Speaking at the DevOps Enterprise Summit

A Preview

I’m honored to be speaking at the DevOps Enterprise Summit in San Francisco this November. My talk will be on “Influencing Higher Education to Create the Future DevOps Workforce”

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, our education system is a bit behind the curve in responding to digital transformation and underpinning practices such as Agile, DevOps, and Cloud.

Academics are paying attention. For the past 6 months I have been co-leading a team of 11 teaching faculty in Minnesota to develop a report on next-generation IT curricula. We also were fortunate to gain the support of a distinguished group of industry advisors, including Gene Kim (author of the Phoenix Project)  and Dr. Nicole Forsgren (CEO of DevOps Research and Assessment, lead investigator on the Puppet Labs State of DevOps reports, and former faculty member herself).

This report will be released in early November, and is entitled:

Renewing the IT Curriculum: Responding to Agile, DevOps, and Digital Transformation

From the report:

Digital transformation requires new approaches to curricula and instruction. New delivery approaches such as Agile development, Lean Product Management, Site Reliability Engineering, DevOps, and related trends require an updated educational response. A survey of educational and business professionals on workforce needs related to Agile, DevOps, and other topics inform this report, which identifies five competency areas IT, IS, and computing educators should consider in designing next-generation curricula:

  • Dynamic infrastructure and operations
  • Continuous delivery
  • Product management
  • Resource and execution management
  • Organization and culture

The report proposes a set of competencies and learning objectives based on current industry practice, extensively cited with over 100 references instructors can use in developing and adapting courses. The report will be sent out to hundreds of technology faculty across Minnesota and draft copies have already been requested by institutions around the world. It is, to my knowledge, the first systemic educational response to the new world of digital delivery.

Many questions

There of course have been many questions and concerns raised. Perhaps the biggest concern is that “technology moves too fast” and “academia shouldn’t be about just teaching the latest tool.” Speaking for the working group, we concur! But as the report notes, “we are not faced today with merely another ephemeral technology cycle. Rather, we are experiencing a generational change in foundational models of IT-related delivery and execution, in response to accelerating digital transformation.” The Agile movement’s roots go back decades. But it’s only in recent years that its principles and approaches have clearly emerged as dominant. There still is a lot of waterfall being taught.

There are good and bad reasons for this lag. Change is expensive, and, speaking as a teaching faculty member, we can’t radically restructure our courses every semester and still give good service to our students. So academia will always be behind industry. However, there is a difference between moving at the same speed, a few miles back, versus moving more slowly and falling further and further behind. The problem today is that the gap is increasing. Academia has not had a complete understanding of the interrelated changes to the digital economy. It’s no longer enough to teach a little Agile as part of project management courses. We’re trying to fix that.

Ready for feedback

One of the report’s component’s I’m particularly excited about is the section on virtual labs and simulations. As I’m fond of pointing out to my colleagues, “You can emulate systems today with free virtualization software that would have required millions of dollars in capital just 10 years ago.” I can run an 8-VM continuous delivery pipeline on a laptop (and have one up on Github for anyone to use). With containers, you can achieve orders of magnitude more. It’s amazing what we can do nowadays. Now we just need to start putting it together a little better for our students.

I’ll be presenting the report to the DevOps Enterprise Summit on November 9. We’re considering this a first draft, and want to get lots of industry feedback for a revised version to go out in April – in time to inform fall 2017 course design. We’d love to hear your opinions!


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Charles Betz

Charles Betz

Charlie Betz has 20 years of IT practitioner experience, including 6 years at Wells Fargo as Senior Enterprise Architect/VP for IT Portfolio and Systems Management. His current research applies Lean thinking to the IT management problems of the largest enterprises. He is author of the recent 2nd edition of Architecture and Patterns for IT.