Mapping the river: discovering value streams and implementing meaningful transformations

Mapping the River – Broadcom

This post is from ValueOps™ by Broadcom, an Agile2023 sponsor.

In its simplest form, a value stream is the series of steps your company takes to provide a product or service (value) to your customers, from inception to delivery. It’s essentially the flow that a product or service takes to provide that value through your enterprise’s various technologies, people, and processes.

A good way of looking at that flow of information can be by watching how water flows through a river. While peaceful on the surface, a lot happens underneath that needs to be accounted for.

To understand the true size of a river, you can’t merely measure liquid flowing through a pipe. It would be like trying to grasp an entire novel by reading a single chapter. The same principle applies when trying to understand and implement value streams within an enterprise setting. This calls for a broad understanding and a view of the entire river, not just one pipe. Here is where the Agile development methodology can serve as an invaluable ally.

There are a few things you need to consider as you sort through that higher level of understanding to map your value streams and drive your transformations to success.  Let’s break it down.

1. Discovery over definition

Just like the river and pipe analogy above, an enterprise must discover, not define, its value streams before it can expect to achieve a real return on investment on VSM transformations. It requires a holistic view, not just a narrow snapshot of information.

To maximize these benefits, understanding your value streams is critical. Unfortunately, many organizations define their value streams based on assumptions, causing them to overlook critical parts of their flow and other important steps. As a result, they only capture a fragment of their value streams, akin to measuring what’s flowing through a pipe rather than understanding the entire river.

Discovering your value streams involves a detailed and thorough examination of your business processes and operations. This process is less about what you think happens and more about what actually happens. It requires the following steps:

  • Collaboration across teams and departments
  • Clear connections between each step in the process,
  • Objective data collection
  • Continuous feedback

All of these are tenants of Agile development practices that promote a culture of discovery and learning.

2. End-to-end process visibility

Value stream discovery begins when you have full end-to-end visibility into the process of ideas reaching the hands of customers. This requires significant effort into systems integration to ensure traceability exists from beginning to end.  Being able to tie business outcomes to the initial ideas and investments provides the data needed to understand the value and impact of each ask from the business.

With that full process visibility, you can unearth hidden bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or redundancies that are easy to miss when you’re only focused on the more obvious elements of your operations. It also provides a complete picture of your operations, allowing for more targeted and effective improvements.

It’s crucial to remember that discovery is not a one-time process. Just as rivers continually flow and change, so too do value streams. Enterprises should regularly revisit their value streams to reflect changes in their business environment, customer needs, and operational realities.

3. Transformational success

Implementing a VSM transformation without fully discovering (and understanding) your value streams is like trying to navigate a river without a map. Sure, you might make some headway, but you’ll likely miss out on the most efficient routes and may even end up going in circles.

With that comprehensive understanding, implementing your VSM transformation becomes significantly more potent. This will allow you to focus your efforts where they’ll have the most impact, streamlining processes, reducing waste, and improving the speed and quality of your product or service delivery.

Understanding is key

Only when you see the entire flow of the river – not just what’s in the pipe – can you begin to optimize its value. So before you dive into your VSM transformation, take the time to fully discover and understand your value streams. You’ll find the results will be well worth the effort, with increased efficiency and greater ROI on your VSM initiatives. Be sure to visit booth #314 to learn more about ValueOps & Value Streams.

About the Authors

Post by Matt Gorbsky & Rusty Lloyd of ValueOps

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They may not represent the opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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ValueOps VSM solution is the seamless integration of Broadcom’s proven Clarity™ and Rally Software®. Our licensing model allows for a unified deployment with a single instance, all-in-one pricing, and no expensive add-ons.

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