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The pandemic is not going to go away soon. We have also proven that the new way of working is going well. The pandemic has already sapped away funds from the IT organizations worldwide. There is a reduction in salary as well as layoffs. We are also seeing companies putting resources on only the projects which are most critical.

As per my understanding, we need to keep certain points in mind to sustain and grow in the post-pandemic situation.

  • Decentralized Work

First of all, we will see Work from Home a new normal. There will be a lot of decentralized work. What does this mean for the individuals? The individuals need to be a team player and have good communication skills. Now “Collaboration” is the name of the game and people will not be in the same place that you can walk to and have a discussion. People need to be used to distance discussions, explaining over collaboration tools like Slack. It is also necessary to have a “Full Stack Team”. Full Stack does not mean one single person having all skills. It is about the whole team that has all the capabilities and empowerment required to change and maintain the application(s). This also means that people need to have a holistic view of the applications and the IT landscape. This also means that more refactoring required to make the systems more loosely coupled.

  • Sharing knowledge.

“Sharing” is the next important thing. There is a need for sharing knowledge and that means a strong Knowledge Management System which is updated and accessible. Sharing also means, sharing the work and that happens when there is a Psychological Safety and there is a common shared objective. This not only involves the IT team but everyone across the organization, cutting across silos. There need to be at least Pi-shaped skills and not just T-shaped skills. People need to accept that they need to keep upskilling and cross-skilling.

  • Security enablement.

The next very important point aspect is Security. Working from Home will need different security enablement. First of all, DevSecOps will be mandatory and not optional. Security is everyone’s responsibility. There will be a need for a lot more Security related logging and monitoring. There will be a need for people to understand and organizations to enable security processes and technology to have a safer work environment from home and in a decentralized way. People need to be aware of the secure work ethics like never having anything related to work displayed at the back of the person while in a conference call, having a strong password for a home router, better still to have good VPN, and with at least 2-factor authentication. People should always lock the screen and ensure no one, even kids are able to access the laptop when the person is not in front of the laptop.

There is a need to have the tools that are used in the CI/CD pipeline are the ones that provide the most secure working environment. The tools should be secure, there should be more focus on security-related testing and mostly automated testing. This skillset is required for the team.

  • Implement DevOps and SRE.

The new way of working will need to implement DevOps and SRE. This is not about tools only. We will need to have a lot of automation to deliver faster. However, the understanding of the DevOps Values – CALMS (Culture, Automation, Lean, Measurement, and Sharing) and the SRE concepts of using the Design and Build approach to Operations and Networking and Security, instead of Operate and Maintain approach, Chaos Engineering, Fire Drills, etc., are going to be crucial to surviving.

Remember that everything will not be Agile as it is not today too. There will be a need for the Waterfall model of working to go on too. There will be a lot of movement from the traditional Data Centers to the Cloud. We need to be very clear, if that is really necessary and how it helps the business. We can use the Cynefin framework to analyze the complexity and then decide. Also, we need to acknowledge that the cloud does not mean only Public Cloud, we can have a Private Cloud too. We need to forget any specific framework and take what is needed and relevant for doing our work better from different frameworks, rather than sticking to any specific framework. This is where DevOps helps. We need to also look at Cloud Security aspects and starting from design, throughout the lifecycle, Security needs to play a very important role. We will need the Security, Governance, Risk, and Compliance experts to come as Trusted Advisors to the teams. The team structure needs to change and take something similar to Spotify’s Squad model, by whatever name is called.

  • Prioritization.

The next point is about “Prioritization”. As we see that there will be a shortage of funds, organizations will be spending on the most critical ones. This will lead to lesser projects and the best option for them will be to move to Continuous Funding. Funding only for certain specific capabilities or specific work that needs to be done in a few sprints within a month or two. We have already started seeing that organizations are not rolling out RFPs and RFIs. They are asking people to come and compete to solve a business problem. Whoever gives the best working solution gets paid. This will extend more and more. Hence, we need to be prepared for this and that means putting the best resources for the work if we want to get paid.

As individuals, managers, and leaders, we need to learn to prioritize and expect that everything is not required and cannot be done. The #WFH scenario also needs people to accept that there is no 9 to 5 working. People have to now also manage home-related work being at home. Now others are also at home.

  • Experimentation and Learning.

The next important point is about the “Experimentation and Learning”. We need to change our way of working. We cannot continue to do what we were doing and survive. This is possible only when we experiment and keep learning. We need to invest and plan for learning and experimentation. “Dojo” or by whatever name it is called, we need to have the facility, tools, infrastructure, SME time, Coach time available where teams can come and prove or disprove a hypothesis, which is related to a business problem. We will get into Hypothesis based experimentation. The Coaches need to know the whole concept of DevOps and SRE with experience of Development and exposure to Operations or vice-versa. Only knowing the Agile Framework is not going to be “good enough”.

  • Common shared objectives aligned with the company’s objectives.

Finally, there needs to be a common shared objective, aligning with the organization’s objectives. Everyone is delivering in the team and not as individuals and their performance evaluation also being team-based / outcome-based and not individual / deliverable-based. Planning for unplanned work is mandatory. Empathy is going to be a key spice for success.

Get prepared for this as Leaders, Managers, Team Members, Developers, Testers, Operations Engineers, Network Engineers, Database Administrators, SMEs, SREs, Tools Specials, Coaches, Security, and GRC experts look for the change. Learn and get updated to survive and succeed!

~ Dr. Niladri Choudhuri

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