Puppet State of DevOps Report 2021
The State of DevOps 2021 found that the benefits of this approach to building software are clear. Image: Puppet

The pay gap between men and women working on DevOps teams is slowly closing, according to a new survey from IT automation company Puppet. The State of DevOps Report 2021 found that women are steadily increasing their earning status across regions, roles and industries.

The survey included more than 2,600 technology professionals and found significant growth across high-income wage brackets. The research also shows that other countries are catching up to the U.S. in high salary pay.

Pew Research Center also found evidence of this gap closing, as long as the women workers in question are under 30 and live in a few cities in the U.S. Pew researchers analyzed Census Bureau data on pay and found that women under 30 earn the same amount as or more than their male counterparts in 22 of 250 U.S. metropolitan areas. However, the national picture shows that women in that same age group who work full-time, year-round earn about 93 cents on the dollar compared with men in the same age range.

Abby Kearns, chief technology officer at Puppet, said in a press release that it’s exciting to see more women increasingly enter higher income brackets, especially in DevOps, which has historically been male-dominated.

“The gradual decrease in a wage gap hopefully points to a long-term shift in pay equity,” she said.

SEE: DevOps: A cheat sheet

The study also found that:

  • More than double the number of women entered the $150,000-plus salary range than the year before: 17% in 2021 compared to 8% in 2020 and 10% in 2019.
  • In France, 45% of technology workers (managers and workers) earned $75,000-plus in 2021, compared to 38% in 2019.
  • Respondents working in financial services earned the highest salaries, followed by those working in healthcare and technology.

The Puppet research also found a connection between team salaries and the implementation of DevOps. Companies at a high level of DevOps evolution continue to compensate their employees at the highest level, with practitioner salaries doubling and manager salaries nearly tripling from 2020 to 2021, according to Puppet. The share of those earning more than $150,000 at high-evolution firms more than doubled to 20% in 2021 from 8% in 2020.

SEE: Infrastructure-as-code and automation are top trends in DevOps

Ronan Keenan, research director at Puppet, said the survey showed that platform engineers are the best-paid title amongst respondents for the second consecutive year.

“This year, for the first time, we asked respondents to identify not only with a job title, but with a team, given the rise in collaboration across the DevOps sector,” Keenan said.

state of DevOps evolution
Puppet analysts did a deep dive on companies that were in the middle phase of the DevOps evolution to understand blockers. Image: Puppet

DevOps at scale is the challenge

This way of working has been around long enough now that the approach has moved through the entire hype cycle, according to Puppet analysts. The problem for most companies is the difficulty in moving from the middle stage of the evolution to the highest stage. The report found that “the vast majority of organizations are stuck in the middle of the transition.” An ongoing challenge seems to be implementing DevOps successfully at scale:

“Organizations in the middle have achieved pockets of success—increased automation, more self-service available, etc.—yet these successes are often limited to a few teams, and thus fail to create meaningful organizational change. This can result in staff and leadership thinking their DevOps implementation has failed when in fact it’s simply facing new or more advanced hurdles.”

The survey found several significant and universal barriers to a successful implementation of DevOps practices at scale: lack of buy-in from executives, low momentum behind the effort and a separate DevOps team positioned between the development and operations groups.

SEE: The four main aspects of successful DevOps teams

Other barriers are specific to a company’s stage in the DevOps evolution. For teams with low levels of implementation the barriers are:

  • Organizational resistance to change: 31%
  • Legacy architecture: 28%
  • Shortage of skills: 23%
  • Limited or lack of automation: 20%
  • Unclear goals or objectives: 20%

For mid-evolution teams with higher levels of buy in and clearer objectives, the blockers are:

  • Shortage of skills: 33%
  • Legacy architecture: 29%
  • Organizational resistance to change: 21%
  • Limited or lack of automation: 19%

According to the report authors, this year’s survey shows that highly evolved organizations have discovered the patterns that work well for a fast flow of change. These tactics are related to the four fundamental topologies that inform DevOps strategies in general. These four fundamental team organizational plans are:

  • Stream-aligned team: Aligned to a flow of work from (usually) a segment of the
    business domain.
  • Enabling team: Helps a stream-aligned team to overcome obstacles. Also detects
    missing capabilities.
  • Complicated subsystem team: Where significant mathematics/calculation or hard-to-find niche technical expertise is needed full-time.
  • Platform team: A grouping of other team types that provide a compelling internal product to accelerate delivery by stream-aligned teams.

The report authors also noted that the most successful platform teams treat their platform as a product and “strive to create a compelling value proposition for application teams that is easier and more cost-effective than building their own solutions.”

Is DevOps Promoted or Resisted
The 2021 State of DevOps Report asked whether this way of working was actively promoted or discouraged among survey respondents. Image: Puppet

How to continue the DevOps evolution

The report authors did a deep dive on companies in the middle of the DevOps evolution to understand companies at the low, middle and high end of the middle stage. There are cultural and operational blockers. Developing a DevOps culture is still a work in progress for these mid-range companies. The biggest blockers for organizations toward the high end of the middle are:

  • Insufficient feedback loops: 18%
  • Unclear responsibilities: 18%
  • Failure to share best practices: 17%

At the lower end of mid-evolution, only 17% of organizations in this group said DevOps is actively promoted, while 35% describe DevOps as actively or passively resisted.

These same low-mid organizations report DevOps advancement is hindered by the fact that the company discourages risk. The authors recommend that teams and companies that want to implement DevOps more fully learn to love risk. Some leaders see frequent code releases as riskier, but the reality is that:

“…long, slow, infrequent, gated deployments are far riskier than small, frequent changes.
The result of all this is that those organizations that claim to be discouraging risk are actually following practices that increase risk, and many of their existing practices around risk management of infrequent deployments are simply risk management theater…”

To move to the high-end of DevOps implementation, the Puppet report authors recommend implementing change leadership at every level, revising the hiring process to bring in people with new ideas and finding ways to nudge new behavior every day via praise, recognition and challenges to behavior based on old ways of working.

Successfully using internal platforms is key to making the DevOps approach work, according to Puppet’s research. Image: Puppet

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