How to Effectively Bridge The DevOps Skills Gap

 ● 01st Dec 2020

8 min read

IT skills gaps are a stumbling block for many businesses.

63% of U.S. organizations expect the gap to widen in the next two years. Unlocking your workforce potential with proper upskilling can be a difficult process.

But, if your company manages to successfully close the DevOps skills gap you can significantly improve:

  • Your overall productivity
  • Resilience to future issues
  • Ability to create high-quality software 

Here are our top tips to effectively bridging that gap.

Collaboration

Regardless of how many tools you invest in, without good collaboration, the DevOps skill gap will be difficult to bridge.

Let’s do a quick roleplay.

I’m a sales rep trying to sell you on the importance of bridging the skills gap, and you’re a business that sells call center technology like an IVR solution. 

I ask you an open ended sales question like “can you tell me about your company’s DevOps process?”. 

You tell me your company’s build process is completely controlled by one department, the supplied code is completely controlled by another, and there’s no understanding between the teams. 

What would happen in this scenario? 

  • System problems.
  • Both teams will introduce new tools without consulting each other.
  • The gap will be widened.

To put it in simple terms if you want to heal the DevOps skills rift and transform your organization, the techies and the non-techies have to communicate and you must improve the collaboration culture. 

Changing the culture

Communication is necessary in changing the company’s culture. If you have a developer that is required to learn new skills, they must understand the reason for learning these skills and for how long they will remain relevant. 

To change the culture, it’s important to, first, look at the context: 

  • What are your company goals?
  • What is your motivation?
  • What is the business value that needs to be achieved?

If you have not communicated the benefits of DevOps to your teams or departments, then setting expectations, figuring out a deployment model and choosing the required tools to bridge the gap will be a challenge.

So, unifying your communications is vital. Many companies use virtual phone services. How does virtual phone service work?

  • It combines virtual phone numbers, VoIP, and Cloud PBX.
  • Allows employees to communicate from anywhere.
  • Routes all calls to the right person or department.

4 Techniques you can use to improve collaboration  

  1. Digital communication channels such as email or project management applications that include video calling and conferencing options.
  2. Prepare IT infrastructure for co-working spaces, which will promote team harmony and overall collaboration.
  3. Regular meetings, at least twice a week, to assign and assess tasks.
  4. Enrolling team members in soft skill development programs to improve cooperation, negotiation, and resolving conflicts.

Cross-functional teams

A cross-functional approach can also be developed. This involves creating smaller teams that take part in all the tasks, as opposed to specialist teams carrying out one specific task. 

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What are the benefits?

  • You are bringing various individuals with different knowledge and expertise together, which allows team members to expand their skill set.
  • Different skills allow the team members all to work towards one goal without overlap, resulting in successful communication.
  • Team management is improved as there is no conflict in opinion between, for instance, two developers who work in different ways.

Skills and Tools

A successful business is always developing new skills and learning how to use new tools. That can be anything from improving employee pitching skills or learning how to fax from a computer because it’s a more secure method than email. 

Assessing and Learning 

You, first, need to establish what skills your employees currently possess. Analysis of the specific training employees require is a great way to bridge the skills gap. Methods for measuring their skills include:

  • Assessments and surveys.
  • Interviews with your staff.
  • Skills management software which can carry out skills gap analysis quickly and effectively.  

Promoting a learning culture is key. Businesses that encourage and facilitate employee training have a better chance of creating a workforce that is up-to-date with the current trends in technology and practices.  Here are seven techniques you can use to encourage a learning culture: 

  1. Allow online courses, subscriptions, and educational material to be free to all employees.
  2. Present your employees with opportunities to attend useful conferences and DevOps events.
  3. Invest in creating collaborative learning spaces.
  4. Free up time in the work schedule for training, as this will allow employees an opportunity to learn without having to do so outside of work hours.
  5. Create mentorship programs for new employees.
  6. Promote the idea of an agile mindset and culture with, for instance, Hackathons.
  7. Constantly monitor any new techniques you have adopted, assess their efficacy and notify your employees of any changes which can be carried out using CPaaS meaning Communications Platforms as a Service. 

Hiring

Sometimes the skills gap cannot be bridged with training alone. Hiring new employees provides you with the opportunity to bring new talents and abilities to your company. But, hiring the right person is the real challenge.

Due to the prevalent DevOps skills shortage, hiring a suitably experienced DevOps employee is becoming more and more of a struggle for businesses.

In fact, a DevOps engineer that has the required skills and knowledge of, for instance, Puppet, Ansible, Docker, and is able to write automated scripts, can earn upwards of $200,000 as they are very hard to come by.

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Here are some skills your new DevOps expert should have: 

  • A good understanding of QA processes, as this is important in minimizing the issues that occur during a project.
  • Knowledge of software and various programming languages, as this allows easy troubleshooting and will help in scripting and automation.
  • Have the ability to develop complex applications through code writing.
  • Expertise in the software development cycle, the various models, and the pros and cons of each one.
  • Knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning is a bonus as this may be advantageous in the future.

But it is also important to note that DevOps is a team effort. It is a principle and work process more than it is a tool and a job. Even though the skills mentioned above are highly valuable, it is always better to hire smart people over ones that just fit a checklist.

Your company should develop its own DevOps ethos and an in-house training structure that allows new or current employees to learn DevOps skills and principles.

Automation

Training or hiring staff and developing their skills can be a long and expensive process. On top of that, the skills learned may be relevant one year and obsolete the next. This is why your company needs to invest in automation.

Automating processes can help your company bridge the skills gap, as it allows you to focus on your core goals without being distracted by things like:

  • Manual data analyses
  • Teaching your staff data-privacy law
  • Maintaining PCI Compliance

Developers can often spend 75% of their time searching for bugs and errors, this time could be used to create new useful software for your business. Automated error monitoring and real-time user monitoring platforms can significantly free up their time.

Automation will allow your employee to reduce their learning curves, enable them to adapt to new technology quickly and in turn, overcome the skills gap with far less hassle.

How to improve automation

Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) platforms, like Jenkins, use well-known principles to deliver more frequent and reliable code changes. It is a method that allows teams to focus on their specific goals because deployment steps are automated. Implementing it is known as the CI/CD pipeline.

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Applications, multiple clouds, and SD-WAN features can be complex. Businesses can reduce the skill level needed to operate these services by using container tools that allow you to deploy to complex multi-cloud environments.

Sharing

The reason DevOps exists is to bring developers and operations together, this can only be carried out if the responsibility is shared equally.

Sharing is the process of different departments working towards a common goal and is vital in DevOps, here are a few things you can do to promote this:

  • Set up an internal “communities of practice”.
  • Organize a day dedicated to DevOps.
  • Adopt software defined networking (SDN), because SDN and unified communication are a perfect match for workplace digitalization.
  • Encourage and reward the sharing of knowledge.
  • Discourage the hoarding of information.

Overall, bridging the DevOps skills gap is a reactionary process that can cause a lot of business leaders stress and anxiety. But if you use the tips mentioned above then there’s no reason for that to be you.

While collaborating, learning and training are vital to bridging the skills gap, how you implement these changes is what’s important. Businesses that understand the reason for the changes and react specifically will ensure immediate and future success.

Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and internet phone service. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia.

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