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The 3 Pillars of DevOps Value Stream Management

 

Digital transformation is happening all around us—and at an ever-increasing pace. In today's world, speed is a necessity: without streamlined, predictable, and continuous software delivery, businesses are falling behind. And as customer demands evolve, companies need to not only move fast, but pivot fast as well. 

Digital transformation began, simply, as the digitization of business processes. But as we enter the 3rd wave of digital customer experience, digital transformation is no longer an end point. Rather, IT teams are adopting product mindsets, continually delivering features and capabilities that enable the business to pivot to meet the customer where they are. 
 
When delivery teams become nimble, it pays off in spades— both in creating external and internal value. But, if digital transformation isn’t an end point, how does a business even go about achieving it? 

Rooted in continuous improvement, DevOps reduces employee burn-out, improves culture and helps teams deliver more business value, ultimately creating better customer experiences. But before teams can realize these results, they must lay the foundation for building a DevOps culture.
 
Enter: Copado's Three Pillars of DevOps Value Stream Management.

Value Stream Management: You can’t fix what you can’t measure

While synonymous with technologies like version control and continuous integration systems, DevOps has the ability to do much more than automate development processes. Automation and streamlining processes is all about reducing waste and delivering more value. And with the adoption of DevOps tools and methods, teams should be able to deliver a steady stream of value. 

 
That's where value stream management comes into play: by better understanding inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and where value lies within the development lifecycle, teams can begin to adjust how work is accomplished in order to reduce inefficiencies, optimize workflows, and improve quality. 

In order to effectively manage your value stream, you must first identify what makes up your value stream. Value Stream Maps—step-by-step visualizations of the work that happens in order to deliver business value—help teams to identify both waste and efficiencies within their development processes. Once each step in the software delivery process is identified, teams can begin measuring lead time and change failure rate at each stage to better understand where they’re delivering value and where they’re delaying it.
 
As you might have guessed by now, the value stream is held up by three interdependent components: product, process, and people. And like any three-legged stool, the value stream will topple without all three pillars. 

Pillar 1: Product

 

Implementing the right products to help your teams improve the way they work is critical for effectively optimizing your value stream. And as digital transformation accelerates and teams struggle to scale agile DevOps, companies are looking to technology to both enable and manage DevOps. 

Research from Gartner shows that value stream delivery platforms (VSDPs) are the key to scaling software delivery and driving value for customers. When teams use disparate tools that are poorly integrated, they don’t have visibility across the full software delivery lifecycle. VSDPs, in contrast, reduce complexity and increase visibility to enable:

  • Faster time to market through build and test automation
  • Orchestration of more secure and stable releases
  • Product planning that aligns technology with business goals
  • Upstream and downstream CI/CD 
  • Optimization of the 4 key DevOps metrics: Lead Time, Change Failure Rate, Deployment Frequency & Median Time to Recover (MTTR)

From increasing deployment velocity and improving delivery quality or to increasing cross-functional alignment, VSDPs help teams provide value faster.
 
While a VSDP can measurably improve your processes and throughput, implementing a new product is only one piece of the larger DevOps digital transformation puzzle. Without re-thinking organizational frameworks or empowering people to effectively operate within new structures, the product can only go so far. Let's take a look at how the other two pillars—process and people—play a role in effective DevOps Value Stream Management. 

Pillar 2: Process

 

Most companies believe that technology will solve their software delivery challenges. But for enterprises with large teams and multiple workstreams, “shifting left” will surface underlying process inefficiencies that require a higher level of strategic change management.
 
What this really means is that digital transformation isn’t only rooted in technology. It’s also deeply rooted in organizational change. Shifting to a product delivery model requires re-thinking frameworks and processes, ultimately changing how teams operate.

Since DevOps was born from the Lean manufacturing movement, think of it this way: 

"The  assembly line was a revolutionary organization of steps that helped people execute efficiently by enabling people to leverage their specific skill sets, facilitating clean hand-offs, and building governance directly into their workflows. This ultimately enabled people to work in parallel, creating a continual flow of value. Similarly, adopting agile DevOps provides your teams with an optimized operating system."

What does this look like in practice? Let’s think back to our value stream map example. Value streams and metrics they track—lead time, change failure rate, deployment frequency, MTTR—highlight process bottlenecks and breakdowns that are delaying getting value into the hands of employees and customers. When you know where your process has issues, you can identify opportunities for improvement:

  • Lead time higher than expected? Use value stream data to assess what’s causing delays—training, agile breakdowns, story size. 
  • Are you releasing too many errors into production or is your downtime too high? Assess % Complete & Accurate work at each stage to see where you may need more quality gates.
  • Is your Q&A team frustrated that work isn’t hitting their plates until late into a sprint? Dig into each phase of your process to see where work is being held too long.

Each improvement that reduces delivery time or eliminates waste in the system leads to additional productivity and higher quality work. And when you deliver better capabilities to the business faster, you also deliver more ROI.

Pillar 3: People

DevOps optimization isn’t about replacing people. It’s about enabling people to work efficiently so they can spend time working on more valuable things. When processes and products streamline work, employee satisfaction—and productivity—soar. 

And part of enabling employees with DevOps tools and processes is nurturing and supporting them through the change. Throwing your teams a new tool and saying "go" just won't work; change requires the combination of training, adoption, strategic process implementation, and a cultural mindset shift toward continuous improvement. What does supporting employees through this kind of change actually look like?

  • Dedicated time to absorb, practice and implement new skills
  • Honest retrospectives that uncover opportunities to improve while building trust
  • Empowerment and accountability to drive change
  • Involvement in developing standards of practice

Employees won’t buy into change if they aren't given the time, space, or context to understand why it's happening. In the wrong culture, value stream metrics and process changes could signal blanket crackdowns on performance, which might lead team members to underreport metics like MTTR. This is where the DevOps mindset comes in.

Values stream management isn’t designed to weed out people from your organization. Rather, it’s about helping your team pinpoint areas for improvement, so they can better test new methods and ideas. When you remove wasted work from your team’s plate, they’re enabled to do the work they enjoy, leading to higher productivity and more innovative solutions. 

Bringing Product, Process & People Together

The three pillars of DevOps Value Stream Management aren’t a sequential recipe. Like a stool needs three legs to stand, so does your DevOps success. Product, process and people are interconnected, reinforce each other, and are equally essential. Products make transformation possible, but it’s people and process who bring change to fruition. In the end, until your leaders adopt agile and continuous improvement mindsets, your team won't be enabled to drive change that truly leads to digital transformation.

The world is going through a massive amount of change right now, and your organizations are as well. We’re here to help.

 

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