The 2021 Upskilling Enterprise DevOps Skills Report

The year when enterprises had to change their business models when most of their staff was working from home – that’s how most business people will remember 2020. For some industries, the change was seamless; for others, it was difficult. It was a year of human and digital transformation, an avalanche that’s continuing.

The worldwide pandemic accelerated the speed of digital transformation and the rate at which digital services became available. According to a McKinsey study, companies moved 20 to 25 times faster than they thought possible before the pandemic. This acceleration was inevitable because organizations had to facilitate remote working and could only stay in touch with their customers digitally.

These seismic changes would not have been possible without the skills and dedication of enterprise IT professionals.

The 2021 Upskilling Enterprise DevOps Skills Report by the DevOps Institute was compiled with input from 2,000 global respondents across the globe. The target audience for the survey was DevOps practitioners, hiring managers, team leaders, consultants, human resources, and others with knowledge of DevOps from all industry verticals and all company sizes.

The survey concluded that DevOps teams remain critical to ongoing IT and business operations. It reveals the most in-demand DevOps skills for 2021.

What changed since 2020 around key DevOps skills?

In previous years, the importance of skills was ranked as follows: first, process skills and knowledge; second, automation skills; and third, human skills. The pandemic has turned that upside-down.

The 2021 survey result puts automation in the first place, with human skills in the second place and technical skills ranked third.

The essential combination of skills for a successful DevOps practitioner includes the following skill categories: automation, human, technical, functional, and process & framework knowledge.

COVID-19 has increased the need for upskilling

Both this report and research by McKinsey indicate that upskilling has become a priority for the majority of organizations. The survey found that most organizations prefer to build skills through the upskilling of their existing employees. However, although leaders realize that upskilling is essential, there isn’t great enthusiasm for current upskilling programs.

The DevOps Institute suggests that organizations use certifications around key technologies to upskill their employees. The majority of survey respondents agreed that certifications are invaluable.

The report writers point out that DevOps is not restricted to IT but involves the whole organization. All functional areas must work to make the shift towards digital services work for the company. This means all functions must be involved in developing software for the enterprise and giving input on how software can help the company be more competitive and deliver good service to customers.

Although business leaders acknowledge that DevOps upskilling is necessary, there has not been an increase in the development of DevOps upskilling programs in the last year.

DevOps Human Skill Journey
Top 5 Skill Domains and Top 5 Skills

What’s Inside?

Some of the results may surprise you, some may be disappointing, and some may reinforce your strategic plans for 2021. Regardless, our sincere hope is that this year’s Upskilling 2021: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report is a catalyst for action by both the enterprise and the individual.

A closer look at the DevOps human skills domain

Survey responders reacted as follows when asked how they would rate the importance of these skills categories for a DevOps member.

  • Automation skills – 72%
  • Human (Soft) skills – 69%
  • Technical skills – 65%
  • Specific automation tool knowledge – 57%
  • Functional knowledge – 56%
  • Process skills and knowledge – 55%
  • Business skills – 29%
  • Specific certifications – 26%

The pandemic has brought automation skills to the forefront as the most essential skill domain. Of the Automation skills, the five top skills requirements are continuous integration (78%), continuous delivery (77), continuous deployment (72%), continuous operation and support (62%), and DevSecOps (56%). Having specific automation tool knowledge is regarded as a must-have.

Almost three-quarters (69%) of survey respondents indicated Human skills as the second-most important skill. Specifically, the top five highly ranked skills are collaboration, problem-solving, sharing and knowledge transfer, interpersonal skills, and communication skills. Flexibility, empathy, diversity, and inclusion, as well as creativity, also rank high.

The third-highest skill domain is technical skills. Not surprisingly, the top must-have technical skill is understanding cloud platforms, followed by understanding modern compute technology such as serverless, microservices and containers, operating systems, container orchestration, and application technologies. AI, big data, and analytical knowledge are also needed technical skills.

The message from CIOs, CFOs, and their business partners revealed an enormous demand for digitization to improve the customer experience. The top seven technologies planned for implementation in the next two years are IT automation technology, Gigabit Wi-Fi networking, Internet of Things, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Converged/ Hyperconverged infrastructure, and Container technology and serverless computing.

Recruiting for the DevOps team is challenging

Many executives and other enterprise leaders indicated that recruiting DevOps candidates is challenging. Finding and attracting skilled individuals and knowing exactly what skill set is needed is a problem. This survey, however, should make one aspect of the process easier: knowing the skillsets required. Apart from automation, human and technical skills, individuals also need functional skills and process and framework skills.

Companies can use the upskilling journey outlined in the survey to plan their upskilling for 2021. Also, inside this year’s report is an explanation of the E-shaped DevOps human, which can be also be used as a guideline for the DevOps Human Skill Journey