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Value Stream Management

How to Unlock Flow Visibility and Predictability Using a Value Stream Management Solution

Best practices for maximizing value and boosting delivery in your initial 12 months with a VSM solution.

Published By Maik Hassel
How to Unlock Flow Visibility and Predictability Using a Value Stream Management Solution

In the fast-paced world of business today, one thing is clear: leaders want results, and they want them fast. They’re constantly seeking ways to deliver more, faster, and at a lower cost, all while maintaining high quality. This drive for efficiency and effectiveness is the foundation of modern business strategy. In this blog post, we’ll delve into how to maximize value within the first 12 months of using a value stream management (VSM) solution. In addition, you’ll gain tips for optimizing flow visibility and predictability and how to use these insights to accelerate your organization’s performance. 

The value of visibility and predictability 

To begin our journey into the first 12 months of using a VSM solution, let’s first understand why visibility and predictability matter.

In a world where speed is critical, businesses are often left wondering why they can’t get things out the door faster. It’s not enough to aim for just “faster, cheaper, and higher quality.”  

To truly succeed, you need to connect your Flow Metrics to specific business objectives right from the start. This is where the Planview® Viz methodology shines, emphasizing the importance of aligning Flow Metrics with clear, trackable business goals set at an executive level. 

Within the first 12 months of adopting a VSM solution, it is attainable to achieve these two goals: 

  1. Cut time to market in half by doubling productivity and speed. 
  1. Ensure the activities teams are working on align with top-level company initiatives. 

Setting the stage: A look at flow maturity levels 

Before we dive into the first 12 months, let’s set the stage by understanding the broader context of your VSM transformation journey. Follow a structured approach with five well-defined levels of maturity, each with specific goals, outcomes, and exit criteria.  

Level 1: Integrated

Integrate work across different applications. At least some ideas can make an impact

Level 2: Visible

Provide visibility of progress. Teams can make decisions based on data.

Level 3: Predictable

Make the work predictable. Dependent teams can work efficiently.

Level 4: Aligned

Align work with strategic objectives. Teams work towards the right outcomes.

Level 5: Optimal

Apply intelligent automation. Organizations can scale and respond to new challenges.

For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll assume you’re already well into the first phase of integration, where the focus is on connecting work between different applications and enabling value flow with minimal manual intervention. 

Going deep: A strategic approach 

In our VSM transformation journey, there’s a choice to be made: go broad or go deep. Going broad means onboarding a large number of teams quickly, focusing on gaining visibility for all teams simultaneously.  

However, for this discussion, we’ll take a different approach. We’ll go deep with a carefully selected set of teams, proving the benefits and extracting enterprise-specific insights that can benefit future teams joining the journey.  

Month 1: Planning for success 

On day zero, as you embark on this 12-month journey, it’s essential to assess what everyone is working on. The unfortunate truth is that a significant portion of work within many organizations is misaligned or inefficient. Real-world data from Planview Viz, which has helped companies around the world manage thousands of value streams across various industries, reveals that nearly half of the work performed by teams is wasted in the forms of rework, excess work in progress, overproduction, repetitive manual, and aged or canceled work.

To tackle this issue, the first month focuses on the planning process. This includes: 

1. Flow Distribution® 

  • Define how different types of work (e.g., features, risks, defects, debt) should be distributed across engineering capacity. 
  • Align the Flow Distribution with product maturity while allowing for deviations when necessary. 

2. Alignment with strategic goals 

  • Ensure that at least two-thirds of planned work aligns with documented strategic goals. 
  • Configure tools to track progress effectively, defining flow item types and linking work to strategic initiatives. 

These changes may be challenging, as they require teams to adjust their tool usage and workflows. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that these adjustments are made for the benefit of the business, with the promise of improved visibility. 

Month 2: Maintaining freshness 

As we enter the second month, the focus remains on planning, but we add another critical element: managing the age of work. The goal is to prevent work from bleeding into the next planning increment. This requires a shift in behavior and processes. 

Age of work 

  • Implement metrics and processes to minimize the amount of work that carries over from one planning period to another. 
  • Encourage teams to break down larger work items into smaller ones and link them to top-level initiatives. 

Month 3: Optimizing Flow Load® 

In month three, the focus extends to optimizing Flow Load and work in progress. This phase introduces metrics and processes to ensure that teams are not burdened with more work than they can efficiently complete based on historical data. It’s a proactive approach to managing workloads. 

Flow Load 

  • Implement metrics and processes to prevent teams from taking on more work than their historical capacity allows. 
  • Pay attention to flow efficiency and identify and address bottlenecks in the development process. 

Month 6: The halfway mark 

As we reach the halfway point of our 12-month journey, it’s time to introduce a new focus area: delivery. While continuing to address planning, age of work, and Flow Load, we now shift our attention to flow metrics and efficiency in the final phase of the delivery cycle. This phase mirrors the bottleneck analysis from earlier in the journey but focuses on the last mile of value delivery. 

Delivery Phase 

  • Implement metrics and processes to optimize flow and efficiency in the final phase of value delivery. 
  • Continue using feedback and improvement systems throughout the planning and development cycle. 

By this point, your organization should have a well-established feedback and improvement system in place. This system should be constantly refined and used throughout the planning and development cycle for the remainder of the year. 

Measuring progress: The power of Flow Metrics 

Throughout each focus area, Flow Metrics play a crucial role in gauging progress and ensuring that goals are met. These metrics provide an operational view that can be used in various stakeholder meetings and reviews across the organization. They help track the transformation initiative’s progress and identify areas that require attention. Here’s an example of a value stream analytics dashboard.

Thriving beyond the first year 

In the world of modern business, speed and efficiency are paramount. The first 12 months of your VSM journey are a critical period during which you’ll focus on making your organization’s flow visible and predictable. By setting ambitious goals and following a structured approach, you can unlock the potential to double your throughput, ensure you’re working on the right things, and ultimately achieve success. 

As you embark on this journey, remember that change can be challenging, especially when it involves altering established workflows and processes. However, the benefits of improved visibility and predictability are well worth the effort.  

Planview Viz provides the tools and methodology to guide you on this transformative journey, and with strong leadership and executive backing, your organization can thrive in today’s fast-paced business landscape. I encourage you to explore the on-demand demo and resources offered by Planview to gain a deeper understanding of how to achieve the greatest level of success with your VSM solution. 

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Written by Maik Hassel VP of Product Management, Planview

With over 30 years of experience in all aspects of the software product delivery chain, Maik is responsible for both Planview Viz and Flow Fabric, Planview's connector landscape for Planview Viz and Planview Hub.