The State of DevOps

How You Can Shape the Digital Future as a DevOps Human

Eveline Oehrlich
© Shutterstock / Chz_mhOng

The 2020 State of DevOps Report by Puppet shows that organizations leveraging DevOps have highly effective change management and improved their remediation speed around critical security vulnerabilities as they have integrated security fully into the software delivery process.

While DevOps has entered its second decade, the future of it will be determined by the value it delivers. Value is determined in context and at the highest level: improved velocity, improved quality, and security, as we know from a variety of sources. For example, DORA reports an increase in throughput and stability of software within companies who have leveraged DevOps. The 2020 State of DevOps Report by Puppet shows that organizations leveraging DevOps have highly effective change management and improved their remediation speed around critical security vulnerabilities as they have integrated security fully into the software delivery process.

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The State of DevOps Fluctuates Slightly During the Pandemic

Our research in the Upskilling 2021: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report shows that the adoption of DevOps in the last three years has varied but even during the pandemic, 56 percent of organizations are deploying DevOps at either project(s) or at the enterprise level. Despite the pandemic, 38 percent of enterprises kept their DevOps organization the same and 23 percent expanded one or many of their DevOps teams.

The Future of DevOps is Evolving and You Must Evolve With it

With DevOps Engineer being the No. 1 (57 percent) job title, organizations are recruiting to add DevOps skilled individuals to their teams. The average US DevOps Engineer salary ranges from $97,000 to $160,000 USD and 47 percent of organizations are either recruiting internally or externally. As a DevOps expert, you have a promising future, but that future will depend on how DevOps Engineers will be leveraged. The approach of DevOps was to transform how the work gets done. While traditional ways of development, deployment, silos, and waterfall builds were inhibiting the velocity of scalable, qualitative, and reliable software, adopting the DevOps approach was to break down silos.

There are two key topics that influence the future of DevOps:

  • Complexity keeps magnifying. In the world of COVID-19, organizations are modifying their operating plans and must deal with a distributed workforce. This impacts IT teams just as much as they must think about more automation and unbundling the complexity already created throughout the past by siloed teams of development and operations. Everything as code, hybrid cloud operating models and automating workflows will be essential tasks for every DevOps team.
  • The digital evolution continues, and all functions are part of that. Digital services require excellence across all functions within an organization to delight customers, patients, or clients. Organizations will continue to focus on how to increase revenue while reducing costs. Experience, processes, effectiveness, utilization, and quality and speed are the levers that all functions within an organization must improve.

DevOps Must be Leveraged as an Operating Model for Continuous Improvement

The bringing together of Dev and Ops which started out so many years ago is changing towards an operating model of continuous improvement. As organizations adopted the first iteration of DevOps by removing the siloes between Dev and Ops organizations, the ongoing challenges of cultural issues and the huge amount of work associated with the automation necessary have brought on some significant changes. From our research, we see the following.

Not surprising that multi-disciplinary product teams should become the norm. As the pressure continues to rise to sell products and services through e-commerce sites, apps, or SaaS solutions, the lines between product and engineering teams will rapidly blur, giving rise to cross-functional, multi-disciplinary teams that must learn and grow together. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents selected functional skills and knowledge as the fourth highest must-have skill domain. Multi-disciplinary working involves appropriately utilizing knowledge, skills, and best practices from multiple disciplines and functional boundaries.

What this means: As multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) are teams of professionals from different functions across IT and business all working together to achieve key goals, their skills and how they are organized might vary. The needed skills depend on the existing technical environment and key goals of the business. The best approach to understand the necessary makeup is to determine the existing capabilities across the key domains of human, automation, technical environment, functional, and process and frameworks. This is done best by conducting a capability assessment. As part of the DevOps journey, DevOps Institute developed an Assessment of DevOps Capabilities Model (ADOC).

SEE ALSO: “We will see an intersection between of observability and DevSecOps”

New critical operational models to work toward value alignment and continuous process improvements. Site Reliability Engineering (SRE), for example, as an operating model allows for balancing the work of IT operations teams between automation and troubleshooting all for the purpose of improving across a wide area of topics in a continuous way and has received 47 percent of our survey respondents vote for a must-have skill. A significant amount of must-have votes, 39 percent, for skills on value stream management (VSM) which involves looking at an entire value stream from initial value stream mapping to understanding how to continually reduce waste and increase flow. The models of DataOps and ModelOps also achieved some good must-have skill votes.

What this means: We are seeing new DevOps working models being adopted all with the underpinning three ways of DevOps: system thinking, amplifying and ensuring ongoing feedback loops across the value streams and the focus on changing the culture of individuals and teams through experimentation and learning. While SRE, for example, is focusing on resolving a specific challenge bridging Dev and Ops enabling feedback from operations into development (plus more), VSM is an example of shifting towards product and system thinking with a more holistic perspective to bring focus towards value for customers understanding the flow between the different process and teams.

Continuous Learning is the ultimate approach for a DevOps Human. We all seem to believe that massive success means massive change. Well, not true. As James Clear describes in his book of Atomic Habits, changing 1 percent of something every day can achieve incredible results over time. His math shows that by making something 1 percent better each day for one year, you will end up 37 times better after that one year. We know from our survey that the priority of must-have skill domains necessary for the DevOps Human are 1. Automation, 2. Human, 3. Technical, 4. Functional and 5. Process and Framework skills. While 70 percent stated that building a learning organization was a fundamental way of DevOps working, the percentages of organizations who had upskilling programs was disappointing. Only 32 percent said that they have an upskilling program and 22 percent are currently developing one and 39 percent don’t have one or don’t know if they have one.

What this means: Change in habits around how we work, transfer knowledge and how we relate to others can impact both positively and negatively within any journey. Essentially, the effect of automating a manual task or adopting a new way of doing something will make a difference and if done in conjunction with others it can have even more impact. Knowledge across key topic areas acquired through learning and potentially certifying helps us apply and leverage different ways of thinking and doing. Sixty-six percent of our respondents said that certifications are extremely valuable. The same is true for how we are interacting with our network of individuals and the help we offer. Adjusting and improving our human skills helps us improve the culture and with it can positively impact new ways of working. Any transformation causes fear and resistance to change but if accompanied with a deliberate journey to develop skills and capabilities in a continuous way, new ways of working are made possible.

The ultimate test is how DevOps and its multiple faces will be experienced by the business and functional leaders of the organization. In those organizations where DevOps has been adopted, some great research conducted by IDC in conjunction with HCL have shown business executives rated DevOps at a higher value to the organization (55 percent) more frequently than even their IT executive peers (41 percent) and business leaders grasp the benefits of DevOps to customers and core business metrics. There are more details on this here.


Eveline Oehrlich

Eveline is an independent research director at the DevOps Institute. She held the position of VP and Research Director at Forrester Research, where she led and conducted research on a variety of topics including DevOps, Digital Operational Excellence, IT and Enterprise Service Management, Cognitive Intelligence and Application Performance Management for 13 years. She has advised executives and teams around the world on challenges and potential changes in people, processes, and technology. She is the author of many research papers and thought leadership pieces and is a moderator and speaker. She has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry.

Eveline helps companies adapt their IT organization, processes, and tools for high-performance teams that enable their business partners to achieve better business results. She has helped some of the world’s largest companies implement new strategies, workflows, and automation tools.

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