3 Key Takeaways From FinOps X 2023

The energy at FinOps X made it easy to see why FinOps is growing so rapidly.

During the last week of June, I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 FinOps X Summit. Cloud practitioners, both expert and novice alike, arrived in San Diego ready to learn new best practices for managing the value of cloud, connect with peers, and check out new innovations designed to help advance their FinOps practices.

Very early on it became clear: the FinOps discipline is continuing to grow and expand. The event alone has grown 250% since its inception just last year, welcoming about 1,000 attendees in 2023. The FinOps community has grown to 11,000 practitioners, adopted by nine of the Fortune 10 organizations and 48 of the Fortune 50 organizations.

It is easy to see what is powering FinOps’ growth: this lively community is focused on building something new from the ground up, and the opportunity to continue to develop is growing as cloud practices are evolving. The energy at the event was palpable, particularly around a few key topics:

1. Unit economics is the great white whale of FinOps

One of the major changes in the FinOps disciplines that happened earlier this year was the redefining of unit economics from “FinOps Nirvana” to “one of the most important concepts in FinOps.” This restructuring makes cloud unit economics a capability that is more attainable and positions it as a key focus for every practice, regardless of maturity level. I was excited to present on this topic with David Van Hoven, senior DevOps manager at HERE Technologies; and I also heard it mentioned in almost every major keynote presentation.

  • HSBC talked about how FinOps doesn’t get easier as you get more proficient; it gets more complex, but the gains get larger. Their FinOps team is helping identify budget efficiencies gained to invest into innovation.
  • At Equifax, they are using unit economics to tie cloud spend to business value and drive consistency and predictability into cloud planning.
  • Walmart noted that efficiency is a core value that is embedded in their company DNA — critical to driving competitive advantage. They use unit economics to help articulate efficiencies their team achieves in a way that all stakeholders can understand all the way up to the boardroom.

2. Cloud investment decisions must be made intentionally

Having intentionality in cloud investment decisions is a muscle many practitioners are still building as practices, tools, and cloud services continue to evolve and offer new methodologies to deploy. Better planning requires a few key components to support intentional investment decision-making: specifically, reliable and transparent data, cross-functional collaboration (including engineers, cloud consumers, finance, and business units), and clear measurement as budgets are spent.
It is clear that traditional planning tools are not providing practitioners with capabilities to support cloud cost complexities, forcing many to manage cloud costs in Excel. Now in beta, Cloudability Workload Planning and Cloudability Financial Planning are two new tools Apptio has built in partnership with cloud practitioners to meet their unique needs and help support intentional, informed cloud investment decision-making.

3. GreenOps (sustainability) is an increasing priority

Cloud practitioners can see that their work can be easily connected to organizational sustainability goals but struggle to define key metrics and find reliable data to measure their impact. The FinOps team at Fidelity is leading the way in “GreenOps” and shared insights into their program in a well-attended breakout session. Sustainability will be a critical focus for cloud practitioners, who will need to not only measure its impact, but also identify actionable insights to further drive their programs forward.

I left San Diego feeling inspired, connected, and ready to keep the conversations flowing! FinOps X 2023 might be over, but I am counting down the days to CloudyCon, the next major FinOps gathering happening this October at TBM Conference 2023 in Austin, TX. Hope to see you there!

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