Value Stream Management

What is Value Stream Management?

Since delivering software occurs over a long period of time, and is fragmented and uses many different teams and practices, it is difficult to track and control it. Value Stream Management (VSM) is a set of software delivery practices that bring order to the process by visualizing it so that it can be optimized, from planning through coding, delivering and maintenance.  

The goal is to create a seamless and efficient process that maximizes business and technical value for the customer, while minimizing non-value-added activities. With VSM, organizations can identify and eliminate bottlenecks, reduce wasted effort and improve efficiency and productivity throughout the development process, to deliver higher quality software much faster.

The VSM methodology is rooted in Lean manufacturing principles and has been adapted for the software development lifecycle. Today, engineering leaders can use it to eliminate bottlenecks and understand developer productivity.

Why is Value Stream Management Important?

Value streams are the steps taken in the delivery process. VSM involves mapping out these streams, measuring them and optimizing workflows. This data-driven nature of value stream management enables organizations to effectively eliminate wasteful activities and remove inefficiencies. As a result, they can better deliver software. 

Since VSM helps organizations streamline their processes, such platforms are used to manage devops processes. DevOps value stream management breaks down operational silos, encourages cross-team collaboration, improves agility and allows for better governance of the SDLC phases.

For team leads, VSMs help determine whether the strategies they’ve put in place are delivering as expected, and which steps need to be taken to improve them. This can help them achieve their goals and increase developer productivity.

What are the Benefits of Value Stream Management?

Organizations aim to maximize efficiency, improve product quality and enhance customer satisfaction with VSM. Here are several benefits they can achieve:

  • Enhanced Visibility - VSM provides a holistic view of all value streams and how work flows between them. This visibility allows stakeholders to measure them and identify bottlenecks, waste and areas for improvement. 
  • Improved Efficiency - By identifying and eliminating unnecessary steps, waiting times, or rework in processes, VSM streamlines operations, reduces cycle times and increases throughput. This efficiency translates to faster delivery times and reduced costs.
  • Increased Quality - VSM leads with the value delivered to customers. This focus improves the quality of product delivered to customers, allowing organizations to be the best they can be.
  • Enhanced Collaboration and Alignment - By providing a common framework and language for measuring activities, VSM fosters collaboration across different departments and teams and breaks down silos.
  • Continuous Improvement - VSM is not a one-time effort but a continuous process of learning and improvement. By regularly reviewing and optimizing the value stream, organizations can adapt to changing market demands and technological advancements, ensuring long-term growth.
  • Improved Customer Experience - A VSM ensures all efforts are aligned with customer needs and expectations. This focus leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Better Decision Making - With data and insights on the value stream, decision-makers can better understand the impact of their choices on the overall flow of value. This leads to more informed strategic decisions, better investment prioritization and the implementation of initiatives that offer the highest return on value.

What Insights can Value Stream Management Deliver?

VSM is a methodical approach in software delivery intended to streamline processes for better productivity and faster delivery. Here are some insights that VSM can deliver:

  • Understanding how work flows from inception to delivery
  • Detecting bottlenecks, unnecessary complexities and wasteful or risky processes that delay quality deliveries
  • Identifying ongoing patterns that might decrease performance
  • Showing the impact of activities on time-to-market and value generation

How Does Value Stream Management Work?

VSM is a methodology or a set of practices that usually follows these steps:

  • Step 1: Identifying Value Streams

The first step involves identifying the series of value streams required to deliver a product or service to the customer. This includes everything from the initial concept, through development and deployment, to the final delivery to the customer.

  • Step 2: Mapping the Value Stream

Mapping all the activities, workflows, and processes these value streams are involved in. This helps in understanding the current flow of value and identifying areas of waste and inefficiency.

  • Step 3: Measuring Flow and Performance

Measuring the performance of value streams.

KPIs that can be measured include:

  • Lead time from code commit to production
  • Deployment frequency
  • MTTR, from incident to service restoration
  • Change failure rate of production changes that required remediation
  • Cycle time for various tasks

 This step helps establish baselines, identify trends and continuously improve.

  • Step 4: Identifying Bottlenecks and Waste

Identifying bottlenecks, delays, and non-value-adding activities in the process. This could be anything from unnecessary steps in the development process to delays in approval processes.

  • Step 5: Implementing Improvements

Based on the insights gained from the value stream map and performance metrics, it’s time to implement improvements to streamline processes, eliminate waste and address bottlenecks. This could involve automating manual processes, reorganizing teams, or adopting new tools and technologies.

  • Step 6: Continuous Improvement

VSM is not a one-time activity but a continuous cycle of improvement. The value stream should be regularly reviewed and adjusted based on feedback and performance metrics, and value stream management training should be conducted. This ensures that the delivery process remains efficient and aligned with customer needs. 

Value Stream Management and an Internal Developer Portal

An Internal Developer Portal acts as a centralized hub for all developer resources and tools within an organization. The goal is to empower developers by providing them with self-service access to the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

It can provide the same value as value stream management by visualizing the efficiency, cost and speed of how an engineering organization delivers software. Doing this can uncover bottlenecks and issues and can be combined with implementing software engineering intelligence visualizations.

One of the key components of an Internal Developer Portal is scorecards. Scorecards enable measuring and tracking the health and progress of services and processes. They help establish metrics across various domains like production readiness, code quality and operational performance. As a result, they help align organizational standards, facilitate proactive alerting and prioritization of issues, and drive quality improvements.

Additionally, you can create dashboards and reports inside the portal to understand value stream management, such as determining time to deploy etc. 

Integrating a value stream management platform with an Internal Developer Portal can support efficient and effective software development. The portal’s scorecards can be used to measure value stream flows, allowing organizations to identify bottlenecks and optimize workflows. This approach supports engineering excellence and developer ownership, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. You can also use internal developer portals as the natural evolution of value stream management platforms, since with self-service they allow developers to self-serve. 

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