What Is the History of Value Stream Management?
Value stream management has a long history dating back to the early 20th century. Rooted in lean management philosophies, it was first introduced in the 1915 book Installing Efficiency Methods by Charles E. Knoeppel.
After describing the step-by-step process of engineering belt joints, Knoeppel breaks down how analyzing each step is additive and can help analyze efficiencies. According to Knoeppel, the biggest benefit of this approach is actionable data.
“The cumulative effect of all the work that has been done as outlined in the previous chapters, is to furnish a steady stream of valuable data,” Knoeppel writes. “In other words, the ‘by-product’ of the efficiency works is facts, perhaps of no real value in themselves, but full of possibilities if used properly.”
In the 1980s and ’90s, value stream mapping gained more popularity. In the 1996 book Lean Thinking, authors James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones explain how a value stream manager is often separated from the traditional workflow of the organization in deciding how a process works.
“The value stream manager develops the vision for the product, determines the Current State of the value stream, and then envisions the Future State,” the authors write. “She or he then treats the functions as the suppliers of the essential inputs (for example, engineering, operations, purchasing, sales, lean knowledge) needed to reach this state. If the functions fail to perform, the value stream manager typically goes directly to the CEO, the COO, or the director of the office of value stream managers, to describe the problem, get to the root cause, and install a fix.”
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How Can Value Streams Be Applied to Software Development?
According to a recent Forrester report, one of the biggest benefits of value stream management is its ability to simplify software language for a business audience and bridge a core communication gap.
Nanette Brown, a senior member of the technical staff at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, says that the parallels between lean management’s use in the supply chain are also important for businesses. “Value stream mapping is rooted in lean thinking and reflects the lean philosophy’s emphasis on respecting and engaging employees in value delivery and improvement efforts,” she says.
Brown also ties this work to the Agile Manifesto, a development philosophy that has shaped the process of building software over the past two decades. “Value stream mapping views workflow through the lens of value delivery,” she says.
As the Forrester report notes, this supply chain philosophy corresponds to how software development works. And because it is in a more business-friendly language, it is easier for nontechnical people to understand the general concepts.
This is one of the reasons more enterprise leaders are considering proof of concept and full-blown installations of value stream management, the report notes.
However, implementation can be time-consuming and less developer friendly. Many value stream management solutions must be integrated with an API layer. Once integrated with this platform, data can be captured but the process is complicated and take several months.