3 Cultural Obstacles to Successful DevSecOps Implementation

The biggest reason DevSecOps is so hard? It's not the tools, it's the people.

DevSecOps is a cultural change, more than just a deployment methodology. It requires teams rewiring their mindset approaching security, operations and development, and how all three aspects come into play to optimize the IT lifecycle.

Leaders and project managers must understand that employees from the three areas approach IT projects from various perspectives. Ensuring a balance of perspectives requires breaking down the limitations caused by cultural disjoint and fostering cohesion.

1) The Blame Game

The cultural divide between developers and security pros is one of the biggest hurdles to implementing DevSecOps and achieving continuous delivery. The first step in bridging that divide is understanding the differences in perspective between these two groups.

Security teams can feel blamed for slowing down deployments by finding security issues during the integration and testing phases. This leads them to withhold findings until after code has been deployed, which can cause problems when vulnerabilities are discovered in production environments.

This blame game works both ways: When security is not embedded into the development process, developers can also feel blamed for security issues that pop up later on in the software delivery pipeline.

As a result, development teams may take shortcuts. For example, they find ways to bypass the security team by using shadow IT or simply shipping poorly tested software into production.

2) Misaligned Incentives

The goals of development, operations and security teams are often not aligned because of different priorities, roles or incentives.

The following are some of the common misalignment challenges:

  • Quality versus speed
  • Operational efficiency versus risk reduction
  • Productivity versus stability

Developers often feel pressured by management to release code quickly, while security teams often have objectives around risk reduction or compliance with regulatory standards.

Given these conflicting priorities, it’s no surprise that security is often seen as an impediment instead of a strategic enabler.

To overcome this cultural misalignment, you need to create a culture where everyone has the same objectives and values regarding the project. This would help to decrease risk and increase resilience across the team.

Align incentives across teams as much as possible so everyone is working towards a common goal: releasing software faster and more securely while avoiding unnecessary delays.

3) Lack of Trust and Transparency

In organizations, trust is at the core of collaboration and team cohesion. In DevSecOps, it's more than just trusting one’s fellow developers and engineers; it's also about trusting the processes in place to ensure quality and security.

Transparency is also essential because it supports trust by enabling all parties to see what they are doing and why.

All parties in a DevSecOps team need to trust that each is working in good faith towards a common goal, which isn't always easy.

The best way to resolve this issue is by encouraging transparency and collaboration between both sides. Even security experts for government agencies agree that successful DevOps starts with trust.

You should promote a culture of responsibility and ownership among all team members. Every team member should be held accountable for their actions, which will lead to greater trust between all parties.

How to Implement DevSecOps Cohesively

One of the first things any organization should do before implementing DevSecOps practices is to slow down, take a step back and assess the current culture. A gap analysis, for instance, can help you optimize the implementation process for better results.

DevSecOps is not just about a new technology or tool; it's an approach to embedding security in the overall development process.

This isn't easy. The cultural change involved in DevSecOps is often more complex than any technological shift. Yet, if you don't get it right, then you won't be successful at DevSecOps, regardless of what tools or technologies you adopt or how well they're implemented.

A cohesive DevSecOps culture must include these characteristics:

  • Visibility. Everyone – developers, operations and security teams – should be able to see what's happening in the application lifecycle.
  • Collaboration. Security teams are part of the development pipeline, not a separate process that happens later. Developers and security can work together to meet requirements, even if they're different from the traditional waterfall approach.
  • Automation. Automated testing and builds enable faster delivery of features without jeopardizing quality or security.

Conclusion

It's a common myth that organizations can implement DevSecOps by merely adding security tools to the development pipeline. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Development, security and operations teams are all in different product lifecycle stages. They have their priorities, responsibilities and processes.

Hence, DevSecOps is a mind shift rather than a tool shift. It's a cultural change that enables developers, security professionals and operations engineers to work together, focusing on overall product delivery and reliability.

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