DevOps talent: IT leaders face hiring challenges in 2020

How in demand are DevOps professionals? What are the crucial skills? Are enough companies training up? A new DevOps Institute report offers illuminating data on DevOps talent
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The journey to adopt a DevOps model remains difficult for enterprises: Finding and attracting skilled DevOps talent continues to be the biggest hurdle, according to a new report released Wednesday by the DevOps Institute

The Upskilling 2020: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report found that upskilling and retraining needs to be a bigger priority for enterprises that want to hire and retain the best talent for DevOps. The report examines the top human, functional, and technical skill categories and the must-have skills needed for today’s DevOps professionals. 

The second annual report gathered insights and data from more than 1,260 IT professionals around the world, furthering the lessons captured in the 2019 inaugural report. The 2020 findings provide a clearer view of the critical skill sets that DevOps professionals should embody, taking a deeper dive into what this means for IT professionals. 

[ Where is DevOps headed this year? Read: 10 DevOps trends to watch in 2020. ]

Here are some of the top takeaways from the 2020 report: 

  • The DevOps transformation journey is still very difficult for more than 50 percent of respondents. Managing the people, processes, and technologies necessary for a DevOps transformation are all difficult. Each category received the same amount of responses for being a challenge. DevOps is a fundamental change in the traditional structure of IT. It not only represents the adoption of new technology but also, and more importantly, an organization transformation challenge. It certainly may be perceived as threatening for several structures that are comfortable in the existing traditional organizational model.
    Key verticals are eager to find DevOps talent, especially in financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, and technology.
  • Finding and attracting skilled DevOps humans continues to be the biggest challenge in 2020. A majority of respondents (58 percent) said finding skilled DevOps individuals is a challenge, and 48 percent say it’s difficult to retain skilled DevOps professionals. Salaries for experienced DevOps engineers can reach beyond $179,250, according to the Robert Half Technology 2020 Salary Guide. Individuals can score big if they have the right skills and experience. In particular, key verticals are eager to find DevOps and technology talent, especially in financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution, and technology.

[ You'll need to beat three common leadership challenges to succeed with DevOps. Read also: 3 problems DevOps won't fix. ]

  • DevOps professionals must be hybrid and equipped within three key skill categories. The top three must-have skill categories in 2020 are process skills and knowledge (69 percent of respondents), automation skills (67 percent of respondents), and human skills (61 percent of respondents), according to the report. This is a change from the 2019 research, where automation skills ranked highest, beating out process skills and knowledge. The DevOps Institute believes this is indicative of the next step in DevOps adoption. In the first step, teams were learning about technology and its potential benefits and/or implementation difficulties. Once past this step, the next logical stage is to establish the process and rules through which the technology will be used, hence the evolution of the human skills required. 
    More than 38 percent of respondent organizations have no upskilling program.
  • Upskilling requires the attention of business leaders now. The challenges of upskilling aren’t new. Unfortunately, more than 38 percent of respondents’ organizations have no upskilling program, 21 percent are currently working on one, and 7 percent don’t even know if their organization has an upskilling program. About one-third (31 percent) of respondents, however, have indicated that their company has already implemented a formal upskilling program within their organizations.  
  • Agile, DevOps, and ITIL are seeing strong competition from Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). Since the 2019 benchmark report, adoption continues to rise for agile (81 percent), DevOps (75 percent), and ITIL (25 percent). But SRE grew steadily from 10 percent adoption in 2019 to 15 percent in 2020. Additional philosophies such as Value Stream Management (19 percent) and Systems Thinking (13 percent) are also being leveraged. Many of these disciplines and/or frameworks co-exist within organizations.
  • The rise in the SRE approach’s popularity shows that IT operation processes and service health are no longer an afterthought, but rather are playing a critical part before services are released and while products are planned. Some siloes from the past are being torn down by proactively including the developer in updating services in production.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free Ebook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

Eveline Oehrlich is an industry analyst, author, speaker and business advisor focused on digital transformation. Eveline is the Chief Research Director at DevOps Institute where she leads the research and analysis for the Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report and other research projects.

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