Upskilling 2020: Adapting Humans at The Speed of DevOps

Written by: Samuel Fell

4 min read

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In late 2018, the DevOps Institute launched the inaugural Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Survey and Report as a community research project. The goal was to identify which DevOps skills are considered most critical to digital transformation. We supported this research because the data helps the industry to identify talent gaps in enterprise IT and the results serve as a DevOps maturity curve. Additionally, it helps us all focus on the “human” side of DevOps – something we are very passionate about here at CloudBees.

Now in its second year, the 2020 survey reveals a significant shift in the interpersonal skills businesses expect their developer talent to cultivate. We recently sat down with Jayne Groll, CEO of DevOps Institute, to discuss the 2020 survey findings and her thoughts on what they mean for developers.

Q: Why did DevOps Institute start this Upskilling survey?

DevOps Institute’s mission is to advance the human elements of DevOps. There is a well recognized talent gap that can only be closed through human upskilling. The range of skills can be daunting though. We wanted the community to define which skills they considered most critical to not only digital transformation, but cultural transformation as well. After all, culture doesn’t transform, people transform when inspired to do so.

Partnering with Eveline Oehrlich, a veteran research analyst, this very detailed survey received thousands of responses over the past two years from individuals across verticals, organizational size, geographies and roles. We intend to keep this as a year-over-year research project to provide the community with current skilling trends. We hope this data will help shrink the skills gap and support the transformational goals of both individuals and organizations.

Q. What skills are top of mind for IT executives vs. DevOps practitioners?

As you can see in Figure 6, there was strong agreement across executives, management and individual contributors that process skills and knowledge was the top skill set followed by automation and human skills. This is a change from the 2019 research, where automation skills ranked highest, beating out process skills and knowledge. This is an indication that DevOps adoption is evolving to the point where the next logical stage in a transformation is to establish the processes and rules through which technology can and will be used. Collaboration is at the center, coordinating an organization’s automation skills and process skills, and demonstrating that evolution of human skills is of the utmost importance.

Upskilling in large, complex organizations requires business leaders to pay close attention to what they are doing to support team collaboration and the workflow of the people and programs they manage. Despite this, only 38 percent of respondents of our survey have a formal upskilling program in place, with another 20 percent currently working on developing one for this year. Unfortunately, a whopping 31 percent do not have or are not yet creating a formal upskilling or cross-skilling program for their staff.

Q. What “Human” skills are most associated with project success?

To deliver software at an elite level, the importance placed on meaningful collaboration and knowledge transfer cannot be understated.

This year we saw an increase in the value placed on human skills from the management and business leaders in our survey. Collaboration and cooperation remained the top human skill again but this year interpersonal skills raised to the second most important must-have human skill, followed by problem solving skills. Interestingly, there was a significant increase in the importance individual contributors placed on human skills. Sharing, knowledge transfer and problem solving were seen as equally important by the C-suite, management and individual contributor levels.

Q: We see in Figure 13 that CI/CD has overtaken cloud as a must-have technical skill. Why do you think that is?

Competency in cloud platforms and environments is strongly considered “must-have” knowledge (63 percent), but the top skills across all categories align with software delivery: Human (collaboration), Process (source control models), Functional (Security/ITOps) and Technical (CI/CD Tool Chains. While knowing the environment is critically important, knowing how to optimize and deploy into that environment seems to be a critical unmet talent need.

Q. How can leadership encourage team knowledge sharing?"

It’s the dawn of the hybrid, multi-skilled human who then becomes a key member of a hybrid, multi-skilled team. Strong, transformational servant leadership is necessary in order to empower and provide resources for teams and individuals to openly exchange knowledge. Self-regulating systems such as Agile, DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) are highly dependent on active knowledge sharing endorsed by executive leadership.

View the full results: Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Survey and Report

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