Accelerating Innovation with Cloud Financial Management:

A conversation with Joe Daly, Director of Cloud Optimization Services at Nationwide


One of the biggest challenges for organizations that adopt the cloud is aligning their development spend with business initiatives while managing and optimizing spend. That’s Joe Daly’s job at Nationwide, where he began overseeing the insurer’s cloud migration more than two years ago. Mario Thomas, AWS’s head of Experienced-Based Acceleration in EMEA, spoke to Joe about how this shift has created greater transparency, flexibility, and efficiency.

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Making cloud migration fun and easy

Mario Thomas: A few weeks ago, I saw you posted some videos on LinkedIn of your experience-based acceleration parties. Tell me about why you’re doing these parties and the benefits you’ve experienced.

Joe Daly: When we started our cloud migration two years ago, we wanted to make sure our developers’ first experience with this process was a good one. Not everyone is a cloud [expert], so we wanted to make sure that we had people on hand to help them if they ran into roadblocks. We brought in AWS technical experts to oversee six teams starting their migration process. Whenever the developers had an issue, it was immediately addressed, and they continued learning. And we had fog machines, pizza, and monster energy drinks to keep everyone going. It went from it being a one-off event to being a monthly activity in 2019 until the pandemic.

Joe’s Top Five Strategies for Optimizing Cloud Innovation

  1. Create immersive experiences to make cloud migration fun and supportive for developers.
  2. Think in terms of migrating blocks of applications rather than moving servers.
  3. Create a proof-of-concept environment for experimenting with new applications.
  4. Distribute cloud costs to individual application teams so they become accountable for their share of those expenses.
  5. Provide those costs daily so application teams can make quick adjustments to keep projects on budget. 

Breaking mindsets with Serverless

Mario Thomas: How did operating in the cloud change Nationwide’s approach to innovation?

Joe Daly: It helped that Nationwide’s approach was already application- and developer-focused, as opposed to server-focused, and we leveraged a serverless technology. For teams that are just getting introduced to the cloud, having these services available breaks some mindsets about how to develop applications and build them into solutions. I remember one team saying during their readout “Oh, we’re using the serverless technology.” I was expecting that they would utilize a lift-and-shift or replatform method of migration as it was their first one. Just like that, they sped ahead.


Cost transparency down to the penny

Mario Thomas: How did moving to the cloud help you optimize spend?

What excites me most about using cloud services is the level of financial transparency you gain.”

Joe Daly: What excites me most about using cloud services is the level of financial transparency you gain. We have a robust tagging strategy to determine down to the penny which cost center is funding each resource. My team can give development teams daily updates so they can see when expenses are spiking out of control and react within hours, as opposed to a month or quarter later. When you have this level of cost transparency, you have all types of levers you can use to finetune a solution and the value it’s driving.

Mario Thomas: Has this enabled you to decide which cloud services to deploy more quickly?

Joe Daly: Yes, we can run something for a week or two, and if we don’t like what we’re seeing, end the proof-of-concept (POC) and turn it off. So I discourage teams from trying to make their cost estimates too exact, especially when they’re starting in the cloud. It’s better to build a POC environment and get real-time data for each component’s hourly cost because it provides a more accurate estimate than theoretical assumptions.


From traffic lights to roundabouts

Mario Thomas: How else does better cost management help development teams?

Joe Daly: What I love about cloud financial management is it’s not just for developers and engineers, but also for finance and procurement teams. It’s a group effort. With cloud financial management, everyone learns about new cloud technologies and new ways to work together.

Cloud financial management is not just for developers and engineers but also for finance and procurement teams. It’s a group effort.”

To use a metaphor I stole from Aaron Diggins’ book, Brave New Work, we’ve replaced traffic lights with roundabouts. With traffic lights, there’s one central managing authority. Much of the time the lights work okay, but there are many collisions in those four-way intersections, and traffic often backs up. Decentralized management is more like a roundabout, where the driver has the responsibility to decide when to enter and exit the intersection, but traffic moves faster. Teams are in charge of making sure their usage is the most efficient and works best for their business.

Mario Thomas: What role does finance play in this new approach?

Joe Daly: Everything we’re doing in the cloud directly impacts our business, especially with all this financial transparency. So if you partner with your finance department or put a finance person in your cloud business office, you can show developers the exact impact the resources are having on the solution they’re developing. It shrinks the distance between engineers and developers and ultimately the end-customer. Cloud financial management brings many different people and skills together, and more and more companies are investing in this capability and sharing best practices.


About our guests

Joe Daly, Director of Cloud Optimization Services, Nationwide

Joe Daly
Director of Cloud Optimization Services, Nationwide

Joe Daly has setup FinOps teams at two different Fortune 100 companies, first at Cardinal Health and currently at Nationwide. His career has spanned a variety of roles including leading a server operations team, IT accounting and as a CPA. Joseph was a founding member of the FinOps Foundation and currently sits on the Technical Advisory Council that provides technical guidance and codify best practice for cloud financial management.

Mario Thomas, Head of Experience-Based Acceleration (EMEA), AWS Business Development

Mario Thomas
Head of Experience-Based Acceleration (EMEA), AWS Business Development

Mario is a Chartered Director, and Fellow of the Institute of Directors. He has held executive and non-executive Board positions, bringing his experience of organizational transformation and qualifications in corporate governance, compliance and risk to customer engagements at AWS. Before Amazon, Mario worked as a CEO, CIO, and CDO, consulting and leading cloud adoption projects with well-known brands including Coca-Cola, Gulf Oil, and First Data. Mario has a BSc. (Hons) in Software Engineering.

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