IT training probably started becoming a challenge as soon as Alan Turing sat down to give birth to modern computing in the 1930’s. The speed of change in the world of technology and associated best practices gets ever faster. That presents those of us in the education game with new conundrums on a seemingly on-going basis. It is not unusual to find that by the time a course has been developed, much of the information can be heading towards obsolete. The advent of DevOps, Cloud and Agile has brought a rate of change that is frankly on steroids!
Many organisations understandably race head long into filling the technology skill gaps. Those gaps are easy to address with vendor courses and can’t really be circumvented in the way process or cultural alignment often are. That leaves those all-important process and soft skills often lagging behind. In many ways, DevOps magnifies this problem. Skills with the tool chains is proprietary and largely aligns to the technology components of your release engine, rather than providing a more rounded education in the adoption of DevOps practices.
A look back through the recent history of the DevOps movement provides some clues to the reasons for the dearth of rounded DevOps education. The sceptics argued that DevOps was never a viable proposition in the boardroom whilst those practicing it struggled to define what it was. Something that wasn’t written down was ‘just too darn risky’. Ironic really considering that Bohemian nature was its very attraction to many. As DevOps has continued to gain traction then its codification has been the price the purists have had to pay to breach the corporate mainstream threshold. As a result, the documentation of these best practices has formed a formidable force. As ever, better training based on these best practices will lead to more consistent results. That education will be evidenced by changing practices, culture shift, cold hard metrics such as “Time to Value”, and of course certifications.
The rise to being an A-lister means DevOps training must now focus on both “what” and “how” to achieve it. Therein lies an issue as a great portion of DevOps adoption is about cultural transformation and solid repeatable processes that can be automated over time. Yes, it’s supported by technology but DevOps adoption is heavily reliant on many of the very disciplines some suggest it is to replace (ITIL anybody?). In fact, many of the DevOps movement’s leading luminaries point to the fusion of best practices as the way forward. Gene Kim (he of “The Phoenix Project” fame) said “…every time I’ll argue that ITSM skill sets are ever more important in a world where there is an ever quickening business tempo.” For me, it’s unthinkable that training would not incorporate that mix.
It is only since the beginning of 2016 that we’ve seen an alternative to YouTube and the do-it-yourself approach to a more comprehensive DevOps education. To us at Global Knowledge, an approach like DevOps that is all about culture, learning and collaboration must be taught using those very same principles. We really like how Lancope CTO TK Keanini summed it up, “DevOps is much more like a team sport or a band—while individuals can learn their instrument and their part, it is the team play and the day in and day out concerted efforts that makes DevOps successful.” To encourage the collaboration that the DevOps approach espouses we’d argue that individual or digital learning must be combined with team sessions.
For the purpose of this study we will set the toolchain technology training to one side being that it is very well catered for by the vendor community. That leaves us with what DevOps is, its practices and how this new collaboration paradigm can be achieved. We are going to add one more variable that discussions with our customers raised – retained knowledge. Pete Vorenkamp, Global Knowledge’s Product Director for IoT and Cloud, came back from customer visits with a challenge. Pete told us, “Customers were asking about their on-going investments in ITIL? Surely, it was still relevant to release pipelines, managing changes, configuration management and the like?”. It presented us with a number of questions; Can we retain ITIL thinking anywhere? What needs to change? How can we make guys wedded to ITIL and those who barely tolerate it come together? Thanks, Pete. Easy task.
Subsequent discussions and research led to the birth of a new, challenge based course, “Adopting DevOps in an ITIL Environment”. The aim of the course is to take an organisation from understanding “Why DevOps?”; through choosing the first value stream to work with; then on past putting the team in place; culminating in considering the future after that first pilot. There are three twists in this tale. First, exploring where retained ITIL and ITSM knowledge is going to be crucial (Start where you are). Second is the challenge-based nature of the course where the tutor acts to guide you to solving the problems of our case study based on development of software in a B2C, IoT environment (Learning culture). Third and last is that the adoption follows the high level Service Improvement Approach; What is the Vision? Where are we now?, etc. There is a fusion of concepts contained in the course that should immediately recognisable to both Dev and Ops communities.
Ideally, a candidate would have some rudimentary knowledge of DevOps, Agile or ITIL. Knowledge of the application lifecycle, application support or release management might help. Would you really be considering people to adopt DevOps practices who didn’t have some of this base knowledge anyway? With the course aimed at those in your organisation that might be adopting DevOps practices we believe the pre-requisites will be easily met. Any of the courses or knowledge below could be considered as good prep.
We believe combining the courses above with tooling training and instruction in your own proprietary approach starts the ball rolling. Your DevOps evangelists and Agile coaches than take over with on the job coaching and mentoring. An ideal holistic combination for success.
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