Embracing VSM to Drive Value in Software Delivery
March 13, 2023

Sacha Labourey

Value stream management (VSM) is one of those ideas that IT leaders have embraced in concept but had a hard time implementing in practice. That appears to be changing. In fact, the Value Stream Management Consortium State of Value Stream Management report showed that VSM has moved out of the early-adopter phase and into the mainstream.

So, what is value stream management, anyway?

I've been describing it as a practice that helps an organization track and manage the flow of value from ideation all the way through to customer delivery. VSM takes all — or at least most — of the guesswork out of the process. It ensures that all facets related to end-to-end software development are connected and measured to properly and efficiently move the flow of value related to a product or service to the customer.

This means connecting multiple teams, tools and applications to gain clear visibility and insight into how the value is flowing through the software delivery process. It means having access to real-time metrics on DevOps performance across teams and tracking progress of product releases. The goal is to deliver quality software at speed that your customers want in order to drive value back to the organization.

We're longtime proponents of VSM's ability to measure and transform an organization's software delivery function. We've collected anecdotal reports about its effectiveness, but, until recently, we didn't have data to show just how extensive VSM's adoption has become in the enterprise.

90% feel organizations that commit to VSM will race ahead of those that do not

We found what we thought we'd find. Our survey of 600 senior executives revealed that 90% feel organizations that commit to VSM will race ahead of those that do not when it comes to digital transformation. Executives also roundly agreed that VSM makes transformations easier to achieve and that it offers more time for innovation.

What does this mean?

For one thing, it shows that organizations that make software delivery a priority understand that they can't just talk about being committed to generating value throughout their operations. They actually have to come up with a plan to get it done and then align all their people, processes and tools toward carrying out that plan.

In fact, most respondents to the CloudBees Global VSM Survey said they've bought into a VSM approach. Nine out of 10 senior executives said they're familiar with the concept, and when provided with the definition of VSM, the same percentage said they're currently using it. Among the small number who say their organization is not currently using VSM, over half plan to implement it in the near future.

That's not to say implementation of VSM strategies has been smooth. Senior executives listed a number of roadblocks that have held back their ability to drive value-generating efforts throughout their digital-first operations.

Topping the list is getting various groups on board. More than one-third (35%) of senior executives said they're having trouble getting mid-level employees to adopt VSM thinking. Nearly as many (33%) voiced challenges scaling VSM through the organization, and another 31% said senior leadership itself is part of the problem.

This shows that VSM is a people issue. No matter how many tools you add or processes you refine, implementing a VSM-focused culture is key to driving value throughout your operation.

What is clear from the survey is how important senior executives think VSM concepts are to their organization's success. More than nine-in-10 agree that VSM helps connect software delivery practices to business outcomes. The same percentage said they need something to drive common data models including value streams, CXs, workflows, tools and teams. Additionally, nearly as many (89%) said they need better data points to guide their digital transformation efforts.

Executives put a high priority on the use of tools that can drive value in their software delivery processes. These include dashboards that track progress of feature rollouts, create visibility into pipeline progress and bottlenecks, track release and deployment metrics, and track DORA and developer metrics. Nine in 10 executives considered all of the above important and more than half described each as being very important. With executives bought in and an investment in tools underway, now it's time to focus on shifting the mindset of the teams.

What's clear is that VSM has arrived. Executives see the importance of making value generation their top priority and committing to a strategy that makes it happen.

Sacha Labourey, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder, CloudBees
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