How to implement FinOps? Make it easy for the engineers!

Mia Biberovic

The term is straightforward: Finance + DevOps. But do you know what isn’t straightforward? Making all of the stakeholders - executives, engineers, FinOps practitioners, operations, finance, and procurement - work together.

Fortunately, there are tools and processes available to facilitate smoother interactions.

Understanding FinOps

You can call it Cloud Financial Management, Cloud Financial Engineering, Cloud Cost Management, Cloud Optimization, or Cloud Financial Optimization, but FinOps has emerged as the widely adopted industry term. The official definition comes from the FinOps Foundation Technical Advisory Council:

FinOps is an evolving cloud financial management discipline and cultural practice that enables organizations to get maximum business value by helping engineering, finance, technology, and business teams to collaborate on data-driven spending decisions.

FinOps Foundation Technical Advisory Council

Effective communication

Cloud costs can often be so unpredictable that it’s no wonder that they have become a running joke and inspiration for memes.

To address this challenge, Tajana Belina, a FinOps practitioner from Neos, a certified FinOps training partner and service provider (also a company behind CloudVane — a multi-cloud cost management and automation solution that consolidates cost and usage data), suggests leveraging the tools provided by the FinOps Foundation.

For example, the Foundation’s Social Aspects of FinOps Workgroup equips FinOps practitioners with tools to effectively communicate with executives, engineers, operations, finance, and procurement. The ultimate goal is to foster collaboration across these silos, ensuring the organization avoids unexpected, inflated invoices, says Tajana, Workgroup’s member.

The FinOps Foundation is working to facilitate adoption because all these separate silos must work together with one simple goal – to not end up with an invoice at the end of the month that the company isn’t sure how it got to or why it’s so big.

Tajana Belina, Neos

Being proactive

One of the critical approaches to preventing cost-related surprises is proactive management. Infracost, among the available tools, assists engineering teams in assessing how code changes impact cloud costs. By scanning Terraform code and analyzing over 3 million prices, Infracost generates simple, comprehensible cost estimates prior to launch. Notably, it offers detailed breakdowns of cost impacts on each resource affected by changes. Users can get helpful comments in real-time such as: “This change will increase your AWS bill by 25%”, says its cofounder Hassan Hosseini.

This open-source product addresses the complexity of cloud cost management, supporting individual contributors. Infracost Cloud, a paid product, also provides visibility for central platform teams and FinOps teams. It facilitates tracking cost changes, setting up guardrails, receiving notifications, and blocking pull requests exceeding predetermined budgets.

Users can also set up policies for best practices. It also supports Jira integration, which is important because the majority of changes to the infrastructure come from the product, so people working on it should also see how much anything costs.

Hassan Hosseini, Infracost

With over a decade of experience in cloud cost management, the tool’s founders aimed to address the issue of engineers not being aware of infrastructure costs. By making Infracost open-source, engineers can freely explore, test, and adopt it, as they often lack access to company credit cards.

When to consider FinOps?

The success of FinOps implementation hinges on making it easy for engineers. As the formula suggests, Cloud costs = usage x unit price. While finance teams influence unit prices, engineers play a critical role in impacting usage. Recognizing this, Infracost aims to integrate seamlessly into everyone’s workflow, encouraging collaborative data-driven decision-making across engineering and finance departments, Hosseini explains.

Whatever approach or tool you choose, one is certain – you shouldn’t wait for that first invoice that will shock you. According to Belina, you should implement FinOps immediately. Whether transitioning to the cloud or already operating within it, organizations should prioritize FinOps from the outset. By incorporating this approach early on, businesses can optimize their cloud spending and avoid potential financial pitfalls.

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