Sign up
ITV logo

ITV built a custom FinOps tool to manage their cloud spend

50% cost optimization

of ITV’s Azure spend in 2023 using data and insights from the tool

3 months saved

on “time to market” of ITV’s MVP FinOps capability

40 users

across 5 Divisional teams using the tool weekly

ITV

ITV

Broadcasting Network

Use case

Financial Operations

Industry

Media and Entertainment

Glide for

Operations

How do you coordinate financial visibility between 40 different product teams managing millions of dollars of cloud spending across hundreds of different cloud-based applications? Marc Walford, Head of FinOps at ITV, built one elegant interface that could do all of that and more.

In 2022, ITV was managing two big and exciting projects. They launched their own streaming service, putting them in direct competition with streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix. They also decided to exit one of their Data Centres and finally make the full move to Cloud, migrating their massive estate of corporate and back office apps running on 2,500 servers into AWS and Azure. 

The Data Centre Exit Programme was a massive undertaking with a fixed end date. Marc realized that to manage this migration, spreadsheets weren’t going to cut it, and there wasn’t really an existing migration control software solution on the market. Marc decided to build his own in Glide. He created a custom Cloud Migration Tracker that over 80 team members used to successfully coordinate the migration of all of their servers to the Cloud.

“I thought at the time it was just going to be a one-off tool,” said Marc, “but then by the end of the project, I thought, actually, you know what, a lot of the data is the same as what I now require to put financial control around the Enterprise systems I have just migrated to the cloud. So I converted the app into a FinOps tool. Now every technology team in the company is going to use it.” 

Here’s how he did it. 

Figuring out how to manage ITV’s cloud spend

“FinOps as a discipline starts with making sure that we provide really clear transparent cost visibility to all of our teams,” explained Marc. The migration to cloud and launch of ITV’s streaming service had increased ITV’s focus on Cloud expenditure. This, combined with recommendations from an internal audit on their Cloud governance processes, meant they needed to put more rigor around cloud financial management.  

He needed a tool that would let all ITV product teams quickly and easily access financial information about their cloud usage so they could effectively control their costs, forecast future financials, and make better decisions as they moved forward as a company. 

Dissatisfaction with existing solutions

Before Glide, ITV was ingesting Cloud cost data into BigQuery and surfacing it in Looker Studio dashboards. Those dashboards were fine, but they were read-only, very high-level, and AWS only. The end user could filter views but couldn’t interact with the configuration, change it, or add their own data. “What I like about Glide is that it puts your data into a really nice configurable user interface and makes it more intuitive to people,” he said. “It caters really nicely to user-generated data, which we have a lot of.”

When Marc looked into FinOps software, he wasn’t satisfied with the available options. “The commercial construct for FinOps tools is a bit mad because they typically charge a percentage of cloud spend. That just doesn't work in the long run, especially if you've got a big cloud spend like we do,”  said Marc. “We also didn't want to be fully locked into some SaaS tool’s ecosystem.”

Building custom software

While many companies tend to try to build their own tooling around FinOps, having their data already in Glide from their initial cloud migration project and an easily reusable application framework made creating their FinOps tool in Glide an obvious choice. All they had to do was connect their existing cost data and integrations to a new interface—the ITV “Application Portfolio Manager” tool was born.

“That's why I've stuck with Glide, because you can deliver value really, really quickly.”

“I think Glide is perfect for someone like me,” said Marc. “I know what I want to do, and I can just build it myself. I don't need to tell a software engineer what to build— that would take more time anyway and cost more money.” With Glide, they weren’t going to have to spend any of their budget on pricey engineering hours or wait for those engineers to code a solution from scratch. 

“I pitched my use of Glide for the FinOps use case as, it's just to enable a bit of experimentation, we'll probably buy an actual SaaS tool that does this because there are loads of them out there in the market,” said Marc, “but I thought if it would help refine the requirement by building a clickable prototype, which is one thing Glide is brilliant for, that'll help us work out what is really important to us when we do decide to buy a FinOps tool. But now we've decided it's more than a clickable prototype. It's something that we actually want to go live with.”

Using ITV’s new FinOps tool

The main navigation bar of the Application Portfolio Manager tool focuses on the most important data, with just four navigation buttons (enough to perfectly fit a smartphone screen). “I try to make the interface as clean as possible for when you first log in,” said Marc, “It’s completely organized for getting the most relevant data to you quickly without any clicking and searching. But if you do want to look at other data in the tool, you can just go into the menu.”

In April, ITV launched its minimum viable product FinOps capability across the organization using the tool. Local FinOps managers in each Divisional team have been trained in the key processes and will be able to perform most of their cost allocation, budget management, and forecasting tasks quickly from the app's front page. They will also be able to build personalized dashboards and use the tool’s workflow management features as needed. In the next few months, they plan to roll the tool out more widely to the leads in each of their 40 cloud product teams to start shifting FinOps left within the organization, providing more autonomy and empowering teams to be more cost-conscious in their day-to-day product delivery.

Increased cost visibility

The app’s primary purpose is to provide product teams with better cost visibility. Users can see their current cloud products, filter them by platform, and see total current spend, historical spend, and a cumulative projected forecast through the end of the year. Color-coded bar charts help get an overview of their financial situation at a glance. 

“I do love the simplicity of the bar charts,” said Marc, “It's simple but effective. For example you can see how you're performing against your budget at a glance with this nice little chart here. It shows you where you're over and where you're under budget. I don't even need to look at the numbers. I can instantly see I'm doing okay. Most of my spend is under budget.”

Their Glide app made it easier for users to quickly understand their financial data without having to dig for it, and Marc didn’t have to work to make the user experience feel smooth.

“This is an intuitive interface. If this were done on a spreadsheet, it would be so unwieldy, and there'd be too many users. It would be an absolute nightmare. I like Glide for its simplicity and the fact that you don't really have to think about the UI design at all. It just looks clean”

Budget and forecast management

App users can add plans to spend more money in the cloud, which will influence the app's displayed year-end forecast projection. They can set the budgets for each product and manage their cloud spend within that budget. They can filter all of the displayed data within their department and divide it by individual product managers. 

By clicking on the alerts button on the home page, they can also get a focused view of which apps need their attention within their portfolio. This ensures team leads are quickly informed if their projection is going over budget or if any other anomalous activity happens with their finances.

“There's some other cool stuff in here, like what-if analysis,” said Marc. “If I'm about to do an application modernization project I need to put a business case together for how much money I'm going to save. If you're going to decommission some legacy on-premise systems, you can select the existing applications and it tells you what they're currently costing you. If I decommission these systems, what would I save? Then you can just click reset and run another scenario.”

Workflow management

The app has full workflow management for each product team. Actions, risks, and issues are all catered for. “The idea is that if there are problems that you need to fix - cloud spend running over, etc - you can assign people to go and take action and then keep an eye on it,” he explained. That all integrates with email as well as Jira if required. When a user creates an action, somebody gets an email to let them know they've got an action in the tool. 

Personalization features

Their app also allows users to create personalized views or dashboards. “If I want to create a dashboard for a specific set of users that just looks at a subset of the data, I can just create a dashboard, give it a name, and select the apps I want to include,” said Marc.

With dashboards, individuals can track just their own work, or team leads can make project or team-specific reports. For example, a project manager who is just managing cloud spend for the development of two new products can view just the relevant data for their project. They can create a dashboard that aggregates their specific cloud spend, sums it up, and shows them their spending profile for just that part of the portfolio.

App users can then share their custom dashboards with specific coworkers. “If you want to share a dashboard, you can just copy the report link, send it in a Slack message, and people can get access to it straight away,” he explained. They can trigger an email invite from within the app or share a link, and the next time their colleague logs in, the new dashboard will automatically appear in that person’s personalized view. 

Continuing to grow and scale their app with their FinOps processes

ITV’s homegrown FinOps solution has been in use within a single department for over a year and has delivered value already by enabling Marc to easily identify and realize significant Cloud cost savings in Azure and AWS off the back of the Cloud migration project.

Now that ITV has a fully featured and sophisticated FinOps tool on its hands, Marc has begun to think about how he can scale it with their operations. He’s thinking about how to manage more data, enable more efficient workflows, and extend his team’s power with features like Glide AI to help surface and deliver workflow around cost optimization recommendations to product teams.

Their current app combines Google Sheets and BigQuery, but they’re pushing the limits of Google Sheets’ 25,000-row limit. He plans to migrate their data to Glide Big Tables and the full native BigQuery integration to take advantage of its capability to handle up to 10 million rows of data. “You can easily get to that level with cost data from the cloud,” explained Marc. 

“The app is super performant, but we are still working with very high-level management information, so Google Sheets alone doesn't really allow you to drill into lots of detailed cost data,” he said. The move to Big Tables and BigQuery would let users do a lot more with their data, and their app will continue to grow with them.

They also didn't stop there! Continue reading to learn how ITV's team built a whole suite of tools to help operations, big and small, across their business.

Unleash your Genius

Build the business apps you need. All without code.

Start for free