It’s no secret that great engineers are difficult to find. As technology disciplines become increasingly siloed and advances continue at a rapid pace, talent acquisition is likely to remain challenging. From an engineer’s perspective, mastery is always temporary and learning emerging technologies is laborious. Meanwhile, business demands are pushing those same engineers to provide ever greater levels of service quality. Customers expect an interaction that is frictionless, secure, and rapid: an expectation that can only be met with the latest technologies. These demands require an ample supply of highly qualified engineers that are increasingly more difficult to find. In light of these factors, we must accomplish more with our existing teams by abandoning legacy methods of management and embracing new and exciting solutions which maximize our productivity. Let’s consider these difficulties and explore potential solutions.
Talent acquisition challenges continue to impede productivity growth. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that we can anticipate a mere 3% growth in the quantity of Network and Computer systems administrators over the next decade. A recent Network Management Megatrends study reports that only 12.5% of enterprises believe that it is very easy to hire and retain skilled network professionals. Additionally, individual network engineers must be trained in the specific technologies within the domain of networking. With dozens of vendors offering an array of devices and technologies to support our environments, it’s simply no longer possible to find generalists versed in every aspect of our environment, further constraining supply.
Furthermore, the pandemic ushered in a new era of complexity. A full 58% of Americans report that they have the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week, accelerating the trend toward centralized cloud technologies to facilitate this new paradigm. Additionally, the number of devices connected to our environments will continue to climb exponentially to 27 billion devices by 2025. In the not-so-distant past, employees connected to services using a single workstation. In the modern era, we’ve seen a shift toward connecting even the most unlikely of devices, from cell phones to tablets, watches and e-readers to rudimentary devices like doorbells, lightbulbs, and coffee makers. All of these devices must be connected in a secure and accessible manner. Furthermore, the sensitivity of the information transferred on our networks extends beyond business records into the deeply personal lives of the users we support. Users place an enormous amount of trust in the ability of our teams to keep their information secure.
In order to meet these expectations, we must adopt a new mindset that embraces automation as a means to supercharge our productivity by executing mundane and repetitive tasks with minimal human intervention. This permits us to focus our energy on higher-order business goals. This reorientation starts with a cultural shift: we must embrace automation and NetDevOps technologies at the forefront of our operational model. Network automation strategy starts with understanding the workflows and operations of your organization in detail—not by picking a tool before understanding workflows and processes. Set about documenting your workflows of high frequency and low complexity to ensure that your initial efforts are well facilitated and fruitful. Additionally, we must focus on developing our skill sets with high intention by providing training initiatives which familiarize our team with the programming languages, tools, and NetDevOps development processes. We must encourage them to let go of outdated legacy methods and embrace a data-centric approach that centers a Source of Truth as the foundation of network automation. We must do this while adopting a growth mindset that it’s possible to develop ourselves and our team through consistent effort. Finally, we must leverage self-service portals to make technology accessible to non-technical users to ease the burdens of technical staff.
Firms will also want to define metrics that can be used to track progress. Consider metrics such as the quantity of automations initiated and the estimated amount of time saved. These metrics provide real quantifications that reflect progress to both management and our team. Continue tracking traditional metrics such as mean time to resolve and customer satisfaction. These metrics will see considerable improvement as automations deliver outcomes more quickly and reliably than their human counterparts.
By accepting an operating paradigm of adoption and growth, we can exceed the expectations of our customers and pursue business initiatives with renewed vigor. We encourage our peers throughout industry to explore the Nautobot open source platform and the plethora of solutions provided free of charge by Network to Code as a means to accelerate your journey.