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Building a successful cloud FinOps team requires careful planning and execution. While there are organizations, like the FinOps Foundation, that offer valuable insights into creating a FinOps team, businesses must still learn some lessons for themselves.
The goal of a cloud FinOps team is to put the processes, controls, frameworks and tools in place to monitor and control an organization's cloud spending. The definition of success changes over time as the team grows its knowledge, frameworks and practices.
This article explores how to gain a better understanding of team structure and the skills they need, how to measure success and how to create an accountability model.
FinOps team structure
The team structure of a cloud FinOps team often varies from organization to organization. Here are some of the traditional roles.
Typically, the CFO and CIO have the most vested interest in FinOps success. Placing an executive on the FinOps teams only makes sense for small companies or those in which the executive has a rare skill set, such as cloud cost optimization.
Regardless of whether executives attend every meeting, the team must communicate effectively about the organization's cloud spending status. Teams can't assume their executives are knowledgeable about FinOps, so the team's job is to arm them with the data and information they require to make cloud spending decisions.
The finance team has active representation on a FinOps team. Often, it might be a controller or senior accountant. This person is responsible for the financial reporting related to cloud spending and represents the interests of the finance department. They likely won't have direct cloud experience but can benefit from an entry-level cloud certification, such as AWS Cloud Practitioner.
A procurement manager or specialist can also play a valuable role on a FinOps team because they're responsible for negotiating terms with the CSP, including any potential discounts. They're another candidate for an entry-level cloud certification.
Engineer or solutions architect
The role of an engineer or solutions architect on a FinOps team includes designing and deploying secure and cost-efficient cloud architectures. Optimizing cloud costs is increasingly becoming a big part of their role, especially during the design phase. Resource management is another focus for engineers and solutions architects.
The Ops team is the one that should be managing the organization's cloud usage and expenditures via a cloud management platform (CMP) and often also a cloud cost optimization strategy. Their knowledge of cloud operations should feed back into performance enhancements that further save on cloud costs.
FinOps team skills
While FinOps data sits in between technology and business/finance teams, the two teams still have to collaborate and communicate with each other. It might take some trial and error for a FinOps team to create a common language that bridges cloud and business, making soft skills a must for the team.
Engineers and solutions architects must bring problem-solving, cloud platform, automation, security awareness and related skills to the FinOps team. They are the team members charged with sizing instance types, optimizing resource usage and developing strategies to deploy and manage spot and reserved instances.
Naturally, financial acumen is a necessity to be on a FinOps team. Not everybody needs to be an accountant to have this expertise. Think of the solutions architect who has had to cost out proposals for what they build, combined with their cloud platform knowledge. This combination enables them to bridge the business and the cloud team.
Specialized FinOps certifications, such as the FinOps Certified Practitioner and Certified Professional certifications, are still gaining industry acceptance. Regardless, such certifications can serve as a training opportunity that enables employees to learn industry practices from FinOps experts.
Measuring FinOps team success
A baseline measure of success is the FinOps team's ability to manage and control cloud expenses without adversely affecting the performance of cloud operations. Such success comes from identifying and eliminating wasteful spending, maximizing usage of reserved instances and using CSP discounts to the organization's maximum advantage. The lessons a FinOps team learns should always roll back to raise the bar of success.
Effective cloud resource management, high uptime and swift issue resolution add to the success of the FinOps team. The tools, frameworks and relationships they build are foundational to such success.
Also, a FinOps team must collaborate with the cybersecurity team to develop the right mix of reports and alerts for stakeholders. Document FinOps practices to educate people about cloud cost optimization, which is crucial for overall success.
Create an accountability model
The FinOps Foundation recommends RACI/DACI modeling to create a framework for cloud FinOps accountability. However, not every organization subscribes to RACI/DACI modeling, and it still needs tracking and an audit trail.
Early on, the cloud FinOps team will be ad hoc with a simple hierarchy. At this stage, the team charter often saves the organization money on cloud spending and then asks for forgiveness later. For example, a COO or CTO might assemble a cross-functional team for the first time to manage rising cloud costs. As FinOps teams mature, so does a better definition of decision-making hierarchy and ownership as well as documentation of policies, procedures and frameworks. This maturity comes with automation and more refined usage of CMP and FinOps tool features for capturing, analyzing and reporting cloud cost data.
Where the cloud FinOps team resides in an organization depends on the organizational structure regarding leadership and executive sponsorship. Potential options include the Office of the CTO, the CIO or the procurement team. As internal FinOps practices mature, organizations might also set up a chargeback system for FinOps team services where internal or client projects pay for FinOps team support for their projects.
Will Kelly is a technology writer, content strategist and marketer. He has written extensively about the cloud, DevOps and enterprise mobility for industry publications and corporate clients and worked on teams introducing DevOps and cloud computing into commercial and public sector enterprises.