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What is Value Stream Management?

Software delivery is a complex process. CTOs and CIOs across every business category have been tasked with creating more value with fewer resources. 

While aligning your IT initiatives with company goals and objectives might seem easy in theory, it’s difficult to achieve in practice.

That’s where value stream management comes into play. With value streams, you can focus on every aspect of the product development lifecycle—from idea through the final delivery. Understanding the core concepts of value stream management and applying them to your software development process will have significant benefits for your organization.

We created this resource as a beginner’s guide to value stream management. The information below will help you understand value stream management so you can apply it to your business.

Value Stream Management Defined: What is Value Stream Management?

Value stream management is a lean business methodology. The practice helps decision-makers identify the value of software development, delivery, and resources of a software project. Value stream management allows organizations to monitor the end-to-end life cycle of software development by prioritizing “value streams” as opposed to features and functionality.

What is a value stream?

In simple terms, a value stream makes complex procedures easily visible, allowing teams the opportunity to pivot if certain actions will deliver more value to the final product. In practice, value stream management makes it easier to align software projects with overall business initiatives. 

Without value stream management, software teams usually have different priorities than business executives. But value stream management allows everyone to take a step back to align goals and objectives across the entire organization for business outcomes.

To execute value stream management, all of the tools, people, processes, and dependencies of each must be evaluated. This gives business leaders, project managers, and executives complete visibility into how things work.

Value Stream Mapping: What is Value Stream Mapping and How Does it Work?

Now that you understand the core concepts of value stream management, it’s time to take this one step further and discuss value stream mapping (VSM).

The main purpose of value stream mapping is to identify waste and remove waste from your value streams. This concept can be traced back nearly 100 years to Toyota Motor Company’s production system. 

Today, value stream mapping can be applied to a wide range of use cases, including product development, healthcare, lean manufacturing, supply chain management, and of course, software development.

Here’s an example from Lucidchart that shows what value stream mapping might look like in DevOps.

Value stream mapping can be a bit complicated. But it’s an excellent way to help you identify waste in your process. In terms of software delivery, you can use the acronym “DOWNTIME” to help categorize different types of waste:

  • Defects — Bugs, errors, mistakes, and re-worked tasks
  • Overproduction — Unnecessary features, or anything else that’s more work than required
  • Waiting — Any delay associated with the software not moving through the queue
  • Non-Utilized Talent — Failing to use team members and staff who can improve your software development process
  • Transport — Waste associated with passing deliverables from one person or department to another (example: sending the software from developers to product testers and QAs)
  • Inventory — Work that’s partially completed
  • Motion — Waste associated with switching between tasks
  • Extra Processing — Reworking things like undocumented code or relearning steps in the process

When you’re going through the value-stream mapping process, it’s easy to write certain things off as “that’s just the way we’ve always done it.” The vast majority of software development processes contain lots of waste. Waste typically equals higher costs and less value, so eliminating waste is crucial to your success. 

Benefits of Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

VSM isn’t for everyone. It’s for leaders who want to maximize the value of software delivery. While it requires a bit of hard work, there are tons of benefits and advantages, including:

  • Identify pain points or bottlenecks in your DevOps process
  • Help eliminate bugs and defects from your software
  • Enhances end-to-end visibility of the product life cycle
  • Creates transparency across your software process
  • Empowers cross-functional collaboration between development teams and departments
  • Gives you the ability to identify opportunities to automate certain tasks
  • Adds context and clarity to your process with charts and visuals
  • Helps you prioritize results and KPIs

Ultimately, value stream mapping is the only way to maximize the outputs of your value streams. It ensures that your team is working at the highest level and provides you with the bandwidth required to deliver multiple software projects of high quality and maximum value. 

Applying Value Stream Management to Software Delivery and Mobile App Development

As previously mentioned, the roots of value stream management and value stream mapping can be traced back to vehicle production lines. There are a wide range of use cases for this lean business methodology. 

So I want to take a little more time to help you understand the concepts of value stream management software delivery—more specifically, mobile app development. 

The idea of value streams stems from delivering value to a customer and accommodating the customer needs. But in the case of software development, customers can be internal or external. If you’re creating mobile apps for customers as a white label reseller, then your customers are external. But if you’re creating an HR mobile app for employee communication within your organization, then your “customers” are internal.  

With value stream management, the “customer” is at the center of your decisions and process. This allows software teams to remain agile and do things differently on a project-to-project basis.

For example, some customers might want to provide more input throughout the software development process, adding critiques and feature requests along the way. 

Other stakeholders could just provide you with an end goal and let your software team run with the idea—just waiting for the final deliverable (like a mobile app).

Compared to product assembly lines, value stream management for software delivery improves the way teams manage workflows. DevOps allows agile teams to make changes multiple times per day, as opposed to taking weeks for a single update. 

VSM shortens end-to-end lead times. Certain changes or requests from stakeholders can be unpredictable. But with waste removed from your process, it’s much easier to provide continuous delivery and continuous improvements to software projects. 

Measuring Value Streams in Software Delivery

Enterprise value stream management is a holistic approach to mobile app development and software delivery. It applies the principles of agile and DevOps for the complete software delivery pipeline and maximum business value.

But all of this is based on the ability to identify waste and remove it from your software delivery process. This is impossible unless you’re evaluating and measuring actual metrics. 

Here’s an overview of what you can measure split into two categories—DevOps metrics and flow metrics:

DevOps Metrics

  • Deployment Frequency — How often code is delivered to production within the software team’s value stream.
  • Lead Time — How long it takes to get code up and running successfully in a value stream.
  • Mean Time to Repair — How long it takes to fix bugs, defects, unplanned outages, or other incidents that can impact end-users and stakeholders.
  • Change Fail Rate — Percentage of changes in production that result in service with lower value and the subsequent remediation required in a value stream.

Flow Metrics

  • Flow Item — Unit of work related to the business. These units can be features, defects, risks, or debts. 
  • Flow Time — Time it takes for flow items to go from “started” to “completed,” including active and wait times. Flow times can be used to determine when cycle times or time to values are increasing.
  • Flow Load — The amount of flow items that are in progress in a specific value stream. Flow loads monitor the overutilization and underutilization of value streams, both of which can cause a reduction in team productivity. 
  • Flow Efficiency — Ratio of active times vs. wait times of the total flow time. This metric can help you figure out if waste is increasing or decreasing in your process. 
  • Flow Distribution — Ratio of the flow items completed in a specific period of time. This metric helps identify the different types of work being completed during different time windows to see if those time frames align with desired business objectives.
  • Flow Velocity — Number of flow items completed in a specific time window. It determines whether or not value has accelerated. 

Ultimately, DevOps metrics must be incorporated into your process if you’re going to effectively measure the flow of value metrics. 

For those of you prioritizing end-to-end flow metrics, you need to use enterprise toolchains to accomplish this. These tools give you real-time visibility into your flow of work by capturing data, which automates tasks on your behalf. Trying to measure all of this manually in real-time is near impossible. But measuring value delivery is crucial for calculating return on investment.

How to Implement Value Stream Management: Steps For Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Before we dive into the steps for value stream mapping, let’s take a closer look at what value stream management consists of. At its core, the concept can be broken down into three main categories—planning, orchestration, and analytics.

  • Planning — Value stream management allows you to apply agile best practices across your entire organization for any software development project. This is crucial when you have teams working on multiple projects simultaneously with dependencies linked between different tasks, projects, and teams. 
  • Orchestration — Software development tools help you identify bottlenecks in your product pipeline. It makes it easier to standardize your process and unify teams across all departments. Orchestration encompasses compliance and task automation required to release software and mobile apps. 
  • Analytics — As previously mentioned, analytics are crucial in identifying the impact of value streams in real-time. You need to track lots of data and use that information to gather metrics, review reports, and more. 

Without getting too technical, here’s a general step-by-step approach to implementing value stream mapping (VSM) into your software development process.

Step #1 — Define the Processes in Your Value Stream

The first thing you need to do is clearly identify the stages in your value stream. You can use basic value stream management solutions or value stream management platforms to help you out with this. Even a simple Kanban board for project management makes it easy to identify the stages of your process (example: to-do, in progress, done).

In terms of value stream mapping, you’ll ultimately take those stages and divide them into subcategories. These subcategories will contain distinct processes that you’ll ultimately put into a visual value stream map. 

Step #2 — Indicate the Flow

After your steps and unique processes have been accurately added to a visual tool, it’s time to indicate your flows. This is as easy as using lines or arrows to explain the path of work items and functions throughout your software development process.

Step #3 — Gather Data and Add Timelines

Next, you need to collect the data associated with each step. Refer back to the metrics and KPIs we discussed earlier for this. You’ll want to measure things like how long it takes to complete each step and which resources are required for success. 

Add the data and benchmarks to your value stream map. For each process, add in a box with all of your resources, work time, and additional metrics for each stage. You’ll ultimately use this to create a project timeline for the process. 

This step goes beyond the hours or days required to complete an action. It must also encompass your lead times and cycle times for software delivery. 

Step #4 — Identify Lean Wastes

Once everything has been mapped through the first three steps, it’s time to go back and evaluate your process. Look for lean waste in your value stream. 

Refer back to the “DOWNTIME” acronym mentioned earlier in this guide for waste categories that are specific to software delivery. 

Step #5 — Finalize Your Value Stream Map

Now that all of the lean waste in your value streams have been identified, you’ll be able to finalize your map. Take all of the data and information you’ve gathered in the first four steps to create an ideal value stream—without all of the waste. 

Eliminating all of the waste at once might be unrealistic. So you might need to create several value stream maps to eliminate lean wastes in different stages on your path to an ideal value stream.

Conclusion

Value stream management isn’t always easy. But I hope this guide helped you understand the way it works in simple and non-technical terms.

Now that you have some basic knowledge of how value stream management and value stream mapping can be applied to software delivery, I encourage you to try it out. It’s a great way to improve your business strategy and add continuous integration and optimization to your software delivery process.

Follow the tips, tricks, best practices, and steps for value stream management that we covered in this guide.

4 Ways Your Business Can Benefit From Having a Mobile App

They’re in all of our pockets now, aren’t they?

I’m talking, of course, about mobile devices. And the core functionality of those devices (other than making phone calls, I’ve been told) is to run a whole host of applications that serve nearly every imaginable purpose.

Businesses from all corners of the world, offering a ridiculous range of products, have begun migrating from the physical world of handing out leaflets, printing advertisements, and hanging billboards, to the mobile realm. And you should too.

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Our business doesn’t need a mobile app to sell products to our loyal customers!

And maybe that’s been the case in the past. But if you want to prepare for the future and start seeing the massive benefits right out the gate, you’ll need a mobile app.

Not so easily convinced? Then here are 4 ways (and then some) that your business will reap the benefits of creating a mobile app for your customers.

1. Provide More Value to Your Customers

Business is all about reciprocation. You offer a product, the market opens their wallets with their demand, right?

Maybe you’ve sat down with your employees and tried to nail down the best way to encourage more of this wallet-opening engagement from your customers. You want to increase their interaction with your business to promote sales, of course, but you also want to provide a level of value for your customers that they can’t get anywhere else.

One way to do this is create a loyalty program within your app. It would work like this:

The more customers interact with your business and product, the more points they collect, which can in turn be used for great deals on the products they already know they want.

Starbucks uses their mobile app to their advantage by offering rewards exclusively to app subscribers, which then motivates customers to buy coffee (And other delicious snacks) from them. They’re even more ahead of the curve by allowing their users to pay directly from the app, speeding up the whole transaction process.

starbucks loyalty program

If you already have a program like this in place – great. You can incorporate it into your mobile app, digitizing the entire process, making data on their purchases available to you instantly. If you don’t have one, get on it, fast.

And when your customers see their points adding up in real time (rather than having to send in points in the mail or wait until they can access your website to enter them manually), they’ll be impressed and more enticed to follow up on their purchases in the future.

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2. Build a Stronger Brand

One of the most important things a mobile app offers to consumers is awareness of and communication with your brand. And through that regular interaction with your target market, you’re fostering trust.

The more your audience trusts you, the more likely they’ll be to listen to later sales pitches and even commit to your brand. With an app, you’ll demonstrate to your users why they should trust you by showing (rather than telling) what your brand stands for.

In the same way as distributing fridge magnets, calendars, and other random memorabilia with your company logo on it has served in the past both as advertisement and assistance, mobile apps strengthen your brand and educate your customers.

That’s why so many businesses across all the major sectors are developing strategies for mobile apps. Check out this data from the Red Hat Mobile Maturity Survey 2015:

industry processes

This is more than you can shake a stick at. Everyone is getting on board.

3. Connect Better with Customers

Customer service isn’t just about face to face communication between smiling sales associates and customers anymore.

Since 2.6 billion people now have high-powered mobile devices within arm’s reach at all times, the true game-changer in customer service is now mobile apps.

Why?

Firstly, your app won’t be merely a human being, subject to mood swings and poor performance.

And, through a solid mobile presence, you’ll always know you’re presenting to the customer the same face – an interface geared specifically to provide them with the best experience of studying and deciding whether they want to buy your product.

In fact, the vast majority of marketers see their apps as a means to primarily improve customer service.

brand mobile presence reasons

Without sounding creepy, your business is always with your customer. (Okay, maybe there’s no way around that one.)

But think about it. If a person hears about your app in the middle of the night and wants to get information ASAP, all they have to do is turn on their device and download your app. Later, when a thought pops into their head that they should buy your product, they can do it immediately, without having to wait for regular business hours when normal human beings are awake.

So, if customer service is one of your top priorities (like it should be), mobile apps are the answer to raising customer satisfaction across the board.

4. Boost Profits

When customer satisfaction increases, sales typically do too. In fact, according to SalesForce, 70 percent of buying experiences are influenced by how customers feel they’re being treated.

The more interested and pleased people become with your product and your business, the greater consumer demand will grow. And let me assure you, if you have a product your customers can’t wait to get their hands on, that demand is going to provide you with some serious returns.

That’s where the mobile app comes in like none other. But it’s important to keep costs low while you’re developing it.

Sure, you should have a website with a responsible design that can adapt to any of the various mobile devices there are now. This eliminates the necessity of having a frustrating, secondary “mobile” site to manage. But if you launch a mobile app in addition to your responsive website, you’ll boost sales while enhancing the customer experience.

According to Techcrunch.com, 35.4 percent of Black Friday sales last year were completed on mobile devices. That’s up from the 16 percent they were just a few years ago, according to 2012 IBM Holiday Benchmark Reports.

Dominos App

When Domino’s Pizza created a mobile app for ordering delivery or in-store pickup of their food, they saw an ecommerce rise of 28 percent in half-year pre-tax profits in the UK alone. And I know I’d rather use their app than actually call the store.

In fact, mobile devices now account for 52 percent of their online orders.

Are you seeing a trend here? If you aren’t using a mobile app that encourages more purchases while making it easier and more exciting for your customers to press the “buy” button, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of change from an ever-growing market.

Build a profitable mobile app in less time and at a lower cost than traditional solutions with BuildFire
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Other Benefits of a Mobile App

If these points haven’t solidified in your brain the necessity of a mobile app, there are still more reasons to consider adopting a mobile app strategy to encourage more customer engagement and satisfaction.

  • Inform users of new products and offers
  • Stand out from the competition
  • Reach out to younger demographics
  • Sync users’ email and social media accounts

And if you structure it correctly, you can receive a ton of analytics on exactly how people interact with your app. These range from the average time a user spends looking at your app, to the amount of money you make from every purchase.

mobile app benefits

Another point to think about is location data. Apps are now, more than ever, providing their creators with location data on their users. If you were to apply this to your business, you could learn when and where people were purchasing your products most often, or which parts of the world are most interested in your business.

Once you finally decide to develop your app, it may simply start out as a portal to the same options you’ve made available on your company website. But it has room to evolve into so much more. Eventually, you might even rely on your app to inform you as to the new directions you can take your business to continue confidently into the future.

mobile maturity

If your business were to continue operating without this functionality, you might be left in the dark on these data while your competition takes advantage of it to skyrocket their sales and expand their businesses.

The Bottom Line

90 percent of companies plan to increase investment in mobile apps in 2016. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll be left behind your competitors.

app investment

And no, a mobile app may not save your business, but it is a sure way of securing a strong presence in your industry. Instead of being some abstract concept of a brand your customers appreciate, that they imagine has a headquarters in some faraway city – you’ll be right in their pockets. Your logo will be placed on their mobile phone screens by default.

Just make sure you promote your app after it launches.

The convenience factor coupled with the undeniably cool element of new, rapidly evolving technology will place your business on the forefront of your industry. And hey, don’t you want to pull your device out of your pocket and play around on something you helped create?

Does your business have a mobile app? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below in the comments section!