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InfoQ Homepage Articles Driving DevOps with Value Stream Management

Driving DevOps with Value Stream Management

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Key Takeaways

  • Value Stream Management (VSM) is an approach to make Lean-oriented production improvements across an organization's development and operational value streams.
  • A value stream is simply an end-to-end sequence of activities where work, materials, and information flow in a coordinated and streamlined manner to deliver value (products, services, results) most effectively.
  • In its modern reinvention, VSM software tools provide end-to-end and real-time access to data and analytical tools to help improve Flow across CI/CD and DevOps software delivery pipelines.
  • In a digital economy, VSM improved software deliveries support the businesses' other value stream improvement initiatives.

As a contractor, over the past ten years, my professional roles allowed me to support three relatively large software development programs involving more than 100 team members spanning eleven, sixteen, and twenty product teams, respectively. In addition, I've recently supported a team developing reusable CI/CD configurations for a large federal agency. I've watched the organizations I've worked with install Agile and Lean-Agile practices throughout these activities, with limited success at best.

I wrote my last book, Scaling Scrum Across Modern Enterprises, to explore the alternative Agile and Lean-Agile scaling approaches developed and promoted by various industry leaders, focusing on Scrum-based practices. During my research, I reached out to interview the founders, or their designates, of the following Scrum and Lean-Agile practices.

  • Scrum-of-Scrums – the original Scrum scaling strategy as a team of teams
  • Scrum-At-Scale – An extension to the Scrum Guide that scales the basic Scrum of Scrums concepts enterprise-wide and across business domains with minimum viable bureaucracy (MVB) via scale-free architectures
  • The Nexus Framework – the software developer's extension to the Scrum Guide that implements Network Integration Teams (NIT) to manage cross-team dependency, integration, and synchronization issues on multiteam product development efforts
  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) – Another scaled-Scrum approach, with two Scrum scaling frameworks, that helps coordinate the activities of multiple teams, around features (LeSS Framework) and requirements areas (LeSS Huge Framework), working in collaboration to develop large and complex software-enabled products
  • Disciplined Agile (DA) – A Lean-Agile approach to development that provides six product development lifecycles, numerous process guides, and hundreds of potentially useful techniques that allow teams to choose their preferred Way of Working based on their unique business and organizational needs and situations
  • Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) – With four configurations, a Lean-Agile approach for large organizations working on large-scale product development efforts that can leverage their economies of scale as strengths to provide greater efficiencies and yet incorporate Lean-Agile practices to enable business agility on an enterprise scale

The objective of that book was to use my experience coordinating the work of multiple teams on large software development programs to evaluate and document the alternative Scrum and Lean-Agile scaling approaches available to software teams.

After I finished that book, my publisher, PACKT Publishing, asked me what my next area of interest was. I knew I wanted to write something to help business executives understand the critical issues they must address to successfully install DevOps capabilities to compete more effectively in our digital economy. Moreover, I felt more work was required to explain how and why Lean and Agile concepts go together.  Finally, having many years of practitioner and consulting experience helping clients improve their value streams, I felt there was much to say about the modern reinvention of value stream management (VSM).

The gaps and common problem this book solves

A common phrase you will hear IT industry analysts make today is that "DevOps is the table stakes that allow an organization to compete in our digital economy." That's a true statement, but it's a mistake to think that executives can mandate such a change and leave the IT organization to figure things out. Instead, the organization's executives must take the lead to ensure the IT investments achieve desirable ROIs by using their improved software deliveries to improve all other organizational value streams.

DevOps, or Dev(Sec)Ops, implements a strategy to integrate, automate, and orchestrate software delivery activities as a lean-oriented value stream, otherwise referred to as a software delivery pipeline. Lean production practices eliminate all forms of waste that do not add value from our customers' perspectives. The objective is only to implement activities that add value and to streamline the flow of work and information across value stream activities, end-to-end from concept through delivery.

A value stream, such as a DevOps pipeline, is simply the end-to-end set of activities that delivers value to our customers, whether internal or external to the organization. In an ideal state, work and information flow efficiently with minimal delays or queuing of work items.

So far, this all sounds great. But good things seldom come easily. Let's start with the fact that there are hundreds of tools available to support a Dev(Sec)Ops toolchain. Moreover, it takes specific skills, effort, costs, and time to integrate and configure the tools selected by your organization.

While software developers perform the integration effort, the required skills may differ from those available in your software development teams. Also, such work takes your developers away from their primary job of delivering value via software products for your internal and external customers.

In short, asking your development teams to build their Dev(Sec)Ops toolchain configurations is a bit like asking manufacturing operators to build their manufacturing facilities. Assuming they could learn the skills quickly and efficiently, redirecting your software developers to create pipeline configurations is still non-value-added work from your customers' perspectives. So, my new book provides strategies to deal with these issues. The book is titled Driving DevOps with Value Stream Management: Improve IT value stream delivery with a proven VSM methodology to compete in the digital economy.

In its modern context, value stream management (VSM) has become a tools-based strategy to provide visibility to data across your Dev(Sec)Ops pipeline activities and tools. A mature VSM platform provides integration adaptors and a common data model to aggregate, display, and analyze data from multiple disparate tools supporting your Dev(Sec)Ops pipelines.

In other words, with VSM tools, executives and decision-makers have end-to-end visibility to activities, work items, and information flows. As a result, they can evaluate their current state of software production and assess alternative tools and work strategies before making commitments.

Mature VSM platforms also help integrate Dev(Sec)Ops toolchains, automate pipeline activities, and orchestrate work and information flow. The result is that the VSM tools supporting Dev(Sec)Ops platforms outperform traditional Waterfall and even Agile-based approaches by orders of magnitude.

We can use the DORA Four metrics as an example of the best performers against the lowest performers:

Metric

Elite performance

Low Performers

Deployment Frequency

on demand, multiple deployments per day

between once per month and every six months

Lead Time for Changes

less than one day

between one month and six months

Time to restore service

less than one hour

between one week and one month

Change failure rate

0% to 15%

46% to 60%

Source

But, if there is one thing I want you to take away from my book, its that organizations can develop spectacular software delivery capabilities and spend a lot of time and money in the process but not realize sufficient business improvements to justify the investments. You might ask, "how is that possible?" The answer is "how you aim your improved software delivery capabilities is every bit as important as the improved delivery capabilities."

When we give a demo of our automated CI/CD pipeline configurations, we measure time lapsed across pipeline activities in microseconds. These activities occur much faster than the time it takes to define requirements or even write the code. From a systems thinking perspective, such radical improvements is a form of localized optimizations.

For example, imagine visiting an automobile manufacturing plant that has a belt conveying vehicles at a single, steady pace. Let's also suppose each car moves between stations every 60 seconds, from front to end. Then imagine the automobile manufacturer invests a whole bunch of money in implementing a robot that can complete its work in just 30 seconds. Will the edition of that robot speed up the line? Of course not, because its cycle time is not the limiting factor across the entire line.

The same principle applies to your Dev(Sec)Ops software delivery pipelines. The speed of software deliveries is so fast that it's not likely to be your organization's bottleneck. The question is, how do you maximize the value of your software deliveries.

Value stream management is not a new concept. It's been around for decades as a continuous lean-oriented improvement strategy. In fact, there are standard steps associated with implementing a VSM initiative, regardless of the type of value stream, performed as follows:

  1. Commit to Lean and learn how it works
  2. Choose your value stream
  3. Map the current state of your selected value stream
  4. Identify Lean metrics
  5. Map the desired future state, including alternatives
  6. Plan and implement identified value stream improvements

In an ideal situation, organizations employ VSM initiatives to evaluate all their values streams, not just their software delivery processes. And, because we compete in a digital economy, the identified value stream improvement opportunities will include digital enhancements. It is those digital enhancements powered by software that can deliver the most value to the organization.

So, in this context, my book has a simple admonition: VSM is not just about tools to improve software deliveries. VSM is a lean-oriented Lean-improvements strategy that provides the means to evaluate and prioritize all value stream improvement opportunities, many of which will require digital solutions.  The VSM tools help drive software delivery improvements. But it's the alignment of your improved software delivery capabilities to support other value stream improvements that will make the investments supportable and sustainable.

Audience

This book was written for corporate executives, managers, DevOps team members, and other stakeholders involved in digital business transformations to improve the flow of customer value through their organization's value streams. Also, this book will help technology leaders and decision-makers understand how to get the most out of the Dev(Sec)Ops toolchain investments. Similarly, this book is also for the IT specialists who needs to understand how to gain executive support for their Dev(Sec)Ops and VSM tool investment requests.

Finally, other stakeholders impacted by IT investments will find this book helpful in maximizing value-based deliveries across the organization. I define a stakeholder as anyone who has an opinion that matters. It's not that some opinions matter more than others. But, let's face it, the demise of many software projects and programs came at the hands of Stakeholders who didn't see the value and worked behind the scenes to shut down the program and funding.

However, if your software delivery pipelines properly support other organizational value stream improvements, you'll have a much better chance of justifying your program and product team expenses.

While writing this book, I interviewed representatives from the VSM Consortium, 16 tool vendors – and conducted research on 24 VSM software tool companies in all, plus the two leading Lean-Agile Framework Companies and two of the leading Lean training and methodology companies.

The book is fairly broad, covering a range of topics. During the learning journey, you will find out what it means to deliver value and why enterprises should incorporate systems and lean thinking with their agile practices to deliver the most value. You will also learn about value stream management methods and tools and Dev(Sec)Ops pipeline implementation pitfalls and considerations. 

This book logically divides into four parts, subtitled as follows:

  1. Value Delivery – what it means and how to go about it.
  2. VSM Methodology – a Lean-oriented and proven approach to make Flow improvements across an enterprise.
  3. VSM Tool Vendors & Frameworks – to improve your software delivery pipeline capabilities.
  4. Applying VSM with DevOps – to drive digital business transformations.

The chapters cover the following topics:

Chapter 1, Delivering Customer-centric Value - Defining what constitutes the delivery of value.

Chapter 2, Building on a Lean-Agile foundation – discover what it means to be a Lean-Agile enterprise.

Chapter 3, Analyzing complex systems interactions – Looking at software development activities as a complex system and understanding the impacts of interrelationships between participating elements.

Chapter 4, Defining Value Stream Management – understanding the history and fundamentals behind value stream management.

Chapter 5, Driving business value through a DevOps Pipeline – Assessing the end-to-end activity and information flows and integrated toolchains that make DevOps pipelines so complex and expensive to implement on an enterprise scale.

Chapter 6, Launching the VSM initiative (VSM Steps 1 - 3) – Learn why it's critical that the organization makes a commitment to Lean, how to choose a value stream, and what VSM team members and other stakeholders need to learn about implementing Lean.

Chapter 7, Mapping the current state (VSM Strep 4) – Learn how to construct a current state value stream map using a CI/CD pipeline flow improvement use case as an example.

Chapter 8, Identifying lean metrics (VSM Step 5) – Learn the common Lean metrics used to identify wastes that contribute poor performance across value streams and those that most apply to assessing IT and DevOps-oriented value streams.

Chapter 9, Mapping the future state (VSM Step 6) - Learn how to construct a future state value stream map and Kaizen Burst (production improvement opportunities) using a CI/CD pipeline flow improvement use case as an example.

Chapter 10, Improving the Lean-Agile value delivery cycle (VSM Steps 7 & 8) – Learn of to develop and execute a Kaizen Plan that addresses the improvement opportunities identified in the future state value stream maps.

Chapter 11, Identifying VSM tool types and capabilities – Introduces the three primary types of VSM tools and their general purpose and capabilities.

Chapter 12, Leading VSM Tools – Offers descriptions of capabilities provided by fifteen leading VSM tool vendors, and their individual strengths and areas of focus.

Chapter 13, Leading Digital VSM Practice Leaders – Introduces the VSM Consortium and two of the leading Lean-Agile frameworks that promote VSM, Disciplined Agile and the Scaled Agile Framework®.

Chapter 14, Enterprise Lean-VSM Practice Leaders – Introduces two of the leading Lean training and certification organizations, the Lean Enterprise Institute and LeanFITT™.

Chapter 15, Defining the appropriate DevOps platform strategy – Provides interviews with six expert DevOps practitioners to explain the potential DevOps implementation pitfalls that organizations need to be aware of. Also introduces four DevOps platform implementation strategies, and the pros and cons of each.

Chapter 16, Transforming Businesses with VSM and DevOps – Using VSM and DevOps tools to drive business transformations by aligning software deliveries to support improvements across all organizational value streams.

About the Author

Gary Rupp's professional aims are to bridge the gap between customers and solution developers to ensure we build the right products with the highest commercial value while maintaining profitability. For more than thirty years, he has been a strong advocate of using visual modeling techniques for collaborative problem-solving in business. Gary's experience in the software industry includes executive-level roles in program and project management, professional services, and the sales and marketing of CASE, software development, and middleware tools.

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