Agile / DevOps: Value Stream Mapping for IT Services – Some Thoughts

Value stream mapping originated as a lean-management method.  Today this method along with Agile, ITSM and other LEAN practices is utilized to understand and improve the delivery of products or services for all industries.  Being able to analyze the current state for the series of events that take a product or service from concept all the way through to value realization by the customer is a powerful tool. A tool necessary for designing an efficient future state and for strategizing continual service improvement.  Below are some thoughts on how the approach to value stream mapping can be applied to service management.

Getting Started: Beginning with the formal proposal or request from the customer and then documenting what takes place throughout the lifecycle is always a good starting point.  Value Stream Mapping requires a gradient approach including the following elements:

·         Define physical flow of events – If you are just starting out, it might prove helpful to keep this high level and not get to far down into the detail of workflow.  One approach is to start with the proposal, requirements and charter… document the flow of events (process activities) until it gets to the Project Management Organization.  Now track events there and follow through design, transition and operation.  It would be good here to document processes but also to keep in mind the process integration.
·         Define flow of information – It might be best to stick to critical elements of information that are required to fulfill the design and delivery of the service.  Information tracking could prove useful for such things as Business and Service Level Requirements gathering, Project charters, Service Acceptance Criteria,  Service Transition plans… Service Design package, Test results, Change schedules and more.  Record how this information flows through the processes.
·         Add process data to the value stream map - What data is critical for your success? Here is where you want to collect data related to how much time and effort it is taking you.  Process data could include lead times, cycle times, wait times for event or process activities. How long is it taking you to process information, design, and deployment of the service or product?   The focus is on how to improve the process for better workflow in this value stream.
·          Analyze the data and information in the value stream – The value stream map should now give you some information to identify bottlenecks, waste, and areas where processes are broken. One could also analyze how to integrate process activities early in the lifecycle.  Are silo’s between the Development team and Operational processes creating workflow issues?  Taking time to analyze here from a holistic and enterprise view point could prove critical to ongoing success.  
·         Create a future state for the value stream - Care should be taken so that we do not improve one area so much that we increase workflow that creates a bottleneck further in the stream.  We also need to be clear on what the rate of demand is from the business and customer requirements.   Let the customer/business requirements dictate the velocity for the flow of work.  Cadence and fluidity will be key.

A good rule here is to use an iterative approach and to be careful not to make more improvement or change in the process and workflow than the organization can sustain.  One Service Improvement Plan (SIP) at a time and be sure to “keep the momentum going”.  Have you applied Value Stream Mapping to your IT Services?  I have shared some of my thoughts here, what are yours?

Certification and training information:  

DevOps Foundation and Certified Agile Service Management  #DevOps

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