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How value stream mapping delivered on DevOps' promise for Hearst Business Media

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Alexa Alley, Program Manager, Hearst Business Media

Hearst Business Media is a large company, with more than 26,000 employees spanning multiple divisions and many silos. That's why, as DevOps program manager, I've worked to help create a DevOps culture that encourages our diverse teams to communicate with one another. They are now working together through challenges and outages and creating company-wide best practices.

It was a challenge to build a culture for people who didn’t even know that their counterparts in other business silos existed. But now we have teams talking to one another that never had before, and we used value stream mapping to get there. We have successfully hosted more than 10 value stream mapping workshops so that the internal businesses understand the workflows, from the initial customer request all the way through to delivery. 

[ View Alexa Alley's presentation at DevOps Enterprise Summit London below ]

These workshops help teams and companies understand how every individual plays a crucial part in bringing value to customers, how to facilitate communication between groups, and how to remove bottlenecks and friction points in the system.

While we have had a lot of success hosting value stream mapping workshops, we often see teams struggle to keep the work relevant. Our workshops are a big investment in time and resources, so ensuring that our up-front investment pays dividends further down the road is critical to long-term success. Here's how we get buy-in from the business and participants, and how to ensure continued success after your workshop has been completed.

 

How to Build a DevOps Toolchain That Scales

The benefits of value stream mapping

As facilitators, we work with teams from software development, content delivery, and even product management. We build out their current workflows and address current bottlenecks. Then we move on to the future, ideal workflow and address projects that would be required to make that a reality.

Value stream mapping has brought many benefits. Too often, teams struggle to keep work relevant that will move the new workflow closer to the future-state plan. By having a clear transformation plan and achievable goals, you can help teams negate the burden of work overload, create a more seamless stream of work, and still accomplish daily tasks required for their jobs.  

Our workshops are a big investment in time and resources, so we must ensure that our up-front investment pays dividends down the road. That means not letting tasks become so burdensome that they hinder progress.

Never do we hear, “We have too many people and more money than we know what to do with!” The purpose of our workshops is to help teams realize what the future could look like and how they can deliver higher-quality products to customers in less time. Then we help them create a tangible plan to get there. No two teams are alike, and while each challenge has similarities, the way teams interact and their end requirements are very different.

The right way to do value stream mapping

There are two keys to a successful value stream mapping project. One is to align the team around a common goal and focus on how to get there. We worry less about what the end result will look like. We expect projects and goals to change while working on a transformation plan, and we continue to have an agile mindset when implementing the new tools and processes.

The other key to a successful value stream mapping workshop is to get buy-in and interest from all parties, from leadership all the way to individual members on the team, before you start. To get that, you must show value in a way the various parties understand and that demonstrates value to the business. Without buy-in from the business and your individual team members, your workshop will not yield the results you want to achieve.

To sell leadership, you usually need to present something tangible, such as commitment to delivering software or a product more frequently, which in turn will result in higher sales or keep you competitive.

For individual contributors on a team, the main benefit you present should be intrinsic. Showcase how you can make their daily work life better by automating manual, mundane tasks, or by giving them an opportunity to work on exciting new projects that until now have been pushed to the bottom of the list because the team was too busy doing the work required to keep the lights on. 

You also need to set realistic expectations. One workshop will not change a habit that’s been in place for 10 years. This is an iterative process that needs to be revisited regularly so you can make revisions and keep the business up to date on the progress of your initiatives. And after each improvement, you should study the results and your metrics for the most recent project, compare those to previous projects, and adjust your plan moving forward.

[ Webinar: Agile Portfolio Management: Three best practices ]

Measure success with these metrics

At Hearst Business Media, we encourage each team to use specific metrics that track improvement. These include:

  • Process time—How much time each team spent working on the task.
  • Lead time—How long the task sat with the team before it could move on to the next team.
  • Percent complete and accurate—How often the upstream work center was able to begin work without going back to the previous team for clarification.

Once your product has been released, continue to track your work. Are customers using the product? Did you need to roll back for bug fixes? What is the uptime? Make all of this work highly visible and transparent for the business. If you continue showing your progress and your results in an easy-to-consume format, and without leadership continuously having to ask for updates, you will build trust. That will lead to more opportunities, and the flexibility to make improvements further down the road.

Create your own workshop for DevOps success 

Value stream mapping has helped us drive DevOps across the entire organization and build cross-collaborative teams at Hearst Business Media. We have teams and companies working together to create streamlined processes and tools to deliver higher-quality products to our customers more quickly. Even in a large company, we were able to scale DevOps, and you can do the same.

 

To learn more about how Hearst Business Media has seen continued improvement with value stream mapping and how we're building a DevOps culture, see my recent presentation at DevOps Enterprise Summit Londonwhere I share how we are ensuring success after the workshop is complete and how to overcome setbacks you may encounter...

 

...or post your questions and comments below and I'll do my best to answer them.