Factors Affecting DevOps Engineer Staffing Levels

September, 2023

DevOps is a natural extension of agile development into the deployment and operational phases of the system life cycle. It promises to optimize application development and maintenance processes, improving software quality and reducing development time and cost. Yet, despite the trend toward DevOps, DevOps engineers are a small percentage of the total IT staff in enterprise IT organizations.

As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, DevOps Engineer Staffing Ratios, the DevOps engineer staffing ratio as a percentage of total IT staff is currently 3.4%, a slight increase from the previous year.

DevOps Enginer Staffing Ratios  1030x687 - Factors Affecting DevOps Engineer Staffing Levels

If DevOps is the way of the future, why is the staffing ratio so low? The first reason is definitional. Our definition of DevOps engineers refers to individuals who establish and maintain DevOps tools and processes along with various development, test, and production environments. It does not include software developers who merely use these tools. So, even in an IT organization where there is heavy software development, only a small percentage will be focused on setting up and maintaining the DevOps tooling and infrastructure.

Next, if an organization uses mostly off-the-shelf software, it is not economical to have a large number of development personnel, let alone DevOps engineers.

Additionally, it is difficult to fully apply DevOps principles with legacy systems and technologies, which are common in large companies. In legacy environments, teams often function in silos, and collaboration is at a minimum. It is not surprising that the staffing for DevOps engineers is quite low, as organizations may not have the need for DevOps engineers due to their business focus, types of software adopted, and systems and technologies that do not lend themselves to DevOps.

Even though staffing for DevOps engineers may be a small percentage, they are hugely influential in their role. The DevOps methodology is innovative because of the collaborative energies and practices that bring people and tools together to ensure an effortless and continuous work product that delivers value efficiently, rapidly, and of the greatest quality. Therefore, in this digital era, digital transformation is not only affecting business structures but also the ways in which businesses approach their product offerings. There is now a transition from a product-oriented to a customer-centric development model. With a customer-centric model, the focus is speed, quality, and personalization. A DevOps team is key to executing such a model, and DevOps engineers play a key role.

The trend toward DevOps is also accelerated by the trend for workloads to move to the cloud. This shift has been underway for the past two decades, and it is not yet complete as systems move to a truly cloud-native architecture. For organizations to fully benefit from such transformation, the DevOps approach is needed to support rapid development and deployment. Traditional, on-premises systems might go months or even years between new releases. With cloud-native systems, changes are applied daily or even continuously. Only a DevOps approach can achieve this level of continuous integration/continuous delivery needed for cloud-native systems.

“We do not see staffing for DevOps engineers greatly increasing among end-user organizations,” said Reneece Sterling, research analyst for Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “There is a much greater need for this job position among organizations that develop software as part of their product or services to customers.”

The full report provides metrics for benchmarking DevOps engineer staffing levels in the current environment. We provide three benchmarks by organization size and sector: DevOps engineering staff as a percentage of the IT staff, users per DevOps engineer, and applications per DevOps engineer. We conclude with recommendations on optimizing DevOps engineer staffing levels.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, DevOps Engineer Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for subscribers, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).