The most vital roles to fill in DevOps

What are the vital roles when it comes to DevOps? With a growing IT skills shortage, Antony Savvas considers the most important jobs in the sector

DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices and tools which are designed to improve an organisation’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity. What are the most vital roles in DevOps? Which are the crucial positions your team needs to fill?

DevOps roles – finding talent

Zoë Morris, president of recruitment firm Jefferson Frank, says finding talent is key. She says: “With more and more businesses taking a DevOps approach to their cloud implementations, finding the talent to power those projects is becoming as much a challenge as identifying the best tools to use.

‘We’re already in the middle of a massive skills gap, so finding DevOps specialists is difficult for almost any organisation’

Zoe Morris, president of Jefferson Frank

“It’s not enough to look at DevOps and think ‘that’s the solution for me’, you absolutely have to have a talent pipeline in place that can help you achieve your goals in the short-, medium- and long-term. We’re already in the middle of a massive skills gap, so finding DevOps specialists is difficult for almost any organisation.”

Morris says: “Your strategy should include the type of professional you need at each stage of the journey, utilising resources like short-term contractors who will have the experience necessary at the start of your project, and who can pass on their own knowledge to existing team members, that can be used as you look to innovate further.

“Ultimately, only you will know your long-term aims for your digital infrastructure, but mapping out how that will be powered, and how you aim to attract those people to your organisation, will be just as key to success as the technology you use.”

The most vital roles in DevOps

Peter Marshall, senior consultant at software engineering consultancy 345 Technology, says of skills: “Because DevOps is like a big onion ring around the whole development process, from collecting requirements, to running tests and implementing a hotfix in production, there is no single ‘vital role’ in DevOps.

“Every person in the team will interact at some point with the DevOps process and they are all responsible for its smooth running. Within DevOps, each person is in the same multifunction team, swarming, working on the same task to solve the same problem. Each person has to take an ego-less stance.

The scrum master

“The scrum master’s role is to ensure that the team has everything it needs to get the job done, whether that’s writing a unit test or going to grab the coffees. It doesn’t matter who does what, as long everyone is moving in the same direction and collectively solving the problem.”

The enabler

Ryan Sheldrake, field CTO for EMEA at Lacework and ambassador for the DevOps Institute, adds: “The ‘enabler’ is the most vital role. Someone who can break down processes, people and technical boundaries. An example of their involvement could be when a security department is empowering the DevOps team by providing automated tooling, which delivers high fidelity information during sprint, ensuring that security does not become an afterthought.

“Who knows, the security team may even blend to become an integral part of the DevOps team as the movement evolves towards DevSecOps?”

A big part of getting DevSecOps right is dependent on the collaboration between security, developer and operations professionals, and a lot of this requires “shifting culture and mindsets”, with the help of an enabler, says Sheldrake.

Platform engineer

As well as DevOps engineers, Lloyd Lowson, senior consultant for cloud and DevOps at recruitment firm Maxwell Bond, says sought-after roles include cloud engineers, as more businesses move to cloud-based systems, platform engineers and site reliability engineers (SREs).

Platform engineers, says Lowson, work between software and hardware, and speed up the software delivery lifecycle ensuring that software teams are productive through seamless workflows. They work closely with cloud platforms especially, and therefore closely with cloud engineers. At a basic level, site reliability engineers work with software to ensure that systems can be used reliably, are efficiently automated and that any problems that arise are ironed out.

Site reliability engineer

Margaret Lee, senior vice president and general manager of digital service and operations management at BMC Software, says of SREs: “The SRE discipline helps break down silos between software engineering and operations activities within the organisation.

“As more organisations adopt a ‘you build it, you run it’ approach to software, the SRE’s ability and charter to span both development and operations makes them a key cog overall.”

Other vital DevOps roles

Arun Chandrasekaran, product owner for APM solutions at ManageEngine, the IT management arm of Zoho Corporation, warns: “When employees have distinctive titles but take on a variety of roles outside their expertise, it’s hard for organisations to reap the full potential of DevOps.

“Without a clear understanding of the nuances of DevOps and the optimal way to implement it, DevOps transformation will become limited to simply adopting the latest tools. How a DevOps team is structured depends on various factors, including the number of products the organisation works on, technical leadership, the capability to align processes, and more.”

He maintains an ideal DevOps team should include at least one:

  • DevOps evangelist
  • Code release manager
  • Automation expert
  • Software developer/tester
  • Security and compliance manager

“In a proper DevOps setting, these roles will cohesively work together to create a collaborative environment, with insights and accountability into all the stages of the DevOps process, including development, testing, deployment and monitoring,” says Chandrasekaran.

Technical debt

Subhash Ramachandran, senior vice president of product management at IT solution Software AG, says: “Having and appropriately resourcing technical expertise is vital, especially during a global technology skills shortage. But more than two-thirds of businesses [69 per cent] in our research believe ‘technical debt’ means they can’t continue their digital transformation at the same pace as during 2020.

Technical debt means when a tech team hammers out code to fix a problem fast, rather than taking its time to write an elegant long-term solution. This history of quick fixes can build up to become technical debt, also known as “code debt”.

“The skills needed to clear technical debt and continue digital transformation journeys include those found in DevOps.”

Ramachandran says automation through the usage of low-code, no-code technologies will become a “lifeline” for businesses as “we draw closer to recession”.

“If companies can automate heavily manual processes, then they can free up valuable developer time, not only to manage technical debt tasks, but also to continue transformation initiatives,” says Ramachandran. “However, teams must identify the processes where automation has the highest positive impact.”


The ultimate guide to DevOps: everything an enterprise needs to know A strong DevOps strategy can help to break down the silos between business and IT, necessary to maintain productivity, efficiency and security in this new age of remote working, which is why Information Age has produced this DevOps guide

DevOps vs Agile: distinguishing and combining the twoAgile development means fast, practical delivery of software while DevOps handles its practical rollout to users. Put together, they’re both sides of the same coin

Establishing a strong DevOps pipelineHaving a strong DevOps pipeline is increasingly important for business creating software inhouse. What can CTOs do to ensure a steady flow?

The most important DevOps tools for tech workersThere are so many DevOps tools out there to help you deliver, it can feel overwhelming. Github or Gitlab? Openshift or Kubernetes? Antony Savas talks to DevOps experts about their favourites

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Antony Savvas

Antony has been a business technology journalist for 35 years, including following the convergence of computing and telecoms, the emergence of mobile and wireless data, and now new industry productivity...

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