Driving DevOps With Value Stream Management

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Key Takeaways

  • Value Stream Management (VSM) is an approach to make Lean-oriented production improvements across an organization’s development and operational value streams.
  • A value stream is simply an end-to-end sequence of activities where work, materials, and information flow in a coordinated and streamlined manner to deliver value (products, services, results) most effectively.
  • In its modern reinvention, VSM software tools provide end-to-end and real-time access to data and analytical tools to help improve Flow across CI/CD and DevOps software delivery pipelines.
  • In a digital economy, VSM improved software deliveries support the businesses’ other value stream improvement initiatives.

As a contractor, over the past ten years, my professional roles allowed me to support three relatively large software development programs involving more than 100 team members spanning eleven, sixteen, and twenty product teams, respectively. In addition, I’ve recently supported a team developing reusable CI/CD configurations for a large federal agency. I’ve watched the organizations I’ve worked with install Agile and Lean-Agile practices throughout these activities, with limited success at best.

I wrote my last book, Scaling Scrum Across Modern Enterprises, to explore the alternative Agile and Lean-Agile scaling approaches developed and promoted by various industry leaders, focusing on Scrum-based practices. During my research, I reached out to interview the founders, or their designates, of the following Scrum and Lean-Agile practices.

  • Scrum-of-Scrums – the original Scrum scaling strategy as a team of teams
  • Scrum-At-Scale – An extension to the Scrum Guide that scales the basic Scrum of Scrums concepts enterprise-wide and across business domains with minimum viable bureaucracy (MVB) via scale-free architectures
  • The Nexus Framework – the software developer’s extension to the Scrum Guide that implements Network Integration Teams (NIT) to manage cross-team dependency, integration, and synchronization issues on multiteam product development efforts
  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) – Another scaled-Scrum approach, with two Scrum scaling frameworks, that helps coordinate the activities of multiple teams, around features (LeSS Framework) and requirements areas (LeSS Huge Framework), working in collaboration to develop large and complex software-enabled products
  • Disciplined Agile (DA) – A Lean-Agile approach to development that provides six product development lifecycles, numerous process guides, and hundreds of potentially useful techniques that allow teams to choose their preferred Way of Working based on their unique business and organizational needs and situations
  • Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) – With four configurations, a Lean-Agile approach for large organizations working on large-scale product development efforts that can leverage their economies of scale as strengths to provide greater efficiencies and yet incorporate Lean-Agile practices to enable business agility on an enterprise scale

The objective of that book was to use my experience coordinating the work of multiple teams on large software development programs to evaluate and document the alternative Scrum and Lean-Agile scaling approaches available to software teams.

After I finished that book, my publisher, PACKT Publishing, asked me what my next area of interest was. I knew I wanted to write something to help business executives understand the critical issues they must address to successfully install DevOps capabilities to compete more effectively in our digital economy. Moreover, I felt more work was required to explain how and why Lean and Agile concepts go together.  Finally, having many years of practitioner and consulting experience helping clients improve their value stream, I felt there was much to say about the modern reinvention of value stream management (VSM).

A common phrase you will hear IT industry analysts make today is that “DevOps is the table stakes that allow an organization to compete in our digital economy.” That’s a true statement, but it’s a mistake to think that executives can mandate such a change and leave the IT organization to figure things out.

DevOps, or Dev(Sec)Ops, implements a strategy to integrate, automate, and orchestrate software delivery activities as a lean-oriented value stream, otherwise referred to as a software delivery pipeline. Lean production practices eliminate all forms of waste that do not add value from our customers’ perspectives. The objective is only to implement activities that add value and to streamline the flow of work and information across value stream activities, end-to-end from concept through delivery.

A value stream, such as a DevOps pipeline, is simply the end-to-end set of activities that delivers value to our customers, whether internal or external to the organization. In an ideal state, work and information flow efficiently with minimal delays or queuing or work items.

So far, this all sounds great. But good things seldom come easily. Let’s start with the fact that there are hundreds of tools available to support a Dev(Sec)Ops toolchain. Moreover, it takes specific skills, effort, costs, and time to integrate and configure the tools selected by your organization.

While software developers perform the integration effort, the required skills may differ from those available in your software development teams. Also, such work takes your developers away from their primary job of delivering value via software products for your internal and external customers.

In short, asking your development teas to build their Dev(Sec)Ops toolchain configurations is a bit like asking manufacturing operators to build their manufacturing facilities. Assuming they could learn the skills quickly and efficiently, redirecting your software developers to create pipeline configurations is still non-value-added work from your customers’ perspectives. So, my new book provides strategies to deal with these issues. The book is titled Driving DevOps with Value Stream Management: Improve IT value stream delivery with a proven VSM methodology to compete in the digital economy.

In its modern context, value stream management (VSM) has become a tools-based strategy to provide visibility to data across your Dev(Sec)Ops pipeline activities and tools. A mature VSM platform provides integration adaptors and a common data model to aggregate, display, and analyze data from multiple disparate tools supporting your Dev(Sec)Ops pipelines.

In other words, with VSM tools, executives and decision-makers have end-to-end visibility to activities, work items, and information flows. As a result, they can evaluate their current state of software production and assess alternative tools and work strategies before making commitments.

Mature VSM platforms also help integrate Dev(Sec)Ops toolchains, automate pipeline activities, and orchestrate work and information flow. The result is that the VSM tools supporting Dev(Sec)Ops platforms outperform traditional Waterfall and even Agile-based approaches by orders of magnitude.

We can use the DORA Four metrics as an example of the best performers against the lowest performers:








Metric

Elite performance

Low Performers

Deployment Frequency

on demand, multiple deployments per day

between once per month and every six months

Lead Time for Changes

less than one day

between one month and six months

Time to restore service

less than one hour

between one week and one month

Change failure rate

0% to 15%

46% to 60%

Source

But, if there is one thing I want you to take away from my book, its that organizations can develop spectacular software delivery capabilities and spend a lot of time and money in the process but not realize sufficient business improvements to justify the investments. You might ask, “how is that possible?” The answer is “how you aim your improved software delivery capabilities is…

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