How to Combine Developer Skills and Automation to Achieve DevOps Success

August 10, 2021

Adopting DevOps practices opens up a wide range of new possibilities to improve software development from human resources to tools. In that respect, developer skills and automation are some of the key areas where significant gains can be made.

In this article, we’ll explore these aspects in detail and shed light on how the relationship between developer skills and automation can impact DevOps success.

Valuing Developer Skills and Automation

In a DevOps setting, developers play a crucial role in a number of ways. First, they help translate the desired software solution into actual instructions that will be executed by a computer. This code is more or less what’s under the hood of the car.

Occasionally, developers have to work on the visual elements of the software that users will interact with. Therefore, they aren’t always restricted to building the functionality. They are often involved in designing the user interface and orchestrating the overall user experience.

Developers also help when it comes to the technical side of streamlining work processes. During the course of developing a software product, team members often need other digital tools for various purposes. These usually include communication, reporting and analytics, data storage, and querying and sharing, among many other uses.

While there are many off-the-shelf options, sometimes an organization may opt to build their own or customize an existing one. This happens for a number of reasons such as having a unique mode of working within the team, a desire to keep sensitive information protected or to simplify tool building, etc.

Essentially, developers also create or modify tools used in the production of software. Slack, the popular business communication platform is a good example.

Automation can also be important in a DevOps setting. It helps relieve team members of the more mundane tasks, allowing them to reallocate that time to more creative efforts. Automation also enables organizations to save resources and create value faster when tasks are delegated to computers.

Automation is known to eliminate human error, creating a little more predictability, especially regarding uncertainty in task durations. This makes it valuable when it comes to planning, gauging the time it will take to complete a specific task, and the resources needed.

    How to Harness Developer Skills for Increased DevOps Success

    For many developers, involving themselves in numerous projects leaves them with tremendous experience, building confidence in their skillset. However, once an organization takes the DevOps route, there will be multiple ways in which a developer can improve their abilities and realize unprecedented success. Let’s lay out a few of these developer skills:

    Coherent Coding

    When working on smaller, straightforward projects, a lone developer may write their code in a way that works for them. But in a DevOps setting, different disciplines become more intertwined, and you often have more than one person interacting with or weighing in on work product. Additionally, there might be alterations in the flow of various exercises such as testing and gathering feedback.

    This creates a greater need for cleaner code that is easier to comprehend, test, and reuse. It helps to have clear boundaries within your work, such as dedicating a single function to a specific goal/action. You should also endeavor to name every piece that needs naming, with a title that is related to the subject of that piece of code.

    Such efforts can be enhanced through the use of analysis tools like SonarQube, which automatically performs continuous inspections for bugs, security vulnerabilities, and even code smells.

    Seeking Assistance

    To keep improving as a developer, it is imperative to have sufficient awareness. You should be able to look at what you’re trying to achieve, measure how long it’s taking you, and be honest if you’re facing unique challenges.

    If that happens to be the case, be humble and approach the right people or sources for help. Such actions can help free you from delays and feeling overwhelmed, and can also come with a few valuable lessons. It doesn’t matter if you’ve tried out someone else’s products and have issues with them or don’t like their approach. If there’s something they’ve managed to do that you’re still struggling with, ask them for help.

    In the case of internal help, a developer can make use of advanced document review platforms that combine both source code and document review such as SmartBear’s Collaborator. By doing so, they can benefit from a standardized review and verification process, where seniors and other colleagues point out potential problems, be it buffer overflows, memory leaks, or scalability issues.

    Some of these platforms can also log and automatically report on metrics such as defect density in the lines of code reviewed. This increases the chances of catching some issues you could have missed in an entirely manual sweep.

    Business Orientation

    Software development isn’t entirely technical. There are many fast-functioning software products on the market that are stable and secure, but lack mass acclaim and sales. All people have to say about them is that they are okay or can do the job.

    This is what can happen when you’re primarily focused on having bug/error-free code. When writing code, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of a business executive momentarily. Ask yourself whether your code will need extra work to run at a very large scale. How heavy will it be? What are the installation needs? How many separate pieces must a user download?

    Think about the look and feel of what you’re designing and the overall user experience. Are you building the product in such a way that it will work better on desktop than on mobile? Is there a chance that most users will fall into different groups and lack consensus when it comes to the product’s performance?

    A great developer thinks beyond their immediate role within the team and dares to believe that their contribution can impact the commercial success of the project in multiple ways. They can also do a better job at explaining why coding in a certain manner or direction can benefit the business.

    Open-mindedness

    With DevOps, there can be a mix of methodologies, or even tweaks to a specific method, creating hybrid methodologies. This mentality and its results can manifest in testing schedules, application of particular tools, languages, frameworks, meetings and collaboration, and many other areas.

    As a developer trying to improve, you should keep an open mind when going about your work. For instance, the advent of digital transformation could convert what was once a face-to-face walkthrough of code into a video conference with screen sharing.

    In other cases, tests that were previously done manually may become automated. If this requires you to submit your work in a different format or with additional information, do not be rebellious. Focus on how the new approach can be helpful to you and what you can do to make sure it all works smoothly. An excellent developer should gradually establish a blueprint of how to adapt to a new way of working.

    Prioritization

    A solid developer needs to learn how to absorb large amounts of information and ascertain the top priority. They should then zero in on the immediate goal and avoid being distracted by other possibilities.

    If the adoption of a specific tool or practice isn’t going to produce a significant increase in performance, ignore it. New technologies can be captivating, often making developers try them out abruptly.

    This mentality of doing things simply because they make you look sophisticated and forward-thinking can be detrimental to productivity. There’s always a learning curve and possible errors that can slow down the project. If you veer off course momentarily, you need to make sure that you have prepared for such sudden moves.

    How Developer Skills Can Complement Automation

    By following the principles above, a DevOps team can end up in a better position to maximize automation. For instance:

    • Automation is often more successful with developers who have a wider skill-set and language proficiency. This can include the use of Gherkin syntax in BBD-style user acceptance test automation, and A/B testing for automated feature testing and deployment. This skillset can also extend to setting up automated creation of environments, and CI/CD capabilities to build pipelines.
    • A developer who is business-oriented should get acquainted with the business philosophy/model at hand. Once they are conversant with the way in which the organization intends to make a particular software product profitable, they can then gauge the viability of RPA within a project. The developer can identify which processes will benefit from RPA, and probably offer more insight on how to realize a decent ROI on the effort.
    • RPA also requires solid process mapping skills. This is where a developer with exceptional focus and persistence in problem-solving flourishes. Such a developer will be able to deconstruct processes and zoom in on the smallest parts to understand the logic behind the operation of the entire unit. A developer can center their attention on tools like process mining software that are relevant to such a task. Consequently, they’ll discover jams within logs and ensure that the subsequent automation-driven solutions are targeted and appropriate.

    There are many other technical aspects of implementing automation that refining developer skills can enhance. These include updating bots as part of technical change management, API integrations, and data analysis regarding transforming data sets and process information into unified rules.

    These are some of the areas where developers with an agile mindset thrive the most since they are always ready to learn quickly and respond to new challenges.

    Conclusion

    At first glance, the relationship between developer skills and automation may not be that obvious. Many people might look at automation as the answer to imperfections in team members, developers included. But upon further examination, we get to see how automation is ushered into an organization and implemented within a specific project.

    It is here that we discover how hard it is to get it right without a squad of sharp and ever-evolving developers. As developers continuously rise to the challenges and opportunities within DevOps, they can naturally gravitate toward automation as a solution in certain cases.

    Therefore, to achieve DevOps success, it is important to fully understand the benefits and limitations of automation, while also doing the same for developers. Eventually, you’ll find effective ways to link the two.

    Søren Pedersen

    Co-founder of Buildingbettersoftware and Agile Leadership Coach

    Søren Pedersen is a strategic leadership consultant and international speaker. With more than fifteen years of software development experience at LEGO, Bang & Olufsen, and Systematic, Pedersen knows how to help clients meet their digital transformation goals by obtaining organizational efficiency, alignment, and quality assurance across organizational hierarchies and value chains. Using Agile methodologies, he specializes in value stream conversion, leadership coaching, and transformation project analysis and execution. He’s spoken at DevOps London, is a contributor for The DevOps Institute, and is a Certified Scrum Master and Product Owner.

    You can find more of his writing at https://agilerasmus.com/wordpress/

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