Jesse DeRose

Beyond Cost Optimization: How to Solve Your FinOps Challenges

Published 2023-05-16 18:40:00 +0000 3 min read Cross-posted to
Image Credit: Markus Spiske


As engineering leaders, we glean insights from other industries to improve the way we work. It’s all about thinking differently, like Toyota’s Agile production method that prompted software engineering teams to think differently about the software development lifecycle.

In the best cases, we gain a competitive advantage by thinking differently. According to NYU professor Adam Brandenburger, many innovative businesses were successful because they looked at the world differently than most. They looked at what was right in front of them, but in a way that escapes most people.

I’ve spent the last few years helping companies build successful, lasting FinOps programs, and my work has prompted me to think differently about FinOps, looking at it in a way that escapes most people.

I’m going to share my journey and I hope that by the end of this post, you’ll think differently about FinOps, too.

A FinOps by Any Other Name

When most people talk about FinOps, they talk about cost optimization. And that makes sense because most companies’ FinOps journeys start with cost optimization.

Cloud spend simply isn’t a priority until it’s higher than you forecasted, and then you want to re-align it with your budget as soon as possible by cutting and optimizing costs wherever possible.

But I’ve seen many teams accomplish optimization quick-wins just to see their spend rise again 6 to 12 months later.

Or worse, I’ve seen teams choose not to do the work at all, which leaves your company’s FinOps goals in a lurch.

Operate Differently

So, what happened? Why didn’t cost optimization work?

Let’s revisit your FinOps goals: Maybe you want to cut costs 20% to stay in line with your budget. Have your teams architected for cost? Cutting costs will require changing the way they build and run workloads.

Or, you want better visibility into which products cost the most to operate in the cloud. Have your teams tagged and separated workloads along product lines? Allocating spend accurately will require changing the tools and processes teams use.

This is where the change in perspective comes in: FinOps goals always require a component of cultural or procedural change, and your people and business processes won’t change solely because you tell them to. People need to be incentivized to change. Business processes need to be easy to adopt.

To accomplish your FinOps goals, you need to change the way your business manages cloud spend.

Cost Management, Not Cost Optimization

The very definition of FinOps describes it as “an evolving cloud financial management discipline and cultural practice”. Changing the way your business manages cloud spend requires discipline and cultural change.

Cost optimization didn’t solve your FinOps challenges because it didn’t account for the cultural component of your cloud spend. You need your people, processes, and technology aligned with your FinOps goals. If you want to learn more, check out my blog post and talk where I dive deep on this topic.

FinOps is not about optimizing spend one time. It’s about managing spend long-term which can include, but is not limited to, cost optimization. This is the way to think differently to solve your FinOps challenges, and set your company up for success.