Table Of Contents
1. Understand Their Motivation — What’s In It For The Engineers? 2. Make Costs Easier To Understand 3. Only Bring It Up If Something Goes Wrong 4. Make Unit Economics The End Goal Give Your Engineers The Insight They Need To Understand And Control Costs

When it comes to cloud costs, engineers have a particular reputation. The executive suite and finance department often share perplexing frustration about why engineers appear not to care about budgets and costs at all.

They provide hard budget limits, yet engineers frequently surpass them, citing performance and user experience as reasons for the excess spending.

If you’re coming from the finance department or the executive suite yourself, you might be reading this because you, too, struggle to get your engineers to comply with financial constraints.

Perhaps you’re tired of seeing your carefully planned budgets blown out of the water every quarter, or you’re concerned that the costs for some projects have eclipsed their revenue.

Either way, you need to rein in your engineers quickly and get them to understand how their actions impact the company’s bottom line.

Let’s explore how you can encourage your engineers to care about cloud costs, even if, at the moment, it seems like financial considerations are the last things on their minds.

1. Understand Their Motivation — What’s In It For The Engineers?

Ideally, everyone in the organization, regardless of department, works harmoniously toward the same shared goals. In practice, however, departments often have their own cultures and measures of success.

While finance cares mainly about the financials, engineers are focused far more on building products.

Sometimes, this schism comes from misaligned incentives. If evaluations, promotions, and even continued employment are based on what innovative features they’ve shipped, it’s natural that engineers prioritize shipping new features above all else.

Additionally, engineers often don’t get enough credit for the pride they take in their work. These highly trained and educated individuals spend weeks or even months perfecting their software to ensure it runs smoothly and provides a great experience for end users.

The last thing they want is to push out a subpar product simply because the budget looks a little thin.

Putting yourself in the engineers’ shoes can help you understand where the gaps in priorities and communication are coming from.


2. Make Costs Easier To Understand

Most engineers want their projects to work. They want them to work for the end users, the teams supporting the project going forward, and the business.

In many cases, engineers may not understand how their actions contribute to the costs of a given project. Therefore they don’t have enough information to keep the project under budget.

Engineering leadership wouldn’t onboard a brand new engineer and set them loose in the system without explaining the basics of the infrastructure and where the team’s priorities lie.

Similarly, you can’t expect an engineer with zero finance training to look at a cloud bill and intuitively understand how to bring the total costs down in the coming months.

You’ll want to provide as much context into costs as possible to solve this problem. Ideally, engineers should have enough visibility into costs to tell how every build choice and infrastructure change contributes toward the budget.

If possible, allow them to experiment with different services. In this context, engineers will have the tools to make smarter decisions around cost and keep performance a top priority.

Providing this context is much easier if you have a tool like CloudZero’s cost platform.

With CloudZero, every engineer can log into the dashboard to see a detailed breakdown of costs associated with each service and receive Slack updates about the monthly budget.

3. Only Bring It Up If Something Goes Wrong

This point may appear counterintuitive at first glance. If you’re a finance employee or a FinOps specialist, you may be anxiously waiting to see if your guidance has helped steer the engineering team toward smarter cost decisions.

The idea of waiting to see if the engineers got the message — and in turn, waiting to see the results on the next cloud bill — hardly sounds appealing.

However, consider how engineers typically solve problems in their daily work lives. When engineers write code, they finish a particular section and then use software to run tests.

If the system runs a hundred tests or more, the engineer doesn’t look at every result in detail. They go to the areas the system has flagged as faulty and fix the high-priority bugs first.

Similarly, an engineer doesn’t push a piece of code out and then check the cost reports to monitor every change. They will, however, respond quickly if they’re notified of a problem. And when they do have a problem, again, tools can help.

It’s critical that engineers can look at costs in granular detail to see which services cost more than expected or what else might have caused the issue.

CloudZero can flag problems and notify engineers when costs are climbing too quickly. If an engineer receives an alert that their current project is on track to go over budget, he or she can address the problem immediately before further costs are incurred.

Until then, if everything appears to be running smoothly, allow your engineers to focus on building and innovating. Trust that they will address the issue if one crops up and guide them toward the cost resources they’ll need to diagnose the problem.

4. Make Unit Economics The End Goal

Costs can rise for many reasons. An increase could be the result of an engineer’s recent change, for example, but it could also be due to a spike in new users, driving the company’s cloud service usage higher than it has been in the past.

The latter scenario is likely good for the business, while the former could cause alarm if the problem isn’t identified and fixed. Without that context, it would be impossible for engineers to know what to do.

All they would know from the cloud bill is that costs went up.

If you track costs, revenue, users, and other metrics, you can begin to compare them against each other to find your unit economics. If costs have increased by a million dollars, but you can see that your costs per customer or transaction went down, you’ll understand that your profit margin has increased.

The ability to break down every service, product, and feature and see the unit economics involved gives engineers a deeper understanding of costs. Over time, they will learn how to repeat the winning formulas for success and bring maximal profit to the business.

Give Your Engineers The Insight They Need To Understand And Control Costs

Nothing empowers engineers to control their spending like seeing the cost results of every action in nearly real-time. With automated updates sent directly to your engineers’ inboxes, you can increase their awareness of the budget and help them stay on track.

CloudZero provides the cost intelligence needed for a true, deep understanding of unit economics. This knowledge, in turn, keeps everyone in your organization on the same page regarding cloud costs.

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