I started my professional career as a young engineering project manager at a high-tech manufacturing facility at Texas Instruments. I had no idea then that the basic concepts I learned about Lean production processes would serve me well throughout my career as a software product manager (computer-aided software engineering – CASE and workflow tools) and as a consultant and IT project manager in the development of business applications for business process improvements. However, my work in those areas was always about improving organizational value streams outside of the IT department.
Lean production concepts began to find their way into software development in early 2000 through the insights of people such as Mary and Tom Poppendieck in their book Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit. By 2010, the concepts behind Lean-Agile practices began to make their way into software development methodologies, such as the Scaled Agile Framework and Disciplined Agile. Finally, we began to see the practical application of Lean production improvement concepts applied to IT-oriented value streams in the form of modern value stream management (VSM) software tools and platforms.
As you will discover in this book, VSM is an approach to make Lean improvements across all development and operational value streams. A value stream is simply an end-to-end sequence of activities where work and information flow in a coordinated and streamlined manner to deliver value (for example, products, services, and results) most effectively.
In its modern reinvention, the software development industry applies VSM tools to integrate, automate, and orchestrate work across DevOps pipelines to improve the end-to-end activities involved in software deliveries across both the development and operations functions. Rather than manually collecting data, modern VSM tools capture critical performance metrics in real time and provide a common data model and analytical tools to assess both current and desired future state conditions.
In short, modern VSM tools offer a convergence of data and analytical capabilities that are necessary to make informed decisions to improve your software delivery flows. Implementing DevOps methods, configurations, and tools on an enterprise scale is not trivial or inexpensive. On the other hand, VSM tools provide the data you need to get the most out of your IT investments.
It's been an arduous journey to bring the thoughts and ideas together for this book, including input from the VSM Consortium, 16 tool vendors – with research on 24 software tool companies in all, plus the two leading Lean-Agile Framework companies and two of the leading Lean training and methodology companies.
Sometimes, it was like herding cats pulling all the information together from these disparate sources! However, the result, I believe, represents the most comprehensive source of VSM methods and tools to date. Moreover, this book also helps explain how DevOps and VSM go hand-in-hand to help drive competitive outcomes in a digital economy.
Recall that VSM is not a new concept, though more recently applied to help make lean-oriented improvements across IT value streams. Organizations that practice Lean production improvement concepts use VSM practices to improve all development and operational value streams. As a strategic enabler, VSM initiatives help discover and prioritize many potential improvement opportunities across the enterprise, to deliver value more effectively. And many of those identified value stream improvement opportunities are digital enhancements best realized through software applications.
For example, in our digital economy, businesses create software applications as commercial offerings or to deliver information or entertainment services as web-based services. However, software can also enhance physical products, such as the navigation and control systems in automobiles. Finally, businesses, government agencies, and non-profits use software applications to improve the flow of value across their critical business processes and value stream activities.
Through my research and discussions with many of the leading VSM, DevOps, and Lean organizations, I have concluded that organizations must integrate their IT-based VSM tool strategies into their corporate strategic VSM initiatives. While Lean is a relatively new concept in IT, the rest of the organization has likely been practicing Lean concepts for decades – or, at least, they should have been. That's not true just in manufacturing, as many service companies and healthcare providers have implemented Lean practices.
In this book, you will learn how to apply a generic VSM methodology that can help identify improvements in organizational development and operational value streams, not just IT. This approach was taken purposely for the reasons noted above. Organizations use VSM methods and tools to identify and prioritize improvement opportunities across all value streams, many of which require software to make the improvements.
In other words, VSM methods address two broad areas to make value stream improvements. First, modern VSM methods and tools help improve DevOps-based software delivery capabilities. Second, the same VSM strategies and techniques help identify digital improvement opportunities across other organizational value streams to direct the organization's improved software delivery capabilities.
So, VSM is not limited to making value stream flow improvements in DevOps. From the perspective of systems thinking, making value stream improvements to DevOps is a form of making localized optimizations. In other words, if software delivery is not the bottleneck in our business system, or if we don't know how to apply our improved software delivery capabilities, then the time and resources spent on the effort to improve our system as a whole may have little or no impact.
You have experienced this situation first hand if your organization has spent time and money implementing DevOps toolchains and platforms, but you have not seen a justifiable return on investment.
You may not know much about Lean practices yet, but that's OK. You will learn in this book that it's all about discovering and eliminating wastes that hinder flow, which in turn cause bottlenecks, delays, excessive work in process, and ultimately higher costs that your customers don't want to pay. For these reasons, Lean practitioners always have a cost and time to market or delivery advantage over their competitors.
The main point is that an enterprise can spend much time and effort on their DevOps and VSM tool initiatives but not see a justifiable ROI – unless they use those software delivery improvements to help improve the organization's other operational and development value streams. So, DevOps teams should align their activities to help make improvements across all organizational value streams. Moreover, it's the Corporate VSM initiatives, through their Kaizen Bursts (future state improvement opportunity scenarios), that help identify and prioritize the areas where the improved DevOps capabilities can have the most timely and beneficial impacts.
For these reasons, this book introduces the historical foundations behind the concept of adding value, Agile's values and principles, systems and lean thinking, and VSM and their modern context in IT. You will discover how to use VSM as a methodology to discover areas for improvement across all organizational value streams, while simultaneously using VSM tools to make Lean-oriented improvements in your DevOps-based software delivery pipelines. But ultimately, you will find that it's the integration of DevOps to support Lean-oriented improvements across all organizational value streams that help justify the time, expense, and effort associated with installing VSM tools and DevOps toolchains and pipelines.
The book logically divides into four parts, subtitled as follows:
- Value Delivery – what it means and how to go about it
Chapters 1 – 5
- VSM Methodology – a Lean-oriented and proven approach to make Flow improvements across an enterprise
Chapters 6 – 10
- VSM Tool Vendors and Frameworks – to improve your software delivery pipeline capabilities
Chapters 11 – 14
- Applying VSM with DevOps – to drive digital business transformations
Chapters 15 and 16
Feel free to skip around between the four parts of the book. Also, if you want to understand the issues organizations face when implementing DevOps platforms, start with a quick read of Chapter 15, Defining the Appropriate DevOps Platform Strategy, where you will hear from six experts on this topic.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
– Cecil Gary Rupp