Software is becoming increasingly complex and expensive to produce in our digitally-driven age. As a result, companies are always looking for ways to eliminate waste and maximize production.

Value stream management (VSM) is one strategy you can use to enhance how your company builds software. Keep reading to learn why value stream management is worth considering and how to implement it in your environment. 

Table of Contents

Getting Rid of Bad Habits

Improving software development and delivery is a bit like trying to lose weight. If you want to see results, you have to take a comprehensive look at your diet and overall health and eliminate bad habits—like eating junk food. 

Likewise, many software development teams are switching over to DevOps and DevSecOps models to improve their workflows. But implementing an agile workflow will only get you so far. You also have to focus on improving your workflows and mindset to get rid of bad habits—and this is where value stream management comes into play.

value stream management is an offshoot of Toyota's value stream mapping strategy.

What Is Value Stream Management?

Value stream management (VSM) is an offshoot of Toyota’s value stream mapping strategy, which involves visualizing process workflows to plan and optimize production. 

With value stream mapping, you create a complete overview of your value stream along every step of the software delivery process. Once that’s done, you go one step further and outline inefficiencies that negatively affect workflow. 

Additionally, there are two types of value streams: operational and development streams. While operational streams focus on delivering a product or service to customers, development streams involve creating and deploying services.

Why Is Value Stream Management Useful for Software Development?

Eliminate Silos

Traditional software workflows have many silos between employees. Of course, this makes it difficult to collaborate as a group.

With VSM, you map the entire software production process from end to end and bring teams closer together. This improves teamwork and trust and also opens the door for better communication.

Reduce Waste

One of the main benefits of VSM is discovering and eliminating wasteful processes. This helps lower costs, reduce unnecessary production steps, and cut back on services your team no longer uses. 

Through value stream processing, you may discover that your team has open cloud resources that it’s no longer using. Then, you can free up resources to avoid wasteful spending and potential security issues.

Check out this presentation from Helen Beal, the chair of the VSM Consortium, demonstrating the link between value streams and high-performing engineering teams.

Value stream management attempts to uncover productivity blind spots.

Boost Productivity

DevOps teams need to move quickly and efficiently to meet release deadlines. But far too often, engineers have inefficient workflows that waste time and pull team members away from more valuable work. 

Value stream management attempts to uncover productivity blind spots. This helps teams eliminate unnecessary processes and direct more focus on other important tasks.

Automate Workflows

Automation is a major focal point in software production. Companies are increasingly looking to digitize workflows and use automation to shorten the delivery pipeline. But before you can automate workflows, you first need a value map that outlines every specific task. 

Improve Governance and Security 

To ensure strong governance and security, you need to prioritize these needs in the value stream. Without making governance and security top priorities, it can be difficult to enforce them.

Value stream mapping allows you to achieve a state of heightened security and privacy. By integrating these needs into the value chain, you can communicate critical compliance requirements and ensure your DevOps and security teams work together to create software that is compliant and resilient.

Unlock DevOps Value

Many organizations are struggling to drive value and ROI from their DevOps workflows. They switch to agile frameworks but often wind up spinning their tires due to hidden inefficiencies and challenges.

Value stream mapping and management can provide the visibility and insight necessary to improve DevOps and unlock greater value from their investments. As a result, you’ll have stronger returns and healthier software delivery chains.

Make Better Software

At the end of the day, the main goal with software value stream management is to improve customer satisfaction and drive profits. Value stream management focuses on creating software that continually delivers value to customers. This leads to greater user satisfaction and more loyalty. 

How Value Stream Management Works

Now that you have a better idea of some of the main reasons organizations embrace value stream management, here’s a quick overview of how to create a value stream management platform that improves your delivery model and drives results.

1. Create a Value Stream Map

Value stream mapping is a multistep process. As you begin it, you need to document your current process, identify every step, and outline customer value. 

In addition, you should define what your ideal process looks like and outline specific barriers that are preventing your value stream from flowing properly. It’s also necessary to work with team members and assign specific tasks to keep everyone on the same page and improve outcomes. 

2. Narrow Down Value Stream KPIs

Value stream mapping is all about streamlining workflows and driving better results. To make the most out of it, you need to narrow down a list of KPIs and try to optimize them. 

Some key flow metrics to consider include flow velocity, flow distribution, and flow efficiency. You can also measure flow load, flow time, cycle time, and pull request pickup time, among other things.

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3. Track Progress

To be sure, VSM isn’t something that you can set and forget. As such, it’s crucial to integrate value stream management into your workflows and revisit the strategy regularly to make sure that it’s working and driving the best results possible. 

Having a central reporting dashboard in place can be particularly helpful when it comes to real-time and historical value stream management. With a central dashboard in place, you can regularly check in and make adjustments daily.

Why Use Value Stream Management?

Some managers may be skeptical about value stream management, as it creates extra back-end work and requires greater planning and coordination. However, over time the benefits far outweigh the effort you have to put into the process.

With this in mind, here are some of the top reasons to use value stream management.

Companies that are exploring agile development need to focus on cultural improvement.

Change Your Culture

Companies that are exploring agile development processes need to focus on cultural improvement. It’s critical to abandon legacy development strategies and replace them with modern and efficient processes.

Value stream management can help team members identify and visualize wasteful processes. Visualizing each step makes it easier to change and embrace new ways of working. This can lead to less pushback and stronger overall results.

Dana Lawson, VP of Engineering at GitHub, explains how establishing a two-way street of trust can increase the productivity of your team and how to make your devs’ lives better while you’re continuously improving.

Identify Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks can hide where you least expect them, contributing to slowdowns and inefficiencies. However, value stream mapping can help you discover every bottleneck in your workflows—and eliminate all of them.

Focus on What’s Important 

DevOps teams need to be very careful to avoid wasting time and resources. Value stream management helps teams determine what processes are important and where they should be focusing their attention.

LinearB’s Approach to Value Stream Management

Value stream management is an integral part of DevOps—and something that all teams should consider using to reduce waste and improve efficiencies. But without the right platform in place, this can be exceedingly difficult. 

Enter LinearB, which offers a purpose-built platform that provides visibility for engineering leaders to optimize workflows and improve productivity. With our help, your leaders ensure projects and resources are aligned with business priorities and objectives.

Additionally, managers are able to identify bottlenecks and shadow work with one-click context and set customized goals for their teams to focus efforts on improving in those areas. And developers are empowered to spend less time context switching and working on annoying tasks that prevent them from coding.

The end result? A well-oiled DevOps machine that’s ready to move faster and more effectively than ever before.

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