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How to improve DevOps security with value stream management

MS
Matt Saunders
18 January 22 DevOps
value stream management

Find out how value stream management is making it easier to build better security into your DevOps pipeline and the benefits it can bring.

Cybercriminals are relentless – continuously exploiting code vulnerabilities and weaknesses that are frequently uncovered in your software. Even the largest organisations aren’t immune as they too must keep up with the rapid pace of updates. And despite the efforts of security teams and the formidable array of security solutions available, vulnerabilities remain. What’s clear is that the more you can engineer good security practice, and the more vulnerabilities you can eliminate, as early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) as possible, the smaller the chance of a breach occurring. 

DevOps security has had an impact. Taking a security-first approach and embedding security tools into the pipeline from the start helps to identify problems sooner. But while there is a lot of value in ‘shifting left’ and failing fast, there’s another step we can take to highlight security issues and ensure they’re resolved before it’s too late. DevOps security teams need insights early and often, to help them collaborate and work towards building SAFe®r software. 

In this article, we take a look at what’s not working with DevOps security, and how pairing it with value stream management (VSM) helps build better code that can withstand the threats we’re facing.

What’s not working with security?

Even with a security-first mindset and the appropriate tools and practices in place, you’re probably experiencing a number of problems with your security strategy as it grows in maturity. Whether it’s a lack of knowledge, poor visibility, or process hiccups, there’s always room for improvement.  First up, let’s take a look at some of the common complications.

Poor end-to-end visibility

Security teams need good quality, real-time visibility into code vulnerabilities as soon as possible, so they can act fast and update code as it moves through the pipeline. With end-to-end visibility, everyone has the same situational awareness. Rather than relying on feedback from the ops team, dev teams can have a better understanding of the parameters they’re working in, saving time and improving feedback loops.

Siloed teams

As a security team matures, so will its ability to collaborate, both between dev, ops, and security employees, and across the business as a whole. Right now, teams might still be working in silos, concentrating on their own area of expertise, rather than focusing on accelerating and improving the quality, speed, and security in all areas.

Process pain points

As you adjust to this new security-centred way of working, there are going to be unexpected hold-ups in your pipeline. For example, if a security team finds vulnerabilities before production, so code has to be reworked. This can have a huge knock-on effect, causing bottlenecks and delays.

Knowledge gaps

As your teams become more familiar with security considerations, there will be knowledge gaps that prevent maximum efficiency being achieved. For example, a lack of understanding about the use and importance of feedback loops, and a lack of knowledge about other software value streams across the organisation.

Out of sync

With a growing toolset and more and more people involved in ensuring security, compliance, and governance are Built-into every piece of code, there’s a good chance the flow of all that information won’t be synchronised. Without alignment, you risk rework, unnecessary work, and significant delays.

Missing metrics

As you take steps to incorporate security more significantly into your SDLC, you need to ensure you’re monitoring relevant metrics too. A lack of specific security metrics and the tools to analyse and gain actionable insights from them could spell trouble – you’ll have no idea if your security efforts are paying off and where to make improvements.

How value stream management can help

VSM is a lean business practice that determines the value of software development, and delivery efforts and resources. VSM platforms provide you with real-time data and analytical tools to improve flow and support your business’s improvement initiatives. They incorporate value stream mapping, a technique to help you visualise, identify, and continuously improve the flow of value across a set of end-to-end activities.  

With VSM you can understand how long it takes to deliver value to customers, gain insights into where you create waste, and speed up the delivery of value. You’ll be able to provide information for data-driven conversations in your organisation and ensure traceability; and you can estimate what value your work will deliver and develop thinking around future work. Not to mention, the ability to improve and speed up feedback loops.

Combining this approach with your DevOps security strategy helps to eliminate vulnerabilities quickly and effectively. Here are three big ways practising value stream management can improve security processes.

Continuous feedback loops

Using data from DevOps security tools, you’ll have a much more detailed understanding of your value stream’s vulnerabilities. Rather than relying solely on post-breach data, which can be analysed and mined to prevent similar breaches in future, a VSM approach gives everyone access to real-time information about which vulnerabilities have been exploited right away. This creates a more effective feedback loop – from operations to development and security personnel. Security issues are then dealt with at the source.

Automate value stream for security issues

Inserting security earlier into the SDLC – otherwise known as ‘shifting left’ – will make a big difference, but for this to work, you have to embrace automation. Running security scans in real-time, particularly on code before its committed, helps ensure vulnerabilities are picked up as soon as possible and software is compliant. Something that isn’t possible with traditional security methods.

Gain insights to get more done

The more insight you have early in your SDLC, the more confidence your teams and management will have to take action, making improvements and fixing any deficiencies. Having all the information you need in one place, with actionable insights at your fingertips, is the most likely way you will eliminate vulnerabilities. This in-depth reporting and end-to-end analytics has another benefit – it will provide you with the data you need to gain buy-in for future initiatives.

Get more value from DevOps security

Not only will a VSM approach to DevOps security support governance and compliance, it helps to improve the overall quality of the software you build, delivering even more value for your customers. If you want to find out more about value stream management – how it relates to your security pipeline, the benefits it brings, and what you need to do to get started, download our free eBook today.

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