Ambassador Insights: Value Stream Management

Content By Devops .com

Value stream management is the next critical evolution for enterprises and organizations that want to further mature their efforts toward smart, efficient and effective software development and delivery. The need for ongoing software innovation and delivery is becoming a top priority for all businesses today, thanks to the new digital demands organizations are facing from their employees and customers.

Value streams help ensure that software and services under development deliver on the promise of value for employees or customers. But it’s not as easy as it seems; plenty of enterprises still struggle to know exactly what value is being derived from their software development efforts.

In our third episode of Ambassador Insights we talk with DevOps Institute ambassadors Siddharth Pareek, the Global DevOps Center of Excellence Leader at NatWest Group; Garima Bajpai, the founder of Canada DevOps Community of Practice; and Steve Pereira, founder of Visible, about how value stream management can help enterprises on the next step of their software development journey.

The video is below, followed by a transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!

Transcript

Charlene O’Hanlon: Hey, everybody, welcome back to TechStrong TV. I’m Charlene O’Hanlon, and I am here now with a group of very, very smart people in the value stream management space. They are part of the DevOps Institute Ambassadors, and they are here for our monthly installment of the DevOps Institute Ambassadors Insights Panel Discussion.

This month, the topic is on value stream management, so like I said before, these guys are experts in the field, and I’m sure we’re gonna get some really insightful information from them. Thank you, all three of you, for joining me today.

We have Siddharth Pareek, who is the Global DevOps Center of Excellence Leader at NatWest Group. Siddhartha, thank you so much for joining me today.

Siddharth Pareek: The pleasure’s all mine.

O’Hanlon: We also have Garima Bajpai, who is the Canada DevOps Community of Practice—is that correct, is that your correct title, Garima?

Garima Bajpai: Yes, I’m the Founder for the Canada DevOps Community of Practice, and thank you for the introduction.

O’Hanlon: Alright. Well, thank you for joining me today. And last but certainly not least, we have Steve Pereira, who’s the Founder of Visible. Steve, thank you so much, it’s great to see you again.

Steve Pereira: Thanks. Great to see you, it’s great to be here.

O’Hanlon: Alright, great. So, let’s talk value stream management. You know, it’s something that we’ve been talking a little bit about here and there on DevOps.com over the last couple years, but it seems like in the last year or so, especially, it has taken on more steam, if you will. It’s definitely more significance, a lot more people having the conversation about value stream management and its role in organizations, but I think it’s probably important that we at least start at the beginning, level set a little bit, and maybe, Steve, we can start out with you. Can you just kinda maybe loosely define what value stream management is and what it means to organizations?

Pereira: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great starting point. I think folks in the DevOps space are familiar with the origins to a degree where we had agile kind of be wildly successful in boosting development performance, right, and then all of a sudden, we hit this block where it’s like, okay, well, we can’t really go any faster unless we look at the bigger picture, right, and we start to involve Operations.

Well, that’s where I see value stream management now is that DevOps has reached this point where we’re seeing massive performance improvements, we’re seeing a lot of positive outcomes, and we’re hitting the boundaries of that where all of a sudden, the bottlenecks and the opportunities are elsewhere at a further zoom point. So, if we now zoom out again and look at a larger sphere of influence, there’s a ton of opportunity outside of DevOps where value stream management is really the recipe for success. It’s a holistic operational capability that allows you to tie together this big picture view of your organization—and not just software development, but value streams are everything in your business, right? Your entire organization is just a collection of value streams delivering value to customers.

So, the ability to organize, visualize, measure, and manage all of that in a very, let’s say, low touch, high automation way is going to be a game changer for organizations of all kinds, whether they are primarily software driven or building and delivering software, or if they are supply chain health care logistics, it really doesn’t matter. It’s gonna touch everything, because it has to, to drive the level of performance that we want and that end to end level of productivity.

O’Hanlon: Okay, alright. Garima, have you, in your position, you’re obviously very deeply embedded in the DevOps space, have you seen kind of an increased interest in value stream management over the last year, especially in the DevOps space?

Bajpai: Yes, I have, and I actually come from a large enterprise background and I work with complex systems, largely monolithic environments, which are transitioning into cloud native applications.

Now, when we talk about these large enterprises, value stream mapping, to me, has been a tool in the toolbox of value measurement. So, I would actually reflect from the standpoint where Steve had left. So, value stream mapping, to me, is as much an art as it is science. So, what Steve was mentioning, the scientific aspect of value stream management, which is basically leading to more productive, cost-efficient organizations where we can bring speed and scale.

But it has also an element of creativity where we bring the discovery part of the value, right? So, how do we ensure your value stream management is able to discover new value for the organization? That’s the first point. The second point is, visualization of that value is also important. So, how your value stream management is able to map all the complex value streams which you have in an enterprise and bring it together to visualize that value in one way. So, that’s the second thing.

I also wanted to bring another point, which I have experienced when working with large organizations. When you think about a data-driven approach towards value, there is no unified process to combine the value in one way, to build consensus in the organization. There are various functional silos and complex structures, and there is a maze of organizations which we have to bring together for consensus building. And that is where value stream management is pretty useful.

And the fourth aspect I would like to bring from a creative aspect is, we also combine value stream management with applied data science to produce the future of the organization, the future state, defining the future state.

So, these are the four elements I would like to bring into the conversation, probably changing the conversation a bit as well, so, let’s see how it goes. [Laughter] 

O’Hanlon: [Laughter] Alright, great. So, Siddharth, kind of expanding on that, is your organization currently using value stream mapping or value stream management, and if so, have you guys noticed any changes in when you’re using it versus before you started using it?

Pareek: I’ll put it this way. We’re at the starting phase of the journey of adoption of these value stream mapping concepts. And I could easily answer and say that what Steve and Garima said, I’m done with it. But I’ll add something to the flavor so that the audience understands value stream mapping more.

What you are doing when you’re talking about DevOps is, you’re talking about reducing failures. We are talking about releasing early, we’re talking about less failures, less bugs, all those things. What is really the customer’s, the end user who is really worried about it, really concerned about it, maybe not. They are probably concerned about the customer satisfaction. They’re talking about how much reviews they’re getting on their product on different platforms, or maybe more.

And what is happening is, there is a gap between these two things—what developers are delivering and what the customer is expecting. And that is where the role of value stream mapping comes from, where it bridges the gap between the IT side and the business side, which is clearly visible to everyone across the stream. And what it does is, it tells you a similar story for everyone. When you ask a Dev guy what are the values you’re delivering, he will not talk about incident reductions or chain failure occurrence or DORA metrics, all those things. They will talk about, we are delivering what businesses expect of us.

Coming back to the story of why, how much it is done within the organizations of ours, I think this needs to be picked up and probably come up in the later conversations. Why it has not been done so much, because of the problems that exist within the organizations.

So, in short, we are starting the journey, but miles to go.

O’Hanlon: Okay, alright. So, it sounds like value stream management is a great idea and organizations really should be considering it, but it might not be as simple as just flipping a switch or saying, “Hey, let’s do value stream management.”

So, what are some of the things, then, that may be tripping up organizations as they start on their value stream management journey? And Siddharth, since your organization is kind of in that place right now, what are you seeing as kind of the roadblocks, if you will, to value stream management in your organization?

Pareek: I mean, we talk about value stream mapping, we talk about a holistic view of the place on the left-hand side where the idea generates to the place on the right-hand side somewhere, where the value is delivered to the customer. And over there, software development teams or a testing team has a small role to play. 

The bigger roles are your governance, your security, your compliance. How can you visualize them? How can you make, you know, process re-engineer them? For example, the NatWest Group which I worked for, they have huge compliance laws that need to be followed. Can just a simple value stream exercise streamline them? Maybe yes, maybe no. And why I say either of them is, because it depends upon the deep-rooted problems that could be solved or could not be solved going forward.

O’Hanlon: Alright, great. Steve, I know your organization deals a lot with companies that are going through the value stream management kind of adoption journey. So, what are you seeing as some of the things that organizations are having trouble with as they start out using value stream management or as, even in their consideration phase?

Pereira: Yeah, there’s a lot going on. There’s tons of complexity. There’s a huge spectrum of circumstances. Certainly, Siddharth really touched on a major one, which is the existing requirements in an organization that enforce the status quo, right? The things that keep us where we are, are these powerful forces of, like, things need to be done a certain way and we expect them to follow process. So, thinking of how to improve process or things that will affect the flow of value through the organization always get pushed to the wayside, right? Because it would be nice to have that, but we gotta keep everything rowing as is, right? We can’t risk that and we can’t ever forget about the fact that nothing can fall through the cracks in the status quo.

But that’s where we see that drift, you know, the slow drift into legacy and calcification and friction is that. That doesn’t mean that you’re moving forward, right? It doesn’t mean that you’re going to make progress. And the promise, here, of value streams is really in re-orienting the entire organization to be driving vastly improved value flow, but also, as Garima mentioned, innovation, right? It’s not only just making things better, it’s making better things and it’s making different things, right? It’s this idea of thinking in terms of value and orienting towards value allows you to re-imagine your entire organization, and that is kind of the promised land. 

But to get there, you have to get over the realities of the org chart, right? The realities that we structure our organizations based on legacy hierarchies where everyone has to fit in and report to somebody and then they have reports and you have to go up and over through the org chart. If you look at an org chart and you map the flow of value to the org chart, it’s just this wandering path that goes all over the organization and no wonder it’s inefficient, no wonder we struggle to deliver value and really make meaningful improvements.

So, I think I would say demoting the org chart in terms of importance and focusing more on the streams and the interactions between the streams, starting to see those streams, and then aligning our teams and aligning our activities and our operations to those streams is no easy feat, but we can start really easily by just seeing it, right? Just seeing what’s going on, just observing the current state, that lays the groundwork.

So, I would say that there can be a lot of defensive reactions to the idea that the org chart is not that important to customers, to value delivery. That could threaten people who are really invested in that hierarchy and their position in it. But ultimately, it does bring everybody together in a much more meaningful way to think in terms of streams.

The other challenge, I think, is that, when we think about surfacing gaps and surfacing issues, a lot of cultures means that people get pointed at, right, and it’s, they’re scapegoating and there’s people, individuals who are responsible or those challenges, and we know that that’s not true. But the cultures that are in legacy trouble, are in these calcified states and not succeeding with transformation efforts, it’s often because that’s the mindset. The mindset is, we need to find the person accountable and force them to tackle the problem. It’s not our problem, it’s their problem, because I have my problems and someone’s trying to scapegoat me for something, so it’s only fair it’s going around, right? 

And the level of visibility and the metrics and the measurements that you can get from value stream management can be used or abused, right? You can use those measurements to draw all kinds of conclusions, and in the wrong culture, it can be weaponized. That’s not to say that there’s not a ton of value and a ton of promise there, it’s just, if it’s misapplied or it’s done in a way that’s more kind of tailoristic or legacy founded, you’re potentially doing harm by surfacing all of this reality that people tend to ignore and just go about their business.

O’Hanlon: You bring up some good points, and obviously, it doesn’t sound like value stream management, adopting it, is a walk in the park, but obviously, there are clear benefits, otherwise organizations really wouldn’t be considering it.

I’m wondering if you could maybe kinda choose one or two things that maybe organizations need to do to derive the value from value stream management. Garima, I’d like to start with you. What are some of the things that, as I said, organizations really need to do to kinda derive that value from value stream management? Considering all the things that Steve just said, it sounds like there’s really an uphill battle for a lot of organizations.

Bajpai: Right, and I think we will start from what Siddharth as well as Steve has mentioned that, coming from a large enterprise background, I see that there’s a lot of valueless complexity in large organizations, which quickly leads us to job security. So, there is a lot of organizations which are struggling with this problem.

Now, to disable this problem, I think what we will necessarily have to do is, first of all, nobody wants to do a useless job. We need to be sure that we have inculcated behavioral aspects into value stream mapping. And, you know, looking from a bird’s eye view perspective, there are three things which we need to necessarily do.

The first and foremost thing is empowering people and building accountability where you can actually visualize that in your value stream map, everybody is accountable for a value, you know? Nobody wants to do a useless job, right?

The second part of this whole problem is making the value stream mapping as efficient as there is a loop that is basically, you’re incrementally building the value, you’re not trying to kind of big bang this approach of doing your value stream mapping and engaging everybody to kind of ensure that we decompose this complexity in the organization.

And the third aspect, which is really very important, is that, first set the strategy. Whenever you are trying to do a value stream management, what is the objective? There can be four objectives—cost, you might need to ensure speed, you might need scalability in the organization, or you want to introduce new value into the value stream. So, there are four possibilities. So, what are your key objectives? Just define that strategy before you prioritize or you do any kind of decomposition of the value stream, from a value stream management perspective.

O’Hanlon: Alright. Siddharth or Steve, do you have anything that you’d like to add onto that?

Pareek: Yep. One thing is, and the organizations started very wrongly is, to confuse value stream mapping with the process mapping, to think both are somehow a similar exercise. However, people need to understand, process mapping talks about a very micro view of what things are happening, whereas value stream mapping talks about the macro view.

And why that is important to know is, if you go into the process mapping stage, you may optimize one component of your whole floor, which is good for that component, but if you look holistically, it may create chaos for other components as well. 

So, let’s suppose, you know, you will have streamlined a manual process of delivering certain products at a faster rate. You’ve improved that process, but what you’ve done is, maybe for other components, you have created a long stack of inventory to clear it out. And that is where this value stream mapping would come across. Because you’re going one level above the thought process, or from micro to macro. So, that is one proof that people make it happen.

The second thing that makes it happen is, people go with jumping on the value stream mapping exercise or sessions they need to have. The first and primary thing is, they need to get the buy-ins of those stakeholders, because after the exercise, this scenario, the output would be very scary for people, accept and to action upon. So, they should have a good acceptance that yes, we agree to what happens after these sessions. Two things. I think that’s it from my side.

O’Hanlon: Okay. Steve, any thoughts?

Pereira: Yeah, I think that one thing that I want to clarify for the audience is that we’re talking a lot, I mean, this session is about value stream management and we keep talking about value stream mapping. And it speaks to the starting point, you know? It speaks to how you actually start to make traction with this and get going is understanding the big picture and it starts with mapping. And for me, it starts with mapping outcomes to obstacles and key objectives in the organization.

So, starting with clarity, and we’re talking about the difficulty involved here and how complex this is. Really, we’re getting so much better at adopting these techniques, because we’re starting to realize that you can’t get there with agile, you can’t even get there with DevOps, and we struggled for decades trying to make this work. The value stream thinking approach, the holistic approach, the fact that this is the entire organization and it’s entire ecosystems that are involved in this. The flow of value is larger than we imagined initially, right? It’s not software development, it’s not even Development and Operations, right? It affects everything in the organization, but that perspective puts you decades ahead of where we were stuck in the mud.

And so, just adopting that way of thinking and stepping back and saying, “Okay, well, what’s really going on here? What are we dealing with in the current state?” That’s gonna put you in this really strong position to adopt things like value stream management. But value stream management to me is the act of managing the value stream. It’s not software. There are tools that are available to do that job and we’re in early days of that, but management is the act of managing value, right? It’s visualizing, it’s tracking the flow, it’s understanding the flow of value through the organization.

So, that really, to me, starts with mapping and this baseline view. And I’ll echo everything that the other folks said—bringing in the right perspectives from the top to the bottom is really gonna make that happen. And it’s really, you know, the first opportunity where we’ve had that invitation in a very accommodating way, right? This is truly inclusive. There’s something in this for the business. There’s something in this for customers there’s something in this for technical folks, and everybody gets some value out of it. Everybody gets tons of value out of it, but it’s not just, “Yeah, you need to look at DevOps, because otherwise, this tech thing is gonna get out of control.”

O’Hanlon: Mm-hmm.

Pereira: There’s messaging and there’s value in it for the business, and there’s something in it for the customers, and that’s unique and that is a perspective that we’ve never had before, but is starting to come to reality.

O’Hanlon: Alright. Well, definitely, as I said before, we’ve been having the conversations on DevOps.com about value stream management and value stream mapping, and I firmly believe that, at the very least over the next year, we’re going to be hearing a lot more about value stream management. 

So, Steve, Garima, Siddharth—thank you, all three of you, for bringing your expertise to today’s DevOps Ambassadors Insights Panel on value stream management. I appreciate it very, very much, and I do value your expertise, so thank you, all, for joining me today. I really do appreciate it.

Pereira: Thanks for having us. Great to see you all.

O’Hanlon: Alright.

Bajpai: Thank you. Bye bye.

Pareek: Thanks, Charlene. Goodbye, everyone.

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