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DevOps skill: It's what software vendors can't sell you

How do you do DevOps? It takes more than implementing DevOps tools, despite what some DevOps vendors would have you think. Culture still plays the biggest role.

One of the more confounding aspects about the hype surrounding DevOps is that, despite the overwhelming belief that it's the answer to all our problems, there's a surprising amount of dissent over how to execute DevOps in specific terms. And while it's bad enough there's so much noise out there about how to properly "do" DevOps, too many DevOps vendors marketing "DevOps tools" further muddy the waters.

While it's true that the use of certain tools can help facilitate your DevOps skill growth, it's important not to conflate those tools with DevOps itself. DevOps -- at least in theory -- is about a culture shift, not a specific product or piece of software.

DevOps tools are the means, not the end

The gradual removal of silos is a popular place to start in the journey to DevOps, which goes hand in hand with increased responsibility for members of both development and IT teams. In order to have the bandwidth to work on both sides of the wall -- rather than just toss things over it -- employees need a means to either simplify, expedite or automate some of their responsibilities from "the old way" of doing things.

That's where DevOps tools like Puppet can certainly be helpful, but DevOps tools are the means, not the end. Your organization can implement Puppet and enjoy the benefits of automated deployment, but that doesn't count for much if your operations team isn't using the time saved to hone its DevOps skill, collaborate more with the development team or learn more about the development of the product.

DevOps tools
DevOps tools and skills don't have to have an antagonistic relationship. Some organizations are using tools to build a mindful workforce.

Similarly, ChatOps tools like Dynatrace or Tintribot can make your workflow more efficient but that's not enough. Organizations also need to take advantage of the ability to provide executives (or staff otherwise not well-versed in technology) with simplified, immediate, precise answers about performance and activity levels.

DevOps skills are collaborative skills

It's also worth noting there are certain aspects of DevOps with which no amount of specialized products or software can help. DevOps vendors can't sell DevOps skills, specifically the soft skills that are a key part of collaboration and even customer interaction.

It's relatively common for an organization that believes it has successfully implemented DevOps to not actually see any sort of notable improvement to productivity. And without a clear-cut roadmap to follow, it's easy to see why. But if there's one thing that you can take to the bank, it's that DevOps isn't just a matter of buying the right product off the shelf. Despite what DevOps vendors will have you believe, that's only one very small piece of the puzzle.

This was last published in December 2017

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