The benefits of value stream mapping derive from Lean principles to identify and eliminate waste. Traditionally, it has been used in manufacturing, but the principles are actually quite useful in more areas than assembly lines, such as IT and operations initiatives. In recent times Lean has transformed the world of knowledge work and management, whereby the original concepts have been refined down to five principles.
1. Identify Value To better understand the first principle of defining customer value, it is important to understand what value is. Value is what the customer is willing to pay for. It is paramount to discover the actual needs of the customer. Sometimes customers may not know what they want or are unable to articulate it. This can become apparent when it comes to a novel product or technology. There are many techniques such as interviews, surveys, demographic information to help discover what customers find valuable.
2. Map the Value Stream The second Lean principle is identifying and mapping the value stream. The goal is to use the customer’s value as a reference point and identify all the activities that contribute to these values. Activities that do not add value to the end customer are considered waste. The waste can be broken into two categories: 1) non-valued added but necessary and 2) non-value & unnecessary. The former should be reduced as much as possible while the latter is pure waste and should be eliminated. By reducing and eliminating unnecessary processes or steps, you can ensure that customers are getting exactly what they want while at the same time reducing the cost of producing that product or service.
3. Create Flow After removing the waste from the value stream, the following action is to ensure that the flow of the remaining steps run smoothly without interruptions or delays. Some strategies for ensuring that value-adding activities flow smoothly include, breaking down steps, reconfiguring the production steps, levelling out the workload, creating cross-functional departments, and training employees to be multi-skilled and adaptive.
4. Establish Pull Inventory is considered one of the biggest wastes in any production system. The goal of a pull-based system is to limit inventory and work in process (WIP) items while ensuring that the requisite materials and information are available for a smooth flow of work. Pull-based systems are always created from the needs of the end customers. By following the value stream and working backwards through the production system, you can ensure that the products produced will be able to satisfy the needs of customers.
Wastes are prevented through the achievement of the first four steps. This step makes Lean thinking and continuous process improvement a part of the organisational culture. Every employee should strive towards perfection while delivering products based on customer needs. The company should be a learning organisation and always find ways to get a little better each and every day.
DevOps and Lean principles are complimentary. DevOps stresses the importance of collaboration, communication, and convergence between development and operations. DevOps can use the benefits of Lean methodologies by reducing the barriers to delivering more value to the customer and aligning with the business. This results in a better running development team, smoother operations, and ultimately happier customers.
Let’s look at value stream mapping in DevOps One of the principles of DevOps, is to “Accelerate Flow”, and this is where value stream mapping reinforces this principle. To be able to accelerate flow, the first thing that needs to be done is a detailed analysis of the actual flow of the work items along the value delivery process. Value stream mapping will allow us to identify where the waste and bottlenecks are. It is worth remembering at this point that waste is defined as any activity that does not add value to the product.
What are examples where DevOps can use value stream mapping?
Surprised by this? Hopefully not as in a data-driven world we want to base decisions on facts and not opinions.
So what are good metrics for the value stream map?
Process Time – Typically expressed in minutes or hours, process time represents the hands-on time to do the work. It also includes talk time that may be regularly required to clarify or obtain additional information related to a task, such as meetings, as well as read and think time if the process involves review or analysis.
Lead Time – is the elapsed time from the moment work is made available to an individual, work team, or department until it has been completed and made available to the next person or team in the value stream.
Percent Complete and Accurate (%C&A) – this is obtained by asking downstream customers what percentage of the time they receive work that’s in a usable as-is state. Allowing them to do their work without having to correct the information that was provided, add missing information that should have been supplied, or clarify information that should have and could have been clearer.
Not quite - value stream mapping does obtain results on these four key metrics but just like with your health, knowing these metrics is only part of the story. The other and crucial part is in improving them by incorporating extended capabilities into daily practices. In the Accelerate book, the authors describe 24 capabilities which focus on further improvements. So as to keep focus here, those capabilities will not be covered here in finer detail.
The first focus is to identify what a work item is. We need to define the item that we are going to be traced throughout the process. In a DevOps environment, this item can be a specific function, a user story, an epic, etc. At this point, we should remember that one of the basic pillars of DevOps is to make frequent deliveries, so the bigger the item is, the further we will be moving away from the DevOps philosophy.
Next, draw the stages through which this item is going to pass, a whiteboard is fine for this exercise and this can be transferred to a Value Stream Mapping tool at a later stage. It is imperative that the people involved with this process are involved with this value stream mapping workshop.
Now confirm all of the activities for each stage in the process, critically evaluating which ones add value and which ones do not.
Next focus on time - it is essential to measure the time that the activity takes in each stage and carefully record those times. An illustration of this process can be seen below.
In the above Value Stream Map, what metrics can we ascertain?
With an activity ratio of approximately 53%, this implies the work is idle nearly half of the time.
Future state value stream mapping So once a value stream is mapped, then the future state needs to be considered which is a projection of how a value stream should look in the future, to achieve a particular goal. Lean Accelerate Consultancy endorses the use of value stream mapping for modelling future state of DevOps continuous delivery pipelines and software value streams. Below is a matrix that can be used to help identify the current state, the future state and the projected improvement which would be very useful for when submitting a business case for process change or solution proposal. AWS states - “businesses are five times more likely to adopt the cloud when there is a defined business case to support the adoption proposal”.
Value Stream Matrices Example
In terms of DevOps there are a lot of tools worth considering, some which Lean Accelerate see high value in, are GoCD which is an open-source continuous integration and continuous delivery system combined with the open-source Stelligent Mock Pipeline that helps to model value stream maps regardless of the tech stack, cloud provider, or on-premise solution.
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