The effectiveness of software development teams has traditionally been measured by their output — how many lines of code did they write today? How many times was code deployed to production. In short, the measure was speed.

The idea that they can move code has always been important. But today, organizations are starting to ask if what is being moved matters to both the end user and the organization itself. For an end user, what matters could be about improved satisfaction, or more shopping cart conversions. Internally, it could be about improving operational efficiency.  

Thomas Murphy, research director and analyst at Gartner, explained it’s all part of bringing value to the organization. “We’re not just building stuff to build stuff,” he said. “Value should be about… how do I build a little, make sure that I’m on track, not spend six months working on something and then hear, well, that’s really not quite what we needed. To me, that’s part of value stream. How can I have better dialogs between the engineering staff and the business about what we need and where it’s going, and that we’re all on the same team.”

For years, the industry has lamented it hasn’t been able to bring IT and business together. Whether it was the fact they don’t use the same tools, have the same visibility into the processes, or even use the same terms to identify things, this divide has always existed. However, new collaboration tools and restructuring of teams within these organizations that bring stakeholder interests into the development process are working to close that divide. This has been an outgrowth of many organizations coming to realization that software IS their business, and they’re transitioning to maximize the value of that.

Murphy agrees that communication between the business and IT — and IT is both development and operations — is critical. “I want to deliver business value, not just technical value. But,” he added, “as a developer, you’re just hoping it doesn’t become the full-on pointy-hair boss syndrome.” 

Creating value streams and managing and optimizing them is the technical part, but success in this area requires a perspective change and a culture shift, Murphy explained. “Does the business understand that it’s value is derived off of software?” he asked. “I’m Ford, what is it that I do? Do I build cars, or do I do something different? Ford is one of the companies that recognizes it does something different. Toyota recognizes it. Now there are some companies that still view software as something that we need, it’s still viewed as a necessary evil. And digital transformation to them is just about more digital optimization.” 

Some companies have been reluctant to go all-in on digital transformation, maintaining that they want to keep things as they are, but only work more efficiently. Murphy put it this way: “For a lot of companies, what is Agile about? It means I’m going to get software cheaper and faster. What was object-oriented development about? Software cheaper and faster. Components. DevOps, for a lot of companies.. Finally, I’m going to get software cheaper and faster. They just pound along on that route. The business may get some of what they want but they aren’t recognizing the bigger issue at hand.”

To learn more about Value Stream Management, sign up for {Virtual} VSM DevCon, a one-day learning event, on July 22.