Value stream management (VSM) is not value stream mapping and it’s not a DevOps tool, but it plays a crucial role in helping teams optimize software delivery and track value across their software delivery lifecycle, even when a team is not operating in a “DevOps” mode. VSM tools “connect” into your software delivery process, ingest and normalize data from each step using a common data model, and enable you to track value from proposal to production. That capability to track value, from when it starts as a proposal to when it’s completed as operating software in production, is what sets VSM apart from almost any other solution in the software delivery space.

In this year’s evaluation, The Forrester Wave™: Value Stream Management Solutions, Q4 2022, the breadth and depth of the data model and associated capabilities such as predictive algorithms using AI and ML, bottleneck detection, risk analysis, and proof of strong ongoing and future investment in those capabilities were the differences between Leaders and Strong Performers. With that in mind, here’s what separated participants out in this year’s Wave:

  • Vendors with strong AI/ML to help predict end dates. Pro development leaders with access to predictive capabilities found them extremely useful in helping teams create timelines that were more likely to be achieved. None of the leaders we spoke with used machine estimation as a replacement for those generated by staff; instead, machine estimation was used to augment traditional estimation ceremonies and processes — i.e., it offered another data point to consider and analyze to further gain confidence in dates.
  • Low-performing development organizations say that bottleneck analysis is a game-changer. When it comes to VSM, too many clients put the cart before the horse, thinking that they need a high-performing DevOps culture and tool chain to effectively use VSM. None of this could be further from the truth. We interviewed an international travel agency and a North American auto parts retailer, and both had low-performing teams that vastly improved software delivery performance by using their VSM solution to uncover the true cause for their bottlenecks (in one case, it was a tooling issue, and in the other, it was slow approval processes).
  • Table stakes are still table stakes, and leaders want metrics. It’s no secret that while folks might not always agree on which metrics are best, DORA has become a pseudo-standard for how development organizations benchmark their performance against other teams. Development leaders expect to see them if they are putting down money for VSM. Many of these leaders are also on the “project to product” journey and want Flow metrics, too. To achieve a Strong Performer designation or better, all vendors had to have excellent metrics and KPIs.

To learn more about VSM and the findings from our evaluative research, please read The Forrester Wave™: Value Stream Management Solutions, Q4 2022, or set up an inquiry.