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Streamlining the Value Stream Mapping Process

New tool allows BreakFree team members to create essential value stream maps in half the time

By BreakFree Solutions

When working with clients on their digital product initiatives, one of the first things we often do is create a value stream map (VSM). Value stream mapping is a technique — borrowed from Lean manufacturing — that organizations use to create a visual representation of all the steps necessary to deliver a product or service, with the goal of making it easier to determine how to optimize the entire process.

BreakFree Solutions' Architects work with client development teams to create a value stream map showing all they must do to get a new application ready to be used by their customers. The value stream map allows a development team to illustrate every step required to get them to the desired result, from the product’s design process, what teams will be worked with, whether anything must be outsourced, etc. We aim to illustrate everything we must do to get the product into production.

The illustration of the value stream allows our brains to see how each step will affect the big picture. This makes optimizing the entire process much easier. During VSM creation, BreakFree helps the team understand the value of either automating or changing a process to cut down on lead time and process time. We are always looking for ways to get the value to the customer faster. Without value stream mapping it can be difficult to understand the value of automating a particular step in a process. Seeing the impact ensures that automation efforts are applied where they can provide the most value.

This DevOps-Agile-forward ideology is central to what we do at BreakFree. VSMs are an incredible force multiplier for systematically improving the platform and development teams we consult. However, making such a visual aid can be very time-consuming, with some VSMs having over 90 steps. This has caused us to have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with VSMs.

Prior to developing our new tool, VSM creation meant first, manually inputting all the steps into a spreadsheet, then copying those over into another platform for creating diagrams, such as

Since we not only help development teams, but we are also a development team, we are constantly looking at our own processes and where they can be improved and streamlined using DevOps and Agile tools and techniques.

It dawned on us that the hours spent manually creating the value stream map were not value-added hours for our clients. If we could find a way to automate this process, it would save us the considerable time we were spending formatting and designing the value stream map.

That is why we created a VSM Automation Tool that allows us to input the information into a spreadsheet and autogenerate a VSM diagram. We have been able to cut the time to create a VSM in half.

Since we use Agile processes, this tool is currently minimally viable, with many improvements on the horizon to take it from a skateboard to a scooter. But the addition of an automated tool to pragmatically save time and add value to the customer is an example of the peak performance we strive for at BreakFree.

Do not skip value stream mapping if you are building a new product or service or are looking to optimize a process. And make sure your automation efforts are being focused on the right areas. We can help you rapidly create one and find areas for improvement.

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