Ep#148 Exploring the #FinOps Landscape with Stephen Old

August 24, 2023

Episode Summary

#awscloud #cloudcost #costoptimization

Welcome to the Jon Myer Podcasts, where we dive deep into the ever-evolving world of cloud financial management. I'm your host, Jon Myer, and in today's episode, titled "Exploring the #FinOps Landscape," we have a special guest joining us. We're excited to bring you an insightful conversation with none other than SteveO, the global head of FinOps at Eviden. With a background that spans from climbing instruction to cloud transformation, SteveO has a wealth of experience and wisdom to share.

In this episode, we'll be exploring the intricate landscape of FinOps, discussing the hurdles and opportunities that organizations encounter when implementing cloud financial management practices. From the power of automation and AI to the crucial role of meaningful data and budgets, we'll unravel the complexities and strategies behind effective FinOps. SteveO will also shed light on his journey, the evolution of his podcast, "The FinOps Guys," and his unique insights into making FinOps work in the real world.

So, whether you're a seasoned FinOps professional or just starting on your cloud financial management journey, this episode promises to provide valuable insights and practical tips to navigate the challenges and maximize the benefits of implementing FinOps within your organization. Stay tuned for a captivating conversation that's sure to deepen your understanding of FinOps and its impact on the cloud landscape.

Faces In FinOps Podcast is Powered by our good friends at ProsperOps

Youssef Ibrahim Blog Write-up

Are you looking to elevate your brand through compelling and highly professional video content? Myer Media has the solution for you, from start to finish we offer complete video creation services that include Customer Case Studies, Creative Content, Podcasting, and more.

To learn more CLICK HERE:

SteveO Headshot

About the Guest

Stephen Old

SteveO is the Global Head of FinOps at Eviden as well as the co-founder of "What's new in cloud FinOps podcast". His background varies from gaming, to cheffing and everything in between.

#aws #awscloud #finops #cloudcomputing #costoptimization

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

Host: Jon

Hi everyone and welcome to the Faces in FinOps podcast, powered by Prosper Ops. I'm your host, Jon Myer. Faces in FinOps podcast is about highlighting thought leaders in the cloud financial management space, and insights on how they're making an impact not only within their organization but as the broader FinOps community. Today's guest is Steven Old, also known as SteveO. SteveO is the global head of FinOps at Eviden, as well as a co-founder of What's New and Cloud FinOps podcast. And his background varies from gaming to chafing and everything in between. Please join me in welcoming SteveO to the show. Steve, thanks for joining me.

Guest: SteveO

Thanks so much for having me, Jon, and thanks for such a kind and enthusiastic intro.

Host: Jon

Okay, do I call you Stephen or SteveO or Steven Old?

Guest: SteveO

Any is fine. The only thing in the north of England, there's a particular part of the north of England that shortens Stephen to Steve as if there's a difficulty making the noise at the end, and that's the only one that gets me. But Stephen and SteveO, Steve are all absolutely fine. Most people do call me SteveO just because there are so many Steves in the world.

Host: Jon

Well, I'll call you SteveO probably. I like the name right, so I'm digging it. I'm digging the fun and humor behind it. Steve, this podcast Faces and FinOps podcast is really about highlighting you members of the community right around cloud financial management. And before we get started on that, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, so I said Stephen Old. I've got quite a varied background. I live in the north of England now closest to Manchester. That's what the city people will know. Married one little boy who is the most exciting and most challenging thing that's ever happened to me. I have a varied background. My first job was as a climbing instructor. I then have gone on and trained chefs and run restaurants and hotels. I made online games as a teenager for free. So I have this mix of business and technical and then from running business you kind of get the finance side and eventually I kind of found my way into cloud transformation and I just found doing the maths of it interesting. And from there we kind of build out, this was a few companies ago, built out a cloud economics function, this is before it was called FinOps, and then went on to more and more FinOps roles before suddenly I found out I was a global head of FinOps, whatever that means.

Host: Jon

Okay. SteveO, you have a podcast, you like climbing. I started, I wasn't an instructor for climbing, but I loved going indoors to the rock climbing gym. We're going to have to talk about that on the side, but I want to know about this podcast real quick just because of being a fellow podcaster.

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, so it started as I did a podcast years ago, which was just trying to keep up with the news from a w s because there was so much. And so people know Corey Quinn, he does his Twitter feed, but it was just, which bits are really interesting if you're in the DevOps world at the time. So I and a friend did it and then when I moved more into the FinOps side and I moved to a new organization, I made a very close friend Frank, who's on the Let t-shirt and was like, it is a task to keep up with the news that is FinOps related and generally a bit more boring than keeping on top of the DevOps stuff, which was always quite exciting and new. So we said, well, let's try to make it exciting for ourselves. Let's go out, do the research, do the pod together, we'll share what's new.

Guest: SteveO

And then as times went on, we used to get people to come do a segment at the end where they'd come and talk about something interesting doing functions as a service or doing true serverless and how that's helped their FinOps journey. And now what's happening, in the end, is we've got people kind of wanting both things but in more detail than we're doing. So we now have one news episode per month and one interview episode a month where we kind of get one of the people we know are a rockstar from the FinOps world who know far more than we do to come and tell us about a particular thing that they're passionate about. So we've been doing it for, I dunno, two and a half years now, probably maybe even approaching three. And yeah, it's just great fun to do spending time with one of my best friends, talking about the subject that we're passionate about.

Host: Jon

Well, if you're not subscribed to it, I suggest you subscribe to the FinOps Guys podcast. I enjoy it. When I was talking with SteveO a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned I'm like, how come I didn't know about it? Don't worry, you just earned a subscriber to it.

Guest: SteveO

Great to have. And yeah, I gave a talk last week at a FinOps Foundation event and it was just people just coming up and saying, Hey, thanks for the podcast. It's just a nice thing. We kind of to an extent sound selfish, do it for ourselves to keep us learning, but it's great that people are listening to it and finding it useful.

Host: Jon

I do the same thing. I create podcasts and content to learn about it and then share it. SteveO how about you tell us a little bit about the company you're at or the organization and specifically your title and role within it?

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, cool. So I'm at a company called Evan. We are a new company that's been spun out of a global company called Atos. So Atos is splitting two, keeping its kind of data center business together in one piece, which is going to remain called Atos. And the new piece is all our cloud capabilities. It's our big data and our security stuff. I'd say the call fund sexy stuff, it's coming across to Evident. I'm sure the data center guys strongly disagree, but that's my view of the world. That's the world I live in. And so it is an amalgamation of different acquisitions over time. So I was at a company called Cloud Reach, there's a company called Maven Wave Fix, a bunch of these and we're trying to bring all the best practices we've got in all our different areas together into one organization to offer end-to-end services for customers.

Guest: SteveO

So it's a mix of advisory build and runners is how we describe it. In terms of where I fit there, I'm the head of FinOps, so I help people anywhere on that journey. So I do a mixture of consulting work, I do helping people build efficient workloads and then we help people keep them bringing the best value in life as well. And so I've got a team of about 20 who are global and one of the best teams I've worked with whom I don't have to worry about what they do, they all know their stuff, I learn of them as well as the alternatives. And it's such a big space. You've got to have people that have expertise in different areas and that's the great thing about being a company of this size, which is a bit different for me it's like 55,000 people. My biggest before that was maybe 2000. So it's a whole different ballgame, but any question you have, there'll be someone in the company who knows the answer.

Host: Jon

SteveO, can you describe to me your organization's FinOps journey?

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, well it's an interesting one. So at the moment, we're going through this whole phase of trying to amalgamate several quite large businesses together anyway, so in some ways, we've got pockets that are pretty well established, arguably in the run phase, certainly look after our stuff, a mix of walk and run. And then we try to impart to customers as much of that as we can. And it depends on where they're, we're trying to match their journey quite often in the service we're delivering to them and trying to pull them along. But a lot of our stuff we're trying to keep in good nick as I'd say in a good situation. So either look yesterday for instance, and I think in terms of low-hanging fruit across our internal account for my part of the business, about $20 of savings. So we're really happy with that.

Guest: SteveO

We have good visibility, we're looking at what we should be spending, and, my team finds when the cloud vendor's invoices incorrectly because we deal with so much data, we know how it should be and we find errors and that's a great thing from that team that they're able to do. So in some areas, we're very, very advanced, still plenty to learn and plenty to do and more things we can be doing, but in the low-hanging fruit sectors, we're tidy, but then we start integrating different parts of the business who either work very differently or maybe just didn't have a FinOps service attached to it because of how it was treated in that part. And so it just has a base level of visualization and so the great thing about being able to go in and talk to organizations about where they are in their journey is that we also ourselves have very varied parts of our journey.

Guest: SteveO

The guys across in North America, we've got Maven Wave hands-on, really detailed FinOps in the DevOps cycle, so really some great walk-run stuff going on there. Other parts of the business are supporting, people are mode one and so even right-sizing takes changing windows and all this kind of stuff. So that's what makes it interesting. We've got this whole variance and even parts of the journey might be up here. My job over the next year or so is actually getting everyone to the same stage and so we'll be reliving the same journey probably several times in different places and hopefully learning from each time. So

Host: Jon

The rank and maturity for your organization between the crawl, walk and run, you're saying that in some variations you're in the walk, and in some, you're in the run. Can you be in multiple maturity stages throughout your FinOps journey?

Guest: SteveO

Especially when you break down the FinOps framework, maybe if you look at, let's keep it simple, inform, optimize, and operate, you could be d in the informed stage, so the visualization and view stage while not maybe getting there in the other section. So quite often when the first thing that happens in the organization is they focus on getting the visibility piece there, getting the recommendations there, but they then struggle to get action taking place and there's no automation around that. So you can have different parts of your, even in the same department, different parts of your journey at different stages of the core walk run, just about which pieces you've focused on. And we find quite often organizations, especially with the tooling they may choose, will somewhat dictate where they are in their journey. If you choose a tool that's good at tagging, you're going to be over there.

Guest: SteveO

If you've got a tool that's all about automated optimizations, then actually your optimized phase and the offer, it might be further on, but maybe actually you're not as good as the visualization side and so actually your inform is lacking and so it's very typical for you to be there. And I found Natalie Daley was on the stage at FinOps X, fantastic, fantastic FinOps person, one of the true rock stars I'd say. And she was saying that actually, you can be in the run, and if you just stay as you are, you'll fall into a walk because the whole program and the world of FinOps are moving that quickly, that staying still is going to mean you're falling backward on the journey.

Host: Jon

That's an interesting perspective because you can only run so much and then you've matured well that it's actually going to put you in the walk thing where you're just making tweaks as you go along and redoing it and you're hopefully not, I guess in my opinion, hopefully not going to the run stage after you've had a mature thing because it will be efficient

Guest: SteveO

And some of it's got to be as well. There will be new things that would be classed as run. So at the moment, if you're doing well on automated right-sizing, termination, all of this, and that's all automated super then at the moment compared to most people because let's face it, crawl, walk, run is a comparison matrix. It's around where you fit against the market for these areas, but as the market improves, the things that class viewers run are going to move across and they're going to become the standard. So I would generally say Natalie and her team are, some of the people are the cutting edge, but they are now making what the new run looks like if that makes sense. So just doing what they were doing a year ago when that was run might only put you in walk now.

Guest: SteveO

And that's what I find interesting about it and because every organization's different, you are only going to face some challenges, so there are only going to be some areas where you are at the cutting edge and so you might move this part forward and a different organization move this forward and hopefully with a true open community, it's what me and Frank are about. That's why we share all this and that's what the foundation's there for and podcasts like this for people are sharing what is driving them, what they're improving, and that should hopefully therefore share around to everyone's practices improving over time.

Host: Jon

Well, that's the whole point of obviously the Faces and FinOps podcast is for the community and sharing a lot of that and I think the whole FinOps community and sharing best practices, lessons learned and everything is helping everybody. Sibo, you were talking about automation tagging. Tagging is a whole separate podcast that you and I have to get into. I have thoughts on it, I have pros and cons for you and we'll set one aside for that. Okay. But let's talk about the automation of not only are you using automation within your company for tagging, for right-sizing, or doing some of the work that's there and the air, and I'm not talking generative ai, I'm just talking AI in general.

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, so I gave a talk on this a couple of weeks ago. There's an interesting challenge at the moment where if you're using infrastructure as code and then you're using automation tooling, what's generally happening is it's creating drift because the tool goes and makes a change, but if that's not reflected in your templates, the next time you run them you'll undo that change. And so there's a real gap in the market or just a challenge now depending on how you're using infrastructures, how this stuff works. So true end-to-end automation is quite challenging at the moment. Certainly in the DevOps world, what needs to start happening, and this doesn't happen at the moment we're not doing this at the moment, is using AI to work out how you change your templates, which should drop into your ci cd pipeline and so recommendations will get driven in that way and that's where I think AI can majorly work it at the moment.

Guest: SteveO

In terms of where we're using ai, one of the biggest challenges people have are things like forecasting AI is a very neat way of doing that, especially if you are doing, I think where people get lost with AI is they just lob loads of data at it and it's not meaningful and then they hope it will give it meaning if you go in with some decent metrics for your forecast and you can drive that through AI recommendations are somewhat for most tools driven by a logic engine, but over time if you review the metadata of which ones get approved and why AI can start looking at where you should be targeting which ones are most likely to happen, which is one of the biggest problems in the people are facing. Other automation areas we have are things like things that we know are going to be no impact, probably don't need loads of approval killing off E B S volumes, or doing certain start-stop scheduling for workloads that we know are suitable for that, that are tagged to be suitable for that, then absolutely let AI go away and manage that.

Guest: SteveO

Certainly around scheduling you should just have intelligent scheduling where possible where it's being decided based on usage when it gets switched off and switched off rather than purely something that's mandated through a very simple on-off situation. That's another great area to be using ai. There are still plenty of challenges with both automation and AI and FinOps because it all depends on how you're interacting and part of the problem the cloud market has at the moment is that there are still two true schools of how people are interacting with infrastructure. And so tools are largely focusing on the one where the money is, which is mode one, which is people using the cloud. Largely it was a data center and so the mode two stuff's being a little bit ignored, but that's where you start doing the really interesting AI stuff. In my view.

Host: Jon

That's maturity and immaturity. And speaking of that, one of the challenges that you indicated was forecasting and reporting. Do you see this as a challenge for an immature or a mature FinOps team and

Guest: SteveO

Culture? It's certainly a massive challenge for immature organizations, people just getting to it, just the whole change in how the billing happens, the financial process, and all of this. But I've seen people who in terms of the actual cloud usage can be quite mature, but they're forecasting and budgeting is basic. I won't insult it, I'll call it basic because that's all that maybe they need at this point. But where that goes wrong is that if you are not forecasting and budgeting correctly, it's very hard to define meaning and value, which is what FinOps is around. People think it's just about cost optimization, but it's not. It's about proving value from your cloud. And so if you haven't got meaningful budgets or forecasts, it's very hard to then compare that to the value that's being delivered versus how you're doing against those things. So it's a bit of a revelation to me over the last maybe six months how important this is because I've always been focusing elsewhere in my mind, but very few organizations are doing this well in my eyes. So even people who are maybe doing it better than the basics still generally have a lot of areas where they can improve and then gain some efficiencies from it. And it's all about where the cloud is a meaningful number to them and if it is a meaningful number, hopefully then they will start giving meaningful effort to change how they do their forecasting and budgeting.

Host: Jon

Steve, I agree with you. The data that's pulled for FinOps and making this reporting and forecasting, it's great, but it has to be meaningful. You have to understand the data, know what to do with the data, or if they put together this and they're like, I don't know what all this data is, how do I make it meaningful to provide action to funnel this out to the rest of the teams to report on it correctly? So I'm right there with you on that one.

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, I did a talk to AWS seller, I think it was about how to speak to a CFO and the problems that they don't probably realize that they bring to a CFO and one of those is quite simply go and look at what a bill looks like and how complicated that may seem, and then go look at what the cost and usage data, which is meant to be, what brings light to this bill looks like. And between those two things, if you can make sense of it, then I think you're ready to start speaking to a CFO. If you can't, then we need to have a conversation about how you have a meaningful conversation because that's the pain you're bringing to their lives.

Host: Jon

Talk about a meaningful conversation on how to talk to your CFO and understand it, but if you could understand what the car looks like, the raw bill, and understand the AWS, you will be a guru within the community because there's very few who can understand and read it.

Guest: SteveO

Frank can, I'm not going to claim I can, I know enough to be dangerous, but Frank knows his data stuff. It is a science in itself and Frank has a very interesting point. I always think he says if the cloud vendors just sorted out their billing data to make it simple, none of us would have jobs. I think that's an interesting one because actually, that's

Host: Jon

Very true.

Guest: SteveO

If they just sorted it out, #FinOps would be a much smaller topic than it is, but it's because it's so complicated. They've created a market of jobs for

Host: Jon

People. I like it. Well, thank you cloud providers for making complex bills

Guest: SteveO

And hugely complicated billing data. That's not even for across the different vendors. It is

Host: Jon

Multiple science. If they made it then they each have to have their way of doing it. Like a w s will have a line item for your RIS and then you'll have your discount on another line item way down and you won't understand how they correlate to each other.

Guest: SteveO

I've always found it amusing because if you do multicolored, I have to do and then you go on a call, and let's say I'm speaking to one vendor, I'm not going to name them, it'd be far too easy speaking to one vendor and I kind of go, this isn't in your data but it's in the other vendors. How annoying must that be to hear? And it's just like, well, for this reason, we haven't put in there. We're like, well, they put it in and I like it. Why can't you put it in these kinds of pieces? Like I say, it's all different and they have their reasons, but it would be so nice if it was standard and that's kind of the big focus topic that's coming out of the FinOps Foundation around the FinOps open standard for cost and usage data. That would be massive if it takes off.

Host: Jon

So, Steve, you were the first FinOps hire within your organization. What are the first three things that you've done or you're going to do?

Guest: SteveO

So I wasn't the first one here. Well, I kind of was in evident if that makes sense, but in Cloud reach we already had it, so it's a bit of a mixed one, but in this one, I'm trying to place myself new job tomorrow going somewhere new, what am I going to do? The first thing is to get the data. We've just been talking about what a mess and how difficult it's, but without good data, without getting some history, and without getting that visualization piece, you can't do anything. You are playing blind. Any decisions I make would be guesswork. The next I would attack is to get budgets sorted. I have no idea what state we're in and whether we're doing as well or worse than expected if I don't have the budget. So if we think about my budgets and my forecast being my guardrails, I need to check whether the data that I've collected is within or not within these guardrails and how those guardrails are changing to match the growth of the organization over time.

Guest: SteveO

And then I listen to a talk from the guys at Nationwide around something called a coin, which is cost optimization index score, which is a fantastic thing and I think if I went into any organization I would do something very similar where it looks at the total spend versus the low hanging fruit opportunities and then creates a score from that. I don't want to go into too much detail because it's their work, not mine, but that would allow me to traffic lights where I should be spending my time, Hey, these guys have got a terrible score, these guys have got quite a good score. Whom am I going to go and speak to first? The people with the terrible score. So I just know where I would find my quick wins where the biggest I kind of consider cloud spend being and FinOps are been trying to keep a leaky bucket full of water. So where are my big holes where the money's just being splashed out versus my budgets? I'll go focus on those first.

Host: Jon

I like that method, the coin for the index. It's amazing and you can do your focus on those quick wins. I think that might be a new thing to add or whatever. I'm going to have to look that up.

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, absolutely. I dunno if their talk is live yet on YouTube from the event, but I did write a little bit, in the article, I wrote my thoughts from FinOps and I checked what I wrote there with the people that gave the talk and they were happy for me to share that amount of detail and just a very good talk by very good speakers, but also just genius in its simplicity. Don't overcomplicate it. Give yourself a level playing field where you can benchmark everyone and start going after those big flashing red lights.

Host: Jon

I like that. SteveO, I'm going to switch gears a little bit. I want to talk about your FinOps journey and your current role at your organization. We talked just a little about how you became the head of FinOps. You were at another company and then in this role, can you tell us a little bit more about it and what your team's responsible for? Yeah,

Guest: SteveO

So I was leading a transformation consultancy, got an interest in the cloud economics piece, moved to a FinOps company specifically that focused on rate discount types, and learned a lot about that, a very boring amount for anyone else. And then moved on to this more kind of generic role and my mandate when I joined was to create a world-class FinOps function. That was my idea for both ourselves internally and for our customers. That's still our drive and our focus and what I hadn't realized at the time, but I learned from Natalie Daily from H S B C is you don't work out what you want to do, do that and then stay at the top because it's constantly moving backward as run keeps adapting. So my team does several things within the organization because we're a partner, we look after resale, so customers that buy cloud through us and this ends up being quite FinOps adjacent as a concept.

Guest: SteveO

It's all about billing data, it's all about kinds of controls and governance. So we end up looking after a lot of that. Part of my team does the actual billing data for customers and works out what they should be invoiced. Again, hugely cost and usage-data-driven. So they're kind of like my data team because they're spending a load of time on the raw data. So if I ever have things I need to check and stuff like that, I can just go and have a team who are flooded and swimming in cost and usage data from the three major hyperscalers. And then we are looking after our internal estates of which it's quite significant. A company of 55,000 people. As you can imagine, there's quite a lot of cloud going on, especially in cloud businesses where we might be doing our POCs. We own some software ourselves and stuff like that.

Guest: SteveO

We have things on the marketplaces, so we've got all of that kind of stuff, which we have a very routine FinOps relationship with. So we are the people that are going to the owners of those apps and saying, Hey, you could do this to save that and that kind of thing and making sure they've got the visibility they need and doing that. So we are our customer if that makes sense. A place we do a lot of learning and then we look after external customers. Some of those people that have resale with us, people that take managed services with us, we are their FinOps team or we are adjoined to their FinOps team. Whether that's that we try to distill better recommendations whether it's part of my team are very embedded in organizations where they may raise the tickets that go into the system so people then go do optimizations. So we vary at the level of detail we into with the customer by customer, but some of our team are the embedded FinOps person in an organization doing what you would do if you were the person hired by that organization themselves.

Host: Jon

Nice. Steve, I want to dive in a little bit more in detail about what your team is doing, but more from a day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month perspective. I envision that as a Fins person, I see the data, I'm walking to the next person's desk virtually I'm showing them the data saying, hey listen, you need to do this. They're going to the next, are you going to business applications? I mean really what does your day-to-day look like?

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, so it varies heavily by the customer. The easiest is probably described customers that are more like ourselves. So it's very similar to the internal journey, which I can probably talk about more. But we are looking proactively at the recommendations, looking for anomalies, looking for changes, and then we know who is generally we separate by account so we know who is aligned to that account and we'll go speak to that account owner specifically if they are maybe a business owner rather technical owner, we might know who the technical person is as well and we'd go directly to both of them or to one of those we just ask if the change was expected, if it's an anomaly, speak to 'em about whether the recommendation is valuable. There is a whole kind of challenge and concept around whether a tool shouts out that you should rightsize this, but there might be a reason you haven't.

Guest: SteveO

And so we need to validate that recommendation before mandating that it be done. And that's where I think a lot of people go wrong and a lot of C-level turnaround and say, Hey, there's a hundred grand's worth of recommendations, the company needs to go do them. 50 grand of them probably can't be done for various reasons. And so we are the team that helps validate that. So we speak to the people that are the SMEs of the application, we own the recommendation and then we either will kill that recommendation if it's not suitable and we agree with 'em, it's not suitable or we'll put that on their list of things to action. And so that's where we are. We also own the purchase and management of rate discounts, so our rise savings plans, commit, use discounts, et cetera. That generally sits with us.

Guest: SteveO

Sometimes customers like us to recommend that to them and they go purchase. Some customers like us to purchase the stuff we purchase ourselves or for quite a few customers we partner with Prosper Apps and they actually will do the RI management on our behalf for a w s customers because it's more efficient than what we can do with savings plans, et cetera. So we are largely owning on a day-to-day basis the recommendation and the validation of recommendations. Sometimes actioning quite often passing it on to the technical team to then actually go do the work. If they're a managed service customer, we'll be passing it on to our technical teams who will go and do the work depending. So that would still be team adjacent, so we'd be overseeing that but wouldn't be directly doing the right sizing action itself for instance. So we stay very much in the analyst world rather than the engineering world at the moment.

Host: Jon

I think just making sense of the data and the reports and the recommendations that come up is half the battle because as you mentioned, you have a hundred recommendations, and you can't do 50 of those, but is there a way to say that these 50, you're looking on a piece of paper, are you using specific tooling or did you create some customized tooling to just make this simple?

Guest: SteveO

So depending on the tool you use, a lot of the more prominent vendors out there at the moment still don't have something like a snooze or a delete function that says don't show me this again next month, which is a pain. So we do that ourselves through some scripting. So we take the raw data and C S V, and we compare it to previous months. If it's been marked as not done, then it will or not be actioned and if we see it's the same one, it'll come. But the thing is that we're doing that through our kind of automation and so that does mean still some, if they have restarted the instance has different idea stuff like that, it will come back. So it's not perfect. Some of the tools out there, some of the ones that have been called ankle biters, but some of the newer, more innovative tools have been built with this inbuilt and that's the easy way of doing it is choosing the tools that will do that easily because it's one of the, especially if you're manual and you haven't got a tool in place, it is one of the biggest pains, it's every month going first disregard everything that you disregarded last month before you start then getting meaningful recommendations.

Guest: SteveO

And if you don't do that, people aren't going to listen because they're going to see all the white noise every month and they're not going to see the meaningful stuff. And that's part of our responsibility to try to just demonstrate the meaningful stuff that then is more likely to be actioned. And this is why you get, it's not a myth that there's a lack of engineers taking action. It's true, but as a failed techie slash engineer myself, I'll tell you that quite often it's just a load of noise and you don't know what's worth looking at, what's not because you disregarded half of them three times already.

Host: Jon

Yeah, because the first sheet will say all the stuff that you disregarded last month, you're like, I'm not looking at this anymore,

Guest: SteveO

I'm done. Exactly. The top three big ones say you've got software you buy and it says you have to have a machine this size and everyone knows it doesn't need to be on a machine of that size, but for it to remain in support, it has to be a machine of that size and it's a big machine and they're your top three every month. Every month I look at it, I kind of go, they're still there and I might not get onto number four because I'm just like, they still haven't sorted this report out. What are they doing? Why haven't they disregarded these three? So that's one of the things we try to help organizations with when we're involved. We did quite a large tooling review and so it's still kind of under consideration whether we would look at using a tool that has that inbuilt because it is a game changer.

Host: Jon

Steven, what are some of the biggest challenges you might be facing right now within your company? Within the FinOps

Guest: SteveO

Standardization, which I think a lot of big companies have got to have the same issue. So if you have very varied parts of the organization, getting the same understanding across all of them takes quite a lot of time and often quite a lot of repetition. So it's a constant challenge in any organization I think to keep all the parties that touch FinOps interested and involved and understanding what's going on because for a finance person, it's maybe 2% of their job, but they've still got to have a base level knowledge. So you've got to work out how you put that across to them, help them understand it in a meaningful way that means they can have a meaningful conversation with you or the technical person, especially if you are the go-between. So standardization of processes when there are acquisitions, that's a big challenge. Standardization of language, standardization of the way of communicating, and the roles and responsibilities is the biggest challenge I think most people actually face and sometimes they don't realize that. They kind of think, oh, these people aren't taking action or we're struggling with that. Sometimes people just aren't speaking the same language. They haven't standardized things in their organization.

Host: Jon

Do you see that automation or AI impacting your role or FinOps in general?

Guest: SteveO

I think it's got to improve to start augmenting people to do a better job at the moment. And I think most FinOps people would agree they spend far too much time doing stuff that absolutely could be handled by tools, things like we've just been talking about. I think at the moment there is a gap where some of the FinOps stuff, the tooling doesn't allow for the two stuff that would improve. And so there should be a streamlining in maybe the level of analysis I have to go into, but then I and the team could focus more on some of the cultural stuff, some of the actual making action takes place. And there's this whole challenge in the whole world of cloud where people said, Hey, we're going to lift and shift and then we're going to innovate and we're going to re-architect and all of this.

Guest: SteveO

If a load of us had more time to go and cost that and work that out, that's where the real value comes in. How do I do the same thing but better rather than how do I right size all this? How do I change this entire thing to get the same outcome but with a significant architecture? And that's where I'd like to be getting to my background as an architect, that's how I got into the IT side. So I'd be far more interested in time if they can handle some of this analysis stuff I'm doing or indeed some of the stuff that could be automated, then I can start working on that because that needs people that need people's brains to work at how you do it. And there are just too many moving parts and too much in terms of the people aspect in that to not have people involved.

Guest: SteveO

And I've always been a big believer that AI can augment people, but there is still in the FinOps world plenty for us to be doing. It will require an upskilling of a lot of the FinOps analysts and audience out there because at the moment they're doing stuff that could be automated. After all, it's been not by the tooling or because the data's too complex. And so then they could do things that they'd probably find more enjoyable. I know some people just love playing with the numbers and the data, but there's more that we could do and more value that FinOps can bring to organizations and improve the sustainability and the greenness of what we're doing as well.

Host: Jon

I agree with you on AI and automation. While most are in fear that AI is going to take over this or that, I think what it does is it allows us to focus on what's important to us and allow us to do those key things like okay, the automation, there are so many tools out there to do automation for this that within cost optimization within FinOps, but there's not one tool that can do it. If we can marry up a lot of those through automation, having AI define it, then go do it. We can focus on the business and the driving factors on why we need certain things and there are always new rules, and new opportunities to grow and it's just going to expand and it's going to change throughout the use of this. And that's just what I'm feeling from it.

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, I gave a talk a while ago, Emma, I'm talking a while ago, maybe four years ago on ML and ai when it was beginning to become more to fruition and someone said, isn't it going to replace all our jobs? What about teachers? Are they going to be replaced by AI soon? And I said, no, but if you're a teacher and you could get AI machine learning to mark the books, how much fresher would you be going into class having not spent four hours that night before marking the books and you just get particular things that are unusual, varied, brought to your attention to then go review and then you can go speak to that child about that specifically. There are the meaning full tasks that should still be done by people, but there are menial tasks that could be done by computing.

Host: Jon

I agree. I think that's a really good point around it is that the meaningful tasks that you can't replace with ai, you can't replace with automation, the stuff that has the human perspective. SteveO, let me ask you one very tough question for you, and this is what do you want to tell the audience? What is the one thing that you got not only at a FinOps X that is important to you that you want to share?

Guest: SteveO

I would probably say I learned a few things at FinOps X, but there was a particular talk that has just gone on YouTube, so absolutely go listen to it by a lady called Alee Whitman. And she's, again, she's one of these kinds of rock stars that FinOps in my eyes and she's currently at Disney, I'm allowed to say that because it was on the talk, but she's been at a W s, I think she was at Pepsi or Coca-Cola before that. I'm sorry, Ali, I've forgotten. She gave a talk on what's the difference between saving and spending reduction. And I found it intriguing, that's why I went to the talk, but you made a really good point that if you have a budget of a hundred dollars and you're spending $150 and you reduce that spend by $30, you're still overspending by $20 versus your budget.

Guest: SteveO

So you haven't saved your company anything. You've just reduced how much you're overspending. And it's this kind of concept that, if you are using budgeting well if you're using forecast well, it will make everything a bit more meaningful and where you need to focus your time and it means you can, a lot of people out there at all say, Hey, I made my company a 30% saving you, or did you reduce bloated, bad spend by 30%? That still didn't bring you down to where you were budgeted and planned to be. And I'm not saying all budgets are perfect, and I've even said this previously, budgets should be defensible, not perfect. That's the new world in the cloud. But if you get to it and you honestly have done all the reductions that are possible and you're still not there, then budgets need reviewing.

Guest: SteveO

But we can't just go and turn around and say, Hey, I reduce the spend by $10. I've saved the company $10. I'm amazing when you're still a thousand dollars overspending per month. And it's a real kind of concept of, and if you have that mindset across the organization that accountability across the organization, people will start budgeting better people start budgeting better. People start understanding the value of cloud better people start understanding the value of cloud better. People don't start complaining that we're overspending. And that's where it all comes from and I think it comes from this one very basic idea of how important a budget is and that not all spend reductions are savings. So that's the one thing I would say people should go and learn and go and see and listen to that talk.

Host: Jon

Excellent. Love that analogy. A colleague of mine told me, I was like, I love video editing and there's all these cool plugins for it. And I was like, man, I like this one. It's 30% off today. And he's like, it's 30% off of something you don't need. It's still 30% more that you are spending or 70% more that you're spending you don't need to spend. And I'm like, that's a good point. All right, I don't need that plugin. But it was nice.

Guest: SteveO

It's how supermarkets have made their livings for years. Hey, three for two, well, I only needed one, but now I'm getting a deal, so I'm going to buy three. And it's that kind of concept where there's an artificial construct in our minds around what saving is and all of this. And actually, you just think it's because it's less than it could have been when you need to bring it down to what the business should be spending rather than what you are currently spending as to whether it's a saving or just a spend reduction.

Host: Jon

I always have that conversation with my wife when we go to the supermarket and I'm like, oh, it's two for three. Do I need to buy both two of them for three? Or if you only buy one, it's like $2. I'm like, well, then I might as well buy the two to get the $3. So I'm still overspending a dollar, but I only needed the one. Yeah,

Guest: SteveO

Yeah, exactly. It's that kind of concept and yeah, I thought Allie put it across well. So yeah, I can share the link with you. It's available. I'd tell people to go listen to that because she tells it far better than me. She gives examples with numbers,

Host: Jon

Of course. So, Steve, I'm going to wrap this up with two fun questions for you, right? Nothing around the FinOps, but this is going to be a cool one. The first question I have for you is imagine yourself, you're on an island and you have the OG of iPods, and for those who don't remember, it's a little device that you put music on and you can't connect to anything. You just play music off. It was cool. The Nanos were awesome. What songs are you listening to on this island?

Guest: SteveO

That's a good question. I was heartbroken when my classic eventually died. I kept it going as long as I could, but yeah, when my iPod Classic died, I was very, very sad. So I'm the kind of person who, as you can be quite excitable. I think the main thing I've got to do on a desert island or wherever this might be, hopefully not cold, is keep pretty chilled out or I'd just be running around and expending all my energy. So probably something classical I've got into recently while working, I like to listen to music, but if I have lyrics, I start talking, then I'll be typing something and suddenly I've started writing some lyrics down. So I've been listening to a vitamin string quartet who do modern songs as a four-piece string quartet. So you're hearing a violin version of Go look it or something. And that kind of stuff keeps me pretty chilled. I can still concentrate and do things with it, and so that's probably what I'd go for if I need to be kept serene on an island somewhere.

Host: Jon

You ever find yourself with music that does have lyrics to it that you're not hearing the lyrics, you're just hearing the background, the noise, and the instruments, but you're able to

Guest: SteveO

Work? Yeah, absolutely. Mainly albums. I've listened to time and time again. I have a couple of albums I listen to when I'm swimming now because I'm a broken old man, I can't run or anything. I've got to go swimming, so I have headphones in for that and for those, they're ones where I can just enjoy it without because when you're swimming, it goes in and out slightly. It doesn't bother me. I can't hear the lyrics. I can just enjoy the music and I know when that ear goes back in, I'm going to hear this. Especially if you think about it being stereo, things are changing on each ear and you can hear it better when each year's in the water. It gets a bit all over the place. But yeah. There are albums I've listened to enough times. I'm the same with audiobooks. I listen to a lot of audiobooks to help me go to sleep because I need some sort of noise. So it has to be one I've already heard or something like that because then I'm not listening to hear what's next. I already know if that makes sense.

Host: Jon

I won't ask for your best recommendation on audiobooks to go to sleep. We'll say that for another time. Steve, my last question is who's your superhero, and why?

Guest: SteveO

A bit of a cliche, but it's probably my dad, just a very nice man, first-person family to go to university, that kind of thing. But I always looked at him and kind of like, that's what a grownup looks like. And now I'm a grownup and I still look at him and go, I'm not as grownup as my dad. He does monthly jobs and all this kind of stuff. He knows how much money's in his wallet from a spreadsheet, and that's why I always aspired to be an adult. I've now decided I probably don't want to be an adult if that's what it means, but I still always kind of look up to him and there's a song with a lyric I like, which is always better than your thoughts are. And quite often I kind of think, what would my dad do in this situation? He'd probably do the nice thing, if that makes sense, as well as anything else. And he's a lot more patient than I am, but also why I needed that serene music. So it is probably my dad and we've been through a lot together. We lost my mom and stuff like that and it made us very close. And he's very close to my son now, which is nice as well. They're like best friends, those two. So probably my dad.

Host: Jon

Nice. Well, hats off to your dad and being your superhero. It's a very difficult thing to achieve. So vo, as I wrap things up, who would you recommend that we speak to next about FinOps?

Guest: SteveO

I mean, there are so many people. So Frank who I've talked about a bunch of times is my podcast brother as it were. But I mean just to name a few people I just think are fantastic is a guy called Tom Cross who has just been there doing it in a massive migration. Mart Hughes came on our podcast. She was super cool. Dina Solis is one of the most fun people I've spoken to. We were going to do a podcast on women in FinOps and we just heard her career and life story and like me and Frank were almost in tears, but she's also a bit of a FinOps giant Allie, who I've already talked about. She's cool. Mark Richter, Mark Butcher, who's really on sustainability. Eric Carlin who came up with was part of the team that came up with SR. Effective savings rate. Cool. And I've never heard Natalie Daily on a part, I've talked about her with the h s BBC stuff, but I would listen to any podcast you have as well. It's nice at the moment because it's quite an open community. There are loads of FinOps heroes all worth listening to.

Host: Jon

Awesome. Well, that's an extensive list that we're going to have to reach out to and hopefully get here on the Faces in FinOps podcast. Steve, thank you so much for joining me.

Guest: SteveO

It's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Host: Jon

Yeah, of course. Well, everybody, this has been another awesome episode in discussion around faces and FinOps, powered by our good friends at Prosper Ops. Be sure to hit that like subscribe and notify and check out our latest episodes with the Prosper Ops blog. My name's Jon Myer and I appreciate you watching until next time,