FinOps teams can accelerate cloud business value
Martin Hosken, Chief Technologist for Cloud EMEA, VMware

FinOps teams can accelerate cloud business value

Cloud financial management or FinOps has existed as a department within IT consultancies and vendors but now accelerating cloud value requires the right skillset and requires individuals who can architect and manage the cloud course, from compliance to CFO, says Martin Hosken at VMware.

Over the last decade, the cloud debate has been dominated by speed, scale and cost control. While these remain critical components to any cloud strategy, today’s macro-economic climate is expanding the conversation to include how cloud’s value can be best felt across the organisation – whether operationally, financially, and across customer and employee experiences.

With IT budgets now locked or reduced, teams need to establish the fastest route to cloud value. In doing so, attention has turned to how cloud teams can effectively demonstrate to senior stakeholders around the business where the impact of cloud is likely to be seen, and what value the business gets in return.

Multi-cloud strategies are supporting cloud to break out of its IT silo and into the wider business. But accelerating cloud value requires the right skillset. Cloud teams require individuals who can architect and manage the cloud course, demonstrating deep technical expertise, but also translate the cloud into the language of other departments, from the compliance team to the CFO.

That is why FinOps talent is in high demand and we are seeing this skill combination, both in cloud economics and technical proficiency, move from its home within vendors and appear on the customer side. Research shows that 9-in-10 European businesses see these skills as instrumental in the cloud innovation race, while 64% are struggling to recruit the talent – and this is a trend we see replicated in the Middle East.

Over half of all live job postings for cloud experts from end-user organisations now mention FinOps skills, which cover advanced understanding of economics, accountancy or data analytics, as necessary for the role. While our research shows that 84% of European businesses are now hiring more individuals with experience in finance and economics into cloud roles than they were three years ago. The race is well and truly alive.

But traditionally cloud financial management, or FinOps, existed as a department within major IT consultancies and vendors. Why?

With cost control being a central tenet of cloud strategies in recent years, these specialists have helped customers to establish policies and programmes, like show back or chargeback, to encourage teams to be financially responsible when making decisions in the cloud. Moreover, vendors have helped to ensure organisation-wide accountability for cloud costs and alignment with broader business KPIs.

These skills are now being brought back in-house as they recognise that maximising cloud returns and accelerating its value rests upon more than speed or cost optimisation. It has become part of the very fabric of the organisation. No matter the team nor department, cloud must be ingrained into the culture, widely recognised and used.

Vendors and consultancies can support this process but internal champions with FinOps skills can make demonstrable impact.

For instance, while they may reside in cloud teams, these individuals have a cross-function role. In DevOps, FinOps talent will take their cloud computing and economics skills to drive efficient innovation. These individuals can negotiate aggressive pricing on a specific type of cloud container for its cost and efficiency benefits, before liaising with developers to showcase the value and returns of designing and building software using those containers.

This means the organisation can optimise storage or use the best Kubernetes environment for their applications.

Similarly, with skills in data analysis and communication, FinOps talent can liaise with senior stakeholders to move cloud up the board agenda and bring together technology, finance and business goals.

For example, they can identify, analyse and make the business case for replacing zombie infrastructure. Zombie infrastructure refers to unused or underutilised cloud resources that incur unnecessary costs.

This skillset that can drive organisation-wide accountability, showing senior stakeholders why modern cloud strategies, like multi-cloud, can address these shortcomings and maximise their resources for long-term returns and better customer experiences.

But beyond immediate finance, customer and operational value, FinOps skills, like accountancy, can benefit the employee experience too. In human resources and payroll, in particular, these individuals can audit existing systems and demonstrate where the value of the cloud can be best felt. This could be in salary automation, providing scalability for faster reconciliations and instant payments, or optimising storage to hold and analyse employee data.

Many organisations across Europe, despite their intentions, are not where they need to be with their cloud hires. As many as 35% of European chief technology officers cited budget constraints as the biggest barrier to onboarding this talent, while a further 29% said that it is due to senior stakeholders being unable to understand the return on investment of these skills.

Other key hiring managers, like chief information officers and IT directors pointed to a greater focus on technical proficiency and experience within new hires, 33% and 24% respectively.

Given just 12% of European businesses stated that the biggest barrier to onboarding these skills was the scarcity of talent, it is clear that the opportunity is there to access and hire these individuals into cloud teams. Businesses that want to financially benefit from the move away from a cloud conversation grounded in speed and scale to one that focuses on immersing the organisation within its value must navigate these hurdles and continue their pursuit of FinOps talent. That is how they will maintain their competitive edge and continue to find capacity to innovate despite economic pressures.

When it comes to cloud, we are entering a pivotal moment for businesses. The skillset is nascent enough within end-user organisations for early adopters to see tangible value benefits. Those that move quickly to engage individuals that can offer a marriage of technical and financial cloud expertise will find that senior stakeholders are soon bought into the cloud journey and understand its returns.

In accelerating the time to cloud value, the FinOps skillset directly supports multi-cloud strategies and the drive towards cloud maturity. Technology leaders need to decide, continue with their same cloud strategy or find a differentiator that unlocks modern cloud-optimised operations.

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