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  • Writer's pictureRichard White

Modernizing Your Workforce: Strategic Direction and Tactical Deployment

Modernizing Your Workforce: Strategic Direction and Tactical Deployment

1. Introduction

What does the future hold for the IT engineers of today? How will they overcome and adapt to the coming wave of automation and increased efficiencies that the latest DevOps tools provide?

First, what is “DevOps”?

DevOps is an agile method of combining software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). The purpose of DevOps is to marry form and function. Identifying repeatable tasks and create scripts in tools (ex: Ansible Playbooks) that can minimize errors, shorten time to task and generate efficiencies.

How do traditionally monolithic large corporations transform their workforce into a modern, agile force that can take advantage of the efficiencies associated with DevOps?

We will spend a fair amount of time showing the value of DevOps from the viewpoint of both the corporations and, in many respects, more importantly, for the engineers.

The intention is to lay out strategies for modernizing and why you, as an employee, should embrace the challenge and increase your skills and abilities.

2. Strategic Direction

It is important to acknowledge the elephant in the room; Automation WILL disrupt the labor force. There is no way around that. For corporations to remain profitable, finding and implementing efficiencies are a prime component. On the surface that is terrifying for a workforce that is not prepared or trained. Yet there are not many “ready-made” DevOps trained engineers waiting in the wings. With the advent of Public Cloud offerings such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform the need to understand end-to-end remote provisioning has become a primary business driver and one that requires the workforce to shift skill sets.

2.1 Choosing Tools

An Organization must understand their core competencies in order to determine which DevOps tools are appropriate.

As far as the engineer is concerned; work towards tool agnosticism. Understanding your personal strengths is key.

Popular tools being deployed currently include:

  1. Git Repository

  2. Git is a distributed Source Code Management tool which allows you to track progress of your development work

  3. Kubernetes

  4. Kubernetes is a containerized open-source system for automating and deploying/managing applications

  5. Ansible

  6. Ansible is a configuration management tool that can be used to create playbooks for infrastructure deployment and support functions

  7. Nagios

  8. Nagios is an open source DevOps infrastructure monitoring tool that allows you to identify issues and correct while also generating reports on up-time

  9. Splunk

  10. Splunk is a big data aggregator that delivers operational intelligence

  11. Docker

  12. Docker allows DevOps to stack distributed applications

  13. Cisco DevNet

  14. Automating Network Operations, template creation for SD-WAN API deployments

These are just some of the tools available for DevOps deployments.

In addition to choosing the tools organizations should be determining what mixture of talent and certification levels will be required to fully realize the program effectiveness.

Certification tracks that will be useful to the engineer and organization alike include:

  1. Google Cloud Platform

  2. Google offers 8 different certification tracks that include Cloud Engineer to Collaboration Engineer

  3. Red Hat certifications

  4. There are 30+ Red Hat certification tracks but the DevOps related tracks RHCE and RHCA as well as specialized Ansible tracks are key

  5. Cisco DevNet certification tracks

  6. These include entry level DevNet Associate up to DevNet Professional

  7. Amazon Web Services certification tracks

  8. AWS offers entry level Associate tracks with more specialized DevOps engineering secondary tracks

  9. Microsoft MCA Azure Administrator

  10. Microsoft offers entry level MCA Azure associate training with specialized DevOps Engineering expert training tracks as well

Again, these are just some of the certification tracks available for the individual.

The organization should set on a strategy to have a certain percentage of home grown talent in each of the primary tools deployed. For example, if the organization is deploying Red Hat Ansible there should be a well rounded mix of Red Hat Certified Engineers and Architects with a further mix of Ansible specialist certificate holders.

2.2 Deployment Strategies

  1. Executive Sponsorship is vital

  2. Top down approach shows that the program is valuable and managers/leads/employees will get on board

  3. Avoid “equal ultimacy”

  4. If every project or outcome is of equal value then nothing will bubble to the top for priority

  5. Organizations that cannot prioritize will suffer with minimal to zero adoption

  6. This will significantly hurt timelines and corporate profit margin

  7. Provide training time each week

  8. 1 to 2 training sessions per week

  9. Managers must distinguish between individual learners and those that gain more via “on the job training”--hands on

  10. Consider using 3rd-party training suites such as:

  11. Udemy

  12. Skillshare

  13. 360 Training

  14. Create central internal monitored and reviewed Git-style repository

  15. Have trainees submit 1-2 scripting samples per week to the central repository

  16. Trainers and subject matter experts should review and offer pointers or accept as completed work

2.3 Incentives vs. Directives

How does an organization generate buy-in versus how much effort is used to “direct” compliance?

As IT professionals we have come to expect a fair amount of change. How do you determine “good” change versus “bad”?

The first step, as mentioned above, is to have executive buy-in and excel at communicating the strategic vision. Laying out how it impacts the business and why it matters for the individual is vital in achieving employee acceptance.

Leadership MUST have a clear direction with an expected timeline and over communicate status; good or bad. Transparency in the roll out generates trust and ensures the employees have a stake in the outcome.

Leaders should repeatedly ask for feedback from all angles. The organization should be pushing for and harnessing creativity. Organizations have to be prepared to shift strategies and deployment based on what is working versus what is not. Don’t be afraid to fail! Learn from failure and adjust the approach as required.

Incent staff to participate versus demanding compliance. This isn’t to say there should be no documented expectations for personal success criteria.

If leadership has laid out the vision and communicated progress early and often there should be minimal requirements for any draconian means to force compliance.

Creating a competitive approach may work within your organizational structure. Make the change fun and interesting and ensure those exemplifying and embracing the changes are identified and rewarded. Not all companies can or will provide financial rewards.

Remember; any individual growth not only helps your employers but sets you up for possibly bigger and better opportunities down the road. Investing in your own growth is a major key to success.

3. Retraining Staff vs. Re-staffing

Digital Transformation is all the buzz today. Yet it is incredibly valid and real. If a company doesn’t ensure they are skilled for the changes that are occurring within the markets then they will disappear eventually. Look no further than the transformation of Apple as an example.

For larger companies with a training infrastructure deployed retraining staff is a preferred method to acquiring the skills necessary to compete within these burgeoning markets.

Medium to small companies, while at a potential disadvantage, should consider retraining versus hiring.

Hiring has a productivity “penalty” in many cases. To integrate a new employee and achieve full productivity can take upward of 1 to even 2 years.

Reskilling existing employees is more time-effective and there is the added benefit of understanding the environment and expectations more clearly.

A company that develops its people and puts both the corporation and the individual in a better position to flourish and succeed will also engender some degree of loyalty and job satisfaction.

If a company doesn’t have the time required to “up-skill” rapidly the reality is hiring is the fastest way.

The savvy company will hire only those that are needed to get a program up and running and then shift to reskilling to maximize the existing employees.

In short, investing in your employees decreases turnover rate, lowers talent acquisition costs while also increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty.

4. Summary

With Digital Transformation hitting almost every company and a dearth of qualified and trained people organizations should be looking internally to reskill and grow their staff.

Employees are in a unique position to acquire new skills with a clearly defined vision that is tangible and will ensure professional growth and corporate longevity.

Laying out a program that allows for creativity and pushes collaboration and organizational growth is vital in transforming any company and individuals while also providing the tools for success for both.


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