What Exactly Is Value Stream Management?

Companies have been transitioning for years from Waterfall to Agile as an approach to their app development. This transition is a different mindset of prioritizing work and organizing teams — and in my experience, 9 times out of 10, it does not go smoothly. Value Stream Management is a way to help people change their thinking about project delivery and execution to deliver on this new model of Agile and DevOps.

Value Stream Management reframes the value of employees’ activities and results in terms that the business understands and appreciates. Let’s face it, Agile is a very application developer-centric method that uses metrics that nobody, but the development team understands; but it relies upon other people buying in and agreeing to work in a specific way.

Agile vs. The Real World
For example, Agile employs “story points” —ambiguous units of work— and “burn down,” which represents how fast developers are working through their story points. The business can track those velocity metrics but cannot use this info anticipate when their request will be accomplished.

Another problem with Agile is that it ignores everything other than enhancements and defects. In the real world, customers have technical debt. They must perform software updates and modernizations, and risk mitigation. None of that is addressed by Agile. So, whenever a team goes to work on technical debt or security, it slows down Agile – and then everybody gets frustrated and starts fighting and the wheels come off.

The Benefits of Value Stream Management 
Enter Value Stream Management, which lets management make choices about what types of work —technical debt, enhancements, defects, risks — they want to prioritize.

We partner with Value Stream Management tools providers such as Micro Focus to provide software development platforms for visualizing and managing the flow of value. For example, ValueEdge, works with both commercial and open-source tools to help align business objectives with application development resources.

Here is an example of how Value Stream Management works in the real world. It may make sense to work on security risks ahead of a defect that was logged last month. The business now understands the trade-offs required to get work done, and the people that are doing the fixing or deploying feel like they are getting credit for their work. Everyone understands the priorities.

Of course, that defect might not be repaired, but the security hole got fixed. And that has potentially a greater impact on the business. Meanwhile, the team that addressed that risk was recognized. Value Stream Management shines a light on the two types of work that are traditionally underrepresented in DevOps — risks and technical debt — and it also acknowledges that those are the types of work that may forever be carried out the old-fashioned way, using the Waterfall or hybrid approaches.

Value Stream Management recognizes that you can support some Agile work and some Waterfall work. You can have parts of the organization in a hybrid or various levels of maturity all feeding their information up into a value stream dashboard. It all comes together in a format that the business understands — and management loves to see all the highest priority things getting done.