Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a technique used in manufacturing to identify waste within production processes and it has been increasingly applied to software development. In this blog, we’ll introduce VSM and show you how it can help to increase efficiency in your SAP change process.
What is Value Stream Mapping (VSM)?
VSM is a lean manufacturing technique that examines the flow of materials, information, and resources needed to deliver a product to a customer. A value stream is a product delivery cycle: it’s the flow of work that begins when the customer makes a request and ends when the product has been delivered. It doesn’t matter whether the customer is external (a paying customer) or internal (a business owner).
A value stream map is a visual representation of the value stream. It uses standardized icons and layouts to represent the participants, processes, and flows in the process. By laying out the process visually, VSM makes it easier to identify and quantify where value is added, and where there is non-value-adding waste. VSM is especially useful for visualizing handoffs, where work is passed from one person to another.
VSM in DevOps
VSM can be used in DevOps to understand how software moves through the development life cycle and identify areas of waste or inefficiency. Measuring the waste and then prioritizing and removing it helps to increase the delivery of value in a DevOps workflow.
Because the entire value stream is being mapped, it’s important to get input from stakeholders at every part of the life cycle. That includes business, design, testing, QA, operations, and support teams. Without their participation, it might be difficult to identify all the activities in the value stream, and especially difficult to identify workarounds and hidden waste. The value stream map needs to be granular enough to show all the handoffs between individuals as well as when work moves between the teams.
To understand the true nature of the waste in your DevOps processes, two value stream maps are required:
- The first is a snapshot of the current workflow, identifying each task, the team that performs the task, and the flows and handoffs between the tasks. Using this map, organizations can identify areas for improvement.
- The second map articulates a vision for how the value stream should be operating. Processes that do not add value should be eliminated or automated.
Identifying waste with VSM
There are seven wastes of lean production, which Mary and Tom Poppendieck reframed for software development in their 2003 book “Lean Software Development”. They’re good examples of the kind of waste that VSM can help to identify in the software delivery life cycle.
The seven wastes of software development are:
- Partially done work which has been paused, such as transports that are lost or orphaned without ever making it into production. Many SAP teams don’t know how many transports have not been released, or in some cases not even imported into QA. When we run our complimentary health checks for our customers’ SAP change landscapes, one of the most informative reports details where transports have been lost or orphaned along their path to production.
- Extra features that the customer doesn’t need. Aside from the time wasted creating them, these features make the code more complex and harder to manage. The SAP dev cycle is so long that customer requirements often change by the time a project makes it to production. Shorter feedback cycles can lead to less waste in building unwanted features.Extra processes that don’t add value, such as manually creating documentation and relearning due to a lack of collaboration.
- Task and context switching, which requires a shift in mindset as well as tools and files. The time taken to switch adds up, and is less efficient compared to focusing on one task to completion. Context switching also includes having to respond to production outages or other unplanned tasks.
- Waiting, for example on manual processes or approvals. We know of one company where the developers had to wait for the operations team to move their transports from the dev to the test environment. The development and operations teams were on different continents, in different time zones, so moving the transport sometimes took eight hours.
- Motion, which is the time wasted searching for or moving information. The waste of motion may be present in the approvals process if the approver needs to track down additional information before approval or when there are unnecessary handoffs between individuals or teams.
- Defects, which includes bad code, transport sequencing and dependency errors, and unsynchronized changes in a multi-track environment.
There are a number of different metrics used to measure value streams, including process time (productive working time), lead time (total delivery time), work in progress, and the percentage of time the work handed over is complete and accurate.
Eliminating waste with automation
Having identified waste within software development workflows using VSM, automation can be used to remove much of it. In the broader development landscape outside of SAP, powerful DevOps automation tools are used to remove manual waste. SAP environments require tools specifically built for SAP, such as our ActiveControl software.
For example, the company that was waiting eight hours for transports to be moved was able to eliminate that waste using ActiveControl. Transports are now moved automatically from development to QA every fifteen minutes.
ActiveControl provides a single link for approvers, so they can see all the checks were run and passed and can easily access the full test results. Defects are reduced using automated transport sequencing and the Deep Impact Analysis feature in ActiveControl that identifies dependencies between objects. Partially done work is easily visualized in ActiveControl, so organizations can find and remove that waste by completing the work. By providing a single interface for automating workflows and triggering other tools, such as SAP Code Inspector, ActiveControl reduces context switching.
SAP development has also traditionally been separated from mainstream software delivery, resulting in the potential for waste between the SAP and non-SAP domains. By integrating toolchains, the waste inherent in handoffs and manual bridging processes can be eliminated.
VSM provides a new lens through which to view the efficiency of your DevOps workflow and helps to identify waste. Using automation, much of this waste can be eliminated. ActiveControl provides DevOps automation for SAP, greatly streamlining the process for delivering SAP change.
If you are interested in learning more about SAP DevOps automation engineered specifically for SAP, please get in touch.