April 11, 2023

Five Reasons why Value Stream Mapping is key to your Digital Transformation

A principal reason why many Digital Transformation projects don’t meet their objectives? The misalignment of teams and departments and the waste and inefficiency this creates.

So when you hear that Value Stream Mapping (VSM) can help successfully eradicate these fail-points, you have to be interested in how it could be the answer to your inevitable problems...

Value Stream Mapping is the end-to-end visualisation of a product or service and our first hand experience has shown us that the bankable benefits are five-fold:

1. Reduction of waste (by identifying trouble spots in the process, or areas with significant wait times)

By surfacing every step in a process, in the order they happen, along with the time they take, and the time between each step, you can start to interrogate the process and ask questions like:

  • How long does each step take?
  • Are there steps which can be removed?
  • Are there steps which could / should happen in a different order?
  • Are the right people responsible for the right things?
  • Where is the highest wait time?

You quickly end up with a clear set of opportunities for improvement to inform your backlog.

2. Objective decision making on priorities (as you can determine what to do next in the context of the bigger picture)

The way Value Stream Mapping lends itself to excellent visualisation is key to surfacing and understanding the full system in play. Rather than considering aspects independently, you can take a more holistic view.

“That’s really an important aspect of value stream management, the idea that a business starts with an idea, but then it goes through a lot of different phases, a lot of different teams to actually deliver the value and realize the value. And the idea is really to try to create that in a holistic kind of view.” [Chris Condo, Forrester]

This holistic view is essential - particularly when you are trying to bring so many different teams and understand their collective involvement together. There’s something about the honesty and transparency of a map that eradicates so much of the emotion and subjective opinion of those disparate views. Instead it projects a purely objective, dispassionate outlook on your products or services.

3. Creates shared understanding

Value Stream Mapping goes a long way to bringing teams together - it’s as if it were the referee mediating competing voices. Having all of the people involved in the process directly contribute to the creation of the map generates a huge amount of energy and high levels of collaboration. It becomes a shared experience that everyone involved in will remember for a long time. When done well, it’s true co-creation in action.

VSM in action

4. Retention of knowledge (getting stuff out of people's heads!)

A huge factor undermining transformation - especially large multi-year endeavours - is staff attrition. When many of the people involved move on, not only can the momentum and impetus waine, but also much of the knowledge and understanding gets lost too. This is why mapping is so critical. It gets information and knowledge out of people’s heads and into a tangible artefact. It takes the tacit knowledge and makes it explicit.

5. It supports your strategic goals

While many agree that Value Stream Mapping has significant benefits when revisiting an existing product or service, far fewer leaders use it as a tool for managing, measuring and keeping programs on track in the longer term. Identifying and mapping multiple value streams, identifying the common opportunities, the shared pain points and weighting these according to your strategic objectives is where the magic starts to happen.

At Reason it's one of the key tools we employ to help clients focus on where they’re trying to go - both at the beginning but more importantly thereafter, into delivery, implementation and beyond. We understand it because we’ve seen that it works and how it helps the adoption of a lean portfolio management approach.

Digital transformation is an ongoing journey, with no final destination. Often what goes wrong is sustaining the momentum of the journey beyond the initial excitement. Teams can lose sight of where they are going. Sure, Value Stream Mapping does a great job of bringing teams and silos together, getting them on the same page and helping share what they know and want. But it also does a fantastic job of pointing everyone towards the north star, and keeping them focussed on the opportunities for improvement.
So, we urge clients not to view it as a one-off exercise but as the creation of a living map, that’s ever evolving as your landscape changes.

In short, the value of Value Stream Mapping is significant, so if you want to understand this better, and find out how we can help you apply this to accelerate your transformation, please get in touch - noel@reason.co