Home Case Studies WPP How the world’s largest ad company optimizes FinOps
A throng of people dwarfed by brightly lit advertisements in Times Square, New York
Seeking greater visibility into cloud sprawl and spend

If you’re one of the approximately 120 million people who tune in each year for the Super Bowl—or at least for the commercials—you’ve seen WPP’s work. If you’re an employee at a Fortune Global 500 corporation, your company has likely worked with WPP.

With 2,300 agencies and related operating companies under its ownership, WPP is the largest advertising firm in the world, running a global enterprise that produces hundreds of high-end advertising campaigns and communications initiatives each year. It’s a massively data-intensive business.

In recent years, as WPP shifted its IT to a hybrid, multicloud model to gain critical IT and application agility, costs skyrocketed. “We went from paying a fixed bill every month for a set amount of physical assets, to being charged for resources literally by the minute,” says Paul Cocks, WPP’s Director of Global Technology Services. With thousands of disparate organizations building in the cloud for their own needs, WPP faced major cloud sprawl.

“We really didn’t know how much we were spending,” says Ananta Manandhar, WPP’s Head of FinOps. “We had hundreds of accounts across all major public clouds. A key objective was consolidated visibility.”

On the technology side, Mr. Cocks and his colleague, Cost-Optimization Lead Alan Burnett, recognized the potential for saving millions of dollars by eliminating underutilized computing resources. They wanted to master the art of right-sizing and make the cost dynamics of cloud work in the company’s favor.

30% 30% reduction in yearly cloud spend 1,000 Up to 1,000 automated resizing actions every month
During the POV, it would have paid for itself ten times over. Paul Cocks Director of Global Technology Services WPP
Gaining spend visibility and optimizing cloud usage

WPP created a well-rounded, efficient FinOps practice by applying two technologies: IBM Apptio™ Cloudability (link resides outside of ibm.com) and IBM® Turbonomic®. The Finance team uses IBM Apptio Cloudability to see exactly how much WPP is spending, and where, across all companies and all cloud platforms. The Operations team uses Turbonomic to expedite savings by efficiently optimizing resources by way of AI-driven sizing recommendations and automated resizing actions.

IBM Apptio Cloudability came first. After evaluating it against a third-party offering, WPP implemented the IBM solution and quickly achieved spend visibility across 99% of its cloud landscape, including AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). “It just worked,” says Mr. Manandhar. “It has very good APIs for integrating across the environment. We onboarded hundreds of billing accounts and mapped the usage to stakeholders. It showed us an actual dollar view; an invoice view; a usage view, including anomalies; and an amortized view. And when we compared it with data directly from the cloud suppliers, it was very accurate. That helped rapidly build trust in our recharging ops with our users.”

Next, Mr. Cocks and Mr. Burnett engaged IBM for a Turbonomic proof of value (POV) that revealed enormous savings potential. Mr. Burnett, who’d gained extensive optimization experience in a previous role at another major enterprise, deployed Turbonomic in one of WPP’s Azure tenants and let the solution generate resourcing recommendations. Mr. Burnett selected from the recommendations to execute 1,100 resizing actions, many through Turbonomic automations.

“During the POV, it would have paid for itself ten times over,” says Mr. Cocks.

WPP has now officially deployed Turbonomic in its Azure environment and will phase it into its other clouds. “It’s revealed massive right-sizing potential and a lot of unused resources—too much to scale down manually,” says Mr. Burnett. On his Turbonomic interface, he views thousands of autogenerated sizing recommendations in addition to the cost impact they would have. The Operations team breaks the host of recommendations into manageable chunks and engages with users to identify which actions make good business sense.

Then, the team can resize with great efficiency using the bulk actions functionality in Turbonomic. They’ve basically doubled the pace they achieved in the POV, now taking approximately 1,000 actions every one to two months. “We got rid of 500 unattached disks in one weekend, saving a quarter of a million dollars,” says Mr. Burnett. “You can’t do that without automation. It enables a pace that really helps bring cloud costs under control.”

We got rid of 500 unattached disks in one weekend, saving a quarter of a million dollars. You can’t do that without automation. It enables a pace that really helps bring cloud costs under control. Alan Burnett Cost-Optimization Lead WPP
Significant savings and a new culture of optimization

In just the first three months of using IBM Apptio Cloudability, WPP achieved about USD 2 million in savings. Since supercharging FinOps with both IBM Apptio Cloudability and Turbonomic, the company is saving about 30% on its yearly cloud spend—a cost reduction of more than USD 10 million.

Now the focus is shifting, according to Mr. Manandhar, “from making it efficient to keeping it efficient, going from campaign mode to regular operations mode.” His team uses the live dashboard feature of IBM Apptio Cloudability to monitor costs and trends and generate monthly reports of ongoing savings potential—setting up targets for Turbonomic as the Operations team applies it first to GCP, then to AWS.

With such clear visibility into costs, usage and waste, WPP is instilling a culture of FinOps in the enterprise. “When you demonstrate that volume of optimization opportunity,” says Mr. Burnett, “it just makes everybody much more aware of how we can drive costs down rather than accept what we’ve got.”

“Because we’re tracking it, people are starting to budget it. They’re actively supporting the overall optimization,” says Mr. Manandhar. “It’s bringing about a cultural difference, creating a much closer partnership between business, finance and the engineering team.”

It’s bringing about a cultural difference, creating a much closer partnership between business, finance and the engineering team. Ananta Manandhar Head of FinOps WPP
WPP logo
About WPP

WPP plc (link resides outside of ibm.com) is the holding company of many prominent agencies in communications, experience, commerce and technology. In total, the organization employs approximately 114,000 people in 100 or more countries and works with more than 300 Fortune Global 500 companies. WPP is headquartered in London.

WPP optimizes tech spend using IBM’s FinOps solutions

WPP applied two leading FinOps solutions—IBM Apptio Cloudability and IBM Turbonomic—to optimize technology spending across all of its many cloud environments.

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