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How security teams can be UX innovators

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By Gregg Ostrowski, Executive CTO, Cisco AppDynamics

To provide value to a business and its customers, applications have to offer a great user experience. If an application’s performance is disappointing, or if a customer doesn’t trust that their data is being handled securely. Consumers have no tolerance for poor digital services, and will just delete the app and move on. From a recent study, The App Attention Index, 72% of respondents believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that the digital service or application works perfectly.

In the modern digital landscape, where software relies increasingly on cloud-based and distributed services, the security perimeter has expanded dramatically, meaning the need to provide a safe and trustworthy environment for users is more important than ever, but this can’t be at the expense of making security requirements so punitive that they drive users away.

Security at the heart of the software lifecycle
Technologists understand that an opportunity exists for improving application security by making it a fundamental part of the development cycle, rather than an afterthought. Traditional UX and security teams can no longer afford to work autonomously but rather must band together to take a holistic view of the entire IT stack in order to address heightened application performance demand. Other significant findings from the Agents of Transformation 2021: the rise of full-stack observability report found that 96% of IT professionals recognize the negative consequences of not using systems that provide insights into the full IT estate, incorporating performance as well as security.

Instead of only focusing on security, the security teams need to also contribute to innovation, where they can introduce the latest advancements which can enhance both the user experience all while ensuring security. It seems counter-intuitive based on previous silo’d based IT organizations to suggest that robust security and positive user experience go hand in hand. From a user’s perspective, the less intrusive the security requirements of an app, the more pleasant their experience. For example, if they receive frequent reminders to enter or update passwords, they’ll get irritated and frustrated. So, technologists have the difficult task of finding a balance, which is much harder to achieve if security is not a key consideration from the outset of the development process.

Obviously, for companies to stay competitive and relevant, businesses can’t afford to stagnate while their competitors evolve. Like the shark that’s always swimming, they need to keep moving forward if they want to survive. Too often, security teams aren’t currently seen as innovators, and instead viewed as barriers to speed. The real opportunity lies in leveraging security teams to bring forward new innovations that improve the total application experience for end users.

Living up to end user expectations
With digital transformation exploding, users of software applications have grown to expect the best. 61% of people state their expectation of digital services has changed forever and therefore won’t tolerate poor performance at all. Users require high performance, always-on services, and platforms they can trust to keep their personal data secure.

If data is not handled securely and a breach occurs, customers will feel betrayed, and rightly so – brand loyalty suffers -and once a customer’s trust is lost, it is very difficult to get it back. No mistakes can be made in the application development cycle and security needs to be tightly integrated directly into an application from the outset. This synchronized approach between UX and security teams will ensure the user experience will be the best possible. If security isn’t front of mind in the development process, it’s more likely that end users will be the ones to discover bugs, rather than developers.

DevSecOps and the removal of silos
When application security is executed properly, software teams are able to respond to threats more effectively, which increases trust and creates a good customer experience. In DevOps, which is the predominant framework for software development, developers and operations teams are combined to provide an agile approach to software iteration and deployment. While this methodology places a great deal of focus on optimizing the speed of delivery, security testing tends to be tacked on after the development process, which makes it harder to debug software and takes longer to fix, hence the commonly held belief by development teams that security slows down the development lifecycle.

DevSecOps is a modern approach which takes all the benefits of DevOps but rolls in security right from the outset of a development project. When security teams and development teams work together, security issues are even quicker to fix and will often be identified before they impact the end user or the business. When security is baked into software’s architecture, there’s less likely to be a need for costly and time-consuming security fixes or software revamps. A recent ESG Research report found that 78% of organizations with a mature approach to DevSecOps were able to deploy code faster.

The rise of full-stack observability
The maturity of DevSecOps is vastly correlated with improved collaboration across teams. But in order to use the DevSecOps methodology effectively, all members of the team need to be operating on the same page, with the same observability view where each application is built from beginning to end. Using a full-stack observability platform, an organization gets an in-depth view into the behavior, performance and health not just of their application but of all the supporting infrastructure.

Instead of DevOps and security teams working in silos with domain-centric and disparate tools that provide disconnected data, full-stack observability provides a “single pane of glass” view of the entire IT estate, which aligns teams around a shared common context, speeding up response times and reducing application downtime. Having a system that integrates performance and security data, including real-time threats and exploits, allows teams to effectively solve problems that impact the customer experience.

When development, security and operations teams collaborate, they can deliver system reliability and exceed customer expectations. More secure applications provide a better user experience, promoting customer loyalty and trust which can only serve to benefit the business.

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