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Refcard #336

Value Stream Management Essentials

Value Stream Management (VSM) is the lean practice of monitoring, evaluating, and continually improving an organization’s software delivery process. In this Refcard, explore everything VSM has to offer, including key concepts, fundamentals, and more.

Published: Sep. 17, 2020
904
Free PDF for easy Reference

Brought to you by

HCL
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Written by

author avatar Steve Boone Head of Product Management, DevOps, HCL Software DevOps
author avatar Bryant Schuck HCL Accelerate Product Manager, HCL Software DevOps
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Refcard #336

Value Stream Management Essentials

Value Stream Management (VSM) is the lean practice of monitoring, evaluating, and continually improving an organization’s software delivery process. In this Refcard, explore everything VSM has to offer, including key concepts, fundamentals, and more.

Published: Sep. 17, 2020
904
Free PDF for easy Reference

Written by

author avatar Steve Boone Head of Product Management, DevOps, HCL Software DevOps
author avatar Bryant Schuck HCL Accelerate Product Manager, HCL Software DevOps

Brought to you by

HCL
Table of Contents

Introduction

How Does VSM Work?

What Problems Does VSM Solve?

Fundamentals of VSM 

Key Concepts and Features 

Conclusion

Section 1

Introduction

Value Stream Management (VSM) is the lean practice of monitoring, evaluating, and continually improving an organizations software delivery process. VSM, when appropriately scaled, can help an organization in a variety of ways. From improved collaboration and communication across the entire software delivery cycle to actionable insights and metrics backed by real-time data flowing through an organization, there are many benefits for organizations to look at their own processes on an ongoing (and hopefully automated) basis:  

  • Development teams can get instant feedback on their day-to-day processes, helping them to identify and understand bottlenecks as they occur.  
  • Product managers can accurately communicate to the rest of the business and their customers about delivery dates, helping them better manage expectations.  
  • Release engineers can start to shift governance concerns left, helping to identify risk, minimize rework, and improve quality.  
  • Executives can help ensure that engineering activities are in alignment with business goals.  
Section 2

How Does VSM Work?

One of the main goals of value stream management is to measure and improve the software development lifecycleFor this, we need to shift the conversation from only being about agile or DevOps to a more comprehensive dialogue  one that spans from a business idea, all the way to a customer deliverable.  

Many organizations will start their VSM journey with an honest conversation about their current end-to-end processesTeams will discuss everything from how ideas (business value) are created and tracked, to how they are designed, architected, and eventually selected for development, all the way through the build, deploy, test, and release processes. Oftentimes, this will take place over a series of days in a process commonly referred to as “value stream mapping.  

The goal of value stream mapping is to come up with a diagram that accurately depicts the current stages of software delivery within an organization and is a critical first step in being able to manage the value stream. Many organizations go through this process once or twice a year, but that simply is not often enough. Change is constant, and if we want to be sure we are working at optimal efficiency, we need to be able to track our value stream in real-time. How does that work? In all honesty, it’s not an easy problem to solveEffective value stream management requires aggregating data from all the development tools that your organization uses on a regular basis to deliver software. Examples of the types of data most commonly collected are: 

  • Commit information from your source control tool   
  • Build information from your continuous integration server 
  • Any and all testing data that might be run as part of a build (unit testing, code coverage, static analysis, security scans, etc.) 
  • Deployment information to all environments 
  • Any automated testing data performed post-deployment

This is a preview of the Value Stream Management Essentials Refcard. To read the entire Refcard, please download the PDF from the link above.

Section 3

What Problems Does VSM Solve?

VSM helps improve the three DevOps pillars of people, processes, and technology.  

The People Problem 

Now more than ever, teams are working remotely and having a harder time collaborating in a fast-paced development environment. The lack of face-to-face conversation makes “water cooler” conversations a thing of the past. Standup meetings and retrospectives often suffer because it’s not obvious how the team is functioning as a wholeIt is difficult to know which team member is responsible for certain tasks, and even harder to know when those tasks have fallen behind.   

The Process Problem 

When discussing processes, we tend to focus on how efficient we can make a particular workflow. This requires organizations to constantly reevaluate how they operate to identify new bottlenecks and develop a leaner alternative. Part of the luxury that comes with having a responsive, highly agile development organization is having to constantly juggle the requests of the business, customers, and their own teams.   

At the end of the day, this leaves many with a million-and-one things that stakeholders would like to see done, and probably only 20-to-30 that can get done during any given sprint. Over the years, teams have used a number of methodologies to try to get better at trackingplanning, and managing work in progress (WIP). From Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, to Adaptive, Dynamic, and Lean Software Development, each approach takes a different twist on the same challenge – being flexible while still being predictable. 

The Technology Problem 

Technology is always changing, and with that change comes uncertainty. Recently, organizations have had to weigh the risk, cost, and value of modernizing their applications into microservices. How do we know if it is worth the engineering investment? Other challenges in technology are around security and quality. Are our teams taking the necessary steps to ensure they are developing software without vulnerabilities? Are they adhering to our quality standards? Security and quality initiatives always have good intentions but typically wither on the vine without constant monitoring to know when teams have regressed.  


This is a preview of the Value Stream Management Essentials Refcard. To read the entire Refcard, please download the PDF from the link above.

Section 4

Fundamentals of VSM 

Creating a Value Stream Map

The first step in better managing a value stream is to plot out precisely how work on a day-to-day basis gets done. This should take into consideration all of the curveballs that often get thrown into a given sprint or release. A team can usually plot out their value stream relatively quickly as they are the ones primarily doing the work daily. However, this first attempt is usually very development-focused. It may not directly express how teams communicate their work or unspoken dependencies they may have with other teams.  

 Once you have successfully mapped your value stream, the next hurdle is optimizing your value stream. Organic conversation is the best place to start. In keeping with the spirit of Agile, it is important that your development teams are having a regular retrospective to discuss what they feel they can improve. Even more important is having a culture where the team feels they are responsible for owning any corrective actions they feel should be taken to improve the efficiency in which they operate. 

 
 


This is a preview of the Value Stream Management Essentials Refcard. To read the entire Refcard, please download the PDF from the link above.

Section 5

Key Concepts and Features 

When implementing value stream management, there are a few concepts that are fundamental for a successful implementation. 

  1. Value Stream Mapping: The act of mapping out all steps in the software delivery lifecycle. Each stage represents transition of business value.  
  1. Bottleneck DetectionThe process of identifying where business value stalls within your value stream. To maximize flow through the process, you want to remove the worst bottlenecks. A good way to get started is to analyze the length of time it takes for a work item (story, change request, etc.) to move from one state to another (for example, how long it takes for a story to move from in-progress to complete).  
  1. Accelerate Metrics:  These metrics focus on business agility, specifically: 
  • Lead time: The time required for a work item to go from an accepted (backlog) to value realization (the customer). This includes both engineering time and non-value-added waiting time between sub-processes.  
  • Cycle TimeThis is similar to lead time, except cycle time is measured from when the development team begins work to when that work reaches the customer.  
  • Load: The number of work items active or waiting in a value stream at a given time. Load measures utilization capabilities of value streams related to productivity in the process flow. 
  • Throughput: The rate of work items completed during a period of time.  Improving throughput can result in better responsiveness to customer requirements and may yield lead time reductions for value streams. 
  • Work Item DistributionThe proportion of different types of work items over time. This provides teams visibility into the type of work being completed (features, defects, tasks, etc.)  
  • Wait TimeAn estimate of the time that work items spend idle (in a non-productive state) during its journey through the value stream.  

This is a preview of the Value Stream Management Essentials Refcard. To read the entire Refcard, please download the PDF from the link above.

Section 6

Conclusion

Using a value stream management approach, teams can make their software delivery practices smarter. Instead of relying on one tool to provide insights into the delivery process, you can now leverage the data across all of your meaningful systems to get a true understanding of how work moves through your organization 


This is a preview of the Value Stream Management Essentials Refcard. To read the entire Refcard, please download the PDF from the link above.

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