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Successful DevOps and automation means building the right skills


By Arthur Cole.

Enterprises of all shapes and sizes are quickly gravitating toward DevOps and automation to meet the demands of an increasingly service-based economy. Combined, these twin initiatives foster a great deal of collaboration and a highly accelerated application development cycle, but at the same time they require a new set of skills among the workforce. This is proving to be a challenge both for IT workers and the enterprises they work for; IT wants to remain relevant in a changing work environment, and enterprises want to maintain competitiveness through increased agility and an improved user experience.

But exactly what skills are needed to thrive in an automated, DevOps-oriented enterprise? According to TechTarget's Beth Pariseau, the biggest change is the blending of development and operational skills under a single work flow. This means the development and operations sides of the enterprise will each need to learn how things work in the other's domain, rather than just handing projects over the wall when their portion is complete. In this new world, collaboration is king, and, while individuals may still specialize in certain fields, responsibility for everything from coding and release automation to networking, storage, and security is shared by all.


Heading-off an impending skills gap

Naturally, training on one or more of the leading DevOps platforms is the first requisite in this transition, but enterprise executives are mistaken if they believe they can simply launch a new software environment and call it DevOps, says InfoQ's John Okoro. DevOps is a cultural shift that influences not only how products are developed and deployed, but also how funding is allocated, successes (and failures) are perceived, and chains-of-command are established. In short, DevOps requires new skills and processes far beyond simple development and operations to just about every aspect of the enterprise, including human resources, finance, and the executive suite.

For the time being, enterprises looking to deploy DevOps and automation will experience a substantial skills gap that will keep costs artificially high. As DCD Intelligence analyst Nick Parfitt noted recently, "Organizations that use data centers to generate revenue and add brand value rather than treating them as a cost center are likely to feel a skills squeeze of sorts as are those seeking to improve service and response via deployment of virtualized or hybrid systems."

Imperative DevOps and automation skills

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this problem. The best strategy at this point is to understand the full ramifications of this transition and plan accordingly, with the realization that full implementation is unlikely to occur until the workforce has gained a fair amount of experience working under a DevOps model. But if both DevOps and automation eliminate the need for traditional data management skills, what is left? Will the entire knowledge workforce need to learn how to program?

While it's true that delivering solutions as code is important, this doesn't mean everyone will have to write code, says DevOps Zone's Dustin Collins. While it may come in handy, programming will be more of a sub-skill than a requirement, as many emerging platforms enable applications to be created and deployed through simple mouse-clicks rather than creating lines upon lines of archaic syntax. Much more important are soft skills like empathy—the ability to see a problem through someone else's point of view—and perhaps a little humility to recognize that not all problems are caused by other people's incompetence but by the difficulty in getting disparate disciplines to work together. Communication, as with many areas of life and business, is an invaluable skill needed in this shift.

Change is never easy, particularly when it involves undoing a lifetime's worth of practices and processes that have served more than adequately for nearly everyone involved. But the transition to a digital economy is upon us, and this new IT will be profoundly different from the old IT. Learning how to cope with this change will likely become the most valuable skill of all.

How prepared is your enterprise to adapt to change and compete? Take our Enterprise DevOps Assessment.



Arthur Cole.jpeg

Arthur Cole.  With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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About the Author


Tracy Siclair has worked for HPE for 20 years in various positions, all geared towards providing a better customer experience. She has a passion for thinking out-of-the-box and finding innovative ways to get the job done. While not on a computer for work, she enjoys watching her kids play sports, photography, videography, and the occasional game of billiards. Tracy resides in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado.

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