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Host: Kris Johnson, Anglepoint Chief Product Officer

Speakers: Rob Martin, FinOps Foundation FinOps Principal; Ron Brill, Anglepoint President & Chairman

This episode of the ITAM Executive was recorded live at the ITAM & FinOps: How to Win Big event. Rob Martin, FinOps Principal at the FinOps Foundation joined Anglepoint’s Kris Johnson and Ron Brill for a discussion about what they learned from the conference.

One of the highlights from the event (and subsequently this episode) is just how critical it is that ITAM leads adapt to the changing IT landscape and embrace FinOps as the future. Those who do not, will likely be left behind.

By listening to this episode, you’ll learn about:

  • Why ITAM is so perfectly suited to work with FinOps
  • The importance of building relationships, communication, and collaboration among ITAM, FinOps, DevOps, and security teams
  • Why ITAM practitioners should embrace change and acquire cloud-related knowledge and skills
  • How FinOps & ITAM teams can better engage with each other
  • And more

Episode Transcript

Kris Johnson:

Welcome to a special episode of the ITAM Executive. I’m here with Rob Martin from FinOps Foundation and Ron Brill, president chairman of Anglepoint. And we just wrapped the first ever. ITAM and FinOps conference here at the MGM Park in Las Vegas just had our final panel session.

Rob Martin:

I thought it was a great conference. It was small, but the people who were here were very engaged. It was a very much more being focused so much on ITAM and FinOps together.

The audience who was here were looking for solutions. They were looking for suggestions. They were looking for what works, and other companies and they were sharing among themselves. And even though there were not a ton of people here that were big companies that were represented in the audience and who were just really asking really good questions.

I thought they were really engaged in the conversation who were really taking this with an open mind and a look to make their ITAM practices and their FinOps practices better.

Kris Johnson:

Yeah, there really weren’t any passive participants. Everybody was plugged in and focused and really wanting to be here, which is great.

Ron, what are your thoughts?

Ron Brill:

Yeah, no, I agree with that. It was interesting to see that a lot of people and companies are in very early stages. Yes.

Just trying to figure out. What it is, how they can connect it, how they can get started, how they can hire people who they need to talk to. So yeah, it was very interesting to see.

Kris Johnson:

Yeah, I was, I think, surprised by that element. Like you said, there are large Fortune 100 companies represented here. And I think most of them were from the ITAM practitioner side and had no idea who their FinOps counterparts were. Or if there is one. Or if there is one, yeah. They knew that there has to be one, right?

They can’t be operating at the size of the company that they are and not have them. But I was surprised that we were starting from square one, as far as that goes from an ITAM practitioner’s side, which I wouldn’t have thought that with this audience.

Rob Martin:

It’s really unfortunate because it, I think, highlights the finding that we had in our state of FinOps survey, where we were asking the respondents to that, are you engaged, or how well are you engaged with your ITAM teams, with your ITSM teams, with your IT security teams?

And only about 25 percent of those companies that answered that said that they were engaged in a meaningful way. So, there is still, unfortunately, I think a lot of places to go with this conversation. There’s a lot of development I think that still needs to be done in both communities to understand the value that the other can bring to the overall organizational practice.

So, I think it highlighted some work that we need to do on the FinOps side and making that making that connection more. And I think also highlighted the value of having a conference like this, where it’s really focused on the two practices together.

Kris Johnson:

Yeah, it’d be great to get FinOps practitioners that are, ITAM-curious, not just the ITAM practitioners that are FinOps-curious.

Rob Martin:

Agreed. There are so many different ways that we can engage and I think that was the fun thing for me to go through and a lot of the questions were about that aspect of it, right?

Yeah. What can I do when I get back to the office about engaging better? What can I do and what are the steps that look like concrete steps that I can take? To make my, to make the stuff that I’m doing valuable to the FinOps team and then get the right things from them. And it would be better to have that in a two-way conversation for the future.

So, I hope that we’ll be able to do that in more of these conferences.

Kris Johnson:

Yeah. I’m hoping this is just the start, right? This is the sort of inaugural year if you will. Would it be great if in future years, say even next year, a Fortune 100 company comes with their ITAM program director and their FinOps director coming together.

And it’s more kind of workshop based and is a collaborative event where they’re getting to know each other better and having these conversations together with industry peers.

Rob Martin:

Yeah, it’s really interesting isolation. It’s interesting because I think a company that’s doing that really well. I think once that interconnection is made and once that relationship is working really well, it almost seems like it’s just not a thing. It’s just a natural thing that we do. There’s no trick to it. We just work together effectively.

Kris Johnson:

It’s kind of like couple’s therapy or couple’s retreat at that point, right? You’re coming as a pair, trying to work on things, work on your communication, work on how you operate together. . .

Ron Brill:

I like that better than, marriage counselor, but yeah.

Kris Johnson:

Yeah, I asked the question to the panel as the closer, we talk about a lot of here’s the things that you should do, and I think people starting to realize, what are what’s the theory of how the practices should work together?

But how does that translate? When rubber hits the road Monday morning, what do you do? And it was interesting each of the six or seven panelists, right? Said the same thing in a way. Set up coffee meeting, set up lunch with your cloud center of excellence leader or practitioners in your DevOps functions or in your FinOps functions and just start building those relationships and having dialogue, which points to the fact that FinOps being a team sport. You got to assemble your team and to do that, you need to have the soft skills necessary to bring people to you and understand their use cases and seek to be understood and to understand.

And it’s not just technical know-how and capability. Those things are more easily learned perhaps than even the soft skills of what it takes to be an effective ITAM practitioner contributing to a FinOps function or a FinOps practitioner contributing to an ITAM function.

Rob Martin:

Yeah, and I appreciated Ron’s answer of get trained and certified because that should have been a gimme for me being the training and certification guy. But no, I think points out to how informal all of us see this skill by soft skills, you mean hard skills, the things that are hard to do but it’s a like the fact that you couldn’t say I want to have a meeting with my FinOps team, but rather we’re doing it over lunch or doing it over coffee or trying to get introduced to the right person.

It’s almost like we’re not necessarily establishing our team. We’re like recruiting a team almost, we need to sell this idea. And just spread the word that we’re doing things in cloud and we have to be working more closely together, not just ITAM and FinOps, security, sustainability, all these different groups that support the executives in the business,

Kris Johnson:

There’s individual hearts and minds to be won, right?

You got to pursue those relationships, one by one and navigate the organization, right? If you have access to leadership, great, right? You can get that air cover, get that help, otherwise the grassroots efforts have to even if you do have that top down directive, you still need to build those relationships from the ground up, which can be hard to do with the security organization.

Like you said, different DevOps functions and it takes the right personality. It takes speaking the right language too. So you’re not, seen as like a complete outsider to the security organization I might tell him I have all the answers.

Rob Martin:

Yeah, I think Rebecca and Josh had great points when they were saying like, don’t try to solve those problems.

Go and meet with those people and just listen to what they have to say and take that in and really understand what challenges they’re facing and how you might be able to add them value in those areas. But don’t go in and immediately try to problem solve.

That’s back to the soft selling of this idea. And making the friends, influencing relationships within the organization to make things happen rather than really driving it and pushing it through.

Kris Johnson:

Ron, in your opening remarks that you and Rob presented together in the beginning you cited Gartner’s prediction that by 2025, ITAM and FinOps will roll up to the same leader within an organization, if 50 percent of organizations would be in that category, which, may be a little bit aggressive, but certainly directionally accurate.

It really behooves ITAM practitioners to be building those relationships now because if not, the industry is going to leave them behind and someone else will take up that mandate, take up that role if the ITAM director doesn’t do it. Any thoughts there?

Ron Brill:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. If ITAM wants to remain relevant to the business, they should understand that this is where things are heading.

This is critical for them to be able to continue to add value to the organization. Stick their head in the sand and try to ignore it, it’s not going to go away. They’re just going to make themselves irrelevant sooner rather than later. Absolutely.

Kris Johnson:

One of the things that was just reinforced to me in some of the discussion in the comments was the fact that, when you look at your cost of cloud holistically sure, the cloud resources compute, RAM storage, etc. have scaling cost, ballooning cost, that need to be managed. But oftentimes the cost of the software, including purchase through marketplaces, can be 6, 7, 8 times what the cost of the cloud resources are. Now the cloud resources can spike and completely get out of whack as well. But if you’re looking to drive cost optimization and you’re not looking at the licensing impacts of cloud resources, you’re missing perhaps the majority of the costs.

And so FinOps practitioners really can’t afford to ignore the whole cost component, which has licensing as a key part.

Rob Martin:

Yeah, I think that’s coming from two key places. One is the, I think we’re in a lot of chaos. We’re in a time of chaos, right? Where this transition from how we used to build and buy IT things in the past and how we’re moving to.

Using cloud and using more sustainable resources or more cloud native resources that are on demand. They’re usable. You can use it for a short period of time and throw them away afterwards. That’s I think that chaos is even beginning to even out. I think as companies are starting to realize how they’re going to be building in the cloud, they’re starting to introduce more automation.

They’re starting to use more governance. It’s much less of a Wild West show than it was even a couple years ago in cloud. But those ITAM teams are still like finance teams, I think, still stuck many ITAM teams are probably still stuck in that model of wanting to just keep track of things that were, that’s a comfortable place to be it’s a comfortable way to buy IT to have the big business case laid out for you with 24 months in advance and a whole, cost of cashflow analysis that goes out through the life of the asset.

That’s a really nice thing for predictability for forecasting, for all those things that, that I’m measured on as a finance person. But that’s just not the reality we live in anymore. And so we’re having to, yeah, that’s to Ron’s point. We need to bring every team, not only ITAM teams, but finance teams and procurement teams into this world where we’re saying.

What if we had to make these snap decisions? What if we had to make the giant scaling decisions? I want my systems ultimately to grow by massive amounts, right? Because that means I’m getting a huge amount of traffic and a huge amount of customer revenue probably coming in as a result of that. But then in the middle of the night when nobody’s using it, I want it to shrink back down to the smallest possible footprint.

And to do that, I may need to use entirely different ways of buying. Not only the hardware, but the software. Yes. And so, I think there’s a lot of companies that are still really locked in that the software disparity is for sure there and certain from certain publishers from certain titles, but I think over time, what we want is also the teams to work together to be able to work together to look at which of those.

Situations are being caused by our overuse of a thing that is too expensive. How can we refactor some of the things that we’re doing into smaller pieces that can be scaled more easily together or into more flexible models where we could buy things that would scale up and scale down both on the hardware and the license side when we need them to do that.

So, it’s a, I think it’s a call, more generally to the whole it industry to everybody who works for a CIO to say, let’s do this. Let’s really look at doing this job more effectively. Let’s look at doing it with these new tools that we have in hand and we’re going to have to get the rest of the business really on board with us as we make that transition because it’s not going to be easy

Ron Brill:

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a systemic issue with ITAM is that they’re used to doing things on very long cycles like you touched on, right? Many companies still do a license record installation once a year. If that, even that much for our vendors. And the days when that was bringing any value to the organization are, I think, behind us.

They really, even completely unrelated to cloud, ITAM needs to catch up and become more real time. And that’s certainly if you bring content to the picture, that’s really, a necessity.

And yeah, there’s a adaptation that ITAM will need to have. Those that some parts of ITAM will be able to make that transition, and the other parts will just not survive.

Kris Johnson:

Yeah, I think oftentimes ITAM practitioners can get stuck in a reactive mode, trying to look at the future through the rearview window, so to speak, right? It’s always, take a snapshot like you’re saying even on a not very frequent basis just to see where you’re at to drive maybe a renewal when from a FinOps standpoint, it’s very likely we may need to do scenario analysis to forecast okay, moving workloads from on premises data centers to the cloud, you know where we put those workloads will have a cost impact from a licensing standpoint, running those scenarios, being an active contributor to the effort.

Rather than just the license renewal aspect that a lot of times we get pigeonholed in.

Rob Martin:

I’ll speak from the cloud and the DevOps side of things. We really need the ITAM team to be involved in that because there are all these hidden landmines of licenses that we have that we’re not using or restrictions that we have on us that we can’t get out of for long periods of time that we need to take into account as we make this, multi-year transition.

From the old data center world to the more fully cloud world. And that’s, there are things that the ITAM team does that are absolutely critical to protecting the company. We need the ability to audit effectively. We need the ability to understand the license restrictions that we have for things that we have and for things that we’re considering buying.

We need their ability to manage and assess the risk to do the kind of scenario planning you’re talking about. Those are things that don’t come naturally to any part of the organization. It’s a key thing that ITAM does. And I think that’s probably the worst-case scenario where the ITAM team just doesn’t evolve and ends up being, essentially discarded or set to the side.

And then those important functions don’t get done for the organization. They’re just as important as our ability to automate our cloud CICD pipeline or any of the other aspects of using cloud that we’re doing. So, I hope that this drives more, a better partnership for both of those teams to be able to work together and be effective.

Kris Johnson:

So, I think the, the key takeaway here is to our ITAM executives don’t keep your head in the sand. You do so at your peril and by 2025, 50 percent of you may be looking for a different job because someone else will have moved into that space that is, riding the wave of this convergence that we see happening and take the initiative to get out of your comfort zone, set up those lunches, those meetings build those relationships with your counterparts in FinOps and DevOps and security as well.

Rob Martin:

And as Ron said, get, get cloud enabled. Take those, there’s practitioner level certifications in all of the different cloud providers are free to, to study. All the information is available on the internet to do. It’s something you could study in a weekend.

It’s something that you could do as a lunch and learn in your organization to get together at lunch and over a two- or three-week period study the whole curriculum of what you need to learn to become AWS practitioner certified or Azure fundamental certified or a Google digital cloud leader and then get the FinOps certification.

If you’re going to be working in that area. So having that base of understanding having the common concepts and the basic vocabulary just lets you dig into those concepts more and more. It’s about cloud. FinOps is about. Cloud aware finance people and finance aware DevOps people. That’s the whole thing that we’re trying to get to.

And the ITAM folks are just a part of that. Everyone in the whole organization is going to need to be a little bit cloud aware now that’s the primary modality we’re using for our IT build.

Kris Johnson:

So there’s plenty of resources to take advantage of from the FinOps foundation or from, consultancies that bring experience that may be needed.

There’s really no excuse to not be jumping into this pool as deep as it may seem.

Ron Brill:

Completely agree. If you don’t do the, those trainings whether it’s on the cloud fundamentals or FinOps, you’re not going to be able to speak the language to be able to have a conversation and build those relationships and so forth.

You’re just not going to be able to speak the right language.

Kris Johnson:

Wonderful. Thanks for taking the time. I know there’s probably a happy hour that is waiting for us so we can rub shoulders with more of the folks that attended, but I wanted to get these sorts of hot takes from you while they’re fresh. And so, thank you for the time.

Rob Martin:

Cool. Thanks for having me. Thanks.

If you’re interested in learning more about Rob, Ron, or Kris, connect with them on LinkedIn.

We’ve covered this before—read why we think FinOps is one of the leading trends in ITAM for the next 5+ years.

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