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Survey Surprises: AI, Cloud Forcing DevSecOps to Rethink Investment Priorities

By Taylor McCaslin is AI/ML Product Lead for GitLab

As organizations adopt new technologies such as AI, they're reevaluating investment priorities and looking more critically at how they can improve the developer experience, according to the results of this year's GitLab survey of more than 5,000 DevSecOps professionals worldwide. Let's look at three surprising results from this year's responses and what they may mean for software development, operations, and security teams.

1. AI shines a light on cumbersome toolchains

This year, the survey examined how AI might impact DevSecOps teams' attitudes toward their existing toolchains. The findings were unexpected: While AI can help teams simplify software development, respondents currently using AI might be more frustrated with their toolchains than those not using AI.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents whose organizations currently use AI for software development said they wanted to consolidate their toolchain, compared to just 57% of those who aren't using AI. However, there wasn't a significant difference between the two groups in the number of tools they reported using.

Why would AI accelerate the desire to consolidate? One explanation could be that different point solutions running different AI models create unmanageable (and unmeasurable) chaos in the software development lifecycle - and that is shedding new light on organizations' already cumbersome toolchains. As organizations increase their AI investments, there will be a greater need to improve efficiency by consolidating and simplifying toolchain sprawl. Teams get more value from AI when toolchains are smaller, making integrating AI across the entire software development lifecycle easier.

One survey respondent identified "too many tools (including AI tools) and context switching" as the biggest challenges in software development in 2024, while another pointed to the "complexity of the fragmented landscape of tools across the board."

Another respondent highlighted AI's opportunities to help teams address toolchain challenges, noting, "AI is growing fast, and our current toolchain can be massively improved with AI integrations. We need to train team members better so they know how to use AI effectively in their daily work."

2. AI speeds up developer onboarding - but individuals and organizations still have concerns

Along with the increase in the number of tools teams use, the survey noted a significant increase in developer onboarding times. In 2024, 70% of respondents said it takes developers more than a month to onboard and become productive in their organization, up from 66% in 2023.

While it's not surprising that AI-powered chat assistants and code suggestions can help developers onboard faster, the effect observed in the survey was dramatic: Respondents who use AI for software development (43%) were much more likely to say that developer onboarding typically takes less than a month compared to those not using AI (20%).

Despite AI's clear benefits for developer experience, respondents expressed several concerns about its rapid adoption. Over half (55%) of respondents said introducing AI into the software development lifecycle is risky, and 49% said they fear AI will replace their current role within the next five years.

According to Rachel Stephens, senior analyst at RedMonk, a component of psychological safety and team culture impacts how people feel about AI. "Individuals may be concerned about the security or privacy implications of AI," she noted, "but their sense of unpreparedness may also stem from a feeling that AI has personal risk to their livelihoods."

The value of AI lies in its ability to automate repetitive tasks and optimize behind-the-scenes activity, empowering teams to focus on high-level problem-solving, innovation, and value creation. It's about supplementing - not replacing - the human element of software development. One survey respondent said, "Fostering and maintaining creativity while leaning into AI is a challenge we face. We must remember that AI is simply one tool creative people use to cut out the junk that would otherwise impede productivity. It doesn't replace human creativity."

3. The cloud becomes table stakes

Over the past several years, cloud computing has consistently ranked as a top IT investment priority. In 2022, it ranked second after security, and in 2023, it took the top spot - not surprising, given the increased pressure on organizations to undergo digital transformation. In 2024, though, cloud computing saw a sharp decrease, ranking fifth. 

However, the cloud continues to be necessary. The survey found a significant increase in respondents who said they run 50% or more of their apps in the cloud, suggesting that while the cloud is still mission-critical for many businesses, it's now "table stakes" - and at the same time, the list of priorities for technical teams and IT leaders continues to grow.

IT now operates in a cash-constrained financial environment, and that reality - for as long as it lasts - will force organizations to prioritize between technology investments.  As they navigate the crosswinds, more organizations may reallocate some, but not all, of their digital transformation budgets to technologies like AI. 



Taylor McCaslin 

Taylor McCaslin is the Product Lead for AI/ML at GitLab (NASDAQ: GTLB), where he is responsible for leading the team of product managers who manage the AI Powered and ModelOps stage groups and sets the vision and direction for how to empower GitLab users to leverage data science as part of their DevOps program. Prior to joining GitLab, he held positions at Indeed, Duo Security, and WP Engine.

Published Wednesday, July 10, 2024 10:32 AM by David Marshall
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