Before jumping onto value stream mapping, it is important to understand what a ‘value stream’ means. A Value Stream is a series of steps an organization takes to provide a product or service its customers need. Every organization has a set of steps that they perform. So Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a lean manufacturing technique that focuses on analyzing, designing and managing the flow of materials required to make a product. It enables CIOs to better understand the Value Streams; where it adds value, where it does not, and determines how to improve the entire process. Items that don’t add any value to a process (from the customer’s perspective) are removed from the value stream.
VSM and Software Quality
Similar to test management tools, VSM can also be a great help in determining how to improve software delivery chains that require complex processes. VSM can be used for highly complex processes, as it can be used to create a comprehensive view of the process to address specific objectives. VSM can be used in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) to improve testing processes involving repeatable steps, especially when there are multiple team members working on a project. Software development companies have a value stream per product or application. By using value stream mapping, organizations put their customers at the center and improve quality simultaneously. VSM also helps organizations to zoom out of the details and take a macro look at the testing processes to identify ways to improve them.
VSM in Agile and DevOps Movement
QA managers are discovering ways to provide greater value to their customers – through innovation – while improving quality, meeting deadlines and reducing cost. Lean and Value Stream Mapping have become highly popularized in software delivery in the DevOps environment. In Agile practices, developers release code changes more frequently, and DevOps sets its sight on getting those code changes running in production faster. DevOps applies VSM to improve the deployment lead time. With DevOps practices, organizations automate the repetitive and linear tasks from code to production, just like a car assembly line.
Challenges to Managing Software Value Streams
- Software delivery work is invisible and there are no physical materials to observe as they move through the value chain. It is difficult to comprehend something that is not visible and even harder to manage.
- If tests are not automated, transitions between work centers are untraceable. Handsoff usually takes place on the phone, email or face-to-face meetings. They are not tangible and therefore incomprehensible.
The secret to viewing and managing the Value Stream lies in the tools that software delivery teams use daily to add value to products. The traces of the work in this stream are held within these repositories. QA teams use test management tools to handle all their test cases at a central location. Once these tools are integrated and the workflow is automated, organizations can spot the Value Streams. The Value Stream is not visible until there is an automated flow of information between the tools used by each team. Therefore, it is important to integrate to utilize the full benefits of Value Stream Mapping.