When it comes to software development, there are often wasteful steps along the way that complicate the process, decrease efficiency, and reduce the return on investment overall. Many IT leaders and DevOps teams are turning to the principles of value stream mapping (VSM) to identify how to create software that delivers higher value to the organization and customers. Here’s a brief overview of what VSM is, how to get started, and the benefits of using it.
What is Value Stream Mapping?
Value stream thinking originated from lean manufacturing, which is all about minimizing waste while maximizing value. In software delivery, a value stream consists of the flow of work and information from idea to deployment of a product or service. Mapping your value stream helps you visualize and critique all of the business processes that take place throughout the development lifecycle. You can identify problems and inefficiencies that occur and quantify the performance of the processes taking place. Without this understanding, it’s difficult to ensure that your software delivery practices are optimized.
How to Get Started
There are a variety of mapping tools and processes available, but the simplest way to get started is to grab a pen and some sticky notes and get to work. You’ll need to bring together a cross-functional team of people from the business, product, operations, and infrastructure functions. They should have a first-hand perspective on the processes and workflows that exist within the value stream.
A VSM exercise will typically take about 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete. During the exercise, your team will map out process steps, wait times, and information flows. You’ll start to uncover potential issues such as the quality of work produced at each stage and where employee frustrations are happening. It can be helpful to have a facilitator there who is familiar with the VSM process.
Outcomes and Benefits
One of the main benefits of value stream mapping is improved collaboration. The exercise brings teams together to process issues and challenges. It removes the politics and blame that are typically involved when people operate in a siloed way. Problems are more likely to be addressed and resolved when everyone has a shared understanding of what’s actually happening vs. what they perceived to be happening. Most importantly, the exercise will enable the flow of ideas amongst your team around cost optimization, process improvement, and higher quality products.
Higher Value Software
In addition to collaboration, your team will have the necessary information to enhance and optimize software delivery and development practices. You can identify and reduce bottlenecks, time sinks, and wastes found in your value stream. Wait states and handoffs become apparent, and you can determine how to make them more efficient or eliminate them completely. You can ensure that every behavior or process is an effective use of resources and is adding value.
Value stream mapping is critical for organizations that want to continuously improve and provide higher value to their end customer. Reach out to DragonSpears if you’d like to discuss our process. We can help facilitate a successful value stream mapping exercise for your organization and provoke the necessary conversations for change.