Digital transformation is often equated with disruption. And while disruption gets a lot of buzz, organizations don’t disrupt just for the sake of it—the real goal is growth. Digital transformation is an increasingly widespread strategy to drive the universal goal of growth. There’s virtually no organization on the planet that doesn’t have growth of some kind as a key objective—and in order to grow, you need to be able to scale.
The Challenges of Scale
While every organization needs to scale to drive meaningful and sustainable growth, the barriers to development at scale will vary depending on the characteristics of that business. It seems obvious that small startups need to hire more people, expand operations, etc. For these companies, scale is about building out their resources to meet increasing demand. Large enterprises that have an infrastructure of teams, tools and processes in place, however, are already scaled up in terms of resources—any additions here are more likely to be incremental. For these businesses, meeting shifting market expectations requires a different kind of scale: a level of efficiency and responsiveness not usually associated with a company with thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of employees.
Technologies and development approaches have emerged to help entities at both ends of the spectrum scale development. And of course, the vast majority of organizations probably lie somewhere in the middle, looking to scale both resources and agility in some combination. In all cases, there are still challenges, not least of which is maintaining security and compliance as you scale.
When it comes to digital transformation, small and startup companies have some advantages. Because they don’t have legacy infrastructure and operations already in place, or if they do it’s not overly complex, they don’t really have to transform anything from an internal perspective. They can focus on the digital piece, creating an infrastructure and culture with innovation and agility built in right from the start. And while it may not be practical, or even feasible, to double, triple or quadruple headcount and budget to support an aggressive growth strategy, we fortunately don’t live in a DIY technology world any more. You can expand your team and tech stack instantly with managed services and SaaS solutions. You can increase your compute resources quickly and cost-effectively with the cloud. And you can improve the productivity of your team by automating labor-intensive tasks, such as application and infrastructure testing, so they can focus on value-creating activities.
All of these solutions can help you scale your resources, but they can also create security and compliance challenges. When you bring in third-party systems, their vulnerabilities become part of your risk profile. Of course, you need a process for thoroughly vetting external partners and systems, but the outcome of that effort will provide you with just a point-in-time snapshot. Your partners’ own ongoing updates, combined with ever-shifting cyber risk, renders that initial assessment obsolete very quickly. As your ecosystem grows, it gets harder to understand your security posture at any given moment unless you have comprehensive, real-time visibility into your entire software and infrastructure risk posture.
Larger established organizations, on the other hand, most certainly have extensive technology infrastructure in place. Sure, they may need to invest in additional capabilities or more modern functionality, but for these businesses, digital transformation is heavy on the transformation part of the equation. Monolithic legacy systems, siloed functions and a sprawling array of technologies need to be reconfigured to allow for new capabilities to be built, tested and released faster and more reliably. For many enterprises, this means adopting a DevOps culture and model, and moving toward a microservices architecture.
Creating DevOps isn’t just a change to the org chart. You also need a DevOps toolchain to support the new functions and processes—so you can actually realize the benefits of this approach. And when you’re operating in a microservices environment, you can quickly make changes or add new services easily and quickly because functionality is broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. But this also means lots of changes are happening that could have a ripple effect when it comes to security and compliance. That’s why you need secure DevOps, or DevSecOps, to orchestrate discovery, prioritization and remediation of vulnerabilities in your software and across your infrastructure.
Planning for Development at Scale
Growth is a business imperative, and digital transformation offers a compelling path to that objective. But to ensure that path is successful and sustainable over time, every business must have a strategy for how to scale to support its digital transformation initiatives to meet growth goals. They must be able to understand and proactively manage their risk profile on an ongoing basis, which can shift dramatically as the organization scales along any dimension. This includes adopting approaches and tools that will enable them to add more human and technology resources without sacrificing agility, and that will allow them to execute and adapt quickly—all without compromising on security and compliance.