Top 17 cloud cost management tools

Keeping on top of the outlay of your cloud estate is more important than ever. These platforms will help you get a pulse on your cloud use and associated costs, which can add up rapidly.

It feels like just yesterday that we were promised that cloud servers cost just pennies. You could rent a rack with the spare change behind the sofa cushions and have money left for an ice cream sandwich.

Those days are long gone. When the monthly cloud bill arrives, CFOs are hitting the roof. Developer teams are learning that the pennies add up, sometimes faster than expected, and it’s time for some discipline.

Cloud cost managers are the solution. They track all the bills, allocating them to the various teams responsible for their accumulation. That way the group that added too many fancy features that need too much storage and server time will have to account for their profligacy. The good programmers who don’t use too much RAM and disk space can be rewarded.

Smaller teams with simple configurations can probably get by with the stock services of the cloud companies. Cost containment is a big issue for many CIOs now and the cloud companies know it. They’ve started adding better accounting tools and alarms that are triggered before the bills reach the stratosphere. See Azure Cost Management, Google Cloud Cost Management, and AWS Cloud Financial Management tools for the big three clouds.

Once your cloud commitment gets bigger, independent cost management tools start to become attractive. They’re designed to work with multiple clouds and build reports that unify the data for easy consumption. Some even track the machines that run on premises so you can compare the cost of renting versus building out your own server room.

In many cases, cloud cost managers are part of a larger suite designed to not just watch the bottom line but also enforce other rules such as security. Some are not marketed directly as cloud control tools but have grown to help solve this problem. Some tools for surveying enterprise architectures or managing software governance now track costs at the same time. They can offer the same opportunities for savings that purpose-built cloud cost tools do — and they help with their other management chores as well.

What follows is an alphabetical list of the best cloud cost tracking tools. The area is rapidly expanding as enterprise managers recognize they need to get a grip on their cloud bills. All of them can help govern the burgeoning empire of server instances that may stretch around the world.

• Anodot
• AppDynamics
• Apptio Cloudability
• CloudAdmin
• CloudCheckr
• Datadog
• Densify
• Flexera One
• Harness
• Kubecost
• ManageEngine
• Nutanix Xi
• ServiceNow
• Turbonomic
• VMware Aria CloudHealth
• Yotascale
• Zesty

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IT leaders face reality check on hybrid productivity

Once an organizational boon, hybrid work productivity is on the wane. Many CIOs see more time in the office, new leadership skills, and streamlined collaboration offerings as part of the answers.

CIO Ted Ross believes the honeymoon is over for breakneck productivity when it comes to hybrid work, and he’s not the only one. Tech employees at the City of Los Angeles IT agency who were forced to work remotely in the early pandemic days were very efficient, Ross says.

“Fully into the pandemic we had a 34% increase in project delivery,” he adds. But since then, productivity and innovation have waned, in part because of fading relationships between once in-person teams, along with a slew of new IT employees — 45 in the past year — who haven’t yet built those relationships.

“We’re actually very supportive of hybrid telework,” Ross says. “It comes down to finding a balance” of what can be done effectively remotely and what needs to be done in the office, he adds. In response, Ross started training supervisors on how to create those relationships with digital “checkpoints” to keep productivity humming.

At insurance company National Life, CIO Nimesh Mehta says his IT team saw productivity increase 26% during the pandemic “because I think people didn’t have anything better to do than work,” Mehta says. “Now I’m seeing productivity drop.”

The same goes for innovation. “We’re a team that likes to work together, likes to whiteboard and solve problems,” he says. “When we lost that, I asked my team to tell me one thing we came up with that was innovative during COVID that we actually executed — not ideas that we had in the past that we just did faster — and there was dead silence.”

Hybrid productivity on the wane

It’s a familiar scenario for many CIOs. Productivity increased markedly during the shift to remote work, but it is now lagging behind what many leaders want it to be, bringing about a reckoning on how to remain productive in hybrid times.

In the first half of 2022, productivity — the measure of how much output in goods and services an employee can producein an hour — plunged by the sharpestrate on record going back to 1947, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When it comes to hybrid productivity in the tech and services world, perception and reality are often misaligned. In a recent survey of more than 20,000 people, Microsoft found that 87% of employees say they are productive at work, while only 12% of leaders have confidence that their workers are being productive. The company also analyzed trillions of anonymous productivity signals from its products and found that for the average worker, meetings, chat, and after-hours and weekend work have all increased over the past two years.

Indeed some types of IT task-based work can be done productively from home, but relationship-based tasks — innovation, strategic planning, relationship-building with customers or stakeholders — are difficult to do remotely.

To reset the productivity and innovation scales, companies are recalling workers back to the office a few days a week, giving team leaders extra latitude with managing their own teams, and streamlining a glut of collaboration tools brought in hastily during the pandemic, ensuring productivity can return to pre-pandemic levels (or higher) and innovation can get back on track.

Here are a few examples of adjustments IT leaders are making to help hybrid workplace arrangements work better for their organizations.

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14 ways to advance your IT career

Technology careers may have no set paths, but there are a few time-honored truisms that can help you get an edge. Here, seasoned IT pros lend their hard-earned advice on advancing.

Perhaps your tech career feels like you’re treading water, and you wonder why your peers are progressing more quickly than you are. Or maybe you’re looking to shake things up and take the next step in your career. Regardless, it’s helpful to regularly pause, reflect, take the long view to optimizing your path, and stay open to new opportunities.

Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned veteran, tech leaders say there are ways to keep moving forward that aren’t always obvious. 

As with the technology industry, change is constant for IT pros. Here accomplished leaders offer their best tips on how to advance in your IT career so you don’t get left behind.

Jump in the deep end
Find a mentor
Treat your career like a project
Keep learning
Execute as well as you plan
Get feedback from colleagues
Take the road less traveled
Be open to opportunity
Make a call, then revisit
Take a step back
Keep it simple
Keep thinking big
Bring value
Employ empathy

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7 traits of inspirational IT leaders

All CIOs are leaders, yet only a select few are truly inspirational leaders. Here’s how you can become one of them.

All successful CIOs know how to instruct, motivate, energize, and even excite their teams. Yet only a relative handful of IT leaders can truly be described as inspirational figures, capable of leading their teams to goals that collegues at other enterprises can only dream about.

CIOs who are purposefully positive and responsible, with a focus on integrity, tend to inspire others, says Ola Chowning, a partner at global technology research and advisory firm ISG. “CIOs who show, through example and vision, those values and their own firm conviction and integrity to those values, will motivate team members to emulate their behavior and aspire to be like them,” she notes. Such CIOs also acknowledge, promote, and celebrate colleagues who either inspire them or can inspire their team.

Fortunately, most inspirational IT leaders are self-made, not born. Following are seven qualities to target as you begin your journey to leadership glory.

1. They roll up their sleeves and collaborate

2. They put people first

3. They cultivate a sense of purpose

4. They master soft skills, incorporating everyone into their vision

5. They are inclusive

6. They encourage ownership

7. They are authentic

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Gartner: IT skills shortage hobbles cloud, edge, automation growth

IT executives have plans to invest in emerging technologies despite the challenge of finding IT pros with the right training.

IT executives have plans to invest in emerging technologies despite the challenge of finding IT pros with the right training.

Gartner says the current paucity of skilled IT workers is foiling the adoption of cloud, edge computing, and automation technologies.

In its “2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap” based on surveying 437 global firms, Gartner found that IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant barrier to deploying emerging technologies, including compute infrastructure and platform services, network security, digital workplace, IT automation, and storage.

IT executives surveyed cited talent availability as the main challenge for adopting IT automation (75%) and a significant amount of digital workplace technologies (41%). Lack of talent was cited far more often than other barriers, such as implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%), according to a statement from Yinuo Geng, research vice president at Gartner. 

“The ongoing push toward remote work and the acceleration of hiring plans in 2021 has exacerbated IT-talent scarcity, especially for sourcing skills that enable cloud and edge, automation and continuous delivery,” Geng stated.  “As one example, of all the IT automation technologies profiled in the survey, only 20% of them have moved ahead in the adoption cycle since 2020. The issue of talent is to blame here.”

Interest in emerging tech still strong

Even with the skills challenges, IT leaders have increased the adoption of emerging technologies to drive innovation as organizations begin to recover from the pandemic,Gartner says. Across all technology domains, 58% of respondents reported either an increase or a plan to increase emerging technology investment in 2021, compared with 29% in 2020, Gartner stated. 

According to the survey,

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7 business skills every IT leader needs to succeed

Today’s CIO needs more than technology mastery. Long-term career success also demands a commitment to developing a set of core business skills.

The days when CIOs could glide into a long-term career based solely on their technical abilities are rapidly fading.

“It’s no longer enough for IT leaders to be tech experts,” warns Bob Hersch, a principal at Deloitte Consulting. The best-in-class CIOs of today are also business savvy, using their knowledge to embed IT as a service capability.

“This business-centric approach integrates IT into an overall business strategy,” he adds.

The best way any IT leader can augment his or her current technical knowledge — and strengthen their long-term career prospects — is by committing to acquiring the following seven essential business skills.

1. An entrepreneurial mindset

CIOs, regardless of their organization’s size, have to act like entrepreneurs, operating with speed, agility, and ever higher levels of passion, empathy, and creativity, advises Ram Nagappan, CIO at global investment firm BNY Mellon Pershing.

Disruption is the new constant. “Competition is coming from all corners of the market, with fintechs and startups moving at light speed,” Nagappan says. To meet competition head on, CIOs must think like entrepreneurs and act as agents of change. “They need to constantly think about how their business could be disrupted at any point in time and how they can creatively deploy technology to get ahead of potential disruptors and future-proof the business,” he suggests.

2. Strong leadership skills

Leadership is a core competency that paves the way to successful technology transformation. “To truly lead, you must have business acumen in addition to technical understanding,” explains Richard Cox, CIO at media conglomerate Cox Enterprises. “Our jobs are really to leverage technology to unleash the potential of the business, and you simply have to have an understanding of the business landscape in order to exploit these opportunities.”[ Looking to upgrade your career in tech? This comprehensive online course teaches you how. ]

Leadership is a combination of internal and external engagement. The problems CIOs face today are growing increasingly complex. The future is ambiguous, and answers are often not clear or simple. “The only way to navigate in … these uncharted waters, is to build an environment that allows people to bring ideas, perspectives, and input to solve problems,” Cox says. “Building teams that create aligned empowerment is more important today than ever.”

Poor IT leaders often make the mistake of setting project plans, gate reviews, and delivery dates without educating the IT team on the who, what, when, and why of how the effort will help the enterprise, says Harley Bledsoe, CIO at BBB National Programs, a nonprofit organization that oversees more than a dozen industry self-regulation programs that sets standards for business advertising and privacy practices.

“Bringing the team along on the journey as they execute on their deliverables is critical to developing an effective solution,” he explains.

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7 IT leadership lessons learned from COVID-19

IT leaders from HP, McAfee, Johnson Controls, and other enterprises reflect on what they learned after leading teams through a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, and soon after IT leaders rushed to mitigate the impact on their businesses, marshaling teams to work remotely.

CIOs boosted infrastructure capacity, shipped laptops to residences, and migrated applications small and large to software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and cloud software. Eighty-two percent of CIOs surveyed say they have implemented new technologies and IT strategies during the pandemic, according to IDG’s 2021 State of the CIO survey.

Beyond implementing new technologies at scale, CIOs embraced the mental-health hurdles associated with managing remote teams whose work-life balance has been disrupted.

“Like most organizations, the pandemic took us by surprise,” says Paul Herring, global chief innovation officer of accounting firm RSM International. “We had to adjust quickly.”

Here IT leaders reflect on what they learned from a year of leading teams during the pandemic, as well as how work will likely change going forward.

1. The way we work changed overnight
2. Collaboration evolved — but left spontaneity a little lacking
3. Product expedition became a priority
4. Automation curbed uncertainty
5. IT leaders learned to lead with empathy
6. The customer meeting flight may now be canceled
7. It may no longer matter where employees reside

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7 interview mistakes that cost you key IT hires

A subpar interview process is a chief reason why IT pros turn down job offers. Here’s how your hiring team may be sabotaging its chances of landing top talent in a tight market.

If you were to call Sherlock Holmes to help you discover why top tech talent who you’ve interviewed declined your reasonable offer, he might call your mystery common. But the killer is not — as you might believe — the mercurial nature of candidates, a failure of education, or anything outside the room where the interviews happen. It’s more likely that your process or team are inadvertently undermining your own efforts.

“People blame the candidates, but the interview process is the main reason people turn down jobs,” says Barbara Bruno, author of High-Tech High-Touch Recruiting: How to Attract and Retain the Best Talent by Improving the Candidate Experience.

It could be the questions you ask, the people asking the questions, or a host of other missteps that telegraph a subtle message to candidates to move along.

I asked hiring managers, recruiters, and directors of talent what — specifically — hiring teams are doing to cost them those key hires they so desperately want.

You’re fishing with the wrong bait

Candidates end up in your interview room because they responded to your job description. That’s your bait. As with actual fishing, the bait you use has a lot to do with what you catch. You might want to check that you are targeting the right people and expectations.

“There seems to be a huge disconnect right now between traditional job requisitions — that are a laundry list of skills — and how candidates will be evaluated on the job,” Bruno says.

Bruno suggests ditching the laundry list and instead taking a hard look at what your team needs in this role. “I always ask employers, ‘Can you give me five performance objectives?’ or ‘How will the candidate be evaluated in six months?’” Bruno says.

Once they are forced to answer those questions, she finds hiring teams discover that much of their “must have” list won’t be needed in the position. Even worse? There are many more skills — like the ability to prioritize, problem solve, communicate, and ask for help — that aren’t in the job description but that anyone who hopes to succeed in the role will need to possess.

Step back from your shopping list and think instead about what success in the role would look like. Then come up with skills and experiences that would genuinely help.

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Measuring IT project success post-COVID—and 4 leadership lessons learned

Despite challenges, the pandemic has unearthed opportunities from both a technology and strategic standpoint and has introduced new ways to measure the business value of digitization projects.

The pandemic has had a dramatic and adverse impact on companies of all sizes and geographic locations over the course of the past several months, including lost revenue, reduction of staff and cuts in IT budgets and spending.  However, as we look back, there were some positive aspects as well, and more to come as plans are put in place for a post-COVID recovery.

Most companies, for example, were able to quickly pivot to a work-from-home structure to support employee safety, sustain and even increase productivity, and for the most part keep business activities on track. The transition has been so successful that many organizations plan to keep a portion of their workforce remote for the foreseeable future, in part to provide resiliency in the face of uncertainties. Weaknesses in IT infrastructure, process, and resources also became very apparent during the pandemic, pushing many companies to reduce or eliminate legacy debt, improve security, and increase investments in cloud services.

One additional upshot of the COVID crisis is a significant increase in the pace of digital transformation activities that are rapidly changing business models and user behavior. The pandemic has not only accelerated digitization but has exponentially increased the adoption of a digital process. What we anticipated to happen in the next five years is happening now, and what we thought wouldn’t have worked in the past is now possible because of the pandemic.

Digitization becomes a must-have

The life insurance business, for example, often relies on face-to-face sales interactions.  But the pandemic turned that business model on its head.  While we were already working on digitizing the sales process, there were pieces that needed to be accelerated or there soon wouldn’t be a business model.  For us, digitization activities moved from nice-to-have to must-have in a matter of weeks. If we can’t get data electronically, underwrite automatically, or deliver policies digitally we can’t do business in today’s world.

Since March, we have delivered in less than 30 days two key initiatives that would have taken months, if not a year, to deliver under normal circumstances. The first is an automated underwriting process that uses data to manage risk up to $3MM without requiring the invasive process of going to a client’s house to take and test blood samples. The second project allowed us to electronically deliver policies to our customers since we had a limited in-office staff who did not want to rely on ‘snail mail,’ and agents could not meet the client to deliver the policy themselves. We are now working on the third transformational initiative that was originally projected to span multiple years but will now be done in 18 months.

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CIOs reshape IT culture in wake of pandemic

IT leaders are leaning on lessons learned from the pandemic to redefine IT cultures and refine IT strategies as they move toward a new year of uncertainty.

From the first days of the pandemic, IT leaders have had to grapple with wildly unexpected circumstances — from transitioning thousands of employees to a work-from-home (WFH) environment, to near overnight platform rollouts in support of virtual teams. And for many, culture has proved to be the key unsung factor in their organizations’ ability to navigate unprecedented times.

Companies that had not established a resilient, transformation-focused culture prior to COVID-19 have struggled in the face of global shutdowns that have disrupted business as usual. Organizations that either pivoted to or had already embraced a transformation mindset, however, have been better equipped to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing environment, and to protect the health of their teams and their bottom lines.

And with companies having to adjust to new approaches to collaboration and productivity, the pandemic has provided IT leaders an opportunity to rethink and refine IT culture moving forward. Remaining agile, adjusting strategies, nurturing new approaches to work — here’s how several high-profile CIOs have helped guide their organizations through the chaos, leveraging pandemic-related changes to establish a transformation-minded IT culture for the future.

Mitigating culture shock

Maintaining the culture and morale of individual teams and the organization as whole has added a unique layer to the challenges companies now face, and for many IT leaders, the pandemic has magnified the importance of communication.

Lisa Davis, senior vice president and CIO of Blue Shield of California, has always believed in leading with honesty and transparency. “At Blue Shield, the health and safety of our employees is our number one priority,” she says. “Understanding where they are and what’s needed for them to thrive and be productive is top of mind.”

But the pandemic has elevated the need to be present and accessible as well, as Davis says she’s made herself available to weigh in on decisions and take quick action in support of her employees and the mission of the organization.

“As leaders we need to set the tone,” she says. “We had a great company culture prior to the pandemic, so I think that made the transition a little easier, but open and transparent communication at all levels of the organization is essential.”

Davis says she encourages leaders to seek ways of building a sense of community and camaraderie throughout teams, investing in technology and collaboration tools to maximize the user experience and ultimately help employees feel connected.

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