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Value Stream Management: Why Talk About It Now?

Software innovation and delivery are on the top of just about any forward-thinking executive’s priority list these days, and businesses are doubling down on software optimization development efforts.

Value stream management (VSM)—a lean business practice that allows for visibility over how software is being built—has grown in popularity in DevOps circles as a result. As units of function pass along the pipeline, from concept to deployment, managers can benefit from understanding how this is taking place, from speed of development, to where the bottlenecks are, to what value is being delivered.

GigaOm analyst Jon Collins examines the “why” of VSM in a recent blog post. One of those “whys” is the question “why now?” People have been building applications for a long time, after all, and should already know how to manage the process. But VSM has cropped up as a response to a current need, says Collins.

“VSM is, in part, new situations meeting old wisdom. It isn’t something new in itself, but it is applying some well-tested concepts to a relatively new area—DevOps. This says a lot about how DevOps itself is evolving, as it grows up and recognizes the need to balance the need for speed with the need for longer-term success.”

Collins says that nestled within VSM are also some leading-edge notions, such as the importance of moving from a deliverable-centric, project mindset, to a customer-centric, product mindset. Value streams are about delivering high-impact results, not just assuring that the delivery process is efficient.

If you are are considering adding VSM to a DevOps practice, Collins has these recommendations:

1. Address both efficiency (process) and effectiveness (results). Check you are doing things in the right way, while at the same time as making sure that your outputs are as high-value as they can be.

2. See VSM as an element of management, not as something additional to manage. It is important to align/integrate VSM into your management strategy, otherwise, it will be yet another layer and toolset to deal with.

3. Remember that measurement influences behavior. Heisenberg was right, you can’t measure velocity without changing direction. In this case, you need to bring in development team members so that you can deploy VSM together, rather than seeing it as a top-down management edict.

Collins has authored several reports on VSM that are worth reading for a more comprehensive understanding of it. He says best practice is still emerging in the space. While the tools used will be important in getting it done right, it is more important to have a value-oriented mindset across the software delivery process and beyond.