Cloud4 min read

Q&A with VMware and Xtravirt: Tracking the Rise of FinOps Skills

VMware Staff
Q&A with VMware and Xtravirt: Tracking the rise of FinOps Skills

Interest in FinOps skills is soaring. Expertise in areas like accounting, analytics and economics has become highly desirable within tech teams as it supports businesses to deliver greater value from their cloud transformation. That’s why 85% of European organisations are actively looking to recruit talent with this skillset, according to VMware research.

But organisations are struggling to match supply and demand. The research also found that around two-thirds (64%) reported difficulties in recruiting the skills they need to control costs and accelerate innovation.

Martin Hosken, Chief Technologist for Cloud EMEA, VMware and Gavin Jolliffe, CEO of cloud consulting and managed services provider Xtravirt, have shared advice for organisations who are seeking to maximise the value of their cloud investments, and access talent with the required FinOps skills to drive the best business outcomes:

Q: Why are organisations under more pressure to deliver return on cloud investments?

Martin Hosken (MH): “Organisations, are under pressure to spend every pound as wisely as possible. The current macroeconomic climate demands efficiency, and the C-suite needs to see the positive outcomes of its investment in cloud.

There has been huge investment in cloud in recent years, and in some instances it’s difficult to quantify the value of that. If applications are running well on cloud, how do I demonstrate that it hasn’t cost me three times as much as a data centre?

The pressure ultimately is to see the value from cloud. Senior leadership will want to see the business value that their investments have returned.”

Gavin Jolliffe (GJ): “I’d also point to the fragmented organic adoption of cloud and some of the accelerators we’ve had over time – like COVID. In recent years, cloud strategies have been reactive rather than proactive. If you consider some of the challenges we’ve had over the last few years – including hardware shortages and a change of working practices – businesses have had to adapt quickly to survive.

But what might be a priority today may not be a priority tomorrow. Organisations are now thinking: “If I make this investment, how adaptable and flexible is the solution, but crucially, am I going to get a return on it?”

Q: How much have cloud costs risen in the past couple years? And what impact has this had?

MH: “For most organisations, cloud costs have gradually risen. Understanding cloud spend prior to migrating applications to cloud is very challenging. The applications change and evolve over time, and the way they behave changes and evolves with it.

Cloud isn’t cost effective by default. A few lines of rogue code can easily double the CPU requirements for a particular application, thereby significantly increasing the cost. Getting applications that are efficient for cloud and managing code reviews is key to ensuring a minimal cost impact.”

GJ: “The adoption of cloud was made a necessity because there were very few alternatives. So, understanding the financial and cost impacts of that is incredibly difficult to break down. You’ve got a massive increase in consumption across multiple parts of the business and a difficulty in identifying where cloud spend is and isn’t deriving value.”

Q: So how do organisations find candidates with adequate FinOps skills?

MH: “Finding candidates with a truly broad-ranging set of skills, and a mixture of both technical skills and business acumen, is really challenging. As such, we need to identify candidates that have an aptitude for learning and an interest in developing their skillsets, and set them on a path to develop these additional competencies.”

GJ: “If you’re asking someone to display business, financial and technical acumen, no matter the side they come from – I’m not sure that exists in candidates today. We’re only just starting to see the establishment of mainstream training around this, and we’ve got an entire generational curve to overcome. However, what we are likely to see is a collection of capabilities converging to fulfil the role of FinOps.”

Q: How significant an issue is the skills shortage? What impact is this having on companies’ ability to innovate?

MH: “As with any industry, a skills shortage will have direct business consequences. For example, if you’re consuming three clouds, and nobody is monitoring or maximising the efficiency of those cloud spends, over time they can end up costing millions of pounds above what was planned for. We need the people that can drive those efficiencies and minimise spend.”

GJ: “The skills shortage is a persistent problem. It’s a global and generational issue, and can’t be solved overnight. Trying to find a one-person superhero is going to be hard. Organisations need to take a step back and explore how they can deal with the problem in a slightly different way. Rather than internal IT teams trying (and failing) to cover everything themselves, smart-sourcing is an area we are seeing real growth. We work with many clients who have pragmatically looked at where the skills gaps lie and decided to only focus plugging those gaps with internal resource, where the roles directly impact business growth and innovation. In other areas like risk and compliance for example, which whilst being essential, contributes less to business value, specialist managed services partnerships make better sense.

Q: VMware’s research shows that 71 per cent of organisations identified an inability to get senior stakeholders to buy into the cloud process is hindering innovation. What other ways can organisations better get cloud higher on the board agenda?

MH: “Reporting business value is paramount here. Most business leaders aren’t hugely interested in the technology that sits behind their new go-to-market strategy. All they are focused on is the outcome and the growth of the business. So, the ability to translate those business requirements into technical solutions is crucial. However, many people working in IT departments work in very strict silos and don’t have the opportunity to develop this type of thinking – so I’d urge organisations to keep the talent they have and broaden their skillsets as much as possible.”

GJ: “One of the challenges that many organisations have is the translation of technical needs into business value. We try to act as that bridge. Getting top-down sponsorship for a significant program of change is difficult for any business, but as a trusted partner, if we can help them articulate that value and rally internal support to secure senior buy-in.

Organisations often have a fantastic CIO plan on paper, but don’t really have a way of executing it. As such, if we can add value and show that we’ve got advanced thinking and understanding, we’ll be able to shift to that customer side and become a trusted advisor to help address those challenges.

We’ve been at the market coalface for 15 years and seen thousands of customers who are facing fairly common challenges. A do-it-yourself approach is not necessarily achievable or cost effective, while some customers look for a cookie-cutter approach to defining and solving their problem, a more tailor-made approach which recognises internal strengths and weaknesses will often support stronger buy-in and a higher opportunity for success.”