Finding the silver lining in IT compliance with Application Lifecycle Management

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Turning struggles into successful IT strategies

The sun shining through clouds.Almost everyone in IT dreads the pain of audits associated with internal or regulatory requirements. Preparing for and participating in an internal or regulatory audit can impose an enormous burden on IT, and especially on application development organizations. Yet, as much as we might not like them, these audits are useful tools to ensure that we have put in place appropriate safeguards and procedures that will keep our organizations out of the news and our executives out of trouble (or jail). So the question is, how can your company take advantage of the value an audit can provide while reducing the pain an audit creates?

Turning that pain into gain

Most auditors are looking for the same things regardless of which regulatory standards you are required to meet. They want to know that you have documented processes for implementing application changes, that you have ways to enforce those processes, and that you can prove you are using those processes. They want to know that you have a comprehensive inventory of all the parts of your applications and that you control access to them. Regardless of whether you are involved in an audit, these are useful things to know. No one wants to be surprised by unauthorized changes in production. It is useful to know who made a change when you are trying to track down a production problem. Having control over the application change process and visibility to the change backlog can provide a myriad of benefits.

The good news is that you can create this kind of easily auditable environment by implementing an application lifecycle management (ALM) system. An ALM system automates and enforces the processes you have defined for making application changes. And since the process you use are defined to the system, you can easily generate reports for the auditors that describe your change workflow. You no longer need to manually document processes and attempt to match your paper documentation with what you are actually doing. When organizations select the right technology to deal with compliance properly, e.g. via software change management solutions and/or ALM, they find themselves with new systems that bring both business and IT benefits that go way beyond the realm of “passing” compliance. This technology that organizations once winced at buying, is suddenly not only helping them meet compliance, but also streamlining enterprise-wide processes, automating workflow, enabling business/IT alignment, increasing productivity, and decreasing costs. Are you starting to see the silver lining now?

Coming from a company providing the ALM technology mentioned, we have heard it time and again from large Fortune 500 companies to small IT organizations—that rising to the challenge of meeting compliance requirements provided benefits far beyond passing audits. Going through the process ultimately changed everything for the better. It’s sort of like starting an exercise program to reduce your blood pressure and the next thing you know you are in the best shape of your life.

For us, customers like BIG 5 Sporting Goods, DCO Lighting, El Dorado Hotels (and the list goes on) have all experienced that scenario, and I encourage you to read their stories here (provided in the links).

Because it’s only going to get harder

From Sarbanes-Oxley to HIPAA to Basel II, to PCI and the FSA (and combinations thereof), new regulations are expected to grow in number and complexity. The stressful reality is that many organizations aren’t dealing with compliance in the right way. With sprawling multi-platform infrastructures, ever-changing applications, increasing mobile and social, and the variety of development methods–if you don’t have the right systems in place, you are in trouble. You don’t want to fall into a situation where you are diverting precious staff time and operating budgets away from growth-supporting initiatives to reactive activities every time you need to produce an audit trail.

To reinforce the issue, I’ll outline some key components that make the ALM and change management technology exceptional for business and compliance as a whole. I think you’ll quickly see the benefits.

  • Establishes repeatable, automated compliance and change processes
  • Creates centralized management and visibility of IT assets
  • Makes it easy for progress reporting, auditing, and performance improvement
  • Provides a collaborative communication infrastructure that ensures IT services and software initiatives support overall business goals
  • Reduces IT costs by ensuring project teams build the application correctly the first time around
  • Brings business and IT closer–now there’s easy communication between stakeholders of all changes in projects, and ensures appropriate notification, reviews and approvals
  • Provides a secure, visible repository of all application artifacts
  • Links change and lifecycle workflow to best practice methodologies
  • Includes compliance-related report templates supporting standards

And that’s just the beginning. Meeting compliance requirements is an unavoidable part of developing software today. By using a full-featured ALM system you will reap the benefits of being ready for an audit and enjoy improved efficiency, increased visibility, and reduced effort and cost.

I don’t know about you, but this compliance thing with ALM in the mix seems ideal for any business.

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Dan Magid
Daniel Magid is Managing Director of Rocket Software’s Application Lifecycle Management & DevOps lab, and is a recognized authority on helping leading organizations achieve compliance through ALM solutions and DevOps best practices. He has written a variety of articles for leading IT publications and is a regular speaker at technology conferences.

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