How to Leverage Value Stream Management to Drive Enterprise Business Agility

July 18, 2019 Eric Robertson

Every business wants to achieve the best outcomes possible when it comes to employee engagement, productivity, software quality and product time to market.

Organizations are discovering Business Agility as a great way to reach those results and deliver greater value to customers. Business Agility, according to the Business Agility Institute is, “the ability to adapt to change, learn and pivot, deliver at speed, and thrive in a competitive market.”

If reaching those goals was easy, movements like Agile and DevOps would not exist. Those of us who have been in the business of software delivery for a while are acutely aware that the challenges are many for a lean enterprise trying to increase positive outcomes and deliver more value through software.

Many customers we work with, including Fortune 500 enterprises and government organizations, face similar challenges. In these companies, a great amount of work is being done, teams are busy, and code is churned out daily -- but is the enterprise happy with the outcomes? Is money being spent well and are they achieving the goals that they defined strategically ahead of time? All too often the answer isn’t a resounding yes.

That’s because these organizations are struggling to achieve their business value due to roadblocks and issues including:

  1. competing business priorities
  2. not prioritizing planning
  3. misalignment of demand and capacity
  4. focus on delivering output, not outcomes
  5. slow time to market
  6. missing portfolio leadership teams
  7. limited voice of the customer

As software assets have become more and more critical to businesses of all kinds in today’s world, priorities have shifted downward, meaning the focus is on the development phase. Much of the industry’s resources have been centered on work, rather than on the high-level value. If you are trying to improve Business Agility, it’s necessary to shift the focus from work to strategy.

For example, everyone on the team should know the strategy, goal and vision of the company. Whether a software engineer, a QA analyst, a software tester, a project manager or a top-level executive -- it’s imperative each team member work from a shared vision. This may seem far-fetched when you’re looking at an organization with 12 business units, 46 different software development teams, 21 offices and hundreds of projects and priorities, but Enterprise Business Agility provides this needed alignment -- even for an enterprise of that size.

Here are the seven pillars of Enterprise Business Agility that allow you to achieve strategic agility:

  1. Technology agility
  2. Customer seat at the table
  3. Lean portfolio management
  4. Organizational structure and design
  5. Agile framework and mindset
  6. Leadership and culture
  7. Make it stick/sustain

The Enterprise Business Agility Model is a holistic strategy model, outlined by our partner
ICON Agility Services, for senior leaders who want to accelerate their Enterprise Business Agility Journey. It is a non-prescriptive, pull-based model that provides patterns and sits on top of Agile, Scrum, Kanban & SAFe implementation methods. The primary goal is to create an awesome customer experience.

The way to measure success in this case is through three key metrics:

  1. Health and maturity
  2. Delivery and performance
  3. Business outcomes

But how do you practically apply this model and measure the success? That’s where Value Stream Management comes in. In order to change outputs, you must understand how work is created, tracked and delivered and you need visibility into your own organization so that this can be evaluated.

We recently worked with a CIO whose objective at her organization was to “make work visible.” She wanted to really understand where work was in the pipeline and how it matched with her objective to enhance a digital customer footprint. At the high level, this CIO knew that through digitizing applications and other capabilities, the organization could increase sales by a certain percentage. This needed to be mapped to software development portfolios.

For example, in one of their epics, they tracked mobility support for credit card processing. It was important to ask, what features map to that mobility support and how does that map to the overall objective?

By looking at value creation and seeing features as stories or defects--work items are produced in a traceable way. This process is iterative and exists across multiple teams. This method must scale across the organization. Before work items are created, you need visibility to link development sources and the development toolchain.

The next step is to focus on delivering IP to the customer, so that value is realized. We like to say you need visibility and traceability from concept-to-code and from code-to-delivery. By mapping these workflows in streams, and linking the associated toolchains, you can manage the work from one place. This makes it easy for organizations to implement feedback and manage based on priorities of the business as well as the voice of the customer.

Really, what we are talking about is aligning strategy at every level.

Using this approach, ICON and CollabNet VersionOne’s VS solution, have led many enterprises to map out strategic themes, budget appropriately, and easily adapt product strategy to adapt to rapidly-changing business priorities. These customers are aligned and able to deliver the best value possible.

Visualizing work and achieving business agility go hand in hand when it comes to better software delivery and reaching the results previously outlined: employee engagement, productivity, software quality and product time to market. “Delivery at a glance,” as we’ve referred to our joint offering, makes all the difference and makes planning, building, testing and delivery measurable -- rand, as a result, adaptable to change.

You can learn more about the Enterprise Business Agility model and Value Stream Management by watching this recorded webinar presented by CollabNet VersionOne and ICON Agility Services: Speed Up Your Enterprise Business Agility Journey

About the Author

Eric Robertson

Eric Robertson is responsible for product management and marketing at CollabNet VersionOne. Prior to CollabNet, Eric served as Director of services and portfolio management for enterprise solutions at Unisys. Eric joined Cisco through a company acquisition, where he led product management for Cisco's cloud automation and SAP ALM extension offerings. Eric has successfully held product development, services and management roles with enterprises and start-ups and has provided consulting services to Fortune 500 companies. Eric holds a patent in the area of virtualization and a Master's Degree in Electrical and Software Engineering from University of Texas in Austin and continues to further his research in domain- specific languages, and intelligent automation.

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