Value stream management (VSM) is the latest iteration of popular application development management frameworks. Designed to create, track, deliver and validate the flow of value, VSM keeps projects focused on value from ideation to completion.
In this whitepaper, we’ll review the changing landscape of software development and investigate elements of the VSM process. We’ll also explore methods to successfully manage the cost and value components of delivering applications to the end customer. We’ll review the basics of VSM, the systems requirements to support the methodology, and highlight some use cases for VSM. Finally, we’ll conclude by discussing how Micro Focus provides components to support the VSM methodology to help you accelerate the delivery of your applications.
The Changing Landscape of Software Development
While there have been several intermediate steps over the last ten years, the significant evolutionary steps were discrete development and deployment methods (such as the waterfall methodology), Agile software development, and VSM.
Discrete development keeps internal teams moving through a project’s phases. The waterfall methodology is one example. As the name implies, the development in one stage flows down to the next.
As their primary purpose is internal team management, discrete development methodologies narrowly focus on the end customer. When the development is complete, operations take over deployment.
The waterfall lifecycle begins with someone gathering the customer’s requirements. Then, the project team goes to work. Teams often hear the declaration that “the requirements are now frozen,” which assumes that the project requirements are clear, unchanging, and easily defined. But, if these assumptions don’t hold, the waterfall model risks delivering a product that fails to meet the customer’s needs.
While the waterfall lifecycle has declined in popularity, a 2017 report from the Project Management Institute (PMI) shows that 51 percent of the organizations surveyed still use it.
In a radical shift from the waterfall method, Agile utilizes self-organizing, cross-functional teams focus on the customer to discover requirements and develop solutions iteratively. Unlike the waterfall approach, Agile encourages a flexible response to change. Kanban and Scrum are two popular Agile development frameworks.
Agile provides for evolutionary development and continual improvement. Teams segment deliverables into customer functionality that the company can deliver and review with the customer in two to three-week periods, which are called sprints. Sprints provide an opportunity for intermediate reviews, avoiding unpleasant surprises at the project’s “completion.”
While Agile focuses on creating a collaborative team environment for developing and delivering software that meets the customer’s needs, it doesn’t focus on how or where to provide value and the resources needed to deliver it.
VSM builds on Agile by adding cost and value components. It takes the lifecycle from idea to production and looks within the steps to identify the resources they consume and the value they contribute at any given point in time. Managing a multifaceted delivery using VSM focuses the lifecycle on efficiently delivering capabilities.
As the number of development tools, development environments, and deployment and testing environments increases, there’s a need to integrate these disparate items to make a cohesive whole. VSM utilizes extracted information from this conglomeration of tools and platforms to manage value delivery.
Keep in mind that teams often use a combination of tools, and more choices are constantly emerging. This fact creates a need for integration. Integration is becoming the most critical aspect of future-proofing your development, delivery, and application lifecycle management (ALM) process.
Fundamentals of VSM
As mentioned, VSM creates, tracks, delivers, and validates the flow of value a specific product provides, from idea to production. There are many value streams within a VSM, each contributing to delivering capability to the end users. A single value stream can be something like the compute capability sizing that is needed at various locations during various times of day, capturing customer requirements, or designing a testing environment.
Value streams enable organizations to track changes across a product line’s every activity. It does this as part of a continuous delivery (CD) flow. The assumption is that the value delivered by a product’s value stream will eventually give business profit to an organization.
Let’s discuss what you need to do to perform VSM effectively.
One important component of VSM is data collection. As stated earlier, teams use various tools to do their part of the job. This makes data collection quite complex. Additionally, an organization may also outsource some components to outside companies. Plus, different functions require different development processes. VSM requires collecting and integrating information that all of these various technologies generate across multiple phases of delivery.
It’s important to note that VSM information collection can have minimal impact on completing any value streams. The intent here is to minimize VSM overhead so that it doesn’t interfere with value delivery.
Customers need to link multiple disparate technologies through a single solution that integrates orchestration, metrics, and visibility across the product value stream.
As DevOps and Agile development take on more extensive delivery processes, these processes become more complex to manage. For instance, disparate teams develop many dependent components and are often geographically dispersed and using different tools.
To perform VSM with minimum overhead, you need to extract and integrate the information progressing through these tools’ value streams. These measures enable you to determine where resources are consumed and the results they produce. You need information like budget, cost of labor, and consumed infrastructure (cloud costs).
Track the Flow
Organizations have implemented continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices, continuous testing, and Agile processes for product delivery. Still, they lack easy or accurate methods to track the product delivery flow across multiple tools and technologies.
While you hope to get greater productivity from instituting these practices, how do you know they’re effective? Are some teams more effective than others? Has a single team developed best practices that can increase productivity across the process?
To manage the entire process, you need to know how work passes through a set of disparate technologies. What resources did the company consume (time, people, and technology) to move a given service from development to testing? To answer this question, you must harvest data from a variety of tools to track the flow.
The answers to all these questions provide the information that feeds VSM.
Customers have no standard way to track the (perceived) value of changes proposed for business demand and persist change information across a product value stream.
In addition to tracking how work is getting done and resource expenditures, organizations must track how much value this work adds. Knowing what metrics you need to track value requires understanding your development processes from idea to deployment. It involves understanding how your team adds value or accomplishes work and what resources this takes. These metrics include people, systems, business functions, and information across the company.
You also need to understand and identify delaying processes, or processes that consume more resources than necessary. These could include things like assigning inadequate headcount to the operation or delays waiting for feedback from the organization’s business side.
Other metrics identify constraints that affect a team’s efficiency. These metrics include key people taking time off simultaneously or demands of the auditing function requiring attention. Policy violations needing immediate attention, such as intrusions or unauthorized use of third-party software, can also slow value delivery. VSM is all about determining when incidents like these occur and managing their impact on delivery.
Examine Granularity Levels
You need to understand value streams at various levels of granularity, with phases, sub-phases, and stages all mapping to tooling. You will map your processes at different granularity levels depending on what you are managing and what questions you ask.
For example, a phase may seem to work well. But, when we look under the hood, some of the subphases and stages, while on schedule, may operate inefficiently. To manage and optimize the entire system, you need to examine the appropriate granularity level to uncover best practices and inefficiencies. Mapping complete processes down to the right granularity are key to making the tooling effective.
Tie it All Together
Value stream processes are the “glue” that holds Agile development processes to CI/CD and continuous testing.
Agile development requires trust that the self-managed teams will do their jobs efficiently and effectively and deliver value through CI/CD and continuous testing. Value stream processes provide the roadmap for Agile teams to ensure value delivery according to expectations.
Without value measures, we cannot be sure how well the Agile process is working. Are we spending too much on delivering a component? Can we reduce costs or improve the time to deliver? Value stream processes provide insight into how well Agile is working.
Understanding Customer Needs and Requirements
In addition to the requirements above, VSM necessitates visibility into the status of ongoing product line delivery from a value and flow perspective. You need to know what value it delivers, what resources it takes to deliver that value, and if you can reduce resource use without compromising the value.
The answer to these questions may be as simple as finding an overprovisioned test instance and making a correction. Or, it may involve a more complex analysis of the number of people working on delivering a particular service. What information you need to perform VSM depends on the question you ask.
To understand individual use cases, first aim to understand the span of information that your organization needs to manage and optimize value.
Core Use Cases for Implementing VSM
Let’s explore some cases for VSM. Keep in mind that all of the VSM requirements listed above are necessary for these use cases, though each use case may only need to meet a specific fraction of the requirements we’ve previously discussed.
With VSM, you can track value through the product value stream. This ranges from ideation to definition, planning, development, delivery, and production.
If you’ll recall from the previous section, determining value requires tracking resource expenditures and accomplishments across the value stream phases from delivery and production. One of the first steps is to create a value stream map.
Mapping is concerned with tracking the product’s observable and measurable business objectives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) measure attaining the goal.
Objectives and KPIs differ depending on where they lie in the value chain. For example, ideation objectives are about developing and communicating prescriptive ideas. In the development stage, the aim is to deliver a testable piece of business functionality by a specified time.
The value stream map becomes the central point of reference for VSM. It’s a living document that must adapt to changes in the environment or learnings. Whatever the objectives and KPIs, they must be centrally managed and linked to the tools used to manage processes.
The value map provides the hub where project management, budget, resource, and personnel assignment tools connect. These connections enable you to update the value stream map to adapt to changes.
VSM enables you to measure flow through the product value stream, from ideation to production. Flow measurement represents the total time it takes teams to deliver a feature, mapped against a minimum of four distinct phases: plan, develop, deliver and run.
When we have established the value map, we need to track the flow of accomplishments. Three key measures of flow are:
- Lead-time: the time when the function is available for work until the time it begins
- Process time: the time it takes to complete the unit of work
- Percent complete and accurate: the percentage of time that teams or customers downstream receive complete and precise work as-is
Lead time indicates adequate staffing levels. If the lead time is long, work is waiting on resources. While work is in this wait state, it adds no value. It may also delay downstream objectives.
The process time is the primary measure of the elapsed time to complete the work. The number of resources assigned to the task may also augment this measure.
Percent complete and accurate provides a view into the quality the process delivers. Quickly delivering components that require rework doesn’t add value.
You need to automate collecting and tracking lead time, process time, and percent complete and accurate across all four value stream phases. Even teams within a company may use various tools, so integrate these tools into a single hub to avoid overhead.
Viewing All from a Single Point
VSM requires viewing all change and flow information from a single point of visibility. This information includes perceived value, plans, approvals, milestones, phases, stages, and status. Change and flow information are critical measures in VSM.
Utilizing a single point enables you to diagnose blockages or slowdowns in the production pipeline and highlighting the need for rework. Changes may indicate problems with gathering customer requirements, coding quality issues, or other issues. They provide information necessary to optimize the value stream when you collect them centrally.
Creating, Modifying, and Deleting Phases
With VSM, you need to create, modify and delete phases. Phases must include a rich data set, with value definitions, dates (time capture), approvals (multiple levels), content, and process. Rich phase data provides expectations and performance measures to understand what is going on from the value and flow perspectives.
VSM requires that you spend time identifying and defining each of these items early in the project to set expectations. When you do, these items provide a trackable yardstick of what the team has achieved. Date or time capture enables us to determine how well value flows through the system.
You can also determine if the approval process is slowing the system flow, if you get value from all the approvals, if you can streamline the process, and more.
Visualizing Business Contexts
With VSM, you should create, update and manage logical environments across multiple value streams to visualize flow in a business-specific context. Value streams relate to one or more business contexts. Numerous value streams may impact a single business area. Value and flow may also differ from one business context to the next.
For VSM to provide a cohesive view of the business, you need logical environments to provide VSM at different granularity levels. VSM in one business context may not run as smoothly as in another, even using the same process. Plus, you need to aggregate items across contexts to analyze and improve the processes.
You can also follow data flow throughout the end-to-end product delivery lifecycle. This data flow should identify process and flow bottlenecks in any technology you use.
You put VSM in place to follow the entire product delivery cycle from ideation to implementation. Efficiently and effectively delivering value is its vital purpose.
Having the data available to analyze and improve all value cycle phases is critical. You need to understand the time in-phase and the handoff between phases.
Understand that the processes differ significantly from phase to phase. Therefore, optimize each stage according to its operation and data. The key to VSM success is improving value delivery across all stages.
Integrating Third-Party Solutions
To implement VSM, you should also seamlessly integrate third-party products and solutions with a value stream or phase, either as a processing entity or as an artifact entity.
VSM requires automating data collection. Otherwise, the amount of overhead generated from reporting, collecting, and normalizing the data is prohibitive.
Different teams use different tools to track their progress. Therefore, automating data collection requires integrating disparate systems, although building connectors for data transfer may take time away from delivering value to the customer without the right tools.
The ability to analyze and improve value flow and minimize the VSM workload, including all the needs we discussed, is critical to VSM’s success.
How Micro Focus Supports VSM
The following diagram by Gartner provides a conceptual view of a unified platform for value stream delivery. It also shows how Micro Focus products support each area.
The following diagram shows the core capabilities Micro Focus uses to enable VSM through using components or integrating third-party tools:
ALM Octane supports Agile planning, and with other Micro Focus products, supports application release orchestration (ARO) and security and compliance automation. This helpful tool provides a central hub to anchor your VSM efforts.
In ALM Octane, you plan and align work through all phases and understand the team, project, and location level. ALM Octane’s native capabilities trace value through each VSM phase at any granularity level.
ALM Octane integrates with your other Agile planning tools to centralize and analyze progress, especially helpful if you use more than one Agile planning method.
Together with ALM Octane, Micro Focus Deployment Automation (DA) enables you to orchestrate application release. DA’s features can automate deployments across complex environments. It also allows you to create an inventory of application releases and their environments across all deployments while integrating seamlessly with CI/CD tools to simplify your deployment processes.
Micro Focus PulseUno is a web-based user interface for development teams. It supports continuous integration and artifact management, and with DA and Octane, it supports infrastructure and security functions, respectively.
PulseUno uses various plugins to inspect the code’s health and quality, helping teams determine their next steps toward release. Its vaults enhance security by providing a secure central library of all your build and development pipeline information.
In addition to these functions, Micro Focus provides continuous testing tools for a variety of testing scenarios, including functional (Unified Functional Testing (UFT)), performance (LoadRunner), and security (Micro Focus Fortify). These tools help ensure your team completes testing at every gateway to deployment.
Together the Micro Focus suite of products provides you with end-to-end coverage. You can automate collecting, then centralize, integrate, and analyze the information necessary to drive your VSM processes and management.
VSM is the latest in a relatively rapid evolution from discrete phase methodologies, such as ALM or Waterfall, to Agile to VSM. Each required different and sometimes overlapping tooling to support tracking.
VSM promotes value delivery by managing the stream of value as items move through the pipeline. To be effective, VSM needs to automate and integrate data from a variety of often disparate tools. Micro Focus ALM Octane’s central hub automates this function without taking time away from tasks that deliver value.
What’s next? We honestly can’t be sure, but history has shown us that progress is inevitable. The way to future-proof your VSM process is to integrate your tools into a central hub where you can understand and manage value across the entire product lifecycle.
The suite of Micro Focus products seamlessly integrates your value information into a central hub and helps you manage your value stream at all stages. To accelerate your application delivery, explore Micro Focus solutions.
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