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The DevOps Staffing Problem

Just a few years ago, the role of a DevOps engineer was vague. Today, software delivery practices are more precise and standardized. As a result, DevOps adoption is snowballing.

Researchers forecast that the global DevOps market size will exceed $57 billion by 2030, compared to $6.78 billion in 2020. The demand for tech experts, particularly DevOps engineers, is surging quickly, especially due to the widespread use of cloud computing. 

Hiring high-quality resources for DevOps roles is challenging. Recruiters look for ideal candidates with a combination of technical expertise that spans software development, system administration, IT operations, and networking. That’s a rare find, indeed.

This post will cover issues arising from the DevOps workforce shortage and share tips to help companies avoid common obstacles in hiring DevOps professionals.

Who Is a DevOps Engineer, and Why Is It Difficult To Find One?

DevOps is a collaborative approach for streamlining software development and operations. Gartner defines DevOps as: “a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach.” 

Simply put, DevOps practices shorten the software development lifecycle to deliver reliable applications quickly.

A DevOps engineer automates IT operations, facilitating collaboration between Development and Ops teams that are usually siloed. DevOps Engineers are often Software Engineers with specialized skills, using tools and custom software for deploying, updating, and maintaining deployment environments. They design and implement automated strategies for building software, infrastructure maintenance, application security, continuous integration, continuous testing, logging/monitoring, and product feedback. They oversee code releases to ensure continuous product delivery while detecting and resolving pipeline issues.

Organizations demand multi-skilled individuals with advanced technical knowledge and industry expertise. Currently, there is a lack of industry standards, specialized courses, or training programs dedicated to DevOps positions. According to Atlassian’s DevOps survey of 2020, organizations face three major challenges in DevOps implementations. These are:
-Lack of skills
-Legacy infrastructure
-Adjusting corporate culture

DevOps as a concept has only officially been around for roughly ten years, leaving little time for the maturation of the ecosystem. The lack of clear industry standards leads to an unlimited number of pipeline implementation scenarios, further complicating the job of DevOps Engineers. A successful DevOps implementation requires a crossover of skills from multiple computing specializations.

The standard DevOps hiring process involves evaluating candidates based on their technical interviews, industry experience, and prior domain knowledge. After hiring, companies must spend significant time training resources according to their DevOps and software delivery practices. Each company-specific implementation is often a unique snowflake and has a learning curve for new team members.

Moreover, procuring a qualified DevOps engineer comes with a cost. Glassdoor reports that in the US, a DevOps Engineer has an average salary of $122,000 annually. Similarly, Builtin reports an average salary of a DevOps Engineer to be around $126,000 in the US. However, normal ranges can exceed $200,000, depending on the seniority, company, job location, and extra compensation. Additionally, salaries year over year are increasing by an average rate of 30% for this specialty.

In-house DevOps Implementation Challenges

According to the Atlassian survey, 85% of organizations have difficulty implementing DevOps due to a lack of skilled employees, legacy infrastructure, and ineffective corporate culture. Moreover, Gartner predicts the failure of 75% of DevOps initiatives due to common organizational “people-related” issues. Hence, effective implementation of the DevOps strategy demands adopting the best software delivery practices on multiple fronts. Let’s discuss some of the main DevOps implementation issues below.

  • Unclear Expectations and Unplanned Goals: The DevOps definition varies between organizations according to their business model, goals, and culture. Businesses that adopt this methodology without defining it first make it hard for teams to understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • Improper Task Assignment: Some organizations assign DevOps tasks to traditional software development teams who are unaware of modern software delivery methodologies. Hence, lacking specialized DevOps resources leads to unanticipated issues and obstacles.
  • Manual Delivery: When development teams manually perform infrastructure and configuration management, bugs and issues become common blockers, leading to unexpected delays and loss of revenue.
  • Lack of Collaboration: A robust DevOps pipeline bridges the gap between different teams through effective collaboration. Businesses that neglect the importance of cross-team coordination should expect performance deterioration, workload stress, and delivery delays.
  • Complexity: With literally thousands of tools to choose from and an unlimited number of highly complex tools, frameworks, and infrastructure to integrate, DevOps capabilities in companies can become increasingly complex and unwieldy, especially when not planned holistically ahead of time.
  • Cost & Time: Building out a component of a DevOps pipeline usually reveals more opportunities for integrations, automation, and necessary fixes as the pipeline matures and grows. All of this can add up as far as labor cost and time to implement, often leaving teams with partially built-out solutions that either never work or only work to a degree.

DevOps Engineers Hiring Strategy—What You Need To Know?

According to Zippia, Fortune 500 companies and the technology sector hire most DevOps engineers, who must perform diverse roles defined by the organizations to meet their business goals.

As mentioned above, the major obstacle to employing the right individuals is the lack of advanced skills and field expertise. Searching and hiring suitable DevOps candidates require a well-planned strategy and an appropriately structured recruitment process. Before hunting for individuals outside the firm, it's better to search within the existing development and IT operations teams because they have a better understanding of project requirements and overall domain knowledge.

For instance, IT operations employees generally have good problem-solving skills backed by technical knowledge, such as experience with programming and cloud computing. Similarly, some developers with networking and IT knowledge can be good candidates for DevOps roles. 

Specialized DevOps training and workshops can help these employees quickly enhance their skills and gain experience. This strategy is low-risk, cost-efficient, and shortens the organization's DevOps adoption window compared to hiring a new resource.

Having said that, organizations should evaluate their project scope to understand their DevOps requirements. Complex projects may require hiring experienced DevOps professionals. In this case, choose a multi-talented candidate with strong technical and communication skills. The DevOps workforce should likely have the following traits:

  • Expertise in CI/CD pipeline development and maintenance
  • Familiarity with virtualization techniques, containerization, microservices, and cloud architecture
  • Experience with configuration management, Infrastructure as Code (IaC) workloads, and monitoring tools
  • Firm understanding of the software development life cycle (SDLC)
  • Knowledge of popular programming languages such as Go, Python, and JavaScript and scripting languages such as YAML
  • Ability to test and fix complex technical issues in deployment pipelines
  • Quick adaptability and analytical thinking
  • Emphasis on effective collaboration with all stakeholders to execute the DevOps pipeline implementation plan will be tantamount to success.

How Do Quality DevOps Engineers Build a Solid DevOps Foundation to Drive Cost Optimization?

With a DevOps methodology, organizations can boost revenue massively by eliminating task repetition and automating workloads. According to an Atlassian survey, 99% of responses affirmed the positive impact of DevOps on company performance. Moreover, automation enables small teams to govern infrastructure and lets them scale applications dynamically. 

Let’s discuss how DevOps engineers enable an organization to reduce project development and deployment costs.

  • Optimize Resource Consumption: DevOps allows automatic scaling and load balancing, preventing applications from slowing down or crashing on high-traffic input.
  • Virtualization Mastery: DevOps engineers can build robust container ecosystems and serverless architectures, providing diverse delivery features at minimal cost and making it easy to implement DevOps practices.
  • Cloud Migration: Shifting infrastructure to the cloud cuts development and maintenance costs due to automation workflows configured by DevOps engineers.
  • Follow DevSecOps Principles: Security breaches and attacks can lead to substantial financial loss, which can be prevented by adopting DevSecOps practices in deployment workloads

Practical Steps To Align DevOps Initiatives

The rapidly evolving software industry trends and practices bring certain challenges for organizations. DevOps initiatives are maturing as we speak. With proper planning and strategic actions, businesses can overcome such organizational issues to streamline their DevOps strategy. These steps include:

  • Understand requirements and evaluate current infrastructure before adopting change
  • Set reasonable business goals based on metrics, such as cutting down overall deployment cost or reducing mean time to recovery (MTTR) after an incident by a certain percentage.
  • Select the minimum number of development and deployment tools that serve your purpose to avoid pipeline complexity.
  • Regularly use metrics to track and evaluate team performance, such as how many commits are made daily or how many pull requests are merged weekly.
  • Frequently ask for client feedback to assess your development progress.
  • Document all processes and workflows to keep all team members up to date.
  • Develop a DevOps-friendly environment to promote collaboration and coordination, involve all relevant members in discussions, and encourage participation.
  • Train your staff rigorously to keep them updated with the changing DevOps trends and emerging technologies.

Establish the Right DevOps Foundation With harpoon

Recruitment has never been easy, particularly for highly technical positions in the software industry. Organizations invest excessive time and money to find highly trained and experienced DevOps engineers to tackle the DevOps hiring challenge. Businesses must design a reasonable recruitment strategy and develop a supportive working environment to facilitate DevOps enablement.

 harpoon provides a secure and scalable DevOps platform for deploying software to the cloud using No-Code Kubernetes. With a drag-and-drop interface, businesses can avoid spending extra time and effort building and managing DevOps teams. Try out harpoon for free, or book a demo today.