Common DevOps Misconceptions: It’s Not A Role, But A Culture

86% of businesses say it’s important for their company to develop and produce new software fast to win market share and beat the competition, Harvard Business Review reveals. Yet, just 10% of businesses they’re successful at doing so. In particular, 50% say organizational silos are a challenge, while 49% say legacy technology is to blame. Another 46% cite resistance to change as the most problematic roadblock. Indeed, rather than simply implementing a new technology, DevOps requires a large, organizational shift. By working to view DevOps as a people- and process-focused culture, businesses can better set and meet their goals.

The evolving role of “DevOps engineers”

The first thing to understand about DevOps is that it’s not actually a role. Arguably, DevOps is more of a number of complementary roles, tools, and processes. So, rather than referring to your engineers as merely “DevOps engineers”, it’s important to understand this role is continually evolving. Traditional organizational silos are increasingly becoming a thing of the past, and now every engineer must become an all-rounder – someone who specializes in engineering, but is also skilled in other areas beyond their job title. As such, all software engineers are now expected to have a strong understanding of how the cloud works, while all infrastructure engineers should also have a firm grasp of software engineering, for example. If engineers fail to expand their capabilities, they won’t be moving with the times and risk becoming obsolete.

Engineers are trained at systems thinking: they understand the interconnectedness between parts of a whole, rather than concentrating on solely the parts. As such, DevOps engineers understand the entire business ecosystem, and the key role software development plays within this ecosystem. This allows them to be much more fluid and responsive – they can quickly recognize changes and adjustments needed in a given situation to generate desired results. All engineers should therefore embrace a DevOps mindset. Metrics and logging should be within every engineer’s skillset, while they should also be competent at setting up continuous integration between Git and Jenkins. Additionally, all IT employees should have a good grasp of the basics of Linux and Kubernetes, as well as be comfortable with command-line tools. Infrastructure admins should also have no problem automating tools. And, it’s also just as important for each and every engineer to prioritize customer experience – the foundation of business success.

Clearly, the importance of broadening employee skill sets is ever increasing. Elearning courses, in particular, are an effective way to facilitate employees in career development in a variety of topics. Keep in mind, student engagement is key for the success of any elearning course. Ideally, these courses should therefore rely largely on video format – in comparison to written content, video can best capture and maintain attention for longer periods of time.

Misconceptions stifle growth

When IT leaders hold this common misconception about DevOps, their DevOp engineers can typically find themselves in silos – although they may make efforts to improve systems, they unfortunately come up against cultural barriers that stifle these efforts. In turn, without collective, company-wide support in this area, wider growth is hampered. Ultimately, if you view DevOps as a specific role or job title, any benefits created will naturally be meager in the grand scheme of your operations. Rather, DevOps should be an overarching culture embraced throughout the business – this allows DevOps to reach its maximum potential. Keep in mind, engineers specializing in specific roles can still play a key role in promoting a DevOps culture – however, they must be supported in their efforts to initially get this culture established.

Don’t neglect social skills

The DevOps Institute highlights the need for “human skills” within DevOps – which means, in addition to technological skills, DevOps engineers also need to be equipped with vital soft skills. Only with soft skills are engineers able to effectively communicate with the team and complete projects to their full potential. Additionally, soft skills can also facilitate peer-to-peer learning as needed, which also further strengthens team development. In fact, 55% of employees already first consult their peers when they need to learn a new skill. Peer-to-peer learning is a valuable employee development tool that can help optimize performance in a friendly, collaborative environment.

Ultimately, DevOps shouldn’t be considered merely a set of tools. By viewing DevOps as a culture instead, engineers can successfully become part of a thriving and cross-functional team. In turn, businesses can better set and achieve goals and enjoy continual growth.

By Gary Bernstein