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Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile: Tools and Techniques

April 14, 2023

Introduction to Value Stream Mapping

As an ex-academician, the word “value” has always played a significant role in my life. Whether it’s teaching, blogging, training, or even singing, everything I do is anchored to this word and aligned with the outcomes I provide to others. In the business world, value is primarily customer-oriented. It all starts with the customer and ends with the customer.

Continuous delivery of value to customers is not only expected by them but also provided by organizations. From collecting requirements and putting them in the backlog to iteration deliveries until the final delivery, every step flows through these value streams. 

Let us say I want to start a small business. As I am a passionate cook I will consider catering as my business. Before I start the business I delve into the world of business management and I realize that the concept of value streams has been existing for eons now and is a core principle of lean management.  

Value streams, in the context of lean management, are the series of activities or steps that a business takes to deliver value to its customers. They represent the end-to-end flow of value through the different stages of a business process. Just like how our ancestors used value streams to create and deliver value in their daily lives, I now have to identify and optimize the value streams in the catering business to ensure efficient operations and exceptional customer service.

I start with identifying several value streams in my catering business. Such as menu planning, ingredient sourcing, food preparation, and delivery logistics. Each of these value streams play a crucial role in delivering a successful catering experience to my customers. 

For example, my menu planning value stream needs to align with my target customers’ preferences and dietary restrictions to create appealing and delicious menus. My ingredient sourcing value stream needs to ensure that I source fresh and high-quality ingredients to maintain the quality of my food. And my food preparation and delivery value streams need to be streamlined to ensure that the food reaches my customers in a timely and fresh manner.

Now, I slowly begin to understand that aligning value streams with business objectives was a critical step to ensure that the business was customer-centric and focused on delivering value. For this, I have to make sure that each of my value streams directly contributes to the overall objective of providing excellent catering services. 

For example, aligning menu planning value streams with  target customers’ preferences and dietary restrictions to create customized menus that cater to their needs. Optimizing ingredient sourcing value stream to ensure that I source ingredients from local and trusted suppliers, which not only maintain the quality of my food but also support the local community.

To better understand and optimize my value streams, I turn to the technique of value stream mapping, which is a visual tool commonly used in lean management. 

Value stream mapping allows the creation of visual maps of each value stream, including the steps, time taken, and resources used at each stage. This helps in identifying any bottlenecks, delays, or unnecessary steps in value streams and makes improvements to streamline the process and eliminate waste. 

For example,creating a value stream map for food preparation value stream and identifying delays in the ingredient preparation process and unnecessary back-and-forth movements between different stations. 

By making adjustments and optimizing the flow, the time taken for food preparation can be reduced, increase efficiency, and improve the overall quality of catering services.

Measuring these value streams is also important to track their performance and identify areas for improvement.  Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as lead time, cycle time, and throughput to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of value streams can be used . 

For instance, tracking the delivery time, customer satisfaction ratings, and cost of ingredients as measures to evaluate the performance of value streams and make data-driven decisions for improvement.

One common misconception about value streams is that they are only relevant to large businesses. However, in reality, value streams are applicable to businesses of all sizes, including small businesses like catering. In fact, for small businesses, understanding and optimizing value streams can be even more crucial as it directly impacts the quality of products or services delivered to customers and the overall success of the business.

Now that we have got an idea about value streams and value stream mapping let us jump straight away to understand its importance in SAFe Agile and the tools and techniques that are used to implement them. 

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a lean management tool used to visually represent the flow of materials, information, and value through a process or system. It helps organizations identify and eliminate waste, optimize processes, and improve overall performance.

Importance of Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile

Value Stream Mapping is a crucial technique in the SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) Agile methodology as it enables organizations to identify bottlenecks, delays, and inefficiencies in their value streams. By visualizing the end-to-end flow of value, teams can better understand the current state of their processes and identify areas for improvement.

Tools for Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile

Value Stream Mapping can be effectively performed using various tools that provide visualization, analysis, and collaboration capabilities. Let’s take a look at some of the different tools available for Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile:

Overview of Different Tools Available

  1. Lucidchart: Lucidchart is a popular cloud-based diagramming tool that offers a wide range of pre-built templates for creating Value Stream Maps. It provides a user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy to create, edit, and share Value Stream Maps with team members in real-time.
  2. Microsoft Visio: Microsoft Visio is a well-known diagramming and visualization tool that offers pre-built templates for Value Stream Mapping. It provides a wide range of shapes, connectors, and formatting options to create detailed Value Stream Maps.
  3. Miro: Miro is an online collaborative whiteboard platform that can be used for creating Value Stream Maps. It offers a wide range of templates, shapes, and tools for visualizing and analyzing value streams, and allows for real-time collaboration with team members.

Prakya’s Visual Orchestrator – 3EE6tY

With Prakya’s 3EE6TY visual orchestrator tool, teams can effectively articulate their architecture and provide system context and capacity to view details to all stakeholders. 3EE6TY allows users to pen down system designs, architectures, process workflows, and cross-system communication, providing a virtual visualization of the architectural designs for systems. 

This aids in better communication and understanding of the organization’s systems architecture, enabling teams to deliver customer value without compromising the company’s strategy. Whether it’s sharing development principles and guidelines, visually tracking progress, or collaborating with teams, 3EE6TY empowers teams to streamline their value stream mapping efforts and achieve improved productivity and high-quality outcomes.

Here are some of the exciting features of 3EE6TY that can transform the way you manage your architecture:

Share Development Principles and Guidelines

With 3EE6TY, you can easily share your development principles and guidelines as a part of your architecture. 

You can attach contextual documents and explanatory diagrams to user stories, features, and epics, making it easy for every member of your team to understand the unified principles and guidelines that deliver the best customer value without compromising business strategy. 

This ensures that your team is aligned with the development principles, resulting in consistent and high-quality outputs.

Visually Track Progress at All Layers of Your Architecture

Tracking progress is crucial in any software development project, and 3EE6TY makes it easy to visually track progress at all layers of your architecture. 

You can attach epics and features to diagram elements, enabling visual progress tracking. This allows you to track progress at the overall system context level and drill down to epics and features when and where necessary. 

This visual approach to tracking progress helps you quickly identify any bottlenecks or delays in your architecture, and take corrective actions in a timely manner.

Invite and Collaborate with Your Teams

Collaboration is key to successful software development, and 3EE6TY makes it easy to collaborate with your teams. 

You can invite your team members to collaborate quickly and easily, regardless of their location. Whether you need to solve problems arising out of change requests, evolving requirements, or generate new ideas, 3EE6TY provides a platform for seamless collaboration. 

You can give a human touch and personalization effect to your efforts, even when working remotely, ensuring that your team stays connected and productive.

3EE6TY is a powerful visual orchestrator tool that can revolutionize the way you manage your architecture. With its features to share development principles and guidelines, visually track progress, and collaborate with teams, 3EE6TY empowers you to effectively communicate and collaborate with stakeholders, resulting in improved productivity and high-quality outcomes. 

Give your architecture the power of visual expression with 3EE6TY and experience the benefits of streamlined and efficient software development processes.

III. Techniques for Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile

Value Stream Mapping is a powerful technique used in SAFe Agile to identify and optimize the flow of value through a system or process. Here is a step-by-step process for Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile:

  1. Define the Scope: Clearly define the scope of the value stream you want to map. Identify the start and end points of the value stream and the boundaries of the system or process you are analyzing.
  2. Gather Data: Collect data on the current state of the value stream, including cycle times, lead times, process steps, and any bottlenecks or constraints.
  3. Create a Current State Map: Use the selected tool, such as Lucidchart, Microsoft Visio, Miro, or 3ee6ty Visual Orchestrator, to create a visual representation of the current state of the value stream. Include process steps, process times, handoffs, delays, and other relevant information.
  4. Analyze the Current State: Analyze the current state map to identify waste, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement. Look for opportunities to streamline the flow of value, eliminate bottlenecks, and reduce cycle times.
  5. Design a Future State: Use Lean principles and Agile practices to design a future state for the value stream. Identify and prioritize improvements that will help achieve the desired future state.
  6. Create a Future State Map: Use the selected tool to create a visual representation of the future state of the value stream. Include the proposed changes, new process steps, and expected improvements in cycle times and value delivery.
  7. Implement and Monitor: Implement the changes identified in the future state map and monitor the results. Continuously measure and analyze the performance of the value stream to ensure that the desired improvements are achieved.

Key Techniques and Best Practices for Value Stream Mapping in SAFe Agile:

  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams: Involve representatives from all relevant teams and stakeholders to ensure a holistic view of the value stream and to gather diverse perspectives.
  • Focus on end-to-end value delivery: Consider the entire value stream from start to end, including all the steps, handoffs, and delays involved in delivering value to customers.
  • Identify and eliminate waste: Look for non-value-added activities, such as unnecessary handoffs, delays, and rework, and identify ways to eliminate or reduce them.
  • Use visual representations: Utilize visual diagrams and maps to create a common understanding of the current state and future state of the value stream. This helps in identifying improvement opportunities and communicating them effectively.
  • Continuously improve: Value Stream Mapping is an iterative process, and it’s important to continuously monitor and improve the value stream to optimize the flow of value and meet customer needs efficiently.

In conclusion, Value Stream Mapping is a potent tool in the arsenal of lean management, guiding organizations of all sizes towards optimizing value flow and achieving business success. Just like a trusted compass in the SAFe Agile journey, it uncovers bottlenecks and inefficiencies, while visualization tools like Prakya’s 3EE6TY and others provide the lenses for insightful analysis. From small businesses like catering to large enterprises, Value Stream Mapping is a key ingredient for delivering quality products and services, and propelling businesses to new heights.


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