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Value Stream Management is a hot DevOps topic that’s not going away any time soon. In fact, we expect VSM to grow in popularity and use over the next year. That means, to stay ahead of your competition, you need to get familiar with VSM and take advantage of the benefits it offers. But with so many conferences, webinars, eBooks, and blogs on value stream management, it can be daunting to sift through the mounds of information on this topic. That’s why we recently held a webinar to answer your questions about value stream management.

We received dozens of questions about getting started with VSM, convincing stakeholders to get on board with VSM, and utilizing VSM best practices. Value stream management experts Steve Boone, Al Wagner, and Steve Pereira answered as many questions as they could in the hour-long webinar, but they weren’t able to get to everything. You can watch the recorded webinar here. Keep reading for answers on the remaining questions.

Is there a guide or best practices on performing VSM for a DevOps transformation?

There are lots of guides out there, but the best ones in our VSM experts’ opinions are:

I’m working on a VSM for project teams. Can I consider the user stories as my batch size?

One of the bottlenecks we see in value stream management is batch loading the pipeline stages. I would suggest that teams would be better served by building a sprint plan, identifying what stories/features will be introduced in the release, and then focusing on optimizing flow so that work is pulled into the next stage without delay, creating a seamless flow of work from development to production release. A pull approach, as opposed to batching, avoids the manifestation of artificial bottlenecks as it does not overwhelm the team with more than they can handle at any particular stage.

I’ve heard VSM is most successful when lead top-down with full “executive level buy-in”, but we don’t have that at this time and can’t afford to wait any longer. Can this be led from the bottom-up by front-line workers (devs) when management seems oblivious or not willing to dig into the actual problems?

While a top-down approach is best, many DevOps transformations start off at the grass roots level. The team identifies something that warrants improvement and then implements a change. However, it will be hard to scale across an organization, since an initiative of that size will require executive buy-in. So, how do you get their attention? We would suggest understanding the business objectives – things that are important to the stakeholder. Is it lowering costs, getting new features to market quickly to disrupt competitors, or perhaps improving the level of quality? Next is to understand current state and create a benchmark for measuring against. And finally, as mentioned above, identify a challenge where the improvement would positively contribute to the business objectives and experiment by implementing change. But be sure to measure! If you want to gain executive buy in, you have to present justification in terms of business results. “Hey boss! We did this and reduced cost of XYZ by 20%. We would like to do more around improvement, can we count on your support?”

Any suggestions for Future State VSM best practices?

VSM is such a new and evolving space that it is hard to predict what the future may bring. And when you consider the rate of change in the DevOps world right now, we are not sure what is right around the corner. What I would suggest is be open to what may be coming and embrace what makes sense for your organization. VSM practices will continue to evolve as more and more organizations come on board the VSM train.

How can I achieve synergy using OKRs and VSM?

OKRs, for those who don’t know, are “Objectives and Key Results” defined and reviewed as part of a framework. While we can’t speak for all VSM vendors, HCL Accelerate, HCL’s value stream management solution, offers capabilities to harvest data from multiple sources and presents that data in many forms including dashboards or reports aligned to an organization’s objectives and key measures. HCL Accelerate also shows trends so that organizations can see if measures are trending in the right direction or some action should be taken. So, they are similar in nature but perhaps not completely the same.

How do you identify the value stream of an existing product when joining a company that is moving to the Agile world?

The manufacturing of any product, including software, will have a pipeline of steps taken to produce that product. There will be some level of planning, design, development, and quality checks, followed by an eventual release to the consumer. And value streams exist regardless of methodology practiced. Now, to understand how long something takes to go from ideation to implementation—spanning the value stream—and all the process steps performed and artifacts created, we would suggest a value stream mapping exercise. With an understanding of the current state, one then starts to look at each process step and artifact challenging whether it delivers value. If there is no value, you have to question why something is done and consider eliminating it from the flow.

How do you engage stakeholders in a VSM workshop?

Stakeholders are key to a VSM workshop since they are the ones who know current process and can make change happen. To engage them, or anyone participating in the workshop, it is important to provide a safe environment for people to share opinions, challenge current processes, and speak freely. If a person is an expert in their discipline, ask for their opinion. Get them to share how things really work. But, if they don’t want to work towards improvement or perhaps they don’t have an interest in the workshop, you need to swap in someone who does.

Can HCL Accelerate consume VSM metrics from other sources GIT REPO’s (GitLab, BitBucket, GitHub) and tools like JIRA or ARCAD. In what format can they be brought into HCL Accelerate?

HCL Accelerate offers integrations with a number of solutions, pulling in data for presentation within a value stream or as data points within a report. As each source varies in data format, HCL Accelerate is able to look at the source’s data model and normalize it for import into the repository. This is a strength of HCL Accelerate. It’s ability to understand data formats from multiple sources followed by the ability to present that data in a meaningful way allows organizations to make decisions based on data in a single view. And if an integration is not readily available, let us know. Our development team is constantly delivering new integrations with other DevOps tools. Now if you can’t wait, HCL Accelerate’s API allows organization to import data into HCL’s repository by executing a command.

Check out the screenshot of HCL Accelerate’s plugins library below to see what integrations are available out of the box.

Your VSM questions, answered by experts

Want to keep learning? Make sure you check out the recorded “Ask the VSM Experts” webinar by clicking here. And if you want some one-on-one DevOps advice, you can request a free consultation by clicking here.

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