It’s 2021, and the world is migrating to the cloud. Thanks to the pandemic, more companies are realising its value than ever. Gartner said in April that public cloud end-user spending would grow 23% in 2021. That’s on top of bumper growth figures for 2020. But just because everyone is rushing to the cloud doesn’t mean that they’re all saving money.
In fact, some are spending more than ever. Cloud hosting company and service provider Aptum found that 57% of companies across the UK, the US, and Canada ran into unexpected costs in the cloud. Data centre industry association AFCOM noted 58% of respondents to its 2021 State of the Data Center report repatriating data back from the cloud to their own premises or colocation facilities.
Cloud sticker shock is a perennial problem for IT pros, but now there’s an emerging discipline to help get it under control in an organised, disciplined way. It’s about focusing on cloud finance, and it’s called FinOps.
In this guide, Probrand explains FinOps and how it can benefit your business’s cloud spending.
What is Finops?
FinOps is about more than traditional IT budgeting. It’s about building an expert team in your company that’s smart about both IT finance and cloud computing. They must understand the nuances of both.
This is a discipline, according to the FinOps Foundation, a project created by the nonprofit Linux Foundation. It’s an operating model that splits financial cloud governance into three stages.
Inform: This gathers data from those different teams to help understand what they’re doing in the cloud and how much it’s costing.
Optimise: With all the data handy, you can identify areas for improvement, helping to eliminate unnecessary costs.
Operate: After whipping your cloud financing into shape, this is the repetitive phase, where you apply the principles you’ve learned to everyday operations so that you keep things on track.
Many companies will already be in the cloud and haemorrhaging cash, but the ideal approach to FinOps is to prepare all of this before you start your migration. Build a team that can work with each other at different levels in your IT operation from technicians provisioning virtual machines through to executives defining business goals and looking for ways for the cloud to support them. Ensure that they can speak a common language – or that there’s someone in the team who can translate from suit-speak to geek-speak.
Somewhere in that team should be professionals who understand not only the technology advantages of things like containers, virtual machines, and serverless functions, but also their underlying pricing mechanics and how they relate to the types of workloads you’re running.
Also in the mix should be someone with an eye on longer-term value rather than just short-term savings. A decision that shaves a few pounds from your IT budget today could cost you dearly in functionality and speed later.
FinOps is a wide-ranging discipline, but for companies currently trying to work out why their cloud bills are through the roof, it’s a necessary one. Those skills are hard to find, but that’s where third-party partners like Probrand come in. Come and talk to us about how to do cloud right without breaking the bank. The best time to do that is before you migrate. The next best time is as soon as possible afterwards.
HOW CAN BUSINESSES BREAK INTO MARKETS BEYOND THE EU?
Atul Bhakta, CEO of One World Express
The build-up and aftermath of Brexit impeded the long-term plans of businesses both in the UK, and of EU businesses trading to the UK. The heavily protracted negotiations induced a culture of uncertainty in business, with few able to adequately prepare for all the future trading landscapes left on the table.
Once a deal was struck, with just one week before the Brexit deadline of 31st January 2020, organisations were then left scrambling to improvise new processes to translate their operations to the new systems and avoid spiralling costs, shipping delays, and various other disruptions.
As a result, businesses both here and in the EU saw a substantial trading slowdown in the months following Brexit, with new rules on customs checks, lengthy tailbacks at ports, denser and knottier administrative rules and new limitations on visas for the workforce all contributing to a tense trading relationship.
Indeed, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed a precipitous drop in trading immediately after Brexit, with UK exports to the continent plummeting 40.7% year on year to January 2021.
This is a striking decline, given the historically close economic and cultural ties between the UK and EU. Inevitably, this caused a lull in long-term confidence amongst UK businesses. Indeed, a previous study conducted by One World Express in January 2021 found that 25% of UK companies doubted that they would last until the end of the year.
Of course, Brexit is even now not a finalised issue – it will shift and evolve in significance and relevance as time passes and economies reshape; but the loss of confidence for businesses in UK-EU trade has been a tangible impact within the first year.
Accordingly, some organisations have begun exploring the scope for expansion into territories beyond the EU.
New opportunities attracting attention
As noted, the UK’s trade with the EU saw a sharp decline immediately following the formalisation of Brexit. While this decline has recovered steadily over the year, there has been an equally impressive parallel forming, as non-EU trade has remained mostly stable throughout.
Of course, UK imports from global markets have always remained at high levels, and when considering business growth and the economy as a whole, outward trade holds a heightened significance. On the export side of matters, ONS figures suggest that UK exports outside of the EU increased by 1.7% year-on-year to January 2021.
While a very modest increase, such figures indicate that international expansion could carry promise for business leaders, and hint at potentially lucrative opportunities within non-EU markets.
As 2021 progressed, it became evident that UK businesses’ appetite to explore opportunities further afield had grown. To take in the views of decision-makers, One World Express commissioned an independent survey of 752 business leaders in the UK, finding that 61% were either already operating abroad in some capacity, or had plans to expand into new territories over the coming year. More than six in ten (62%) reported Brexit as a key motivator in their decision to diversify beyond trading with the EU.
There was also some evidence that these plans were not solely in pursuit of the gains of modest uplifts in trade with non-EU countries. The survey found that more than two thirds (68%) of exporters had observed increased overseas demand for their products in the previous year, while 63% felt that markets outside of the EU were more willing to pay a premium for British-made goods.
The role of ‘Brand UK’ is significant here. For many years, products made in the UK have benefitted from the country’s reputation for high quality production and excellent service, which has driven a consistent rise in demand as emerging markets with high levels of consumer spending, such as India or China. In turn, UK businesses have found it easier than most to gain a foothold in new markets. Indeed, the majority (67%) of exporters reported their British brand had enhanced the reputation and demand for their goods and services when targeting international consumers.
Despite this innate – and highly welcome – competitive advantage, there are a number of factors UK firms must consider before diving in to unfamiliar markets.
The importance of planning
Many would be surprised to learn that a large number of businesses look to enter new markets with minimal planning in place. Notably, almost one third (32%) of exporters do not have such a strategy in place, which is likely to hamper the growth of British businesses abroad if left unaddressed. A crucial starting point for any international expansion plan lies in the research and relationship building.
Ascertaining the consumer preferences and audience behaviours in target markets, and forging appropriate connections with distributors, vendors, and ecommerce platforms, will allow firms to access consumers more easily, and in greater numbers, than marketing from scratch in unfamiliar territory. Encouragingly, according to One World Express’ research, 72% of exporters already include this in their plans.
UK organisations must also recognise the value of a robust and flexible logistics strategy. When products are being shipped to the furthest corners of the globe, there is a degree of risk if the finer details are not handled correctly. Delayed, missing, or damaged deliveries will erode consumer trust, and diminish the prospects of companies before they get off the ground. Accordingly, companies should ensure they have a transparent tracking system and efficient and user-friendly returns process. Investment in adopting the right software solutions to manage the shipping will create a streamlined and cost-effective process, affording firms the best chance at success.
Naturally, the EU will always be one of the UK’s most critical trading partners. However, as the dust settles on Brexit and the pandemic recedes into memory, the next few years present an interesting crossroads for the international prospects of UK businesses. With a tranche of new free trade agreements arriving in the near future, and international demand for Brand UK going from strength to strength, the scope for expansion into unfamiliar markets is growing apace. Provided business leaders get the finer details right, the rewards for bold investment in expansion could help charge a boom in the UK exports sector.
WHAT FIREFIGHTERS CAN TEACH FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ABOUT DATA COLLABORATION
Gabriele Albarosa, CEO, LiveDataset
Digital transformation can be difficult for any business, but in the financial services industry it can prove especially tricky. Replacing manual data processes is a big step, but in an industry so heavily regulated and audited, cohesive and comprehensive transformation is crucial.
Today, the challenge is no longer in convincing financial services organisations that they need to transform their processes and tasks; the vast majority understand the benefits of automating and streamlining their financial processes.
Instead, it’s about instilling the message that there is more to transformation than ripping out and replacing outdated technologies. A good financial transformation strategy must also take into account how these technologies are implemented, ensuring they integrate into an organisation’s culture, connect data and guarantee compliance, without completely demolishing the custom processes that employees want to use.
Little Fires Everywhere
While business transformation offers long-term benefits throughout an organisation, individual departments are often loathe to abandon the bespoke processes that facilitate day-to-day operations. Many organisations feel under pressure to transform quickly, and subsequently focus on how to get their employees onboard with a new solution rather than integrating every minute component of the old.
As a result, digital transformation efforts tend to bypass these disparate components, leaving small, potentially non-compliant hazards smouldering like little fires across an organisation.
These “little fires” don’t immediately represent a threat to business operations, but the lack of quality control, integration, and visibility of these manual workflows, means they’re inherently high-risk.
When a pressure situation hits the organisation, like a surprise audit, legal proceedings or new reporting demands, these processes become a highly combustible cocktail for non-compliance, lost data and human error.
Tackling the flames
Organisations need to tackle these little fires early on, rather than sitting back and hoping they will burn themselves out. But how can they be dealt with?
If you think of these small, unregistered processes as little fires, then your team needs to think like a firefighter — being fast, agile, flexible, and well-prepared for potential risks.
So how can CFOs, CXOs and Chief Transformation Officers bring this strategy to life?
- Be fast — don’t wait around for largescale digital transformation
There’s a common misconception amongst financial service organisations that before facing the issue, you need to wait until an overhaul of department processes or an in-depth audit. This could leave you waiting years for a solution that needs to be implemented in weeks, putting your department at risk.
Organisations must act with speed and address the issue head-on as soon as it has been spotted. Businesses don’t need to wait for largescale transformation; temporary or even permanent solutions do exist and can be tailored and installed immediately — targeting the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.
In my own business, we recommend a three 3-step approach to tackle these issue quickly: First, listening to an organisation’s business challenges to locate the most pressing fire. Second, build a working example for business leaders and decision-makers to evaluate. Finally, follow up with real-time collaboration to ensure that wider company processes don’t cause similar problems in future.
- Be agile and flexible — look for customisable solution that evolve over time
Organisations are ever-evolving, and so are the problems they face. However, some financial services organisations see the answer to these problems as a one-time, short-term fix. Working to put out these fires at speed shouldn’t stop organisations from considering how to prevent and deal with future ones. That’s why businesses run fire drills!
Financial organisations need forward-thinking systems that will work now and in the future, whenever they face their next data collaboration crisis. The ability to act in an agile way is fundamental to this sort of futureproofing.
Agile, flexible solutions will enable organisations to fight multiple fires, with the same systems, as time goes on. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work here. Putting one fire to rest won’t prevent more from happening, and not all fires are the same (just try throwing water on a chip pan fire!) Every organisation has distinct needs and that means customised solutions.
- Be prepared — implement solutions before disruption occurs
To understand their weakness and subsequently prevent fires, financial service organisations must encourage employees across departments to hold an ethos of self-improvement. Preparation is key to success.
That means establishing a comprehensive understanding of the day-to-day routines of employees at all levels. It’s in habit and routine (one-off processes, keeping data on email, spreadsheets as systems, etc) where financial fire hazards thrive.
If new, more compliant technologies are to be installed, they cannot dismantle these existing routines. Flexible data collaboration solutions are needed that perfectly match the existing way of working. Achieving the goals of transformation without any of the disruption.
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