Navigating the digital-first world requires organizations to explore new frontiers to deliver more value to their customers. While the tech oligopoly can provide customers with digital solutions at warp speed, traditional enterprises need a little help. Many IT leaders, such as CIOs, are taking proactive measures to improve market response through software by adopting practices such as value stream management (VSM).
Emerging from this progressively maturing field are three key new roles: value stream lead, value stream analyst and value stream architect. Like some of our heroes from the Starship Enterprise, they can support their cross-functional teams to help them navigate their organization’s digital journey into the unknown.
VSM is software delivery that focuses on increasing the flow of business value from customer request to customer delivery. It is a systematic approach to measuring and improving end-to-end flow, helping organizations shorten time to market, increase throughput, improve product quality and team happiness and optimize for business outcomes. Yet, like any transformational practice, there are challenges with transitioning from project-based management to VSM:
- Understanding and identifying the value streams.
- Aligning teams to the value streams and those value streams to business outcomes (such as revenue, customer retention, improved infrastructure).
- Measuring the end-to-end flow across these value streams to determine the rate of business value delivered for each software product value stream, correlated to actual business outcomes.
- Using small, quick, inexpensive experiments to reduce bottlenecks and waste.
- Analyzing value stream metrics to track improvement.
- Assuring a robust and scalable technology platform to underpin the value stream to enable visibility into flow.
Value Stream Lead
“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown–only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” –– Captain James T. Kirk, USS Enterprise
The value stream lead is thoughtful and bold, an effective communicator, one willing to take calculated risks based on data, sharing many characteristics with Captain Kirk.
This role is responsible for the overall performance of one or more value streams, aligning teams to the value stream, correlating the business value delivery to business goals, communicating value stream performance with the business leadership, adjusting goals and setting direction.
Good leadership at the value stream level will ensure that the priorities of technical teams will be set to comply with business drivers and, conversely, business leadership will have clear, objective visibility into the performance of the value stream. This role is the key liaison between the total set of teams that make up the software delivery value stream and the business leadership.
Value Stream Analyst
“Insufficient facts always invite danger.” — Spock, Starship Enterprise
Much like Spock, the value stream analyst is logical, data driven, tests hypotheses and can identify contributing factors to flow inhibitors.
This role is responsible for identifying and modeling product value streams, interpreting value stream metrics around flow, identifying contributing factors to bottlenecks, designing and executing improvement experiments to meet business objectives and coaching.
The value stream analyst is somewhat a jack of all trades. Armed with a solid understanding of lean principles, software delivery processes, experience as a member of a delivery team, as well as a willingness to experiment, this individual is crucial to instituting a culture of continuous improvement. Center to the tools used by this role is the modeling and measurement of the value stream. Measurement feeds the plan-do-check-act improvement kata that is shepherded by this role across all practitioners among the teams that make up the value stream.
Value Stream Architect
“The engine imbalance is what caused the worm-hole in the first place. It’ll happen again if we don’t fix it.” — Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, Starship Enterprise
Like Scotty, the value stream architect is the keeper of the engine room and ship’s technology, prioritizer of resources, and able to keep things running no matter the conditions.
This role is responsible for the tool network and artifact network optimization, integration strategies, managing artifact types, states and flow among the enterprise tools supporting the value streams.
The value stream architect is an expert in software delivery tools and the flow of artifacts that underpin the value stream end-to-end. Spanning portfolio, ideation, requirements, agile tracking, testing, build, deployment, operations and beyond, this role is responsible for designing, implementing and improving the tooling that team members use daily.
Cross Functional Teaming
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!” — Captain James T. Kirk, Starship Enterprise
Beyond these roles, it is critical to extend what we have learned from Agile and DevOps about the value of cross-functional teams and their ability to continuously deliver on a product. For VSM, that means going beyond code through deployment. Cross-functional teams should include members from the end-to-end functions across the value stream to independently deliver value to the customer.
Uplift in three key areas—business acumen, leadership and technology—enable team members to become T-shaped contributors (individuals who have deep knowledge and skills in multiple areas) to deliver value to the customer and further serves to align business and IT needs. In a digital-first world, encouraging teams to innovate, learn their products and broaden their skill sets allows them to better serve their customers.
These roles help promote business and IT partnerships delivering incremental value against a common goal. In today’s digital market, customers expect products to be available wherever and whenever they need them. Mastering delivery at scale across the full end-to-end lifecycle of a product is the only way to meet this challenge head on to survive and thrive, and help traditional enterprises go boldly where they have not been before.