You are not alone if you are still trying to get your team to participate in cloud cost management activities. The FinOps Foundation cites Empowering Engineers to Take Action and Organizational Adoption as the top two issues that cloud FinOps practices faced in 2022 and 2021. It’s no surprise that most cost-reduction programs stall after quick wins (such as reservation purchases) run dry. Businesses everywhere struggle with organizational and cultural behavior changes needed to increase ongoing participation in cost control. While there is no silver bullet for these changes, we want to share a common theme in organizations that are finding success – their teams have access to the right tools!
Your Team May Not Have What They Need to Manage Their Cloud Costs
Most tenured public cloud leaders have seen first-hand the pitfalls and risks around using native cloud financial management tooling at scale. If you haven’t, consider the following comparison: Imagine you did not have the proper software to manage your household finances and had to manually review your checking, savings, & credit card accounts, home & auto loans, and investment portfolios…
- How much effort and time would it take to get a complete picture of your finances?
- Which datasets would you need to consolidate and normalize to view your spending trends and analyze anomalies?
- What negative consequences might occur due to a lack of budgets or timely notifications?
Now, multiply your single household times the number of cost centers in your IT organization. Then, factor in that cloud costs, unlike household charges, meter in real-time and fluctuate every second. See how this problem snowballs at scale? When you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of leaders not actively focused on cutting costs, it quickly becomes a major issue.
Exposing the Limitations of Native Cloud Tools
Just like for your household finances, your IT leaders require an approachable and centralized mechanism to manage their cloud usage. Even still, we see many IT leaders who are quick to argue that native tools suffice for their cost management process. This is one decision where the adage “you get what you pay for” is a fitting one. TNative cost management tools require an abundance of manual effort and overhead to use at scale. Every one of your users must maintain knowledge of each cloud platform and hold sufficient access to perform even the simplest activity. That is a whole lot of overhead just to generate a one-time report; especially when most cost owners don’t use the cloud often.
If your company has a complex multi-cloud environment producing that single report will likely require pulling data from multiple platforms and reports; each of which comes with its own billing models, metadata, structure, and processes. Even if your users manage to operationalize this process, it doesn’t solve for multi-cloud budgets, forecasting, and anomaly detection. Each cloud will have its own version. Managing these components at scale will inevitably lead to frustration for your team. What is the ultimate outcome of this frustration? You guessed it! Low participation in key cost management activities.
BI Tools are Not Your Savior
You may be asking yourself, what about PowerBI or Tableau options? Business Intelligence tools, such as these have earned their stripes in the past few years. Their versatility and integration bring data analytics to the masses and organizations consider using them to offset the gaps of native cost management functionality. Unlike cloud consoles, BI tools can ingest and normalize multiple datasets in a single, centralized location. Then, with some quick finessing, you can build spiffy visualizations that support analyzing costs across clouds. For point-in-time analysis and one-time reports, these types of tools have unmatched flexibility. (I use PowerBI daily.) It is only when organizations try to leverage them at scale that things start to unravel quickly.
Deciding to leverage a BI tool over an enterprise-ready solution is the same as making a build versus buy decision for any other COTS application. You may not realize it, but achieving success with BI tools at scale will require a dedicated team to oversee operations. This team will need to manage the design, publishing, and maintenance of the BI instances and reports and keep tabs on the constant changes to cloud data models, APIs, and integrations. Like any software team, they will also be busy reacting to evolving user requirements and fixing things that break. We have seen first-hand the investment this requires and have the ROI models to prove it.
What is most surprising about BI is not related to resource cost. Instead, it’s the lost functionality that comes with the choice. Cost visibility is a key component of any FinOps program, and it is one that BI tools can solve. But your teams likely need much more to be successful such as the ability to create cost budgets, forecast spend, detect anomalies, view resource optimization recommendations, manage reservations & savings plans, and automate savings activities. Unlike enterprise solutions, BI tools simply cannot provide these capabilities. If you are serious about reducing your cloud costs these are functions your team will need for success.
The, Not-So-Secret, Secret to Getting People Onboard
If you have read this far, I implore you to take a moment to ask yourself, “do my leaders have an accessible and easy way to visualize, analyze, track, manage, and protect their cloud spending?” If the answer is no, it may be time to consider investing in (missing something here) as a part of your cost management plan. This decision alone can lead to higher involvement from your organization. Armed with reporting, most leaders will take steps to implement cloud optimization opportunities they uncover. Users will typically make better deployment decisions once they are well-informed with cloud waste reduction and prevention happening organically. Pair all this with a healthy dose of process, a dash of enablement, and a handful of guardrails, and BANG! You have yourself a recipe for FinOps success.