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Weave DevOps continuous learning into a CI/CD toolchain

DevOps shops can bake training materials into CI/CD workflows to ensure IT and development staff constantly advance their skills -- but be sure to keep those materials up to date.

As the rapid proliferation of DevOps tools strains traditional corporate training resources, organizations seek new ways to keep IT skill sets up to date.

Self-learning is key to the professional sanity and advancement of IT professionals -- including those on DevOps teams. Embedded trainings within DevOps toolchains is one way to accelerate developer and IT admin onboarding, especially while expanding toolsets to accommodate new requirements. As part of this trend, analyst firm Forrester predicts that continuous training will become part of CI/CD toolchains in 2020.

The aim of DevOps continuous learning isn't to embed full training classes into a toolchain, but to offer just-in-time training materials, in the form of short instructional videos or written aids to introduce new tools and features to DevOps teams.

Explore training options

Evaluate three primary options to integrate DevOps training materials into a CI/CD toolchain: third-party platforms, CI/CD vendors and in-house content.

Third-party training platforms

First, find an online training platform -- such as Cloud Guru, which acquired Linux Academy; LinkedIn Learning; Pluralsight; and Cloud Academy -- that offers the DevOps and tools courses best suited to your team.

Then, purchase the appropriate licensing for your team and toolchain and carefully read the training provider's fine print. Toolchain integration won't work with individual memberships. Talk to the training provider about plans to integrate courses into a DevOps toolchain, and ask, if needed, for guidance from an account executive or customer success team. Most major online training providers also have well-documented APIs as part of their enterprise offerings.

If a third-party services firm built the toolchain, work together to integrate the training -- otherwise, integration becomes a project for in-house developers. Either way, include developers in the process, from training selection through development and testing; developer input is a must to integrate training into a toolchain.

CI/CD vendors

Vendor-developed courses -- something with which many IT pros are already familiar -- are another way to enable DevOps continuous learning.

Perform outreach to ensure training resources resonate with the team.

There are a few ways to fold vendor training into a toolchain. For example, Clubhouse -- a startup competitor to Atlassian Jira -- offers webinars and other training resources directly on its website that guide users through the basics of the tool. While many vendors offer training and product documentation online, be sure to plan out linking and integration strategies to fold these resources into the CI/CD toolchain as seamlessly as possible, especially if the content is password-protected.

In-house content

Enterprises can also integrate their own training content, developed in-house, into a toolchain. Any learning management system (LMS), for example, likely offers API-based integration options. Even without an LMS, it's possible to introduce training content via Atlassian Confluence -- a common component in DevOps toolchains. For example, use Confluence to set up a training workspace, in which you can publish training content and link to it from the toolchain. The tool also offers a feature called space blueprints, or templates to create knowledgebase and documentation pages that IT teams can then customize. It's possible to add video content via the Confluence Widget Connector macro.

Confluence lets developers and IT admins leave comments about training content, as well; they can even edit that content with certain permissions.

If Atlassian tools aren't part of the toolchain, there are other options to publish in-house training content. There's a wiki, for example, inside Microsoft Teams.

Maintain training

Regardless of the source of CI/CD training content, this content must be maintained. For example, the integration of a third-party training platform requires up-to-date APIs. In other cases, a training provider might be acquired, which prompts other changes.

Be sure to keep in-house-developed content current. This might be a task to assign to a specific DevOps team member, or one for a dedicated technical writer. When a user finds outdated content, it encourages others to just skip over the training content in the future.

In addition, perform outreach to ensure training resources resonate with the team. One of the goals of DevOps itself is to gain immediate feedback; apply that same line-of-thinking to DevOps continuous learning.

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