This article is the fourth out of an unlimited series (let’s say at least 5!) where I’m gonna try to give you some ideas and easy things to put in place in order to bring your team closer to business people.
Written so far:
Value Stream Mapping
First time I discovered Value Stream Mapping was when reading the very interesting “Lean Enterprise” book by Joanne Molesky, Barry O’Reilly and Jez Humble. The final version of the book will be released in December but the early release version is available for download at a lower price since a few months now.
A Value Stream Mapping is a method from lean-management that allows you to quickly visualize the flow of value delivered from the genesis of a project until the customer delivery. It has originated from manufacturing but it can easily be applied on software development as explained in “Lean Enterprise“.
The exercise is pretty straightforward, you just have to write down all the stages that are necessary to bring an idea to its delivery and write under each steps the Lead Time (LT) and Value Added Time (VA). The Lead Time is the elapsed time needed to arrive from a stage to another and the Value Added Time is the amount of time really spent on that step where value has been added (the real work)
When working with huge companies where there are a lot of processes and departments, the exercise might take some time to accomplish as you’d need to meet people from all the different department involved in order to collect all the data. For us it was quite easier as it took us only one and a half hour to end-up with this:
(Pink post-it notes represent process stages, LT and VA are written under each)
First thing to do is to select a recent representative project (the kind of project your company is used to do in terms of size, people involved …) and obviously one that has been released to the customer! Invite enough people to be able to determine all the steps and find out corresponding LT and VA. We were only 3 to perform the Value Stream Mapping (a Business Analyst, the Head of Development and myself). As soon as all the steps have been found out, we used time tracking and reporting tools to get the exact amount of time spent on each steps (the VA) and when exactly those started. Some of the steps might be done in parallel and iteratively, that’s why some sticky notes are under other ones (in that case the corresponding VA is the sum of the whole column).
As soon as you have written down everything, just sum up all the VA’s and LT’s (some conversion might be needed here as some figures might be in days and other in weeks or months) and divide the total VA by the total LT to find out the Value Stream efficiency rate. The lower it is, the bigger is the chance to easily find some process improvement ideas!
The very interesting part starts at the end of the exercise! Well, you know, everyone might have in mind where usually things are stuck and where you might need some improvement to speed the value flow. But having the Value Stream in front of you clearly helps to focus.
The Value Stream is the perfect medium to start collaborating. Invite a couple of key people to join (from development and business side) and talk together in order to find out what could be improved in order to speed up the flow of value delivered and avoid wasting precious time. List out all the ideas and try them! Redo the exercise later on and check if the efficiency rate increased!
You will get a better understanding between all the stakeholders of how work moves through the company. People from different departments and having different point of views join together and collaborate to improve the whole company’s efficiency.