Seeing the Bigger Picture With BizDevSecOps

Content By Devops .com

Not long ago, if you can believe it, software was shipped on physical floppy disks and CDs. These physical relics contained dense paper instruction books that humans read diligently for hours on end (I guess they had more time to spare back then?). Complexity was a given for computer-based tasks.

Fast forward past the consumerization of IT to 2021, and you’ll find extremely high standards for technology. End users now expect intuitive apps with instant end value and 100% uptime. If they don’t receive gratification within minutes, they’re likely to trash it.

In the race to meet digital innovation demands, software companies are increasingly tapping new strategies to deliver iteratively. Thus, disciplines like DevOps, DevSecOps, low-code and SRE have flourished. But are we adequately considering the end value of that work? Some feel business leadership needs a larger seat at the table and more input: enter the newest iteration of these disciplines, BizDevSecOps.

I recently met with Gregg Ostrowski, CTO at AppDynamics, to discuss how to introduce BizDevSecOps in an organization. For Ostrowski, it boils down to having full-stack observability to connect application performance, security threats and revenue generation. Only by democratizing access to important metrics and identifying runtime weaknesses can business outcomes truly drive production.

Full-Stack Observability

Within our new pandemic-first reality, all organizations are amplifying their use of digital services to interact with customers. However, software teams are struggling to keep pace in this new environment — 89% of technologists report feeling under tremendous pressure at work, the Agents of Transformation 2021 report found. This strain has only increased as IT complexity soars amid the pandemic — 83% felt their job became more complex over the past year.

IT staff is under mounting pressure to perform, and they may not have the correct elements in place to support elegant and profitable applications, said Ostrowski. When it comes to monitoring, in particular, alert fatigue could especially hamper innovation attempts and make it difficult to know what to prioritize.

Instead, Ostrowski advocates for letting tangible business outcomes, such as conversion rates and performance, drive development. To correlate the impact on revenue more directly, he encourages “giving business leaders a seat at table during the entire CI/CD pipeline.” One aspect to roping in business, security, development and operations is unified observability across the entire stack.

The Pendulum Swings

But wouldn’t it be challenging to give business leaders a seat within a technical software delivery process? Well, this wouldn’t be the first time business has directed technological change.

Ostrowski recalls the mid–2000s and the dawn of the mobile market. During this period, IT became consumerized for laypeople, with glossy apps and impressively intuitive experiences. He recalls a general loss of faith in IT staff, as workers often had “better tech at home than they did in the office.” This drove business leaders to invest heavily in modernizing their companies.

In the following years, cloud solutions quickly re-empowered IT with new computing models, emboldening them to compete using the same tools as tech companies. However, simple deployments using a single server quickly morphed into arranging multiple workloads on various cloud service providers (CSPs). Virtualization, serverless and microservices architectures also brought novel complexities into the stack.

“The IT staff is being asked to do jobs they’ve never done before,” Ostrowski said. He explained that SREs, for example, must understand networking, infrastructure and security — a vast portfolio for a single person and role. Supporting many disparate paradigms is simply beyond the scope and scale of what a single person can do, meaning new automation must be constructed — because “if you’re too busy debugging, you can’t innovate,” says Ostrowski.

Amid mounting complexity and the burden of rising cloud costs, it appears business leaders again have a role in directing and prioritizing technological efforts.

Getting Busy With BizDevSecOps

According to Ostrowski, connecting IT and business with BizDevSecOps all hinges on collaboration. “If you don’t get to a point where you can collaborate with all these pillars, you’ll degrade your business,” said Ostrowski.

BizDevSecOps also could help connect the dots to comprehend anomalies. For example, suppose a commerce application is experiencing a 15% conversion rate, but it drops to 7% after an upgrade. In this scenario, collaboration is crucial to identify usability bottlenecks in production and adjust accordingly.

Tracking business outcomes can align development around improving the user experience. If broken features are hurting conversion rates, all stakeholders need to know to adjust accordingly. “User experience is the golden gem,” said Ostrowski.

Other benefits of a BizDevSecOps approach may include:

  • Correlating activity and revenue: Ensuring spikes of activity are associated with revenue generation and not attacks or faulty instances.
  • Workload optimization: Monitoring business outcomes can help adjust the scope and size of machines as needed.
  • Before and after: Comparing financial results before and after migrations, new versions or new feature additions.
  • Postmortems: Pinpoint and correlate data when conducting postmortems.
  • Progressive delivery: A more rapid release frequency helps a business retain agility and pivot when needed.

Visibility Enables BizDevSecOps

DevSecOps is now a common philosophy — it promotes development with security baked into the application. Now, BizDevSecOps could be the next iteration; a collaborative approach that considers additional perspectives. BizDevSecOps is a vital method to “continue to build trust and collaboration so everyone has a seat at the table,” said Ostrowski.

Ninety-six percent of technologists agreed that monitoring the entire IT stack to connect technical performance to business outcomes will be important in 2021, the Agents of Transformation Report found. To enable this, business, security and development must inevitably de-silo. According to Ostrowski, adopting BizDevSecOps depends on a window into performance management and business intelligence, because “when changes happen and no one knows about it, it’s a serious problem,” he added.

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