DevOps: The New Outsourcing

Author: Steve Shah

DevOps will change the way CIOs hire and IT pros thrive. Embrace it or get swept aside.

Pay attention, IT. DevOps will drive the first major transformation in staffing since outsourcing swept the industry a decade ago. In the years ahead, we’re going to get more done with fewer people than ever, and the positions that remain won’t look much like the type many of us are doing today. If you want one of those jobs to be yours, you’d better get on the right side of history.

We all know how outsourcing has played out. In the name of efficiency we sliced out non-strategic parts of core IT and farmed them out to other companies, whether offshore or domestic. CIOs loved it because of the budgetary benefits. Meanwhile, it sparked a thousand conversations about what outsourcing meant for IT, the US economy, individual careers, and the relationship between people and businesses.

But it turned out that we took outsourcing too far. It makes sense for some functions, but it can also mean losing control over management, quality, and security, among other things. Now we’re seeing a lot of those big contracts being pulled back, and the word of the day is insourcing.

Insourcing is great news for domestic IT staffers, right? More jobs to go around, bigger budgets for in-house IT — everybody wins! Not so fast. Concurrent with the move away from outsourcing, we’re seeing another trend with even bigger implications for staffing: DevOps.

The automation of IT
Until now, innovations like SDN and the cloud have had more of an impact on our systems than on the people who run them. Given that staffing accounts for most of the CIO’s budget, we’ve also been waiting to see the full financial impact of the transformation of IT.

As IT shifts from nuts-and-bolts maintenance and manual processes to virtualization, automation, and IT-as-a-service, different skills are moving to the forefront. Yes, work is being brought back in-house, but it’s coming back in a different form, and different people will be doing it.

We no longer need to carry dozens of people just to keep servers running, make changes, or understand what’s happening in the network. Instead, we need just a few people with a higher-level understanding of business needs and the insight to convert ideas into automation scripts.

“DevOps Ninja” is quickly becoming a cliché, but there’s some truth behind it. This is one more reason CIOs should love DevOps. Instead of increasing headcount to get more done, you just change the kind of people you’re hiring — and you can hire far fewer of them.

The news is more mixed for rank-and-file IT. If you can reinvent yourself as a DevOps pro, you can move up the stack, provide more value for the business, and thrive in the new IT. But if you keep trying to get by on basic certifications, you may well find yourself out of the picture. Automate or be automated — that’s the career imperative for IT professionals at every level.

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