People meet tools: A FinOps journey to success
These days the FinOps tooling landscape offers an enormous variety. Features of the tools range from graphical dashboards, reports, rightsizing recommendations and anomaly detections based on adaptive machine learning algorithms for both containers or cloud services.
All these products and features have the potential to take your FinOps practice to the next level. This means choosing to buy or build a tool which has a long-term impact on the success of your FinOps practice. It is a key point for the organizational change required to implement a sustainable FinOps practice.
Nevertheless, a tool alone does not guarantee a successful FinOps implementation. At every step of the way, people are the central element of the FinOps practice. Choosing a tool is only half the battle. To get the tool to a point where it can have an impact and bring the most value for a company’s FinOps practice, you have to work for it; and that starts with the people.
What happens when you introduce a tool without support or guidance?
Usually, management decides on a tool which employees are then forced to use. At best, the decision has been made using relevant criteria or requirements of projects that could profit from the tool of choice. Then, the tool has been tested with a motivated pilot project beforehand. After that, the tool is available for whoever is interested! But then what?
People do not use the tool. Possible reasons for that are:
- They are not aware that the tool exists
- The value of the tool is not transparent
- Setting up the tool for a project involves a lot of work
If you choose a tool without taking people along on the journey, failure is inevitable.
Tips how to implement a FinOps tool
Implementing a new tool that people are expected to use regularly is equivalent to organisational change. Change is always painful. Introducing the change gradually, in small, iterative steps over time makes it easier for people to accept it. The goal is for people to internalise the tool, for it to become part of the corporate culture and thus successfully anchored in the long term.
The change process can be divided into the following five steps.
In general, you need the buy-in and acceptance of all the people who will be using the tool in the future. Start by asking „How will this tool make my colleagues/employees lifes better?“. This helps gaining clarity about the value of the tool and how to pitch it to the people who will work with it as part of their daily workflow. The FinOps tool should at least address current pain points in cloud cost management, and at best have the option of additional features that are not currently the focus.
The easiest way to answer this question is through direct conversations with your colleagues. Addressing the topic directly prepares the people for a potential change.
Envision and plan for the change
This step is about the organisational planning surrounding the tool implementation. This includes embedding FinOps into the overall company strategy, this could mean saving costs or gaining cost transparency or even saving CO2. Based on this, KPIs are defined to measure the successful tool implementation. These could be directly related to tool usage or to general FinOps KPIs.
Last but not least one should define who will oversee the implementation of the chosen tool.
Implement the tool
The specific steps of implementing a FinOps tool depend on the chosen tool itself. This could mean:
- Building your own tool
- Buying a third-party tool
- Using cloud-native service
Depending on the selected option, the technical implementation itself might need a different amount of effort or require different stakeholders to be involved.
Regardless of this choice, it is usually beneficial to use a pilot project to learn about the entire technical tool setup process, including any pitfalls.
In parallel, you should start announcing the tool and highlight its connection to the company’s vision and values.
Embed the change within company culture and practices
After finalizing the pilot project successfully, the lessons learned can be used to evangelize about the FinOps theory and the advantages of using the implemented tool to other colleagues. In this way, a bottom-up approach evolves and the word gets spread to other colleagues and might spark their interest and engagement.
From a top-down perspective, the predefined FinOps KPIs can be used to show quick wins gained by the tool to get the support of executives.
Review progress and analyze results
At this stage, a few users should be already using the tool and ideally there should be growing enthusiasm around the company.
There are two ways to increase the amount of people using the platform.
First, rewards for using the tool, such as bonus payments or small incentives like a crate of beer or a voucher could be used. At the same time, teams or people using the tool can be benchmarked against each other. Gamified approaches have been effective in the past.
The other way would be to enforce people using the tool by moving important content there. This approach is high risk if used too early. In addition, a data risk classification should be done in advance.
The success of the whole process will show in the predefined KPIs. After iterating through these five steps the first time, you need to continously communicate and nudge the involved people. This way, you will make the tool stick and the change to the company culture sustainable.
In my experience, a lot of time and effort is put into the evaluation and implementation of potential FinOps tools. Even if the selection is made in good faith for the company and the pain points it is supposed to solve, many FinOps tools fail due to a lack of change management. In the first place, people are supposed to work with this tool, and it should make their lives easier. Accordingly, it is indispensable to meet potential FinOps practitioners where they are and take them along the journey of tool implementation.
However, if the people do not know about the benefits or are confronted too harshly with the tool, it will not lead to acceptance and a successful implementation of the FinOps practice. The five steps described above can be used as a guide to support this change process and implement a FinOps tool of your choice successfully, for the long term and sustainably.
Change Management Process: https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/change-management-process
Comic: https://workchronicles.com/ Kudos to Jim for sharing the licence for the comic, thank you!