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The Need for Cloud FinOps

In the modern cloud-driven business landscape, companies increasingly rely on various cloud setups, including multi-cloud environments, legacy systems, hybrid clouds, and different cloud providers with diverse services and pricing models. This diversity, while offering flexibility and scalability, can lead to chaotic and unorganized cloud resource management. As a result, monthly expenditures can rise uncontrollably, causing a snowballing effect on costs as usage continues to grow.

FinOps is the practice of aligning cloud expenditure with finance and engineering teams to ensure that every dollar spent in the cloud is accounted for. It provides a framework to bring financial accountability to the variable spend model of cloud computing, enabling businesses to maximize their cloud investments and drive more value from their cloud usage.

In this comprehensive FinOps 101 guide, we will explore how FinOps works and how organizations can use it to gain control over their cloud expenditure.

What is Cloud FinOps?

Cloud FinOps, not to be confused with traditional financial operations, is an evolving discipline and cultural practice in cloud financial management. It’s more than just a cost-cutting measure; it aims to extract maximum value from cloud investments by promoting a balance between speed, cost, and quality.

Based off a collaborative culture, Cloud FinOps fosters communication among cross-functional teams in engineering, finance, product, and business. This ensures collective ownership of cloud usage and expenses. The practice involves making data-driven spending decisions, enabling faster product delivery with enhanced financial control and predictability.

FinOps helps organizations maximize their cloud investments by aligning cloud costs with business objectives, and helping drive more value from each dollar spent.

The FinOps Framework

The FinOps Framework, created by the FinOps Foundation in 2019, is designed to provide comprehensive coverage and visibility into cloud expenditures, ensuring that organizations can effectively manage and optimize their cloud costs.

This framework divides the process of FinOps into distinct categories, assigns responsibilities based on authority, follows a structured decision-making process, identifies key personas, and offers a maturity model assessment to gauge current efforts and chart new paths for improvement.

In the following sections, we will expand on each of these elements in detail, providing insights into how organizations can implement the FinOps Framework to achieve better control and optimization of their cloud expenditures.

The FinOps Phases Lifecycle

FinOps Lifecycle, Phases, Inform, Optimize, Operate, Cloud Cost Management,

The FinOps lifecycle is the foundation of effective cloud cost management, consisting of three main phases: Inform, Optimize, and Operate. Each phase plays a crucial role in ensuring that cloud resources are used efficiently and cost-effectively.

Inform Phase

The Inform phase is all about gaining visibility into your cloud spending and usage. This involves collecting and analyzing data to understand where and how resources are being utilized. Key activities in this phase include Cost Tracking, Budgeting, & Forecasting.

Optimize Phase

In the Optimize phase, the focus shifts to identifying and implementing cost-saving opportunities. This phase involves several strategies and techniques aimed at reducing cloud spending without compromising performance or reliability. Key strategies include Rightsizing, Leveraging Discounts, & Workload Optimization

Operate Phase

The Operate phase ensures that cost efficiency is maintained over time. This involves continuous monitoring and management of cloud resources to sustain and improve cost optimization efforts. Key activities in this phase include Performance Benchmarking, Policy Enforcement, Continuous Improvement.

6 Core Principles of Cloud FinOps

FinOps is guided by six core principles designed to help organizations align their cloud financial management practices effectively. These principles serve as a roadmap, ensuring that your FinOps implementation stays on track and delivers maximum value.

The FinOps Principles: Teams need to collaborate, Personal ownership of cloud usage, Accessible and timely reports, A centralized FinOps team, Decisions business value driven, Take advantage of variable cloud cost

1. Team Collaboration

Unlike traditional cost-saving measures, which are often siloed, FinOps requires a harmonized effort to ensure every dollar spent in the cloud drives value. Cross-functional teams work together to set common goals, FinOps based KPIs, and financial objectives, breaking down silos and fostering a unified approach to cloud cost management.

2. Ownership of Cloud Usage

Accountability is a cornerstone of FinOps. Each team and individual within the organization takes personal responsibility for their cloud usage and expenses. This collective ownership ensures that cloud spending is managed responsibly and that everyone understands the impact of their actions on the overall budget. Clear roles and responsibilities, often defined using frameworks like the RACI matrix, help maintain accountability.

3. Accessible and Timely Reports

Transparency in cloud spending is critical for effective FinOps. Providing accessible and timely reports allows all stakeholders to have a clear view of current expenditures and usage patterns. Real-time data access through dashboards and alerts ensures that anomalies are addressed promptly, and actionable insights are available to guide decision-making. This democratized access to cost data empowers everyone in the organization to participate in cost optimization efforts.

4. Centralized FinOps Team

A centralized FinOps team plays a pivotal role in orchestrating the broader FinOps strategy. While accountability is decentralized, having a dedicated team ensures a holistic view of cloud spending across the organization. This team bridges gaps between departments, harmonizes strategies, and ensures that cloud usage is optimized from a financial perspective.

They provide tools, best practices, and insights to guide decentralized units in making informed spending decisions. Implementing FinOps culture is the first step towards creating a centralized team.

5. Decisions Driven by Business Value

FinOps is not just about reducing costs; it’s about maximizing the value derived from cloud investments. This principle involves making decisions based on the business value of cloud services rather than merely focusing on cost metrics.

Understanding the return on investment (ROI) and internal rate of return (IRR) of cloud projects helps organizations prioritize expenditures that drive the most significant business impact. This value-driven approach ensures that cloud spending aligns with broader business goals and delivers tangible benefits.

6. Leveraging Variable Cloud Costs

The flexibility of cloud computing introduces a variable costing model that can be advantageous if managed correctly. FinOps leverages this by dynamically adjusting resources based on demand, using spot instances for non-critical tasks, and reserving instances for stable workloads.

Cost forecasting and continuous monitoring enable organizations to predict future expenses and optimize their cloud usage proactively. By taking advantage of the variable nature of cloud costs, organizations can achieve significant savings and improve efficiency.

These six principles provide a comprehensive framework for implementing FinOps, helping organizations manage and optimize their cloud costs while aligning spending with business objectives.

FinOps Domains and Capabilities

The FinOps Framework categorizes cloud financial management into six core domains, each with its unique capabilities. These domains are interdependent, often overlapping and interacting to provide a holistic view of cloud cost management. This interconnected approach ensures that all aspects of cloud expenditure are covered, leading to comprehensive and effective FinOps practices.

Understanding FinOps Domains

FinOps domains provide a structured way to manage cloud costs. They are not siloed but rather function as an interconnected web, allowing multiple domains to be in focus concurrently. For example, while concentrating on cloud usage optimization, an organization may also need to monitor performance and make real-time decisions.

FinOps, 101, Domains, Capabilities, Framework,

Understanding Cloud Usage and Cost: This domain involves systematically collecting and normalizing data to understand cloud expenditures. Key capabilities include cost allocation, managing shared costs, and data ingestion and normalization.

Performance Tracking and Benchmarking: This domain aligns cloud costs with strategic objectives through forecasting, budget management, and resource tagging. Capabilities here focus on predicting future expenses and ensuring that cloud usage aligns with business goals.

Real-Time Decision Making: Effective cloud cost management requires real-time, data-informed decisions. This domain addresses immediate actions to align cloud usage with organizational goals through capabilities like measuring unit costs and managing anomalies.

Cloud Rate Optimization: This domain refines cloud purchase and management strategies to achieve optimal price performance. Capabilities include managing commitment-based discounts and incorporating sustainability into cloud financial strategies.

Cloud Usage Optimization: This domain focuses on aligning cloud resources with workload demand in real-time. Capabilities involve workload management, automation, and onboarding new workloads effectively.

Organizational Alignment: Ensuring that FinOps practices are integrated into broader IT financial strategies and organizational structures. Capabilities include cloud policy and governance, establishing a FinOps culture, and education and enablement.

FinOps Maturity Model Assessment

The FinOps Maturity Model is designed to help organizations assess their current state, identify areas for improvement, and develop a roadmap for advancing their FinOps practices. It is built on iterative improvement, emphasizing quick, small-scale actions that provide insights into the value of more extensive efforts.

The FinOps Maturity Model provides a structured approach to evaluate and improve an organization’s FinOps practices. It follows a “Crawl, Walk, Run” methodology, allowing organizations to develop their capabilities gradually and focus on areas that offer the highest business value.

The intent is not to rush to ‘Run’ in every capability but rather focus on areas that offer the highest business value.


In this stage, organizations focus on cloud-only cost-per-customer metrics. This approach may involve direct and shared cloud costs, depending on the complexity of the application.


At this stage, organizations include Cloud, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and license-based cost-per-customer metrics. This could involve tools like Datadog, ServiceNow, or PagerDuty, or Bring Your Own License (BYOL) solutions like Windows or SQL Server running on cloud infrastructure.


Advanced teams consider a comprehensive range of costs, including Cloud, SaaS, Hybrid Costs, and Human Capital-based cost-per-customer. This stage typically involves collecting multiple metrics for different parts of a complex system, becoming more granular over time.

How to Check your FinOps Maturity Level?

To assess your organization’s FinOps maturity level, follow these steps:

Crawl– Minimal reporting and tooling – Basic KPIs and processes – Plans to address “low hanging fruit”– 50% cost allocation – 60% resource-based commitments discount target coverage – 20% forecast to actual spend variance
Walk– Automation for most capability requirements – Medium to high goals/KPIs – Decision made not to address difficult edge cases– 80% cost allocation – 70% resource-based commitments discount target coverage – 15% forecast to actual spend variance
Run– Full organizational adherence- Automation preferred – High KPIs and goals– Over 90% cost allocation – 80% resource-based commitments discount target coverage – 12% forecast to actual spend variance

Remember, achieving a ‘Run’ maturity level in every capability is not the end goal. The emphasis should be on deriving business value from your FinOps practices.

FinOps Focus Billing Schema

FinOps Cost and Usage Specification (FOCUS) is an innovative technical project sponsored by the Linux Foundation. Its primary objective is to establish an open specification for cloud billing data, aiming to standardize the way cloud cost and usage information is presented across different cloud providers.

Need for FOCUS

FOCUS plays a significant role in simplifying the ingestion and analysis of cloud billing data. By standardizing this data, FOCUS enhances understanding and confidence in billing information among organizations that produce or consume it.

FinOps, Focus, 101, Guide, Cloud Cost Optimization

This standardization is particularly beneficial for organizations using multiple cloud providers, as it ensures consistency and comparability across different platforms such as AWS, GCP, Oracle, and Azure.

FinOps FOCUS Billing Converters

FinOps FOCUS Converters are designed as a command-line utility to transform complex billing data files from major cloud providers into a standardized format. This transformation is key to implementing effective cloud cost management practices.

To learn more about converting AWS, GCP, Azure, and Oracle cloud provider reports into the FOCUS billing schema using the free converter, refer to our detailed guide. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on utilizing the FOCUS Converters to streamline your cloud cost management efforts.

FinOps Vendors and Cost Optimization Tools

FinOps, 101, Guide, Gartner, Report,

Migrating to cloud services offers significant advantages, but it also introduces challenges, especially in managing costs. A staggering 35% of an organization’s cloud expenditure is often wasted on inefficiencies. This statistic underscores the need for specialized financial oversight in cloud operations. Without strategic cost optimization, businesses face several challenges:

  • Understanding Application Dependencies: Migrating to the cloud requires a deep understanding of how different applications are interlinked, which is often underestimated.
  • Instance Right-Sizing: Choosing an instance that doesn’t fit your needs can lead to overspending. With the myriad of options available, this can be particularly challenging.
  • Budget Overflows: Cloud spending often grows unexpectedly, with approximately 18% of organizations exceeding their original budget.
  • Inadequate Unit Economics Models: Only 39% of businesses use unit cost models for cloud cost analysis, which is crucial for better budgetary control and foresight.

How to Pick the Right FinOps Tools/Vendor

Selecting the right FinOps vendors is crucial for effective cloud cost management. The right choice can significantly impact your organization’s ability to manage and optimize cloud spending, improve financial control, and drive greater value from cloud investments. Here are key factors to consider when making your selection:

Vendor Reputation and Reliability

A vendor’s reputation and reliability are critical. Look for vendors with a strong track record of consistency and innovation. Customer reviews and testimonials can provide valuable insights into a vendor’s performance.

Tool Functionality and Ease of Use

The functionality of the tool is paramount. Ensure it offers robust features like cost allocation, budgeting, forecasting, and detailed cost tracking. However, functionality alone isn’t enough; the tool must also be user-friendly. Features such as customizable dashboards, intuitive interfaces, and data-drill-down capabilities are crucial for making the tool accessible and effective for all users.


As your business grows, so will your cloud operations. It’s important to choose a tool that can scale with your organization. This means ensuring that the tool can handle increased workloads and complexity without compromising performance.

Compliance and Security

Ensure that the tools and vendors adhere to industry-standard compliance requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, or other relevant regulations. Additionally, features like two-factor authentication and robust encryption protocols are essential to protect sensitive data.

Pricing and Value for Money

While pricing is an important consideration, it should not be the sole determining factor. Assess the return on investment (ROI) that the tool offers. The right tool should provide not only cost-cutting recommendations but also ways to improve resource utilization and enhance overall performance. A tool that offers high value for money will ultimately contribute more significantly to your financial goals.

Customer Support and Training

Strong customer support can make a significant difference in your FinOps journey. Evaluate the vendor’s support responsiveness and the resources they offer, such as training sessions, documentation, and tutorials. Good customer support ensures that your team can effectively use the tool and overcome any challenges that arise.

6 Steps to Select the Right FinOps Tool & Vendors

  1. Define Your Needs: Clearly identify your organization’s requirements and objectives for cloud cost management. Understand the specific challenges you face and the features you need.
  2. Conduct Research: Investigate potential FinOps tools and vendors that align with your needs. Create a shortlist based on features, reviews, and compatibility with your cloud environment.
  3. Evaluate Functionality: Assess the functionality of each shortlisted tool. Ensure it offers essential features like cost allocation, budgeting, and forecasting. Request demos or trials to test usability.
  4. Compare Pricing and ROI: Look at the pricing models and evaluate the potential return on investment. Choose a tool that offers long-term value and aligns with your budget.
  5. Check Support and Training: Evaluate the vendor’s customer support and the availability of training resources. Good support and comprehensive training can significantly enhance the tool’s effectiveness.
  6. Make an Informed Choice: Select the tool and vendor that best meet your organization’s needs, offer the highest value, and provide reliable support and security.

By following these steps, you can choose the right FinOps tools and vendors to effectively manage cloud costs, enhance financial control, and maximize the value of your cloud investments.

The Future of FinOps

The future of FinOps is bright as cloud computing becomes increasingly central to business operations. The rise of augmented FinOps, which leverages AI and machine learning, promises to enhance cloud cost management through more accurate predictions and automated optimizations.

As the demand for skilled FinOps professionals grows, certifications will become essential to ensure expertise in this field. Implementing a FinOps team from the outset is crucial for sustainable financial and cloud resource management.

Adarsh Rai

Adarsh Rai, author and growth specialist at Economize. He holds a FinOps Certified Practitioner License (FOCP), and has a passion for explaining complex topics to a rapt audience.

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