DevOps now most sought-after skill, and with good reason

DevOps makes the world go round, especially a world where continuous software delivery is gold.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

If one seeks evidence of how hot DevOps is these days, look to demand for appropriate skills as an indicator. And DevOps skills top the list these days.

That's the word from a survey of 250 IT managers from OpsRamp, which finds widespread demand for DevOps capabilities and skills. For starters, nearly two-thirds are actively seeking a DevOps approach. 

DevOps skills are more in demand than any other IT-related skill, even surpassing cloud and data science skills. Close to two-thirds of respondents, 64%, indicated that DevOps is the most sought-after skill, above cloud certifications, machine learning, and even industry knowledge.  

Here are the top skills in demand cited in the survey:

  1. DevOps 64% 
  2. Cloud certifications 61% 
  3. Industry domain knowledge 56% 
  4. Development 50% 
  5. Data science 47% 
  6. Machine learning 44% 

The key is agility and ability to rapidly and predictably delivery functionality. Perhaps the survey report's authors even understate the challenge when they note that "modern infrastructure is dynamic, ephemeral, elastic, and software-defined. Organizations today need technology practitioners who can not only maintain the health and performance of legacy workloads but also deliver agile and responsive operations for digital business." 

Overall, finding people with the right combinations of skills is a challenge. Most enterprises, 94%, are finding it "somewhat difficult" to recruit candidates with the right technology and business skills. This is made more acute with the growing need to "significantly rethink and overhaul traditional IT operations practices," brought on with the emergence of cloud platforms with microservices and containers, the survey report's authors point out. "Digital operations teams will need to build the right skills, knowledge, and capabilities to thrive in a world where the technology infrastructure will be increasingly hybrid and new workloads will be largely invisible."  

To adjust to a DevOps world, the survey's authors make the following recommendations:

Embrace DevOps:  But of course. The catch is many organizations think they have DevOps underway, since they figured out how to get developers and IT operations teams talking to each other. That's only the first step. "The most important skill for modern IT operations teams today is to incorporate DevOps practices -- agile planning, configuration management, continuous integration, and automated deployments -- into their organizational workflows for better teamwork, greater innovation, and faster customer feedback."

Pay attention to technical infrastructure debt. There's been plenty said and written about technical debt, in which accumulated fixes and workarounds get unwieldy. This can get in the way of DevOps flow. "Accumulated infrastructure debt can lead to frequent service disruptions, more manual operations, and lower quality of services. IT executives should retire infrastructure debt by eliminating constant sources of rework and betting on modern infrastructure platforms and tools." 

Employ the right operational metrics. It's good to stay on top of uptime, transaction throughput, power usage, and so on. But the business wants to know something else. "Pick the metrics that matter for business effectiveness, instead of highlighting KPIs that solely focus on infrastructure health. Operational performance metrics tied to organizational goals like customer churn, speed to market, or cost reduction make the case for IT's relevance to the business." 

Create a fantastic work culture. This point may be blindingly obvious, but also perhaps may be the hardest task of all. IT leaders don't necessarily have the influence over the C-suite they need to make changes in management styles, culture, and -- very importantly -- incentive structures. The OpsRamp authors encourage managers and executives to "build a positive and friendly organizational culture to hire and retain the talent you need to win in a disruptive market. Companies should pay employees competitive salaries, provide flexibility in picking their technology stack, offer challenging business problems to work on, and sponsor attendance at industry events." 

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