Digital.ai’s 2020 State of Agile report revealed that over half of its survey respondents either had implemented or were planning to implement value stream management (VSM). But despite its popularity, in many organizations it has fallen into the same trap as many new development methodologies — it’s not being implemented 100% correctly. Often, VSM is looked at solely from a DevOps perspective, and it leaves out the business-aligned teams. True value stream management should encompass both sides, rather than solely being used as a way to improve DevOps processes.
According to David Williams, vice president of strategy and platform product management at value stream management company digital.ai, companies often will believe that a value stream implementation is working just because software delivery is faster, customer satisfaction is observable, or performance of systems is going up. But unless the two value streams — the DevOps value stream and business value stream — are aligned, value stream isn’t really a true success.
“When value stream management is mentioned, it is typically assigned to the development or the DevOps value stream,” Williams said. “That in itself is a bit of a challenge because what it means is that companies may not be seeing the clarity of managing it to the business value stream…If the lens is not on the business value stream itself and how to achieve that objective, then all that’s going to happen is that value stream management will become a better ability to optimize your DevOps-based processes, which will not necessarily actually do anything to the business value itself.”
Often, the business side of value stream understands what they are trying to achieve, he explained, but that might not be properly communicated to or understood by the DevOps teams. According to Williams, what often happens is the business executives will put an objective into the pipeline, and then developers will build a project to suit that objective. Where the disconnect lies is that there is a long lag time before a development team’s efforts are recognized as they pertain to the business objective.
“That’s the biggest problem,” said Williams. “The business gets it, the DevOps teams believe they get it, but generally businesses understand the difference between these value streams, but they’re not tied together. So the problem is enterprises struggle because the software that’s delivered is not accountable or measurable to prioritize against business outcomes.”
So how do organizations overcome this disconnect? According to Williams, the first step is to have something in place that unifies these value streams. In other words, both teams need context for what they’re doing. For example, development teams should have the ability to directly see how the software they’re releasing is impacting the business objectives. “When I do something in the software release life cycle, as it goes out into the business, it’s actually measured against what it’s meant to be producing. So it’s not something to be discovered over time.”
The human aspect is important to value stream success, Williams said. He believes that contributors will be more motivated when they can actually see how what they’re doing is impacting the business objective. “It helps the person doing the work to understand what their own value is and their own contribution and prioritize their work load accordingly in support of that…So business value, understanding your own worth, understanding how you contribute to the business outcome, all of these help organizations in respect to satisfaction.”
Content provided by SD Times and Digital.ai.
Hear more from David Williams at VSM DevCon, a one-day, free virtual event all about value stream management. Williams will give a keynote about the miscommunication of objectives in value stream management.