AWS Cloud Financial Management

Talk about cloud with a non-cloud audience

Understanding the cost implications of cloud technology is crucial for businesses looking to adopt and optimize usage. However, cloud concepts can be difficult to grasp for those without a technical background. So, we’re going to run through some tips and tricks to help you educate non-technical audiences on cloud costs essentials. Establishing this knowledge throughout your organization can support more informed decision-making and efficient resource allocation, increase understanding of overall cloud benefits, and ultimately drive business success.

Tailor your message to the audience

When engaging with non-cloud personas, your goal should be to equip them with the knowledge they need to understand the situation at the appropriate level for their role and skillset. While cost and usage considerations are important to most personas you’ll work with, the key takeaways will likely change based on role. Accounting may focus on reconciliations between AWS Cost and Usage Reports (CUR) data and the general ledger, while procurement teams may be more interested in forecasting cash views for the issuance of a new purchase order. The same underlying data may be used for both audiences, but in different ways. Simply put—tailor your message to the audience.

Below are examples of a number of non-cloud personas you may interact with, such as tax, legal, governance, or senior leadership, as well as examples of potential cloud interactions.

Examples of how the cloud can impact various stakeholders

Figure 1. Examples of how the cloud can impact various stakeholders

Keep concepts simple

Meet the audience where they are in their knowledge base. You should establish yourself as a trusted internal cloud subject matter expert (SME), and aim to explain complex topics in simple terms. If you get caught up in technical jargon, you risk losing audience understanding and trust.

For example, it may be appropriate to tell a technical audience that Amazon EC2 instance right sizing means “analyzing instance performance and usage needs and patterns—and then turning off idle instances and right sizing instances that are either overprovisioned or poorly matched to the workload.” Then you can discuss instance types per use case, and how to choose instance families.

But you’ll likely leave your non-cloud audience dazed and confused if you use that same language! Instead, it might be enough to say, “right sizing is matching an instance to workload need.” Then, provide more context with a simple example like, “use a 2XL instance instead of a 4XL”. This way you’re not over-explaining or losing the audience.

As a reverse example, imagine the accounting team explaining the intricacies of “FASB Update No. 2018-15” during a conversation with engineering about Savings Plan purchase options.  While the accounting standard may form the basis for their position on amortization, the details may actually cause more confusion.

Simple analogies can be a powerful tool for audience engagement. They use familiar context as a foundation to build a bridge between the audience’s existing knowledge and the new information. Analogies can help simplify complex ideas, minimize confusion, and improve overall communication effectiveness.

Below are some of our favorite examples to explain technical cloud concepts to a new or non-cloud audience, like understanding storage tier selection by comparing it to where you’d store your kitchen utensils. Hint: they’re not going be in the corner of the attic since you use them every day!

Examples of cloud concept analogies

Figure 2. Examples of cloud concept analogies

Engage with visuals

Visuals like diagrams, charts, and infographics can help break down complex concepts into simple, bite-sized pieces that are easier to grasp. They support a more engaging and interactive experience; stakeholders can see the information rather than just hear or read about it. Visualizations can support simplification and comprehension of complex relationships and processes, such as data flow or network architecture.

Here’s a good example of a chart that can help audiences more easily understand how to reduce commitment risk when using multiple Savings Plans. In this case, synthesizing and summarizing data across a visual format can help the audience envision scheduling, usage, and risk over time, instead of trying to interpret and comprehend paragraphs on an already unfamiliar subject.

Visualizing using rolling Savings Plans to mitigate commitment risk

Figure 3. Visualizing using rolling Savings Plans to mitigate commitment risk

Create standardized material

Ensuring all stakeholders have a shared understanding of cloud concepts is easier when you have standardized materials. Think of it as a ‘<Company Name> Cloud 101’ deck that can be used for onboarding, leadership changes, or as a general overview.

Standardized presentations for cloud finance education can help ensure information is:

  • Consistent: With numerous teams and countless acronyms, using common and consistent messaging, language, and formats is crucial to building acumen across the organization, no matter who your audience is.
  • Efficient: a standard deck reduces the time and effort required to prepare materials, allowing you to focus on any stakeholder-specific material.
  • Scalable: Once the standard deck is complete, it can be replicated, iterated, and scaled to meet the needs of different teams, departments, and stakeholders, making it easier to provide cloud finance education on a larger scale.

Your onboarding deck should aim to tell your company’s cloud story. Here are a few suggestions of elements to include:

  • Give foundational information such as: What is the cloud, and why is your company using it? This is especially important for companies migrating from on-premises environments.
  • Highlight both financial and non-financial benefits of your cloud journey using company-specific data, when possible.
  • Include sections on both ‘where have we been’ and ‘where are we going’.
  • Create a data dictionary for company-specific terminology, including how workloads are governed (account, application tagging, etc.).
  • Highlight major optimization wins related to cloud financial management efforts.
  • Showcase future cloud initiatives that have either business-unit or company-wide impact.

Make education a regular occurrence

Cloud education cannot be a one-off presentation; it must be an ongoing initiative. So, it’s vital that you set up a regular education series. Choose topics that are relevant and useful, such as cloud computing fundamentals, cost optimization, security, and scalability. Be aware of and cater the message to your audience’s knowledge level, and foster an environment that encourages questions and participation to drive engagement. Consider providing hands-on, interactive sessions for those that wish to dig deeper.

Final thoughts

No matter where your company is in its cloud journey, moving to the cloud impacts employees on every level, even if they don’t work with cloud every day. Research shows that businesses implementing cloud financial management practices experience greater cloud adoption, higher revenue, and improved profitability. So, if you’re part of the team that helps govern finances and drive these best practices, it’s vital you can translate complex cloud concepts into simple understanding for multiple non-cloud personas throughout your company. Through these consistent efforts in education, you can help establish a cost-aware culture, empower stakeholders to understand and prioritize cloud optimization initiatives, and drive cloud financial maturity that increases overall business value achievement.

🗺️Keep exploring: Empower your engineers to take an active role in cost optimization

Jeff Duresky

Jeff Duresky

Jeff Duresky is a Sr. Commercial Architect on the AWS OPTICS team. As a commercial architect, he enables customers to organize and interpret billing and usage data, identify actionable insights from that data, and develop sustainable strategies to embed cost into their culture. Prior to joining AWS, he held multiple business analyst and finance roles, including leading the Cloud Finance team at Capital One. Jeff has a BS in IT Supply Chain and a Master’s in Business Administration.