Defeating the irrational DevOps jobs displacement fear

People are generally resistant to change, but when that change comes accompanied with the whiff of potential for job loss down the road you can count on gentle inertia to snowball in to out-and-out opposition.

Unfortunately, as early misperceptions swirl around the DevOps philosophy, many in the ops world have gotten their backs up in fear that the automation that’s tied to DevOps will endanger their jobs.

“I think it’s almost impossible to overstate the amount of angst that  DevOps creates in operations,” says Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project. “The big fear  in operations is that in order to get to lead times not in months, not to weeks, but to days, you can’t be  manually configuring servers, you can’t be manually reviewing things all of the time.  And so there’s a deeply held fear that these configuration management tools are going to automate everyone’s job away.”

Now, to the degree that some within IT operations ranks rely solely on large vendors to set the course of their career track, maybe there’s some jeopardy there, Kim says, but competent and capable ops staff needn’t fear the automation reaper.

“It’s a reasonable fear, but it is ridiculous at  the same time because we all have so much more work that we could get done if we had the time,” agrees David Mortman chief security architect and distinguished engineer for Dell Enstratius. “Doing things manually is negative value for most organizations.”

And that negative value is having a direct impact on how IT services the business. In the mind of Shridhar Mittal, general manager of application delivery for CA Technologies, one of the big DevOps value propositions is that it helps IT from CIO on down to finally start to meet the pent up demand that the business has been clamoring for from the IT department.

“I’ve yet to see a CIO tell me that they have more supply than demand. Why do you think the business is heading out to directly work with cloud vendors and doing their own thing? It’s not because the IT said no so that 10 people could sit on the sidelines,” he says. “It’s because these projects are added onto the list of 1,500 other things they got asked to do at once.”

Mittal says that CIOs who are gung-ho for DevOps should be proactive about potential resistance from the trenches. This starts with open communication.

“The first thing is start to educate staff that this isn’t about eliminating jobs it is about reducing that gap between demand and supply,” he says.

And as IT leaders do garner more buy in, both they and operations staff will find that these workers actually become more indispensible rather than expendable through automation. DevOps allows workers that might have seemed lackluster to shine as rock stars because they’re more frequently doing higher value work.

“Once you get rid of the garbage work or manual work, which is very time consuming and error-prone, you’re going to find that your engineering team is allowed to perform better,” says Nick Galbreath, vice president of engineering at IPONWEB.

About the author  ⁄ Ericka Chickowski

An award-winning freelance writer, Ericka Chickowski covers information technology and business innovation. Her perspectives on business and technology have appeared in dozens of trade and consumer magazines, including Entrepreneur, Consumers Digest, Channel Insider, CIO Insight, Dark Reading and InformationWeek. She's made it her specialty to explain in plain English how technology trends affect real people.