Accelerating Software Delivery with Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Feb 13, 2020 by Alex Bello

Accelerating Software Delivery with Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

What is VSM and how does it accelerate software delivery? Value stream mapping enables organizations to:

  • Visualize and understand software development, testing and delivery workflows
  • Surface inefficiencies
  • Identify ways to reach an accelerated and high-performing future state

Armory helps organizations automate a golden path to production by extending OSS Spinnaker with proprietary features and enterprise support. To help design optimal CI/CD pipelines, we are excited to announce a new opportunity: Armory-led Value Stream Mapping (VSM) discovery sessions with customers and prospects. This ensures that we are codifying and orchestrating the most efficient, predictable, and secure paths to high-performance software delivery, maximizing customer investments in Spinnaker.

The Armory-led VSM discovery exercise

1) Surfaces manual processes  that should be codified (aka process-as-code) and automated by leveraging Spinnaker, and

2) Identifies inefficient steps or manual gates that impact delivery cadence. Adding VSM to your CI/CD toolkit maximizes the promise of CI/CD pipelines and your business case for Spinnaker.

Learn more about how VSM accelerates software delivery at our webinar.

A Quick Overview of VSM

VSM is a technique that originated in the manufacturing industry to analyze, design, and manage the flow of materials and information required to bring products to customers. The original purpose was to map the steps of material handling, and identify – and eliminate – waste in order to maximize ROI. Items in a VSM workflow are visualized and ‘mapped’, to decide whether each step adds value or doesn’t add value, from a customer standpoint.

The map that comes out of a discovery session can be done simply and quickly on a whiteboard. The real key is that regardless of how the workflow is visually represented, a VSM discovery is an opportunity  to surface value-adding steps and non-value adding steps that inflate costs in both resources and time (waste, delays, hand-offs, and bottlenecks).

VSM is particularly useful in workflows where there are repetitive steps, especially those involving multiple hand-offs or multiple stakeholders across organizational silos. In many organizations, things have been done a certain way for so long, and cumbersome processes are so much a part of how we work, that we stop seeing them or questioning how we can improve them. In order to maximize what’s already working, and eliminate what’s not working, we need a process to clearly see how things are being done under the surface. VSM helps surface things that are right in front of us but that frequently aren’t easy to see and recognize.

Ultimately, a VSM discovery is more than a ‘report card’ of what an organization is doing well and doing poorly. The resulting map enables organizations to plan their way to a more efficient and effective ‘future state’ by optimizing pipeline workflows and streamlining development, testing and delivery processes.

VSM in Multiple Domains

VSM discoveries can be done in almost any vertical market and type of organization. The industry or the domain determines what inputs flow through the workflow map.

For example:

  • Supply Chain Organizations
    • A workflow can identify delays that add to the cost of the finished product, with the goal of minimizing those delays.
  • Service Organizations
    • A workflow can look at handoffs between external customers and internal administration/resources, with the goal of increasing service efficiency and customer satisfaction levels.
  • Healthcare Organizations
    • A workflow can look at patient needs and quality of care, with the goal of looking at where inefficiencies or bottlenecks occur and how to minimize them.
  • Manufacturing Organizations
    • A workflow can look at identifying inefficiencies in handoffs that lead to a slow-down in manufacturing throughput. In vehicle assembly, you can actually see physical parts accumulating and jamming up a certain part of the assembly line. Hand-offs are simpler to visualize in manufacturing, as they involve handoffs of tangible material or deliverables through a physical station or factory area.

VSM in Software Delivery and “Continuous Everything”

Software delivery is the ideal workflow for VSM, as it has repetitive steps with multiple hand-offs. Over the years, organizations have implemented manual gates to prevent unintended outages. The silos between development, operations, infrastructure, security, and other teams and tools within the SDLC are rife with hand-offs, delays, and gates. VSM identifies areas that can be improved with automation and continuous delivery, building a business case for CI/CD and Spinnaker.

Example: Change Approval Boards (CABs)

The intent of CABs is good: to protect the organization and customers from changes that may not be ready for production environments or that may not adhere to an organization’s business, security, or compliance policies. But, introducing a set of manual gates and approvals causes fragmented pipelines, and introduces friction and delay. VSM surfaces this inefficiency and helps organizations see that in a future high-performing desired state, manual gates can be replaced with automated guardrails.

Spinnaker, for example, can replace the manual gates with automated protections to ensure that changes are compliant with organizational policy – without the unnecessary hand-offs that delay software delivery. Armory’s Policy Engine for SDLC enables security and compliance teams to codify business policies so Spinnaker can act on those policies in real time by providing visibility of any violations, or by stopping deployments to production until violations have been fixed.

Spinnaker Supports a Culture of Guardrails to Achieve ‘Continuous Everything’

Freeing your developers with guardrails instead of bogging them down with manual gates enables them to innovate and moves your organization away from a culture of hand-offs, sign-offs, and delays. That in turn causes key performance indicators like lead time, cycle time, time to market, and time from idea to production to improve. . The benefits aren’t just in delivery cadence, but also in  building empowered, productive and engaged teams. And, the automated guardrails ensure that organizational policy is followed, thus balancing safety with autonomy.

VSM Discovery Session: An Introduction

A VSM can be done with professional symbols, depicted with a graphic, or sketched on a  whiteboard with sticky notes.

The VSM discovery process looks like this:

VSM Discovery Process

  1.     Surface the “Value-Adding” Steps:

  • These are the steps required by customers to get an idea to production, the steps where information is being transformed into a product (e.g. code is being written, packaged into versioned artifacts).
  1.     Surface the “Non-Value Adding” Steps

  • Wait times, release windows, manual processes, manual approvals, etc.
  1.     Surface the “Hand-Offs”

  • Each hand-off adds time and friction to the delivery cycle. Which ones are critical? Which can be removed, automated, or accelerated with guardrails?
  1.     Surface the “Value Ratio”

  • The value ratio is the ratio of value-adding steps to non-value adding steps. It helps to identify areas that can be improved with Spinnaker’s automated pipelines and guardrails.
  1.     Surface and Agree Upon the “Future State”

  • The purpose of VSM isn’t to criticize teams and individuals or to point fingers of blame for bottlenecks. It is to improve, accelerate and automate. It helps the organization get alignment on what can be improved to reach a high-performing future state. This helps reach agreement on KPIs for release cadence and quality increases, and to set reasonable and manageable goals for continuous improvement.

A Manageable Transformation

It’s important to understand that we aren’t mapping and then transforming the entire SDLC workflow immediately. The key is to get started, and start proving value and measurable improvement. Just as we start a Spinnaker migration with a small set of less critical applications and showcase success internally in order to secure wider adoption, we encourage you to start somewhere manageable and show real results first. For example, identify where the most hand-offs or time delays occur, and focus on accelerating a handful of those. Show ROI from optimization and showcase the change in measurable performance metrics like lead time, change failure rate, and MTTR. The VSM process is iterative – as you make improvements based on what you’ve surfaced, the topography of the map will change, and you’ll get closer to the ideal high-performing state.

How Do I Do a VSM Discovery?

Armory is facilitating one-day discovery sessions with customers and prospective customers. Ideally, you’d include people who want to be catalysts for change or change agents, especially people who cross organizational silos. Schedule a discovery session with us today!

The Clear Benefits of VSM

With Armory and a VSM discovery, you can visualize your SDLC and software delivery workflow to identify areas for improvement. If you’re already on the journey to automating a golden path to production with Spinnaker pipelines, VSM is another technique to ensure that path is the most efficient, secure and predictable.

Interested in doing a VSM discovery with Armory? Contact us here!



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