In the shoes of the Cloud FinOps Leadership

Alexis Pellitteri
May 25, 2021

In the shoes of the Cloud FinOps Leadership

In this article, I would like to touch on some FinOps Leadership components that, in my own experience and in the context of multinational & intercultural companies, add value to the organization by strengthening the FinOps practice and broadening the influence of the FinOps team.

 I will cover the Cultural Awareness component of the FinOps team, the Engagement Management component of the FinOps team, the Program Management component of the FinOps team and, speaking of the team, the Team's Quality Spirit.

Cultural Awareness component of FinOps team

Culture, in a nutshell, as I once learnt, is "the glasses with which someone sees reality". Can we imagine how many glasses we have in a multinational company? And, furthermore, can we imagine how many combinations of "sights of the reality" we may have?

Most of us are part of a cross-cultural team or we collaborate with cross-cultural teams globally. Either way, we need to observe how culture affects our work and how we can adapt to it in order to broaden our influence. The centralised FinOps team has to switch between cultures constantly; the same question coming from APAC may not have the same meaning if it came from Northern Europe or from South America. Therefore, a culture-aware team will succeed more often when addressing the questions or proposing changes.

In today's multinational organizations, and even more with covid19 and Wfh, culture awareness is key in FinOps Leadership success. Everytime we need to have a discussion, to plan, to set expectations, even to challenge a stakeholder, maybe it is wise to pause, take a moment, and picture in our heads the followings:

  • "who is my audience, where do they come from and what is their cultural context?"
  • "do they focus on the message or the messenger?"
  • "do they care about hierarchies?" (aka who is talking and at which org level is he/she)
  • "do they share our same interests and/or our same priorities?"
  • "do they work collectively or individually?"
  • "do they think short term or long term?"

All of these questions, and many more you can think of, at the end of the day will contribute to the success of the communication. Remember, we need to deliver a message and more importantly, to make sure the receiver understands it and its meaning. That's in the sender's responsibility, not in the receiver's.

Engagement management of the FinOps team

Part of the success of a centralised FinOps Team comes from knowing their stakeholders and their level of commitment. Tied with the previous point about cultural awareness, not only we can have a diversity of cultures but several levels of engagement. It is important to check who are our stakeholders, what is their influence and power on decisions, who needs only to be informed and who must be invited to every meeting possible.

Expecting that everyone will react the same or will collaborate the same or will provide support/sponsorship the same is unrealistic. We need to manage this as part of the FinOps Leadership, so we can anticipate the amount of effort we'll invest on each case and therefore scale up. For this, we first need to get to know our stakeholders, we classify them, we set up our communications plan (that we also validate further with the stakeholders) and level of detail for each of them. Of course, we'll knock on doors without response, but that's part of the job.

Furthermore, depending both on culture and engagement level, some stakeholders may even prefer not to be involved at all, but they sometimes delegate to someone (e.g. a wing-man/woman) the operational part and only ask to be involved in big decisions. This is acceptable, just make sure that the communication follows the agreed plan.

Program Management component of the FinOps team

Project definition by the Project Management Institute PMI: "It's a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result". Although FinOps stands for Financial Operations, we can say that almost everything is a project in a centralised FinOps team.

There's always a slight/minor/major/radical change required that makes most deliverables unique. Although we follow our framework(s), we repeat and follow checklists,etc; there are so many variables and stakeholders that there's always room for improvement and reinventing ourselves. Even BAU monthly closure is a project on itself!

It’s crucial then to see the bigger picture. The FinOps Leadership helps keep awareness of the sensitive pieces, their impact and risks of deviations with associated workarounds. There will be a time when prioritization plays a big role, and we need clarity about the integration of all these pieces to make an informed decision.

What is important here is that if we think of FinOps Leadership as managing a program with multiple subprojects rather than just operations, then we can use the project management techniques and tools to our benefit and success. Of course here comes the debate of "waterfall" vs "agile" vs "hybrid", but this is not the point. The point is that we always get the chance to:

  • Plan for goals (make the SMART) and keep flexibility.
  • Plan the communications, do kick-offs and tell how communications will keep flowing.
  • Plan for longer term, repetition and automation and make sure to make time to discuss the important matters with the stakeholders.
  • Plan for quality and make sure the reports & information are meaningful and consistent.
  • etc.

Team's Quality Spirit

In the FinOps Foundation (Linux Foundation) you will find details about roles in the team, but here I take a different perspective. As part of the FinOps Leadership, we need to work along with our team to embrace quality as the heart of the FinOps practice and commit to it. It’s not about the amount of resources nor the varied skillset but the cohesive quality of the deliverables.

How we do that is about the cultural mix and location of the team but, as mentioned above, each small/medium project is a good opportunity to challenge each team member into delivering quality, into raising the bar, into making a presentation, into giving a presentation to a stakeholder, into owning an outcome and even asking to teach other members and/or other stakeholders. These, mixed with short feedback loops, undoubtedly leads to a committed and high performance team.

Sometimes we cannot ensure quality before trying, but we can provide the means, encouragement and motivation required. It is by consistently targeting high standards on our deliverables that we unfold stakeholder appreciation, and expectations, which ultimately boosts team confidence and leads to quality. That's the spirit we definitely want in our FinOps team and that's the spirit that helps getting the bottom line down at the end of the Q.

Summing up, if you ever wondered: “why am I getting the same question over and over again?” or “why is this stakeholder not replying regardless that there’s a huge savings opportunity?” or “which one should go first: forecast, savings opportunities, month results, lunch break?” or “how am I supposed to have a C-level discussion if my data is inconsistent?”; then, above FinOps Leadership components may be worth giving a try.

Alexis Pellitteri

Cloud Cost Manager - CCoE at ASML

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