How a Strategic Narrative Helped DevOps Institute find its ‘Why’

“Catapult’s narrative process played a powerful role in shaping DevOps Institute’s messaging and offerings,” said Jayne Groll, CEO of DevOps Institute. “Through the narrative, we adopted a human-centric focus that has driven everything we do. We wouldn’t be where we are today without looking for an external resource to help us hone in on our ‘why’ and create a company vision that we continue to pursue several years later.”

Who is DevOps Institute?
DevOps Institute is a global learning community that empowers the people who power IT – helping them develop professional and personal expertise to make the most of DevOps in business and in their careers.

Focused exclusively on all things DevOps and digital transformation, DevOps Institute offers IT professionals – at all levels – deep practical knowledge, a welcoming network of industry leaders, respected certification programs, and insider events.

The Situation:
Today, the IT community recognizes DevOps Institute as a human-focused certification authority. However,  when DevOps Institute launched its certification matrix into the emerging and rapidly evolving DevOps industry in 2015, certifications were generally viewed as unnecessary.

The challenge: DevOps Institute needed to position itself in an industry that didn’t fully support its most extensive offering.

Another early obstacle was building awareness within a community that didn’t fully understand DevOps because it was a new industry at the time. Enterprises were just starting to get on board with the DevOps movement, and vendors weren’t sure if they should view DevOps Institute as a potential partner or competitor.

As the DevOps movement progressed, certifications gradually became more accepted for continuous learning. Despite the opportunity to make a splash in the market, DevOps Institute struggled to find its ‘why.’ Without a ‘why,’ the internal team could not align on shared objectives and the company would not stand out in what was a growing, crowded market. This identity crisis only fueled (inaccurate) perceptions that DevOps Institute was either a tool provider or a training company.

The best chance to thrive and positively impact the DevOps community was to overcome the misperceptions and rise up to the challenges. The industry needed to view DevOps Institute as neither a tool provider nor a training organization. The community needed to understand that DevOps Institute stood for more than certifying professionals and licensing content. Ultimately – DevOps Institute needed a story that would establish its visibility, promote industry acceptance and provide proof of concept. 

The Work:

DevOps Institute leadership always had a vision for the company but struggled to convey it, leaving the team and the market confused. As DevOps Institute searched for their ‘why’ – and a clear, concise way to share it with the market, they decided the best approach was to get an outside perspective. DevOps Institute was familiar with Catapult PR’s narrative work in the DevOps Industry and its specialty in creating industry narratives that helped B2B tech companies own categories and lead markets. 

They partnered with Catapult for a full-day Strategic Narrative Workshop where led them in examining industry trends, challenges, perceptions and misperceptions. A key element of the workshop was for DevOps Institute to not talk about themselves. It was also important to bring many perspectives to the table. By including different members of the team, it became very clear how different each individual perceived the company’s vision.

To further challenge the group, DevOps was new and not fully defined when DevOps Institute started to hone in on its vision and messaging. Not only was the company trying to make headway among the misperceptions about the organization, but it also had entered an industry that was still finding its way. By focusing on industry needs first – it became more clear how DevOps Institute contributes to DevOps community and ultimately provided the foundation for a narrative. 

Through the workshop process, Catapult helped determine that DevOps Institute ultimately represents the humans of DevOps. While DevOps Institute always knew this abstractly, the external resource is what distilled down many thoughts and perspectives and brought this single common theme to light. And through the narrative process, Catapult and DevOps Institute landed on a central message that truly spoke to the heart of its ‘why.’ That message was:

“Advancing the Humans of DevOps” 

DevOps Institute’s offerings all aim to support the “human” aspect of the DevOps community, helping individuals advance their careers and moving the industry forward through learning and community enrichment. DevOps Institute also needed to explain how it helps ‘advance the Humans of DevOps.’ Catapult then helped create the SKIL framework- which represents Skills, Knowledge, Ideas and Learning

With the SKIL framework, DevOps Institute curates the industry’s top thinking and research, produces insightful content and courseware, and hosts industry events for its community. SKIL empowers the DevOps community to grow as professionals, advance their careers, support IT transformation within their organizations, and contribute to the greater global DevOps ecosystem.

Creating the narrative was only the beginning. Through a dedicated public relations program, led by Catapult, DevOps Institute brought ‘advancing the Humans of DevOps’ through the ‘SKIL framework’ to life. With this clear message sent out to the industry through public, online channels – DevOps Institute positioned itself as a human-centric organization. Ultimately, this message underpinned everything that DevOps Insitute brought to the IT community from that point forward.

The Impact:
The human-focused narrative opened up the opportunity to engage with many different industry vendors, helping DevOps Institute curb misconceptions. The vendors began to understand that DevOps Institute wasn’t stepping into their space – but was actually presenting a perspective that complemented what they were doing. 

The ‘human-centric’ mission also became even more relevant as the IT talent gap grew and companies struggled to find qualified people. Companies began to rethink how they approach upskilling employees – driving more interest in learning and education. DevOps Institute has greatly benefited from this market shift as organizations and individuals look for ways to improve their skills – and by focusing on humans in addition to processes and technology. 

‘Advancing the Humans of DevOps,’ remains central to DevOps Institute’s core identity several years after the narrative launched. Today, DevOps Institute has successfully built a community of IT professionals and ambassadors. With Catapult’s Strategic Narrative support, DevOps Institute could focus on their ‘why’ during a time when it was hard to boil down everything it stood for into a single, simple statement. 

“The narrative work gave DevOps Institute a messaging ecosystem we could work upon,” said Groll. “With the new messaging, we could say something everyone knew was important, but not everyone was saying. It provided a platform to build a stronger relationship with DevOps vendors, receive more invitations to speak at industry events and engage with thought leaders. Essentially, leading with human-focused messaging brought the community to us.”



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