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Why every CIO needs value stream management

Bob Davis Technology Evangelist, Plutora

Businesses constantly strive for fast, efficient growth amid fierce competition, and developing quality software has become the means to drive value and achieve that growth. That means all companies are software companies these days, making the role of the CIO more important than ever.

Delivering software at scale while simultaneously improving the customer experience can be a daunting task as methods and tools continue to evolve—especially for large, complex enterprises. This comes at a time when IT has moved away from solely focusing on cost reduction.

CIOs and other IT executives are realizing that their main goal should be to drive value while meeting the company's strategic goals. To do this, you need value stream management (VSM). Here's what you need to know.

Keep the focus on key business objectives

Value streams help CIOs look at the ins and outs of their portfolios and use that to concentrate on key objectives for senior management. When an organization has pinpointed these value streams, it's crucial to secure, envision, evaluate, and hone pivotal indicators of speed and the condition of your software delivery through VSM.

VSM provides this level of visibility and orchestrates the critical challenges of both releases and test environments regardless of methodology, technology, or level of automation.

Some observers classify value delivery as the amount of code that gets written and checked in. The problem with this view is that it's similar to trying to calculate how far you've driven by seeing how long the car's engine has been running.

The point of value streams should instead be to always optimize the right thing.

Assessing the whole value stream should consolidate systems, methods, and people to focus on value creation from ideation through delivery. This process also allows for limitations to be evaluated and highlighted.

The challenge

Due to the constant need for CIOs to increase value for customers through innovation while trimming costs and enhancing quality, they are concentrating on how they can attain insight into how to generate this value.

This can be quite challenging, and it's not uncommon for CIOs to become frustrated. IT executives from all over have adopted the same standard software strategies and methods. They've gone to various tech conferences and conventions to expand their knowledge, invested heavily in agile and DevOps, and brought in the resources they were taught they required. So why is it so difficult for them to determine whether their organization is improving in a conclusive manner?

To begin with, agile and DevOps have limits to what they can achieve. These resources are generally applied only to certain areas of the value stream, limiting the benefits gained to those specific areas. Also, agile and DevOps are often implemented without assessing limitations or measuring outcomes.

CIOs need to be able to swiftly pinpoint problems in these processes when seeking to track the workflow across the whole software pipeline, but they don't have the end-to-end observability or control over the process that would allow them to see how business value progresses across their value stream.

Three trends that drive CIOs

CIOs are presently driven by three factors:

  1. Responding to market challenges such as competitive threats, security pressures, and the change to focusing on value
  2. Managing the changing structure by advancing automation, shifting to the cloud, and reducing technical debt
  3. Boosting culture by creating an interconnected team with diverse tool chains, geographies, and techniques

Most CIOs aren't particular about the tooling their development teams use, but they want them all to be compatible. They want to provide better value for customers by any means necessary to deliver quicker build time and greater quality of delivery. But there's a problem:

CIOs are frustrated because they’ve been led to believe that agile, and now DevOps, will be groundbreaking and make things incredibly easier, but the outcomes are nowhere near what they were led to expect.

With the increase in automation, the use of disparate tools between teams has exacerbated the challenges of working together—an issue that initially came to light in the DORA report Accelerate: State of DevOps 2018: Strategies for a New Economy (PDF). 

CIOs also frequently lack visibility, which leads to not accurately understanding the value stream. This absence of visibility also leads to isolated product teams with no way for CIOs to improve on their siloed realities because no one is mapping the entire value stream.

The advantages VSM brings

A beneficial VSM solution connects the network of tools and teams for preparing, constructing, and delivering software at an enterprise level. With VSM, CIOs can get past their visibility problems to provide products faster and remain compliant.

Compliance trumps any process in an enterprise, which leads to additional issues. For change to be beneficial, business risks related to compliance must be alleviated by building legal factors into the development process itself. Laying out the value stream establishes compliance gates into numerous stages of the process. This allows teams to determine limitations that would keep the build from getting to production due to the need for additional documentation.

It's all about visibility

The CIO's lack of visibility is preventing agile/DevOps teams from becoming more autonomous. VSM can provide CIOs with comprehensive visibility of the development process, allowing for complete transparency: Each team is always in the know, with greater visibility and traction across the entire portfolio, no matter the team or project.

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