Value Stream Management: How to Achieve Your DevOps Vision in 2021

    2020, DevOps, and Unrealized Visions

    Think back to this time last year. As we moved toward 2020, what did you envision for the year ahead? I think it’s safe to say that 2020 ended up being nothing at all like what anyone envisioned, and fundamentally unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

    In contemplating visions and plans that don’t get realized, it seems that many can find some parallels between 2020 and their DevOps initiatives. After decades, the reality is that there’s a big gap between visions and realities:

    • The vision: Through the adoption of DevOps principles and approaches, teams look to break down silos, speed value delivery, and reduce risk.
    • The reality: Teams are still struggling to realize measurable improvements in cycle times, quality, and innovation delivery.

    While gains have certainly been made, for many, persistent obstacles remain. Further, as we enter 2021, new challenges now also have to be confronted. While organizations were in the midst of the cultural transformation inherent in DevOps, the progress made is being threatened by the ongoing onslaught of the pandemic, and the realities that accompany near-100% remote working for the foreseeable future.

    This new paradigm raises the stakes for communication and collaboration—and that takes more than simply using a video conferencing app for team calls. Teams need to move toward what Jeffrey Hammond, Forrester Analyst, refers to as “spiritual colocation.” (Jeffrey Hammond spoke on this topic at our recent DevOps Virtual Forum. Be sure to visit the site to learn more.)

    DevOps teams are striving to establish optimized continuous delivery pipelines. To realize this objective, and foster the collaboration required to establish spiritual colocation, teams need to focus on a pivotal metric: mean time to feedback. Once developers commit code, how long does it take until they get feedback? Or, if line-of-business leaders decide to move forward with funding a project, how quickly do they learn about the returns on that investment?

    Potential of Value Stream Management

    In recent months, it has been inspiring to see the increased adoption of value stream management, and the potential it provides for boosting collaboration and ultimately moving teams towards spiritual colocation. As teams move into 2021, look for value stream management to represent an increasingly strategic initiative, and receive expanding traction in enterprises.

    According to a recent Gartner report, “By 2023, 70% of organizations will use value stream management to improve flow in the DevOps pipeline, leading to faster delivery of customer value.”1

    Through value stream management, teams are realizing these gains:

    • Maximized flow. Teams can improve the flow of new product iterations, and value, to customers.
    • Improved delivery efficiency. Teams can gain the cross-team collaboration and intelligence that breaks down silos and boosts staff productivity and efficiency.
    • Boost innovation. Through these approaches, teams can speed the delivery of innovative services and capabilities that delight customers and expand market share.

    Requirements for Value Stream Management

    To fully realize all the promise of value stream management, teams need to be able to leverage a platform that delivers a number of indispensable characteristics:

    • Unified. It is essential that teams establish visibility, orchestration capabilities, integrations, and management controls that span all the organization’s DevOps value streams.
    • Controlled. Teams must be able to gain complete control, leveraging a platform that can orchestrate a range of activities, including planning, builds, releases, and monitoring.
    • Customer centric. It’s imperative that teams can effectively align their efforts around customer-centric performance indicators.
    • Continuous. Teams need to continuously harness feedback and learning, so they can remove constraints and gain insights for improving quality, reliability, and security.

    How Automation and AI Can Help

    In the wake of continued technological advancements, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to play a breakthrough role in powering the success of DevOps and value stream initiatives. After years of working with a large number of enterprises, we have been able to gain a lot of intelligence in this area. In particular, we’ve acquired a really strong understanding of the factors that influence DevOps teams’ key performance indicators (KPIs), and how we can identify specific anti-patterns that offer key insights for informing improvements.

    In our daily work, there’s always more information available than we can possibly sift through and comprehend. This is particularly true for leaders of large enterprises; there are always a lot of things happening on a daily basis in our organizations that we don’t see. AI can be instrumental in enabling us to mine a massive amount of data and expose issues we otherwise would have missed. Following are a few examples of the ways AI and automation can help.

    • Predicting errors before code commit. When automation and AI are employed, if a developer is about to commit code, intelligence can be applied to alert the developer automatically if the code will introduce an issue. In this way, AI can act as a safety net that helps us better understand the impact of our actions before we actually take them.
    • Gaining insights into performance improvements. AI can help teams get to a higher level of intelligence in terms of tracking performance, and spotting the changes that can yield marked improvements.
    • Enhancing KPI management. With AI and automation, teams can gain a more granular understanding of the underlying factors that are shaping KPIs. Through AI, teams can move past basic metrics like change failure rates or cycle times, and start to unearth the intelligence needed to truly understand the root cause of why those metrics are actually declining or improving. For example, teams can identify how a specific component or area in an application is the source of an inordinate percentage of issues, and see that any time changes are made to that component, issues tend to arise.
    • Bypassing organizational barriers and limitations. When we help our large enterprise customers with value stream mapping, we often see that organizational boundaries have an outsized role in slowing cycle times. Fundamentally, these boundaries tend to create a lot of idle time. AI can highlight this impact, and how to address it. AI can also help reveal which teams are overcommitted, whether because of limitations in technology or people, so management can reposition resources accordingly.

    Products, the Next Silos?

    Historically, leaders have had a lot of interest in breaking down silos. I’ve been struck by how, in embracing value stream management, there’s the potential for teams to actually introduce a new silo—products. When teams define value streams for products, they tend to view these streams as an independent island. However, the reality in most enterprises is that a given product will have dependencies on other products and value streams. As teams get further into their value stream initiatives, they see they actually need to move to viewing and managing a network of value streams.

    How BizOps Can Help

    The challenge is that there haven’t been clear, standard, industry-wide definitions of many of the concepts being employed in enterprises today, including DevOps, agile, value management, site reliability engineering (SRE), and so on. Teams lack a common, bedrock framework to build upon. One of the key opportunities for BizOps is that it can help teams unify efforts across these disciplines. BizOps provides a critical context in terms of the core values and principles that teams need to embrace in order to unify their efforts.

    Ultimately, by building on a focus on business outcomes, teams can harmonize their practices, language, and cultural elements. This unification around business outcomes can be instrumental in enabling remote teams to boost engagement and collaboration across teams, and ultimately achieving the spiritual colocation that represents a key to fueling long-term success for today’s enterprises.

    1. Gartner, "Predicts 2021: Value Streams Will Define the Future of DevOps," October 5, 2020, ID: G00734377, Analyst(s): Daniel Betts, Chris Saunderson, Ron Blair, Manjunath Bhat, Jim Scheibmeir, Hassan Ennaciri