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Use the Value Stream Mapping technique to evaluate your processes

Joelle Small, 21 september 2022

In this era of constant digital disruption and innovation, teams must deliver quick changes to keep up the pace. Whenever there is a business need, value needs to be delivered.

Still, in many organizations, work is organized around value streams. Value streams represent the series of steps that an organization walks through to implement solutions that provide a continuous flow of value to a customer. It provides the most essential and fundamental knowledge of how an organization serves its customer.

Organizations with little or less adoption to Lean-Agile practices face several challenges such as: wait time and delays between team members, political boundaries that prevent cooperation and difficult communication. Along with these challenges comes low productivity and poor quality.

However, we can evaluate the efficiency of our processes by using the value stream mapping technique. This technique can be used to improve any process where there are repeatable steps and/or when there are multiple handoffs. In this blog, I will explain how to use this technique.

Value stream mapping helps to:
• understand how work flows through the organization;
• identify bottlenecks to the flow of value;
• understand how we can improve the flow of value;
• measure process quality and organizational efficiency.

The DevOps Transformation Canvas can be used to map value streams.

Step 1: Identify the context for your value stream
Describing the context of your value streams helps you to better understand how your process works and what value it brings to the business. Identify the following components: value stream, trigger, first step, last step and demand rate.

Then, visualize each step of the value stream and identify the most responsible person or team for each step.

Example process step
Figure 1. Example process step

Step 2: Measure the efficiency of your value stream
For each step, measure the process time (PT), lead time (LT) and percent complete and accurate (% C&A). These measurements are not always clear-cut for each value stream. If you do not have exact numbers, try to give a realistic estimation. The goal of value stream mapping is to get insight in the efficiency of your value stream.

Process time = the actual value-added work. In other words: how long does the completion of this step take?

Lead time = time from ‘ready for next step’ to step complete. You can also interpret this as wait time between two steps + process time.

Percent complete and accurate = percent of work that the next step can process as-is. How complete and accurate is each step? Is there a lot of rework?

Step 3: Define the future state metrics
For each step you can also define the desired or future state metrics.

Step 4: Define boundaries, limitations and improvement items
Describe the boundaries and limitations of your value stream and really focus on why it is a limitation or boundary.

At last, think of improvement items that can help improve your value stream. To improve lead time, the natural tendency is to reduce processing time. In practice, excessively focusing on processing time can negatively impact people, culture and quality. It is better to focus on reducing wait time for example by reducing batch sizes or reduce queue lengths.

DevOps Transformation Canvas (SAFe)
Figure 2. DevOps Transformation Canvas (SAFe)

Using the value stream mapping technique will help you to get insight in the efficiency of your value stream. The ultimate goal is to deliver continuous value to your customers.

At Acorel, our goal is to help you achieve that ultimate goal. Let’s get in touch!

Joelle Small

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