Understanding Value Stream Mapping for Continuous Delivery

The idea of continuous delivery sounds great in theory, but how does a team practically make their software development into a well-oiled DevOps machine? What does continuous delivery look like in the day-to-day of an SDLC?

Value stream mapping (VSM) is one of the most tangible, straightforward ways for a team to incorporate continuous delivery into their development life cycle.

Let’s dive in.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

Essentially, value stream mapping analyzes, designs, and manages the flow of materials and information from the beginning to the end of the software development life cycle. VSM uses standard symbols to depict work streams and information flows. Items are mapped as adding value or not adding value based on the customer’s standpoint. The purpose of VSM is rooting out items that don’t add value to your customers in order to streamline workflows further.

VSM visualizes the handoffs between different stages of development. Handoffs between stages of development must be as efficient as possible, or the gaps in between can lead to low productivity and poor code quality.

Adoption of VSM in Software Development

But, how does a software development team adopt VSM? The software development life cycle has become increasingly bulky. DevOps tools can either be helpful, or they can just add weight to the whole process, making it especially difficult for organizational leaders to see a holistic view of their entire lifecycle.

Additionally, organizational silos make it challenging to measure performance across multiple systems. In order to build out continuous delivery, these silos must become more interconnected.

Assessing your software development flow is a great first step for implementing VSM into your development lifecycle. The development flow needs to be examined with two questions:

  1. Where is the stagnation in your pipeline?

    Consider the quantity levels of your development flow, and use this data to identify areas where stagnation exists. For example, is there a lack of feature requests? If so, why? Or on the other hand, are there too many developed features? If so, how does this impact QA?

  2. Are you using a Push or Pull model?

    “Push model” means that the supplier is supplying customers with features and deliverables, while the “pull model” is when the customers themselves are requesting those features. Is your organization balancing both of these models, or does one dominate your pipeline? If they aren’t balanced, specific processes and functions will become overtaxed in your value stream.

Benefits and Challenges of Software Development VSM

As we’ve already mentioned, there are numerous benefits to Software Development VSM, including these top two:

VSM eliminates or reduces waste, which in turn improves the bottom line

By identifying unnecessary handoffs/bottlenecks, the organization can target areas for improvement and facilitate better communication and collaboration. When unnecessary pieces of the pipeline become clear to the organization, the development team begins to prioritize based on the customer perspective rather than opinions.

When a system has been “cleaned up” through VSM, objective metrics/KPIs can be leveraged

A continuous delivery pipeline ensures that delivery is operational and meets quality SLAs for the business. In an ever-evolving industry, you can set your organization up for future success by prioritizing these options.

But despite its benefits, poorly-executed VSM has the potential to become a money-guzzling, energy-wasting endeavor. When looking to create VSM, you must make sure that the level of effort to analyze value streams is balanced with the potential value and savings. The easiest way to maintain this balance is to use tools when value stream mapping.

Value Stream Mapping Tools

Crafting an effective VSM requires a reliable mapping tool that supports your visualization and organization needs. Here are some of our favorites at StackShare:

  • Smartdraw: More than a diagramming app, SmartDraw is also a development platform that enables users to generate diagrams from data.
  • Lucidchart: Lucidchart is a solution for visual communication, providing features to create online flowcharts, diagrams, UML sketches, and ER models.
  • Visio: This tool enables users to create flowcharts, diagrams, org charts, floor plans, engineering designs, and more, using modern shapes and templates with the familiar Office experience.
  • Miro: Miro allows your company to create, collaborate, and centralize communication on a single online whiteboard.
  • Drawio: This is a free online diagram software for making flowcharts, process diagrams, org charts, UML, ER, and network diagrams. Drawio is also an open platform where you can create and share diagrams.

How StackShare Supports VSM with Value Stream Analysis

StackShare can empower your team as you build out better continuous delivery through value stream mapping. Through Private StackShare for Teams dashboards, you can understand which open source third-party components are present in your code base and analyze your value stream with a full picture of your tech stack.

Private StackShare for Teams supports VSM through several features:

  • Get a live inventory of all your tech stacks and the people using them in one dashboard.
  • Deliver compliant, high quality, and secure code by keeping an updated inventory of third-party and open source components.
  • Maintain visibility and keep your value stream map up to date with Automatic Document Stack Changes with Private Stack Decisions.
  • See all versions of your tools in use, and update when versions change, with Tools Report.
  • Respond quickly to security/license/operational risks that come with open source uses by maintaining an up to date map with Private StackShare for Teams.

Value stream mapping empowers you to further optimize your software development workflow by lowering costs and improving value-adds. Private StackShare for Teams supports value stream analysis, eliminating the research bottleneck for developers, and giving you a clear picture of your tech stack. Reduce time wasted chasing down who owns the tech, giving developers more time for what’s important - writing code.

Sign up for Private StackShare today.