Blog Financial Management

A User-Centered Design Approach to Cloud Budgeting

Libby Duryee

4 min read

Last updated on August 10th, 2022 at 10:00am

Designing Budgets

In the current financial climate, the ability to anticipate and monitor cloud spend is more important than ever. Whether you’re a new organization moving into the cloud or a veteran advancing into a multi-cloud environment, the need for FinOps tools that meet you where you are, magnify your spending habits, and allow you to plan for the future is critical.

Historically, financial features in Kion were intentionally strict and tailored to our early adopters in the federal government. Creating a cloud spend plan required mapping out financials for the whole organization. Funds were set at the top of the organization and then allocated down for use on projects during a specific period of time. While spend plans worked reasonably well for our government customers, they lacked flexibility and did not align to the goals and processes of our growing, and increasingly diverse customer base.

In order for a redesign of the financial features in Kion to be successful, we knew user research would be essential. We set out to gather a comprehensive list of the use-cases and goals organizations have when planning and monitoring cloud spend.

A User-Centered Approach

A user-centered design approach puts focus on the users and their needs. By engaging with users through observation, surveys, and interviews we learned more about current cloud budgeting practices, the people involved in the budgeting process, and the range of configurations needed for users to hit their goals.

By observing our customers in the beginning of their journey with Kion, it became clear that including the budget creation process too early in app configuration was overwhelming. Planning for cloud spend is typically handled by a distinct, financially-focused user group and those people are not always involved in early app configuration. The timelines for determining and setting a budget also vary widely from one organization to the next. Where one organization might have an extensive history of cloud spend to reference, another may be completely new to the task at hand. Our new system of budgeting needed to allow users to build out their instance of Kion without requiring any detailed financial information up front.

Through user interviews, we learned there are a wide range of goals when approaching cloud spend budgets. Where some are hoping to save money, others are hoping to spend it all. Where one customer may have a long-term budget with evenly distributed funds, another may want to customize the values within their budget on a monthly basis. The new system would need to be flexible and allow users to edit and customize their budgets at more granular levels.

In large organizations with hundreds to thousands of cloud accounts, we found monitoring budgets per account was cumbersome and sometimes unnecessary. Our customers in large organizations needed new efficiencies and a streamlined workflow around setting and editing their cloud budgets. They expressed an interest in monitoring cumulative spending across a swath of accounts, rather than individually. The need to retain budgeting history was also stressed. Looking back to see where there was variance between spending and a set budget made people feel more confident about the projections they could make moving forward. Budgets would need to include multiple vantage points when viewing spend, both over time and throughout the organizational hierarchy.

Outcomes

With these user insights in mind we went into the design of budgets with four high-level goals:

  1. Break the cloud budgeting process out of initial app configuration.

  2. Create system-level settings that allow users to tailor the budgeting experience in Kion to their organization's financial practices.

  3. Streamline the workflow around setting and editing cloud budgets and allow customization at more granular levels.

  4. Enhance views of spend against budget both over time and throughout the organizational hierarchy.

With user feedback at the core of this redesign, we’re confident that our new budgets feature will provide the flexibility and customization customers need to set up cloud spend budgets in a way that's right for them. We can’t wait to hear how Budgets enables you to go farther, faster in the cloud.

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About the Author

Libby Duryee

Libby is a Senior Product Designer at Kion.

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