FinOps in the Loop: Lowering AWS cloud costs with military precision

17/11/2021 Benjamin van der Maas

Building a useful, valuable feedback loop is critical to a successful FinOps practice. In order to really leverage the data available through real-time reporting, we need to have a clear framework to work with. Benjamin van der Maas is one of Cloudar’s five Certified FinOps Practitioners and an official member of the FinOps community. He explains how we can borrow a strategy from the armed forces to lower our cloud costs:


Real-time feedback

According to J. R. Storment, there are three parts to a successful FinOps practice: Real-time reporting, just in-time processes and teams working together. The feedback loop of real-time reporting is crucial to taking control of your financial footprint in the cloud. Diving into tools such as AWS Cost Explorer or Cloudcheckr to analyze and understand your AWS usage costs are a good way to build out that real-time feedback loop. The real challenge of having a useful, valuable feedback loop is in structuring it. This is where having a clear framework is essential.

There are a lot of possible frameworks to consider in structuring the flow and usage of data. The framework that I have found most helpful is one I picked up during leadership training with retired US Navy Seals. They introduced me to the work of John Boyd, a United States Air Force Colonel and military strategist. Boyd developed the OODA loop: a framework that became the golden standard for combat operational processes.

The OODA loop

Military operators from every branch are taught to use the OODA loop when overwhelmed on the battlefield. Reverting to a specific framework in high pressure situations helps them stay focused and steer clear of information overload-induced paralysis. This framework is now widely used in business, leadership, litigation and law enforcement, but is also very applicable to the practice of FinOps.

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. When engaging with clients on their financial cloud footprint, we often focus on Observing and are in a constant state of Orienting. We tag and categorize our AWS resources (Observe) and maybe set up automated reporting and alerting. Then, in a best-case scenario, dedicated resources are applied to analyzing the cloud bill and reporting on the numbers to upper management. However, those are only two of the four steps of the feedback loop: we still haven’t gotten to Decide and Act.

Every manager will advocate that data analysis should lead to decisions and subsequent actions, but most of the time that is not in the format of a loop. When looking at cloud costs, many managers see action as the goal to finalize a project. The truth is, making a decision and taking action will feed new observations, which then trigger new orientation of data, and so the circle begins again. Every time you observe your cloud bill, have the conversation around what you are seeing (Orient), decide on next actions and act on those decisions. The review and retrospective discussions on those actions will start a new observation, orientation, decision and action loop.

The loop builds culture

When you start using the OODA framework to structure real-time reporting and the feedback loop, you provide a solid basis to keep a continuous conversation going and grow FinOps culture in your organization. If you are looking to get a better grip on your cloud bill, you absolutely want to gather as much data as possible. Using the principles of Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, you can stop your team from being paralyzed by the flood of information and actively cycle your way forward to a healthier financial cloud footprint.

Want to know more about how to optimize costs and innovate faster? Check out our AWS FinOps solution. 



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