Cloudthread Y Combinator
August 30, 2023

How do you get Engineers to take FinOps Action?

This blog explores achieving cloud cost usage optimization and engineering action on cloud costs.

One of the things that makes solving rate optimization (specifically reserved instances, savings plans, enterprise discounts) attractive is that it requires zero engineering effort to achieve. A central FinOps team can buy the committed use discounts required to achieve their targeted coverage without using engineering time.

Usage optimization is trickier. A central team often cannot act on usage optimization waste alone and needs to engage engineering teams for input and eventually for engineering action. It’s no surprise that this is listed as the top challenge for FinOps teams two years in a row.

Cloudthread exists to solve this problem and help companies achieve cloud cost usage optimization - our take on the steps required to achieve engineering action below.

Step 0: Incentive

A prerequisite to any action is an incentive to eliminate cloud cost waste - carrot or stick.

Waste elimination is not a first order problem and engineering teams won’t dedicate precious bandwidth to it without an organization creating incentives to do so. This is a company decision that needs to happen independent of a third party tool. Sometimes this means teams dedicating X% of sprints to cost reduction, sometimes it means each team has a dedicated cloud cost owner, but there has to be an owner and an incentive. In my experience carrots (e.g. prizes) are more impactful than sticks (e.g. bad performance reviews) but a combination can be used.

Carrot: Prize for taking action on cloud cost waste

I spoke to a company at FinOpsX 2023 where the VP of Infrastructure has a stack of $100 bills in their office and hands them out to people that achieve significant cloud cost wins. This is an extreme example of a carrot that likely wouldn’t be feasible at most companies, but it does illustrate an explicit carrot.

Another example of a carrot would be each quarter rewarding the team that achieved the most usage optimization savings as a percentage of their spend with an amazon gift card.

Stick: Punishment for letting cloud cost waste linger

This typically means having poor cloud cost management affect performance reviews in a negative way. An example of this would be to create a policy whereby if more than $X of Easy Priority 1 (see Prioritization) lingers without action during a month, the responsible party gets a negative mark in their performance review.

Step 1: Prioritization

The ability to easily focus on what’s necessary based cost impact and difficulty.

Not all savings opportunities are created equal in terms of cost impact and engineering time required to act. Being able to easily filter is essential. Running FinOps teams have different priorities assigned to savings opportunities. Easy savings opportunities (e.g. unused elastic IPs) are priority 1, non-negotiable. More involved savings opportunities (e.g. rightsizing RDS) are priority 2+, inserted into planning discussions with associated incentives.

Cloudthread provides Opportunities Explorer to filter opportunities and Prioritization to give teams focus.

Step 2: Integration

Provide context required to act and integrate into engineering sprints.

The goal here is to 1) lower the barrier to action and 2) integrate into engineering workflows to be included in sprints. Being able to quickly identify the context that triggered a savings opportunity is important to evaluate action. Whether it’s a central FinOps team or a distributed cost owner, often the difference between a recommendation and action is integrating with the tool companies use for sprint planning.

Cloudthread provides cost and usage context for each savings opportunity and integrates with Jira and Slack to get into engineering workflows.

Step 3: Governance

Analytics for central FinOps Team to track progress and have confidence in cost efficiency.

Ongoing cloud cost waste elimination and incentives require analytics for a central team to track spend, savings opportunities, and waste over time. Being able to see each team’s total savings opportunity and progress on action should be simple.

Cloudthread provides Threads and Savings Dashboard for a central FinOps teams to implement distributed cloud cost ownership at their company.

Make cloud costs a first class metric for your engineering organization.
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All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2024 CloudThread Inc. All rights reserved