How to Use DevOps for Compliance

Picture this: You’ve been working in an organization’s IT department for a couple of years and tasks have become quite a routine. Some documentation here and there, code reviews, end-user training, routine meetings with the developers and so on. You can do literally everything with your eyes closed.

Then, all of a sudden, the company is going public and you feel like you’ve been thrown into a different dimension. There are new procedures to follow, endless meetings to attend and a ton of paperwork to be shipped. And don’t forget the new compliance regulations.

When this happens, do you gamble and quit or stick around and accept the new reality? Is there a truly viable option?

In comes DevOps.

DevOps means different things to different companies. Some IT experts consider it a fad while others swear of its significance.

In many organizations, DevOps combines development and operations. With it comes automation, efficiency and more transparency. With DevOps, changes can be rolled out much quicker.

DevOps can be the silver bullet for organizations looking to keep up with HIPAA, GDPR, PCI SOX and other industry regulations.

Here are four strategies for using DevOps for compliance.

Keep Track of Documentation

A big part of compliance involves documentation. Yes, boring but critical. With a unified development and operations team, you can merge the documentation processes of those who release changes and those who make them. It’s also easier to get everyone on board when it comes to compliance requirements.

You can use the newfound synergy between dev and ops to avoid documentation bottlenecks by adopting a unified and trackable version control system. Tools such as Git, wiki pages and internal dashboards can be used to harmonize documentation and version control.

Make sure everyone is on board by conducting routine training and holding meetings involving both dev and ops personnel.

Leverage DevOps Automation

Part of the reason why DevOps has attracted so much attention is the automation it brings.

With DevOps, time-consuming tasks such as monitoring pull requests, internal audits, access controls, code reviews, failovers and code coverage can be optimized through a transparent, unified and automated system. For instance, you can link all deployments, code review and build results in a single process to streamline audits and daily operations.

DevOps automation not only helps to streamline internal processes but also in demonstrating that you have met all compliance requirements. Things like access control and failover/recovery processes can stifle your compliance efforts if they are not optimized through automation.

Streamlining Dev Workflows for Compliance

Most compliance problems stem from messy development workflows that are not helpful for those keeping track of updates. For instance, an update that is put into production without going through the normal stress tests or internal reviews is not helpful. With multiple teams working on different features during the development stage, it’s easy to overlook small updates that could potentially introduce vulnerabilities.

DevOps helps to prevent accidental compliance breaches emanating from flawed dev workflows. This is achieved through the integration of stress testing into the development process itself.

With DevOps, you don’t have to wait until an update is ready for production to stress test it. Working with a dedicated compliance team, you can create a compliance blueprint in the form of a testing and logging system to keep track of code that is still in the production stage way before it goes into production.

Foster a Compliance Culture

In a non-DevOps environment, it’s common for different teams or individuals to blame each other, refuse to take responsibility or be out of touch with processes that are not in their job description or assignment. To ensure compliance, a bit of team management is required through communication and culture development.

DevOps makes this process easier thanks to the improved inter-team dynamics, automated processes and increased transparency. It’s easier to merge the dev and ops teams to help identify potential trouble spots and ways of resolving them. The operations staff will not blame the developers when a disaster occurs if they were part of the entire process and vice versa.

Effective teams always take responsibility instead of looking for a fall guy or starting finger-pointing when something is amiss. Inculcate a culture of compliance in your teams by ensuring that they are all aware of what is required of them and their shared responsibilities.

From the above, it is clear that DevOps can be the only thing you need to ensure compliance in your organization. However, adopting multiple recommendations at a go can be challenging. Therefore, take it one step at a time and use available tools, such as Git, to implement some of these processes.

Ken Lynch

Ken Lynch

Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives people to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity's success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.

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