Achieving compliance might be challenging when embracing DevOps due to the rapid pace of development. However, the agility and automation associated with DevOps might actually simplify compliance. When integrating compliance into the SDLC, DevOps teams may have to use different tools or slightly modify part of their processes to adapt to specific requirements. In this episode,Sonya Lowrence (Tricentis), Anna Murray (Rocket Software), Dan Kirsch (Techstrong Research) and Tim Johnson (Cloudbees) join hosts Alan Shimel and Mitch Ashley to discuss how to effectively integrate compliance as part of your DevOps process and the challenges that come with it. Is it possible to deliver high-quality software at the speed of DevOps whilst ensuring security compliance? The video is below followed by a transcript of the conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of DevOps Unbound. DevOps Unbound is a biweekly video series that explores all aspects of DevOps. We’ve been doing this for over a year now and it amazes me the breadth and depth of DevOps topics that we’ve had a chance to dive into here on DevOps Unbound.
The show is sponsored by our good friends at Tricentis who have been our partners in bringing DevOps Unbound to you now as I said for more than a year and have really, in every sense of the word, partnered with us to really explore, go where no man or woman has gone before and DevOps and kind of really looked at things and take them apart. So many thanks to them for sponsoring. Welcome to our show.
We have to sort of formats for DevOps Unbound. The every other show, every other week show is about 40 or 45 minutes of a prerecorded conversation with a panel of experts. And then around once a month we do do a live roundtable of DevOps Unbound in which the stars of the show are you, our audience. And you are invited to come on, participate in the conversation and ask questions, comment, chat with each other and it’s just – when it goes right, it’s a rip-roaring conversation of a thousand different directions. But it’s a fantastic experience. I invite you to, I think the next one might be around March 15 or something. But check it out, we’ll get the dates for you. But I do invite you to come to our next live roundtable as well.
Anyway, let’s get on with today’s show, though. Today’s show is about DevOps and Compliance Synergy, Reality or Fiction? I have some thoughts on this but before we do, let me introduce you to today’s All-Star panel.
On my screen, he’s on the top left. I don’t know where he is on your screen. It’s my friend Tim Johnson from CloudBees. Tim, why don’t you introduce yourself.
Tim Johnson: Thanks, Alan and thanks for having me here. As he said, Tim Johnson. I’m in product marketing at CloudBees. I’ve been in DevOps since about 2016 and a whole lot of years in security prior to that. So happy to be here.
Alan Shimel: Thank you, Tim. Thanks for being here. Next up I want to introduce you to Anna Murray. Anna, if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself to the audience.
Anna Murray: Thank you, Alan. Thanks for having me here. My name is Anna Murray and I work for Rocket Software, a recent acquisition through ASG Technologies, if you see me before. I’ve spent my career in automation. So at this point, I’m a product manager for automation technologies with Rocket Software and I’ve taken teams from Waterfall project management through Agile transformations and Agile has grown to DevOps and I am passionate about automation when it comes to all of that.
Alan Shimel: Fantastic, Anna, thanks for joining us. Next up I want to introduce you to one of my colleagues, Dan Kirsch. Dan, if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself and telling people a little bit about you.
David Kirsch: Thanks, Alan. I’m managing director and one of the principal analysts and cofounder of Techstrong Research. And as a recovering attorney, compliance is certainly an issue that is near and dear to me.
Alan Shimel: Absolutely. Our next panel member is, we’re very happy to have her, Sonya Lowrence. Sonya, welcome and maybe if you could introduce yourself to the audience.
Sonya Lowrence: Sure, thank you, Alan. Hi, I’m Sonya Lowrence. I’m the head of compliance at Tricentis and I have been in this role and working closely with DevOps actually in a couple rules now since 2018. And before that, I was a programming manager heavily embedded with the integrations and Cloud operations for about 15 years. So I’m also very passionate about how to bring this to the dev team and streamline DevOps. So looking forward to it.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. Last but not least, my cohost for DevOps Unbound and business partner, associate for 20 years, Mitch Ashley. Mitchell, if you wouldn’t mind saying a little bit.
Mitch Ashley: Yeah, Alan. What a great panel. I’m excited to hear everybody chat about this topic. I’m CTO with the Techstrong Group and also work with Dan as part of Techstrong Research. So looking forward to us diving in.
Alan Shimel: Absolutely. And thank you, Mitchell. All right. So guys, this episode is DevOps and Compliance Synergy, Reality or Fiction? Let me start it off with this.
My background is in cybersecurity, 20+ years, Mitchell and I have worked together in it. Tim, you’ve been in cyber a long time, too. I will be really honest with you. One of my most hated subjects or aspects of security is compliance. I think compliance has done as much to hurt security as it’s done as much to help security. It’s introduced this least common denominator, lowest possible bar for security where instead of doing what we should be doing, we are doing what the minimal needs are, checking it off, check that box and we move on. And then we act surprised when stuff hits the fan.
Now, I started DevOps.com because I thought DevOps was a godsend for security. Finally, a chance to get it right. Not to be bolted on, to be built in. And where security goes, compliance follows, right? Keeping that low bar here. And the promise of DevOps, especially with compliance but even more so than security, was my God, we could automate this. If we could just automate the compliance, we don’t have to worry about it anymore and we can focus on really making secure software. Because compliance becomes sort of a byproduct of security automation in DevOps.
Now, as we sit here today, we know that that hasn’t necessarily been the outcome. Let’s leave it at that. Maybe it has been to some of you. I’m interested to hear. Don’t let me bully you. Has DevOps been a good friend to compliance or are we barking up the wrong tree? Are we chasing our tail? I don’t know how many dog analogies I can come up with here but what is the deal with compliance and DevOps? Who wants to start us off?
Tim Johnson: I’ll jump in, Alan. You crack me up. We’ve been hearing that for forever and the dichotomies that we have to deal with, can you be compliant and fast? Can you be projectable and flexible? It’s like yeah, come on. Knock it off. It isn’t like that.
The way we’re seeing it is DevOps is kind of going through this evolution of can we just automate the pipeline or can we get the CI part to work? And then can we automate the testing part? So it’s kind of evolutionary. And security has kind of come along, I think about 2017, John Wallace, we did a webinar with him where he’s talking about dev sec ops and saying that the sec should be silent because if you’re doing it right, the security is there. And now we’re coming to the next evolution and the next source of friction, if you will, is compliance. Because okay, we’re going faster, we’re going secure. Somebody says can you prove that to the regulators? And the way we see it is we have a bank customer of ours has 100 people devoted full-time on a 90-day rotating basis to doing compliance work.
Alan Shimel: Sounds automated to me.
Tim Johnson: Companies are doing. So that’s kind of a state of where we are. So from where I am, if you can’t do an audit easily, you ain’t running DevOps. You ain’t doing DevOps right in the first place. So if you are compliant and you can prove it to the regulators, you’re doing DevOps really well. That’s my opening salvo. Back to you.
Alan Shimel: All right. I guess someone else wanted to say something.
Sonya Lowrence: Yeah. I’m very passionate about this definitely at Tricentis but honestly just anywhere. I feel like it’s a two-part answer right now. I think I’m finding more compliance people in my space who understand, again, I come from a heavily background so for me, it’s very native to say compliance is an afterthought. If you look at it the right way, even though it may be a low bar, it’s an input. It’s a set of basic requirements. If you can accommodate that upfront, there are very few surprises.
And I would even extend on that and say in the world that we are moving to in DevOps and better automated tools where your CICD pipeline takes all of this into account, both your code and your Cloud environment, I really feel like it’s going to start to deliver inherently secure code and infrastructure. It’s just that that vision and the tools that are bit lagging, right? I don’t see that there are really any surprises. Couple of example frameworks SOC 2 type 2, ISA 2701. The objectives are clear. If you wrap that in at the beginning as a requirement, then there are very few people that one, don’t get trained as they go and two, can’t deliver because it actually is not that hard or complex to deliver technically.
So I think that part of what we are seeing, and this is in part to me having been a program manager for years, Agile took and pared it down to a very lean perspective of we’re looking at features first, customer needs and typically things like encryption and administration and users was kind of an afterthought and it’s not built-in to the traditional Agile tools. I think that along with what Tricentis is delivering for quality, many companies are starting to respond with respect to compliance and security and putting it back at the front where I think it belongs. Again, this is not technically difficult. It’s the fact that it’s basically not built in to the current CICD tools. It makes it challenging, I think, for developing teams and infrastructure teams.
David Kirsch: Yeah, I think what Sonya said made a lot of sense. It’s also, now when we are talking about DevOps, we talk a lot about culture change and changes in process as much as technology. So if the dev team is just go, go, go, go, what new features have you added today? They are never going to think about compliance. But if the development team feels that they have a working relationship with the compliance team and they are working together and they understand what the compliance team needs and why they need it, not just oh, it’s a checkbox but it’s important and it’s important for more than just our auditor to look at. That sort of merging together of collaboration between DevOps and compliance is an important aspect.
Sonya Lowrence: Absolutely.
Tim Johnson: I think part of that is some of the evolution that we are seeing and thinking, at least from the dev side is a maturing from a bug is a bug but it’s matured into a security vulnerability is a bug and noncompliance is now starting to be thought of as a bug. And there really aren’t too many developers out there who aren’t passionate about writing bugless code. But the challenge is, what is compliant? And how many standards do you have to adhere to? And how does that translate into all the different environments, the runtime environments, the binaries, the code, the access to the data that you’re dealing with. How do you translate all of those mumbo-jumbo from those regulatory standards down into being compliant with this piece of code that your writing? That’s a big challenge.
Sonya Lowrence: No, I agree. And especially to that point, when I am evaluating alongside our dev teams and our product teams tools that help augment and fill these gaps, I’m definitely very aware and making sure that we’re starting from the rate baselines. There are baselines that if you work from it is kind of that magic decoder ring so all the different frameworks you need to apply going forward from a compliance standpoint. And once that’s in place, again, it just streamlines all of this for all of the teams. So it’s a really important consideration in tool selection.
Anna Murray: And I’m going to finally jump into the fray here. I think that’s also been part of the challenge that we’ve seen among people we are talking to is that there are so many tools in place. How do you get that report so you can see what’s happened and you can reply to your auditor? And so we’ve really been talking to people a lot more about making sure that you have a plan that surrounds all of this because not only do you have a lot of tools, you might be replacing one or two of them every year because there’s better technology. And so you need good, planned workflows that are going to work for you no matter what you put in play into that workflow. And it’s not an easy answer to get from here to there and as somebody said, it is a journey for every company. And so it really does behoove the leadership to make that culture change as Dan talked about. But it isn’t just about adopting DevOps. It’s about having an end to end plan or making sure that you are delivering that value on a consistent basis as things change around us all the time.
Alan Shimel: Agreed. To me, I’m going to be just the devil’s advocate today, I’m sorry. But I almost hear us saying hey, you know what’s great about us this DevOps thing? We are going to make compliance the developer’s problem, not the security person’s problem. Right? Developers, they’re well-paid, what the heck. But they have enough on their plate. I don’t need my developer necessarily to be my tester as I think the folks at Tricentis will clearly tell you. I don’t need my developer to be my security person. I need them to be security conscious, security aware. But I don’t need them necessarily to be a compliance expert. So therefore, if we can’t develop the tools that can automate compliance as almost a byproduct of the process and instead throw it onto the shoulders, put another straw on the camel’s back of the developer, I don’t know if it’s successful. If it can be successful.
Tim Johnson: Agreed, agreed. The shift security left thing just really bugs the bejeebers out of me on a couple of levels.
Tim Johnson: One, like you talked about Alan, just the burden that it puts on the developers to know more stuff. But there’s also kind of the implication if we do all the shift to all the left, all the rest of the stuff to the right of that magically takes care of itself. Environments can be changed. Credentials can be mucked about with and stuff once the process has started. So there’s two levels here. Your pipeline, defined pipeline should have that level of governance and guardrails and gates and everything else that goes along. But you still beyond that have to look at all of the other moving parts around there and attest that everybody did what they are supposed to do. Because at the end of the day, it’s folks like Sonya or maybe Sonya’s boss who have to sign the paper that said this meets our risk profile and we can go forward. That still has to be a separate thing. But you need that visibility outside of the pipeline itself to be able to see it and control that.
Sonya Lowrence: Yeah. And to speak to that, I feel like again I’m going to come back to people aspect of this challenge. One of my biggest partners in any company that I work at, especially when you start looking at the program and platform level, future state, making this inherent in the design are architects or I know that that’s not a role that’s very frequently filled at smaller companies, the group or team of leaders in the engineering org that fill that role of architect. If I can work with the architects upfront, again, it becomes inherent in the design. I agree, Alan, I do think it’s exorbitantly way too much data or knowledge for one engineer to consume. But if you can plan your builds for containers or images and get things like that in place with the right team leads, a lot of this comes together as an affect where they are working within a very specific, still flexible. You can still achieve the future and growth with customers that you need. But at least the infrastructure around them is really secure.
And a quick data point that I have because I’ve been through I think two or three SOC that I’ve looked at the secure control framework, 70 percent to 75 percent of SOC 2 audits are about the infrastructure controls. It actually doesn’t directly deal with the codes that the developers are producing for the actual app. And I feel like within the industry, if that understanding were more common and the DevOps team really supported and they had the right tools for secured builds and really making sure they could see things before going to production that were insecure at that layer around the perimeter and with user access, I feel like most of these issues around certification and compliance, there are baselines, would actually be met more consistently.
So I feel like there’s also kind of a challenge right now of a lot of people look at those product engineers as that’s the source. Those are the people with the root cause answer. They are the ones coating the solution. But the truth is, it’s your infrastructure team in the Cloud. And that’s really something that I’ve seen on premise a little bit different. But it’s still the same statement. You’ve still got networks and IP and ports and perimeters to control. So I just feel like the infrastructure piece of this is typically left out and then it becomes, unfortunately for many companies, the tech debt when they start looking.
And I’ve coined this phrase recently, I’m calling it, it’s not a moment of realization. It’s becoming a moment of terror because when you do get the right tools and you can see it, everyone steps back and says I had no idea this is what we had built. And it takes a lot of fortitude to walk through that backlog, that tech debt.
Alan Shimel: Does anybody want to comment on that?
David Kirsch: Well, yeah. I had the same feeling that you do, Alan, about dev sec ops and we are going to have these amazing – there are a lot of amazing developers, developers who know everything there is about security. Everything there is about operations. Everything there is about compliance. It’s not realistic.
So instead, part of it is, I think, building guardrails. So I’m sure Sonya is working on that. What sort of data are you going to allow your developers to put into the Cloud, for instance. Because at the end of the day, we’re talking about data often times in terms of compliance. So what kind of data are you going to allow in the Cloud or out of a certain region? When you’re testing applications, are you going to allow the testers to see all of the data? Probably. Probably not, I don’t think you want them to see all of your production data. What sort of role-based controls do you have in place? So setting those foundational guardrails, I think, is really important to keep the whole DevOps process clean and compliant.
Alan Shimel: Okay. Go ahead.
Tim Johnson: I would take that a little bit further back to the first principles of the – and this gets into culture, this gets into cooperation, this gets into silos, this gets into doing it all right is starting with a description. Can you describe your software delivery process? If you want to call it a value stream mapping exercise, call it that. But you get everybody in the room to describe how this software moves through the system then agree that’s how it’s done. And then agree on how to measure that. And then the final piece of the puzzle that I see overlooked way too often is that everybody’s compensation plans or bonus structures or measurements have to be aligned on that description of what that is. Because I’ve seen companies where the three different groups, we are all in on DevOps but the engineers are doing things differently and the security folks are doing differently and the DevOps teams are doing differently because they are measured differently. They agree in principle to doing DevOps but because they are compensated this way and they are measured over here by something else and something else, they are never going to be as successful as they are. So if you want to make this whole process as friction-free as possible, get everybody to agree and one of the things we’ve always seen in these value stream mapping exercises is somebody says and this happens and then somebody else immediately jumps in and says actually, no, that’s not how it works. And you have to get those out of the way because that’s going to come back to compliance. Well, it doesn’t work that way. Well, then how can we be compliant and so forth. Anna, I think you wanted to jump in on that.
Anna Murray: There’s so many things to talk about but when you guys talked, first Dan and then you, it comes back to culture. It comes back to leadership. And I think it reminds me of when we were making our transition from Waterfall to Agile. It’s this go faster, go faster, go faster. And there’s more emphasis on go more faster. Go faster, go faster. Wait, slow down. We actually go slower if we don’t do the right planning. And so there’s absolute proof that if you plan well, you will actually go faster. And part of that planning must include your security and your compliance. The plan is, you can go back to your Agile definition of done. This is done when. And part of the when is your security rules. It will pass these tests. It will go through these scanning tools. Whatever your definition of done is, that’s how you make DevOps help you with compliance is you first start with the right plan. And that only happens if you have cultural leadership. And like Tim said, you get everybody in the room and you agree.
And so it is a big challenge and I think more than anything it comes back to leadership because the people who built software love building software. They love writing code. They love delivering bug free software. That’s how they get their value for themselves of what I do every day in my life. If I deliver code that gets hacked, that puts my company on the news, I’m not very happy with myself.
So when you think about it, leadership can put things in place and help teams go where they need to go while leaving the guard rails in. But if the leaders are not on board, you end up with this fracturing that Tim is describing.
Alan Shimel: So to me what we are describing here, though, is quality. No one wants to produce shoddy work whether it’s secure, insecure compliance, really, we’ve really strove in security to make security synonymous with quality. If you are delivering a quality product, and whether that’s software or a guitar or whatever it is you’re selling, you want to deliver quality.
For many – and I’m going to put forth this. For many developers and even testers, quite frankly, and folks, other folks in the software development lifecycle, security and certainly compliance are not quite synonymous with quality. Security is other to them and compliance is other’s little brother. But it’s not quality. It’s not quality. And I think that again, that’s one of the promises of DevOps is making that quality.
I’ll throw just something else out here because it’s at the heart of DevOps and kind of this whole way of looking at things. Infrastructure is code. You know Sonya, you made an excellent point that if you set your infrastructure up right, compliance almost does become automated and easy because so much of your compliance is based on that infrastructure.
But in the world where infrastructure is code, is code, not as code, is code, that can be changed, that can be duplicated, that can be cloned. When I first started DevOps.com, puppet and chef ruled, Britannia ruled the waves because you can create that same instance over and over, that same configuration, that gold config that was rigid, it was secure, gave me compliance. That was one of the big benefits here.
Sonya Lowrence: Absolutely. I feel like that’s why it ties back in now, like at this point in the conversation, naturally to a tenant of a privacy that is becoming more and more standard in many countries. That’s security by design is the expectation. In the world of Cloud, some of that challenges, you’ve got a lot of options and not everyone understands on that front how to build it securely. There is still a lot of base designs out there that don’t necessarily have the configuration controls that maybe they could or should. That’s debatable. But I feel like that’s the challenge here is there’s a huge explosion of growth in Cloud environments and the engineers who understand the secure tenants, architects who know how to build it consistently to those standards are lagging a bit. They are learning, too, as we go.
So I feel like again that’s why these tools, and going back to the understanding that if you were to look at that process like you mentioned, Tim, it’s really important to understand the SDLC. And I recently did this just for a dec. A very simple here’s how many times you have to touch code or infrastructure if you put this up at the front in a beautiful DevOps environment and approach, it’s one hand off and then your security team, ideally, is watching for vulnerabilities. But the truth is, I think most companies end up touching code or infrastructure 10 to 12 times before they see the vulnerabilities to deal with them.
So I feel like the more we can find the right tools to actually put this up front or working with the architects or leads to really build out that future state environment and build these automation points, we will continue to see this challenge. And it is very, very challenging for any one developer to account for all of that. These are many layers of expertise that we are touching on today.
Alan Shimel: Absolutely.
Tim Johnson: One of the things, Alan, I saw a statistic last week and I apologize, I can’t remember the source. But to your comment about infrastructure is code and repeatability and we can get into the concept of immutable objects and the pipeline and all that other stuff. There is a potential fallacy or vulnerability there because yes, you were starting with that. You are using this approved component and its repeatable. But the statistics said that only half of the controls from a regulatory standpoint actually covered infrastructure is code. So there were other things that were happening that your IAC solution or methodology or component wasn’t going to see. So that’s – okay, you started well. Did you continue well and did you end well is kind of the thing that you have to kind of keep along and keep in mind as you go through that.
Alan Shimel: I don’t disagree. Mitchell, you’ve been letting people talk today. I’m interested in your thoughts.
Mitch Ashley: Absolutely. You’ve got a great panel. It was just thinking about several things. One thing Anna said was talking about culture and leadership. And I’ve learned the hard way. Automation does not fix culture. One of the toughest things –
Alan Shimel: You can’t automate culture?
Mitch Ashley: No. I mean, automation doesn’t solve your culture problem. And one of the hardest things to do is to try to automate across silos. That’s something nearly impossible and you’ll end up with a mess. And so I think we kind of have to shed a little bit of the paradigms of thinking of these as fixed objects. Compliance is not fixed. It’s constantly changing more quickly. Tim and I know this from some of our research together. DevOps is speeding up things, Agile is speeding up things. We are changing our toolchain. So it’s almost like instead of thinking about we are building a highway, it’s like we are trying to do compliance for something that’s constantly in motion, that is flowing by like a river. And so we have to be really good at things like understanding the changes that are happening and understanding the data that might be helpful. Maybe it’s not the panacea that solves all of our problems. The data that we are already throwing off or can capture as part of our software development process. And understanding the tool changes and I think configurations are going to change that whether it’s infrastructure’s code or we plug in a different tool. And that’s kind of the mindset we need to adopt whether it’s compliance, security or DevOps and software.
Alan Shimel: Yeah. Might very well be. Let me defend the common man developer, common man or woman developer. As a security person, I fancy myself a security person. I am bewildered and befuddled by the amount of compliance regulations that are out there, depending where I am, who I’m talking to and what I’m doing. How can we honestly, earnestly, expect the developer to untangle this mess?
I’m reminded when politicians hold up those big – these are the regulations we cut this year. And they slam down this big fat book of regulations. The regulations never go away. How is a developer supposed to make heads or tails of this, though? Or maybe they shouldn’t and that’s DevOps job?
David Kirsch: Yeah, I mean that’s really the job of different tools and platforms because you have to codify those compliance, those huge documents that what are the 1500 actual requirements? What is Regulation 43BC Subsection R? What does that actually mean? And that means you’ve got to check this little thing of code. And so that’s got to be automated into the platforms to make it easier because it’s just unrealistic to expect developers to understand it but they are not paid to care about it. They are paid to put out really high quality software. And that’s what you’re paying them for.
Tim Johnson: A lot of money.
David Kirsch: You’re paying people like Sonya to figure out the compliance problems and you want the developers to put out often software.
Alan Shimel: But you know what? Anna, Tim, that sounds like your job. You guys got to be making products that do that. How do you do it?
Tim Johnson: I’m very difficultly avoiding a commercial for the products I’m associated with right now.
Tim Johnson: There’s other aspects to this which you haven’t really talked about is the context of it, of whatever issue that you find. And just what the heck is the programmer or developer supposed to do about it? So there’s any number of securities scanning tools, stass, yast, blast, bast, cast, whatever. And they all come back with this storm of alerts. There’s scary things happening. Developers are what the heck do I do about it? The compliance officer, like my colleague here, Sonya, says what the heck does this mean? Because it’s just as challenging for the compliance officers and security people as it is for the developers. And you use Bob’s software that has some AI magic that says we determined this is a threat level of 563. What does that mean? And some other Joe’s software says oh, that’s a threat level of 12. And things like that. So when you discover this, what does it mean and what does the context of what it is that we are doing? So you look at things like where is this in the lifecycle? Yeah, it’s an open connection to the Internet but this environment is a test environment. It has no connection to the Internet whatsoever. So do we need to panic about this? No. If it’s in production, obviously, yes. But it should never get there in the first place.
But also, you’ve got this issue, you’ve got to be able to feed it back to the developer in the tools that they want to work with in a way that they can do something with it. So they don’t necessarily have to understand you’re not compliant with this particular control of CIS 12, you can speak Urdu or Phoenician to them. You get better results. Here’s this thing, here’s what’s wrong. Here’s how you fix it. Go do it.
Alan Shimel: Anna, what about you?
Anna Murray: I echo what Tim says. It has to be clearly defined back to the developer where is there a hole? We recently were looking at something ourselves that we had found a problem and okay, wait. Does it affect this – doesn’t even matter? First you have to evaluate it. And it does matter, most of the time, but you have to have your architects in play. Your architects, as Sonya said, she doesn’t even meet with some titles called architect. If you don’t have somebody in that level, you don’t have anybody you can look at the whole product and say what the threat level is because of your product and what it’s meant for. And the access that can be to that software for it to cause a problem.
So that’s where you really have to have those people that are at the architect level, whether that’s their title or not, and they are interfacing with your compliance people and understanding the things that need to be architected in and you have to have standards. You have to have them codified into your tools. And we are scanning and we choose to use this solution from CloudBees or that solution from Rocket. And we’re going to make sure that we meet this threat level that’s defined by that product and then your compliance people review it and decide whether it’s good enough or not. And if not, up your game. But automate it, give the reports back and you better hope those reports, as Tim said, tell the developer what’s going on. Because really, these things change all the time. And developers are good at writing code and making software work and they can make it work the way we wanted to given the requirements. But that comes back to giving them clear requirements. We cannot ask them to do more than that. We want them to be creative, building whatever it is that they are building and we give them requirements to fit. And if we’re not doing that from leadership and architect and compliance, then we are failing, not them.
Sonya Lowrence: I completely agree. And I would like to add to that. For me, I have seen some organizations where compliance will walk into any design meeting and say here’s my list of 200 requirements and regulations or whatever their source is for their input. And I really would challenge any security or compliance professional, especially in a leadership role, to really think in terms of make it simple. Make it accessible. It is not hard for developers to understand. Data is what we are protecting. It’s kind of like you’re building a fortress around your gold as a dragon. And from there, think about in terms of what you are protecting. It’s the perimeter. It’s who has access to it. It’s principles of least privilege.
And so I feel like approaching the development team to help them come up to speed and not terrify them with too many details is the right way to go. And it just changes the culture. It shifts naturally because they do understand these principles and they do want to deliver quality code that doesn’t have these types of issues both for security and for compliance. So I feel like there’s definitely a lot of improvement in this space for training, too. Really explaining as you go why it matters and then making sure you’re working at the right level, finding those leaders on the engineering side to partner with.
Alan Shimel: Training around – I’m sorry, go ahead, Tim.
Tim Johnson: Well, I was going to jump back in. On that standpoint, we’re talking about the developers, we’re talking about a number of people. But part of this equation is the leadership of the organization. And you talked about, Alan, you talked about quality. And is quality enough of an incentive for upper management to really get behind compliance efforts and security efforts. And I would argue that no, it’s not. Typically, it’s kind of nice to have. And I remember statistically, from a couple years ago where managers have said they’d rather go fast than secure. This was only like three or four years ago. That’s scary. I hope it’s changed.
But one of the things in talking with some of our customers and prospects in the last six or seven months is the concept of a tax, the compliance tax. One customer actually used that phrase. And we go back to this bank that I mentioned earlier. It’s 100 people year-round devoted to doing that. What is your fully burdened cost of that labor to do zero value add work? Right? Compliance is something you have to have but it doesn’t add any value to the organization whatsoever until you don’t have it in a big way. Then it takes a lot of value on. But that’s kind of funny money because you’re going to pay them anyway.
But if you also add in the concept of what should they be doing in terms of technical debt or the opportunity cost of them spending this time on zero value at work versus value add, so you take that fully burdened cost, what are the expected returns? So if your fully burdened cost is $100,000, I think the company wants you to generate more than $100,000 in value in a year. Maybe it’s $200,000. Maybe it’s a total revenue divided by total employees. Some figure that’s more than what you are paying them for. And you add that into the equation of these 100 people doing this work. That’s the labor costs. Then here’s what we are missing. Here’s the value to the organization we are missing from that. Then you get a much more comprehensive picture of the true cost to the organization and how to justify the efforts of changing culture, doing those meetings that nobody wants to go to and putting in different metrics and things like that because you have an measurable impact that you can have on the organization. It’s like a snapshot on day one and then six months later, you halve the people doing compliance. You’ve got a defendable metric to take to senior management and say this is what we’re doing.
Alan Shimel: I mean, being able to actually show compliance is, it’s a little different than being able to actually show security where if you did good, no one knows because that means you didn’t have an incident. But with compliance, you can say hey, look. I’m compliant with SOC. I’m compliant with PCI, whatever it is, GDP or whatever you are compliant with. And you can hold that up.
Anyway, team, panel. We are over time here. I knew this was going to be one of those sessions where we ran over. And for me, it’s a very volatile subject. Sonya, as the true compliance person, not making a product around compliance or anything like that but really where the rubber meets the road, I was going to give you the last word today on today’s show to leave with our audience in leaving with compliance and DevOps.
Sonya Lowrence: Yeah, absolutely. I think just to summarize a lot of what I’ve heard here today and what I’m trying to really make sure we are influencing here at Tricentis, you know that true realization that along with leadership, compliance is an absolutely important part of the team. And when done well and when done from the right approach is whatever tools you’re working from. You start with what you have, you identify the challenges and you get better. A lot of this boils down to knowing your requirements, following a pretty classic Deming cycle: plan, do, check, act. And I feel like those tenants really have never changed. I just hope that more organizations really start to add this back in within Agile development environments that we all have. So I think it’s very achievable and the tools are catching up quickly to get us there.
Alan Shimel: Excellent. Well, Tim, Dan, Anna, Sonya, Mitchell, thanks for being on our panel in this episode of DevOps Unbound. We’ll be back, as I mentioned, every other week so in another week or another two weeks we will be back with a fresh panel and a fresh subject and something DevOps related. But until then, many thanks to Tricentis for your sponsorship. Many thanks to you out there watching this. We appreciate your time that you set aside to watch this. And we are grateful for it.
Until then, though, this is Alan Shimel for Techstrong TV, DevOps Unbound. Have a great day, everyone.