FinOps: Mind the (DevOps) alignment gap

Cloud spending shows no signs of slowing down, clearly.

As organisations continue to accelerate cloud adoption (and move towards increasingly cloud-native deployment scenarios in many cases), managing the associated costs and proving ROI has become a critical challenge.

In response, FinOps has quickly emerged as a discipline.

So too, have a plethora of studies and surveys about the so-called state of FinOps.

As we know, many of us express a cautious scepticism when it comes to surveys and research sponsored by vendors that apply to this space. It’s a well-known concern that these types of studies can sometimes be biased, cherry-picking data to paint a favourable picture for the sponsoring company. Therefore it’s crucial to scrutinise the methodology and intentions behind such reports to ensure the findings are both valid and reliable.

A new CloudBolt Industry Insights report may present a case that warrants a closer look. Commissioned by the company and conducted by Wakefield Research (Wakefield as in Arlington, Virginia… not as in West Yorkshire, Calder Valley) which is perhaps notable for its diverse sample size. It surveyed 900 FinOps leaders and practitioners, DevOps engineering teams and IT executives from organisations of varying sizes and industries.

It attempts to suggest that despite the majority of companies indicating they have built a culture of collaboration between FinOps and DevOps, there is still a real and growing disconnect between the two groups.

FinOps-DevOps alignment gap

Some 70% of respondents claimed to enjoy effective collaboration between teams, with 84% suggesting that they have successfully incorporated FinOps into their processes. So then, it was perplexing to see that the majority (86%) report an actual and increasing gap between these groups.

Could this be due in part to a lack of shared responsibility for cloud cost management i.e. a fundamental FinOps best practice?

The report further proposes that 63% of executives and 53% of engineers believe that cloud cost management should fall solely on the IT department.

“When there is a lack of shared responsibility for cloud costs, it makes it difficult for firms to proactively govern, optimise spend and realise the full value of their cloud investments,” says Kyle Campos, chief technology and product officer at CloudBolt. “Since DevOps engineering teams are at the frontline of defining optimal state and implementing changes and processes that impact cloud costs, understanding the true gap between FinOps and DevOps can help identify areas for improvement and foster better collaboration and business impact.”

Response times, skills, reporting

A critical metric that highlights the success of FinOps practices is the so-called ‘insight-to-action’ response time.

According to the report, 67% of respondents said their insight-to-action time for cloud cost anomalies took days or longer, with 31% stating it took weeks or months.

According to CloudBolt’s Campos, the ideal response time range when FinOps is operating effectively at scale should be seconds or minutes… he says that this latency in addressing cost issues (and opportunities) leads to significant waste, inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

Cultural barriers between finance, technology and business teams also emerged as identified hurdles in the research.

Skills and knowledge gaps (37%), viewing FinOps as a separate entity (37%) and disparate reporting structures (34%) are highlighted as top challenges in aligning FinOps and DevOps. Siloed decision-making and misaligned incentives hinder effective collaboration, while data-heavy manual processes drain FinOps resources.

AI for FinOps @ scale?

Nearly all respondents (91%) emphasise the importance of integrating advanced AI and ML tools to achieve timely and effective cloud optimization.

This underscores the potential for AI-driven solutions to play a crucial role in bridging these gaps and maximizing organisational value from cloud investments.

“With all the gains made in aligning culturally and organisationally, it appears we are reaching a point where the answer to the next stage becomes a technological one. Companies cannot hire their way to FinOps at scale. Automating and orchestrating critical processes and facilitating continuous cost optimisation is the critical capability that allows FinOps to become a high leverage discipline that facilitates a high degree of positive business impact through a relatively small size team,” explained Campos.

As the landscape of cloud computing evolves, so must the strategies for managing and optimising its costs. The study’s data supports a case for advanced FinOps tooling as the path forward.

While we would expect that from a provider specialising in ‘Augmented FinOps’ and as the self-appointed ‘cloud ROI company’, the reality is that there are truths to uncover here.

AI and its underlying data lake have the power to deliver recommendations and actions when trained properly – and it is through a high degree of trust that any perceived or real fissure between FinOps and DevOps will ultimately close.

Until then, all parties seeking to advance FinOps in their organisations would be wise to continue to mind the gap.

Free image: Wikipedia

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