What Is Value Stream Mapping? (And Why Do DevOps Pros Need to Understand It?)

Most DevOps Institute certifications have names that are pretty self-explanatory. DevOps Foundation  is clearly about the fundamentals of DevOps. DevOps Leader® teaches you how to lead a DevOps team, DevSecOps Engineering℠ explains how to apply DevOps principles to security, and so on.

But the content in the non-certification DevOps DrillDown courses isn’t always so obvious to the uninitiated. For example, a lot of IT professionals have never heard of value stream mapping (VSM), and so they wonder what the Value Stream Mapping for DevOps course is all about.

In the simplest of terms, VSM involves mapping the flow of activities from concept to value creation for the customer including how information and material flow through an organization. People have been applying VSM techniques to manufacturing for more than a hundred years. Recently, many DevOps professionals have also been using VSM to track the software delivery process.

Why? Here are four reasons DevOps professionals need to understand value stream mapping.

  1. If you want to understand DevOps, you need to understand Lean.

You probably already know that DevOps can trace its origins to the Agile software development movement. But you might not know that both Agile and DevOps arose out of an earlier framework known as Lean.

Popularized in the 1990s by Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers, Lean principles focus on minimizing waste in the production process while maximizing value to the end customer. Lean incorporates the idea of continuous improvement that became central first to Agile development and later to DevOps. And Lean uses value stream mapping to identify places in the production cycle where you might be able to eliminate steps or add more value for the customer. Understanding how these Lean principles support Agile and DevOps can deepen your understanding of value creation from the customer’s perspective and therefore how to improve your implementation of these approaches.

  1. VSM Can Ease Your Transition to DevOps

Mike Orzen, the award-winning Lean IT expert who authored the DevOps Institute Value Stream Mapping for DevOps course, explains that people who are new to DevOps sometimes get off course by trying to implement DevOps all at once. In his words, “A common mistake is to jump into an activity without a clear grasp of the current state and solid understanding of the problems you are trying to address.”

VSM solves that problem by giving you a way to visualize your current process and create a step-by-step approach to improving them in the future.

  1. VSM Can Help Reduce Waste

In manufacturing situations, waste can refer to wait time, scrapped parts, unnecessarily moving an object from place to place, or excess inventory.

In IT situations, reducing waste usually means cutting out unnecessary time or effort. For example, if you create a value stream map of your current on-premises infrastructure deployment process, it might show several days of waiting between the time when you order new hardware and when it is delivered. VSM might lead you to consider using public cloud services instead, which would eliminate the waiting and increase productivity.

  1. VSM Can Add Value

Lean philosophy calculates “value” from the customer’s point of view; anything that makes the product “better” in the eyes of the end user adds value. A value stream map of a software delivery process might help a team identity points where the developers could get additional early feedback from the end user. This could not only reduce waste by eliminating some of the need for rework but also make the final product more user-friendly, thus adding value.

Lean IT is far too broad a topic to cover in just one blog post, but the Value Stream Mapping for DevOps course does a good job of showing how DevOps teams can harness this Lean technique to great benefit. Check out the description or watch the webinar to see if this course might be right for you. And while you’re at it, look into our other non-certification DevOps DrillDown Courses that can add value to your DevOps implementation.

 

Cynthia Harvey

About the Author

Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years.