What is value stream mapping? How does it optimize processes and decrease waste? Explore how value stream mapping in different use cases improves efficiency, benefits consumers, and helps achieve business objectives.
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Customers are always on the lookout for products and services that effectively meet their needs, which is why companies benefit from optimizing and improving their internal processes while keeping their customers’ needs at the forefront of decision-making.
Value stream mapping is a lean enterprise technique that aims to do just that – it helps businesses maintain an edge over their competition by placing the customer’s perspective first.
This page will explore broader VSM (not the same as LeanIX's VSM product) processes not only in manufacturing but in software development as well, and will set the stage for value stream management in software development.
Value stream mapping (VSM) is a specific way to document, analyze and improve the flow of information or materials to produce a product or service. The goal of VSM is to remove ‘waste’ and make complex processes more efficient. The technique provides companies with a series of visual steps to help identify bottlenecks in a value stream to allow for workflow optimization.
Value stream maps are a lean enterprise technique developed and popularized by manufacturing companies such as Toyota in the 90s. While this method is valuable in these industries for mapping delivery chains, it has also been adopted by every kind of business.
In software development, leadership teams will adopt the value stream mapping model to optimize complex software processes and continue managing them thereafter.
A value stream is a set of actions that help a company identify areas of value that will in turn increase the value service or product has to the customer. The purpose of a value stream is to eliminate waste and identify bottlenecks to improve the overall efficiency of a process or service.
Value streams always begin and end with the customer, and move from an initial concept through to development, support, and delivery.
Value stream mapping is a lean manufacturing technique that is often linked back to Toyota’s management system. The motor company developed “Material and Information Flow Mapping” back in 1988 to visually depict all workflows within the production process. This created a common language for identifying areas of improvement and eliminating waste.
Since then this language has been adapted from an industry-specific tool to a universal method of lean management used to transform processes and software delivery.
Today, VSM is used by countless businesses in various industries to improve processes and maintain their competitive edge. Some examples of value stream use cases are:
The benefits of value stream mapping are numerous but will vary slightly depending on what is needed. Broadly speaking, the biggest benefits of implementing VSM is to add value to a product or service, reduce waste, improve processes and prioritize continuous improvement.
There are seven types of waste that can be identified through value stream mapping. VSM waste includes:
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Value stream mapping in software development is predominantly focused on providing leadership teams with ways to optimize their software delivery processes. It is a technique taken from lean software development which provides a set of practices that help businesses improve new and existing software processes by adding value and removing waste.
VSM in software development centers on the flow of information and data, as well as cross-team communication. By analyzing this flow using the Value Stream Management tool, developers and lean practitioners are able to optimize processes through monitoring, controlling, and improving the value software delivers to a company throughout its entire lifecycle.
A value stream in software development exists either per product, service, or software application. Flow items are the different units of value that are part of the stream – this could be a new software feature or a bug fix. The process usually begins by taking an idea sourced from other areas of the company including customer support or competitor analysis and working with value streams to deliver valuable output to the end customer.
Just like value stream mapping in other industries, the benefits of VSM in software development include identifying and removing waste, improving processes, collaboration, and end-product quality.
The types of value stream waste found in software development are slightly different to those found in manufacturing or supply chains due to the fact that there aren’t any physically moving materials and people around to create a product. Types of VSM waste are:
Symbols used in value stream mapping represent the flow of information, inventory, or data within a system. These unique symbols are a visual representation of the steps, entities, or tasks needed in the process. There are common symbols teams can use when mapping value streams, however, it is possible to adapt or create new symbols to match specific needs.
For example in software development, the symbols for transport, shipments, and safety stock are useless. DevOps would opt for symbols that represent cycle time, resources, and software artifacts.
Process symbols on a map are a group of icons that represent a department, a step in your process, or a machine required to complete a product, service, or administrative function.
The material symbols represent the number of raw materials used by each process in the value stream. This also includes inventory and the operations related to them.
Information symbols provide a visual representation of the flow of information between steps, processes, production, and individuals.
General symbols are various other symbols used to represent other steps that have not been covered above. These include kaizen bursts, phones, and transportation.
Creating a value stream map is designed to be a straightforward process, even if it’s dealing with a lot of complex software processes.
Value stream optimization helps identify areas of improvement in the flow of value during various processes. In most of the VSM use cases, like manufacturing or supply chain, they leverage Toyota Production System and its concepts of Muri (overburdening), Mura (unevenness), and Muda (waste):
While the process of value stream mapping is designed to be clear and concise, there are challenges to ensuring a successful flow of information.
Current state vs. Future state map
Outlining the process steps in the current state phase may be a challenge. It’s important that there is an understanding between participants regarding the production processes. The current state map should only include what the process currently looks like, highlighting bottlenecks and defects. The Future state maps are developed as part of a team when designing the implementation plan.
Ensuring you have the right team
The success of your VSM activity hinges on the selection of the right team of people. Individuals generate waste, so making sure the right people are in the room to achieve the goals set at the start of the value stream process is vital. Facilitators will help the flow of communication and collaboration, encouraging lean best practices and optimizing the time spent discussing outcomes.
Using the right tools
Technology moves quickly, and the same goes for the tools which facilitate VSM processes. Make sure the tools you use are up-to-date and are able to reduce waste for your company's use case.
For software companies, speed and efficiency is the new currency and will impact which consumers are attracted to their product or service. Value stream mapping within software development helps businesses stay competitive, and the right value stream management tools are needed to track, measure, and improve the flow of VSM processes in software development teams.
DevOps looking for next-gen solutions to make value stream mapping an even more streamlined process can greatly benefit from the visibility LeanIX's Value Stream Management solution provides.
Learn about the essential metrics that help DevOps, CTOs, Product Managers, and Engineering leaders improve engineering efficiency and help build better software.
What are crawl, walk, and run metrics?
How to measure them?
What are the sources for tracking them?
What is their impact potential?
Why do we use value stream mapping?
How to create a value stream map?
How is VSM used in different fields?
What symbols are used in value stream mapping?
How to conduct value stream analysis?
How to identify your value streams?