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Value Stream Management: A guide to getting more out of your software delivery

Published on
March 29, 2023

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Value Stream Management: A guide to getting more out of your software delivery

What is Value Stream Management (VSM)?

What are value streams?

How does this translate to the software delivery process?

Why is Value Stream Management Important?

Case study: Reflektion reduced build issue diagnostic time by 20%

What is Value Stream Mapping and how do you set it up?

Start Value Stream Managing today with Opsera

Amidst a persisting recession, hardships in attracting and retaining top engineering talent, and 40% of organizations pushing to drastically cut IT costs, today’s IT leaders struggle to create more business value with fewer resources. 

Luckily, CIOs and engineering directors can use the existing engineering resources to achieve better business goals by considering a new approach to managing software development: Value Stream Management.

What is Value Stream Management (VSM)?

Value Stream Management is a process that analyzes and improves the flow of value delivery throughout the entire product delivery process: from understanding the customer needs, creating a product that answers those needs, and delivering the product to the customer.

Software companies borrowed the process from lean manufacturing, where the assembly line was not viewed as a process to deliver a manufactured car. Instead, companies like Toyota viewed their manufacturing as composed of multiple value streams.

What are value streams?

As defined by iSixSigma

"A value stream is all the steps (both value-added and non-value-added) in a process that the customer is willing to pay for in order to bring a product or service through the main flows essential to producing that product or service."

In the car manufacturing world, we could identify a couple of value streams:

  1. The customer selects the desired car and specifications.
  2. The manufacturer orders parts from suppliers and assembles parts to build the desired car.
  3. The car is delivered to the customer.

Those separate processes represent an end-to-end flow producing a car, but when analyzed as separate streams, we can start analyzing the entire value stream to determine where value is added and where we need to cut waste.

How does this translate to the software delivery process?

Whether we are building cars or digital products (software), development teams often focus on internal processes (QA testing, merge requests, …) but spend little time analyzing the business outcomes of their activities. Concretely, whether their product releases increase customer value and customer satisfaction. 

For example, your DevOps teams might have launched a splendid new security upgrade that makes your app much more secure, but this doubled the lead time for your development team, leaving many customers dissatisfied with open bug requests and waiting on new feature releases.

Why is Value Stream Management Important?

Value Stream Management sets up the foundation to increase your operational efficiencies and align your IT team members’ work with business objectives.

Effective value stream management brings many benefits:

  1. End-to-end visibility. Value Stream Management helps you understand where your processes are delayed due to bottlenecks, errors, and unnecessary steps. Without VSM, it is hard to see the forest for the trees. This is an especially hard problem with modern IT teams, where each team has its own set of tools and metrics, and it is hard to gather end-to-end value flow metrics from disparate toolchains. VSM opens a window to understand where you can cut time to product delivery while keeping product quality high.
  2. Break down operational silos. Good products are built with cross-functional teams - product managers, software engineers, DevOps engineers, and technical support. Alas, product quality and product velocity are often harmed by these cross-functional organizations. From increased lead times to product quality issues being missed when passing tasks from one team to another. Cross-functional teams can do their best work, but it does not have an impact on the bottom line. VSM helps you spot the inefficiencies and break down operational silos between different teams. 
  3. Improve the customer experience. By focusing on business results instead of internal processes, you are aligning your IT team members’ work 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 of optimizing engineering processes, you’ll ask yourself how your team works to improve the value flow for customers. In 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 (bug fixes, feature releases). 

Let’s look at what Value Stream Management benefits look like at the industry frontline. 

Case study: Reflektion reduced build issue diagnostic time by 20%

Reflektion is an AI-driven customer engagement platform that offers shopper insights and product intelligence solutions for retailers and brands. 

Reflektion struggled to solve for correlating deployments, events, and logs across pipelines built on two different continuous integration (CI) platforms: Jenkins and Codeship.

With Opsera, a Value Stream Management platform, Reflektion built end-to-end visibility across their build and deployment processes by setting up intelligent dashboards with productivity and quality KPIs in less than two days. 

This helped the Reflektion team identify the problems faster and reduced the meantime to resolve the build issues by 20%.

Read the full story.

Itching to bring end-to-end visibility and operational efficiencies to your organization? Start with Value Stream Mapping.

What is Value Stream Mapping and how do you set it up?

Value stream mapping is the process of analyzing the current state and desired future state of your value flows.

Value Stream Mapping produces a visual representation (dashboard with metrics and KPIs) showing the business processes and where you can reduce “waste” in your value streams.

What does a Value Stream Map include?

Value Stream Mapping showcases flow metrics to track the impact of your value flows:

  1. Flow velocity metrics. Measure the number of items completed in a particular period. Example metrics would include “Issues Completed” or “Bugs Completed” in the last week.
  2. Flow time metrics. Measure the time it takes for a task to go from start to finish. Software managers usually track the time to complete Merge Requests.
  3. Flow efficiency metrics. Measures the time between active time and waiting time for your tasks. To understand where the delays happen, especially with cross-functional teams. A typical software delivery metric is Mean Lead Time (days).
  4. Flow load metrics. Measures the number of items currently in progress or waiting for a given value stream. Helps you monitor lead time and increase productivity. Open bug reports and open development branches are good metrics for flow load.

A best practice is to build a dashboard that showcases the metrics in real-time (make them actionable). Make sure the dashboard can be drilled down by time, team, team member, and operational units, so you get end-to-end visibility in your processes.

Building your own dashboards can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Instead, rely on tried-and-tested solutions that build the Value Stream Maps for you. As Gartner recommended

"infrastructure and operations leaders responsible for selecting and deploying DevOps toolchains should drive business ability by using DevOps value stream delivery platforms that reduce the overhead of managing complex toolchains."

Opsera is the platform that can help you set up Value Stream Management in days instead of months.

For example, Opsera’s unified insights give you 150 out-of-the-box KPIs across your entire software delivery lifecycle (SDLC):

Start Value Stream Managing today with Opsera

Opsera is a continuous orchestration platform that provides self-service toolchain automation, drag-and-drop declarative pipelines, and unified insights.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Build with safety. Built on a layer of shift-left 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.

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