Are You Promoting Security Fluency in your Organization?

Migrating to the cloud is hard. The PowerPoint deck and pretty architectures are drawn up quickly but the work required to make the move will take months and possibly years.

The early stages require significant effort by teams to learn new technologies (the cloud services themselves) and new ways of the working (the shared responsibility model).

In the early days of your cloud efforts, the cloud center of expertise is a logical model to follow.

Center of Excellence

A cloud center of excellence is exactly what it sounds like. Your organization forms a new team—or an existing team grows into the role—that focuses on setting cloud standards and architectures.

They are often the “go-to” team for any cloud questions. From the simple (“What’s an Amazon S3 bucket?”), to the nuanced (“What are the advantages of Amazon Aurora over RDS?”), to the complex (“What’s the optimum index/sort keying for this DynamoDB table?”).

The cloud center of excellence is the one-stop shop for cloud in your organization. At the beginning, this organizational design choice can greatly accelerate the adoption of cloud technologies.

Too Central

The problem is that accelerated adoption doesn’t necessarily correlate with accelerated understanding and learning.

In fact, as the center of excellent continues to grow its success, there is an inverse failure in organizational learning which create a general lack of cloud fluency.

Cloud fluency is an idea introduced by Forrest Brazeal at A Cloud Guru that describes the general ability of all teams within the organization to discuss cloud technologies and solutions. Forrest’s blog post shines a light on this situation and is summed up nicely in this cartoon;

Our own Mark Nunnikhoven also spoke to Forrest on episode 2 of season 2 for #LetsTalkCloud.

Even though the cloud center of excellence team sets out to teach everyone and raise the bar, the work soon piles up and the team quickly shifts away from an educational mandate to a “fix everything” one.

What was once a cloud accelerator is now a place of burnout for your top, hard-to-replace cloud talent.

Security’s Past

If you’ve paid attention to how cybersecurity teams operate within organizations, you have probably spotted a number of very concerning similarities.

Cybersecurity teams are also considered a center of excellence and the central team within the organization for security knowledge.

Most requests for security architecture, advice, operations, and generally anything that includes the prefix “cyber”, word “risk”, or hints of “hacking” get routed to this team.

This isn’t the security team’s fault. Over the years, systems have increased in complexity, more and more incidents occur, and security teams rarely get the opportunity to look ahead. They are too busy stuck in “firefighting mode” to take as step back and re-evaluate the organizational design structure they work within.

According to Gartner, for every 750 employees in an organization, one of those is dedicated to cybersecurity. Those are impossible odds that have lead to the massive security skills gap.

Fluency Is The Way Forward

Security needs to follow the example of cloud fluency. We need “security fluency” in order to import the security posture of the systems we built and to reduce the risk our organizations face.

This is the reason that security teams need to turn their efforts to educating development teams. DevSecOps is a term chock full of misconceptions and it lacks context to drive the needed changes but it is handy for raising awareness of the lack of security fluency.

Successful adoption of a DevOps philosophy is all about removing barriers to customer success. Providing teams with the tools and autonomy they require is a critical factor in their success.

Security is just one aspect of the development team’s toolkit. It’s up to the current security team to help educate them on the principles driving modern cybersecurity and how to ensure that the systems they build work as intended…and only as intended.

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