When managing a team of software engineers or devops specialists, you can quickly lose sight of the forest for the trees.
From discussing the latest commit’s technical challenges to addressing the pesky bugs threatening your product delivery deadline, you often struggle to understand how to best manage the impact of your team on the company’s bottom line.
Luckily, Value Stream Management tools can align your team efforts with the business value delivery by offering insights into the end-to-end software development process.
What is Value Stream Management (VSM)?
Value Stream Management is the process of viewing your operations through the concept of value streams.
A value stream is all the steps in a process that deliver value to a customer. The steps can add value (e.g. shortening the product delivery lifecycle and making a feature available sooner than expected) or detract value (e.g. by introducing bugs).
Similar to conventional IT teams management, VSM uses many engineering metrics to measure business value, such as Issues Completed per Sprint or Mean Lead Time.
But unlike conventional IT management, VSM focuses on identifying end-to-end value streams that provide business value and address customer needs.
This focus means that VSM tools bridge gaps between individual departments and processes, helping them to identify bottlenecks that can improve the delivery of value to customers across entire value streams.
Why do you need a Value Stream Management (VSM) tool?
The best Value Stream Management platforms will unlock all the benefits of VSM:
- End-to-end visibility across your value streams. Value Stream Management helps you understand where your processes are delayed as a result of bottlenecks, errors, and unnecessary steps. Without VSM, it’s hard to see the bigger picture. This is an especially pertinent issue with modern IT teams, where each team has its own set of tools and metrics and it’s hard to gather end-to-end value flow metrics from disparate toolchains. VSM helps you understand where you can cut time to product delivery while still maintaining a high product quality.
- Break down operational silos. Good products are built with cross-functional teams - product owners, software engineers, DevOps engineers, and technical support. Yet product quality and velocity are often harmed by these cross-functional organizations, from product quality issues being missed when passing tasks between software teams, to increased lead times. Cross-functional teams can do their best work, but they often fail to have an impact on the bottom line. VSM helps you spot these inefficiencies and break down operational silos across different teams. The result? Increased operational efficiencies.
- Improve the customer experience. By focusing on business outcomes instead of internal processes, you’re aligning the work of your IT team with customer satisfaction. Your goal is not to optimize technical KPIs, but to increase customer value. You’ll still look at engineering metrics (deployment frequency, lead time to change, mean time to recovery, change failure rate, etc.) but instead, you’ll ask yourself how the tasks completed by your software team translate to business goals. Take the example above: instead of optimizing secure deployments, you can ask yourself if the overall software delivery changes have a positive impact on customer satisfaction (like bug fixes and feature releases).
Value Stream Management software helps you see the benefits faster. The tools specialize in providing VSM metrics out of the box and integrating value delivery.
The best value stream management tools of 2023
VSM Tool #1: Opsera
Description: Opsera is a CI/CD orchestration platform that provides self-service toolchain automation, drag-and-drop declarative pipelines, and unified insights covering end-to-end flows across your entire stack.
- End-to-end insights into your team’s software delivery. Opsera’s Unified Insights offers 150+ out-of-the-box security, quality, and productivity metrics, including lead time, deployment frequency, change Failure Rate, and MTTR. You have full visibility over all stages, from ideation to delivery. Drill down and roll up reports by teams, products, and time in just a couple of clicks.
- Bring Your Own Stack (BYOS). No need to rip and replace your existing tools and architecture. Simply plug and play with Opsera’s platform and start measuring and managing value streams today. Opsera integrates with 80+ out-of-the-box DevOps tools (and counting). This toolchain flexibility allows you to pick the best tool for your team without vendor lock-ins and limits.
- Build where you measure. Opsera is not just a VSM tool. It also allows you to automate and orchestrate all of your pipelines in a single platform with no-code tools, built-in security, and quality gates.
- No-code and low-code features. Give your non-technical product owners and managers a seat at the table with features that don’t require a Computer Science degree. Democratize digital products for every member of your team.
- Preventive security. Teams can scan their repos in minutes, get a snapshot of vulnerabilities, and remediate them on the spot. No need to worry about leaving security checks too late.
- Lack of customizability. Opsera automates many steps in the VSM flow, so some features are not fully customizable from Opsera’s UI.
Best for: Engineering leaders who want to get end-to-end insights into their business processes, as well as empower their team of software engineers and devops experts to manage the value they provide to customers.
Make your software delivery process faster, simpler, and more insightful with Opsera. Enjoy continuous orchestration of DevOps tools, automated pipelines, and out-of-the-box insights into your end-to-end processes from a single platform. See Opsera in action.
VSM Tool #2: GitLab
Description: GitLab is not just a version control tool, it is a full DevSecOps platform that helps you integrate software development, security, and IT operations across your software delivery life cycle (SDLC).
- Customizable Value Stream Analytics. Build and customize value stream management dashboards covering CI/CD jobs, issues, merge requests, and pipelines with metrics on time spent in each development stage, lead time, cycle time, number of successful deployments, and other DORA metrics. The metrics are computed out of the box for you, you just need to set up your VSM dashboard.
- Cloud-agnostic. Deploy GitLab with no cloud vendor lock-in.
- Doesn’t integrate with other DevOps tools. If you use other tools for your DevOps (which you probably do), such as version control tools (GitHub, Bitbucket), log management platforms (Logstash, Kibana, Elastic Stack), testing solutions (Selenium, Cypress, NUnit, etc.), and others; you’ll find it hard to build metrics for your DevOps toolchain. Don’t get me wrong, you can run Selenium within GitLab’s CI/CD tests, but getting metrics that track VSM is not as easy and requires a lot of coding.
- Not friendly for non-technical people. GitLab’s target user is a software engineer, DevOps expert, or IT specialist. GitLab is hard to use and consume for engineering leaders and product owners who don’t code.
Best for: Small-to-mid-sized software engineering teams that primarily/exclusively use GitLab for their CI/CD pipelines and software product development.
VSM Tool #3: Copado
Description: Copado is a no-code/low-code continuous integration / continuous deployment (CI/CD) platform that offers many features to streamline and automate Salesforce DevOps.
- Copado’s Value Stream Mappings bring visibility to the Salesforce feature development lifecycle, offering insights into bottlenecks and delivery velocity.
- Multi-cloud. Copado integrates with all the cloud providers offered by Salesforce.
- Salesforce first-party integration. Because Copado is built on Salesforce for Salesforce, integrating Copado with your Salesforce DevOps practices is frictionless.
- Copado is built on top of Salesforce and integrates with Salesforce’s first-party solutions. Unfortunately, the main shortcoming is that Copado cannot be extended to other development environments.
Best for: Software developers that focus on Salesforce DevOps.
VSM Tool #4: ServiceNow
Description: ServiceNow offers many different products within its platform that focus on managing every aspect of the business lifecycle, including DevOps, IT operations, human resources, and others.
- ServiceNow covers workflows across every business process. From customer finance to DevOps cost of tool ownership, ServiceNow is placed as the all-in-one Value Stream Management tool.
- Once you establish a process to be inefficient or repetitive via ServiceNow’s VSM reports, you can automate the process within ServiceNow.
- High complexity and learning curve. Because of the wide area ServiceNow’s products cover, the platform can be intimidating to navigate. Often, you will have to devote extensive learning time before you can get the most out of ServiceNow.
- Limited customization.
- Slow change propagation. ServiceNow is not renowned for its speed of cross-app updates. For example, When a bug or comment is added to a user story, ServiceNow’s users need to wait a while before they can see it on the other parts of the platform.
- Pricey. ServiceNow’s products are on the expensive end of the pricing scale for similar products.
Best for: Enterprises looking for an all-in-one tool to manage their value stream across the organization.
VSM Tool #5: Plandek
Description: Plandek is an analytics platform that integrates with software tools to collect, aggregate, and present engineering metrics.
- Strong focus on project management metrics. From DORA metrics to Story Points analytics, Plandek offers a wide variety of item-, member-, and team-level metrics to understand your project management process.
- Works on-premise and with cloud providers.
- Customizable metrics. For example, define ‘Cycle Time’ metrics with your own criteria based on the statuses that you wish to include.
- Limited integrations. Plandek coverage of 3rd Party Integrations covers the more common version control/code repositories (GitLab, GitHub, BitBucket, Azure DevOps), but does not offer extensive coverage of many CI/CD, testing, workflow, monitoring, logging, and other DevOps tools.
- Sluggish user experience. Users often complain about Plandek’s slow and unresponsive UI, taking lots of time to update and showcase metrics. The problem gets bigger with additional integrations and large data sets.
Best for: Good starting tool for software engineers at small-to-medium companies looking for a solution that goes beyond GitLab’s Value Stream Management.
VSM Tool #6: Jellyfish
Description: Jellyfish is an engineering management platform that integrates data from Git and Jira, as well as additional tools like HR, calendars, and collaboration tools, to shine a light on the value stream management of engineering teams.
- Easy to use. Jellyfish is built with fewer features and complexity than its enterprise-focused competitors, which makes it easier to use.
- Fast time to value. Jellyfish delivers value quickly. You can see DORA, SCM, and other metrics without much overhead or configuration.
- Limited drill-down abilities. The executive dashboards are well set, but the engineering manager dashboards don’t offer the possibility to drill down and understand metrics in detail.
- Limited integrations. Jellyish has a very limited area of integration with third-party software.
- Lack of metric transparency. It is not clear how some metrics are calculated and how they can be interpreted.
Best for: Engineering manager at a mid-company/fast-growing startup that would like to set up value stream management with little hassle.
VSM Tool #7: CloudBees
Description: CloudBees is a software delivery platform that helps you create scalable and repeatable workflows and manage the tools, people, pipelines, and processes in your software teams.
- Extensive metrics covering DORA, developer, pipeline, plugin, and workload insights.
- Strong focus on compliance.
- Offers visibility into feature flags, not just stories.
- Steep learning curve. CloudBees is geared towards large enterprises, so its platform trades ease of use for compliance and is therefore slightly harder to use.
- Pricey. CloudBees is on the expensive end of the pricing scale for similar products.
Best for: Software and DevOps engineering lead at a large software company or enterprise looking to manage their team.
How to pick the best value stream management tool for your organization?
Picking the best value stream management tool can be challenging and depends greatly on your organization’s needs.
Match your chosen tool against these criteria to make the selection process faster:
- DevOps tool coverage. Check if the VSM tool integrates with all the tools and processes you use for software development.
- Metric coverage. Does the VSM tool cover all the metrics you need? Does it offer drill-downs and roll-ups so you can analyze the value stream metrics per individual, team, project, and any other aggregation?
- Security. Is the VSM solution you picked secure?
- Scalability. Can the tool grow with you or will it slow down as you integrate new technologies, add new people, and create new dashboards?
- Extensibility. Can you use the VSM solution for other use cases, such as building and automating pipelines?
Opsera matches all these criteria.
Pick Opsera and start managing your engineering value streams today
Opsera is a continuous orchestration platform that provides self-service toolchain automation, drag-and-drop declarative pipelines, and unified insights.
And it checks all the boxes listed above!
As Kishore Gandham, founder and CEO of KeyWest Networks, praised Opsera:
“With this automated solution, the productivity of our engineers improved by 25%. Now, I can see the development and quality metrics of individual contributors.”
With Opsera you can:
- Get end-to-end visibility of your software delivery. Opsera gives you insights across all of your teams’ CI workflows, security, and operations with over 150 out-of-the-box KPIs. But Opsera goes beyond empowering your management. It also helps you deliver products.
- Deliver quality software, faster. On Day 1, your API keys are set up, you can auto-discover repositories, and your integrations are ready for orchestrating secure, automated pipelines.
- Build with safety. Built on a layer of preventive security, Opsera’s security and quality gates increase release times by 80%.
Schedule a demo to see how easy it is to deliver customer value with the right Value Stream Managing solution.