, gamifying the content, like making it more interactive, can promote financial acumen and a healthy competition between peers.

Comcast’s goals are to provide hands-on experience, information on the most common billing problems, and enabling engineers to gain the skills needed to make impactful cloud cost decisions. Watch the call to see the “capture the flag”-like game in action.

A deep, info-rich session for our members

The March 2021 call is definitely one for the record books. Between the panel discussion and Comast’s presentation, there’s plenty of food for thought (and extended discussion toward the end of the call) on how to enable more engineers to take action to build a better FinOps practice.

The best way to dig into the details is to watch the video in our members area. If you aren’t a member yet, sign up and become one today. The second best way is to join our community Slack (also a member-only perk) and join in on the post-talk discussions.

Until next time, keep on breaking down those silos.