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Get More Value from Your Automation Investments

Value Stream Mapping is the key to finding unexpected time and cost savings.

Chris Lee, Principal Solutions Architect

As engineers, we may jump to a technical conclusion that can solve a problem based on our experience. But, before we dive in and automate any manual task, Value Stream Mapping is essential in understanding the whole process end-to-end.

Whether it’s creating new environments, improving your CI/CD pipeline, or any number of potentials for automation, understanding the entire process will yield unexpected opportunities for time and cost savings in your workstream.

Recently I had the opportunity to Value Stream Map the application deployment process from Development to Production to reduce the Change Lead Time for feature updates. The initial assumption and ask was to improve the CI/CD process in the commonly accepted scope of integrations and automations centered around where code was stored and how it was deployed (Source Control and CI/CD Pipelines).

I interviewed four different teams actively using existing CI/CD pipelines and performed some archaeology by digging through logs and request histories to map the entire Value Stream from Development to Production. The results were surprising:

  1. The development team had never done this before, as articulated by several people during the interview process. Nobody had ever taken the time to map the entire process clearly. While the idea had been on their minds, it takes time and effort, and the benefits weren’t clearly understood, so leadership never empowered them to do it.

  2. Once all of the tasks were accounted for and mapped, the most significant opportunities for improvement were not where they were assumed to be. The Value Stream Map showed us significant wastes of time in the information gathering, request generation, and approval steps which took place after development and QA testing. In other words, it was simply the paperwork that slowed down releases.

While we had the potential to save dozens of hours per release (12 to 114 hours) by improving the CI/CD pipelines, as was the initial assumption and ask, we now realized that we could save hundreds of hours per release (61 to 339 hours) by improving the processes centered around paperwork requests and approvals.

Because a holistic view had not been visualized and analyzed up to this point, the team never determined these impacts. Each team involved was focused on individual tasks and workstreams, which did not account for handoffs and wait times.

The fantastic part was that the technical implementation was a single integration between our CI/CD pipelines and ServiceNow. This action led us to pivot to different priorities. While there was still value in improving the CI/CD process, we prioritized the bigger win, which would affect all teams using the CI/CD platform.

Visualizing the entire process with a Value Stream Map provided us with the end-to-end holistic view that identified opportunities for improvement. Value Stream Mapping is key to speeding up your application deployment process and determining what manual tasks should be automated. This essential process analysis will help you understand the entire end-to-end workflow and identify where time and cost savings are possible.

BreakFree Solutions is happy to offer training and consulting services to help get you started with Value Stream Mapping in your organization. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!

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