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June 10, 2020

Making IT Visible: Three Easy Exercises from Mirco Hering

By IT Revolution

Adapted from DevOps for the Modern Enterprise by Mirco Hering.

First Steps for Your Organization

There are three exercises that I find immensely powerful because they achieve a significant amount of benefit for very little cost: (1) value stream mapping of your IT delivery process, (2) baselining your metrics, and (3) reviewing your IT governance. With very little effort, you can get a much better insight into your IT process and start making improvements.

1) Value Stream Mapping of Your IT Delivery Process

While there is a formal process for how to do value stream mapping, I will provide you with a smaller-scale version that, in my experience, works reasonably well for the purpose that we are after: making the process visible and improving some of the bottlenecks.

Here is my shortcut version of value stream mapping:

  1. Get stakeholders from all key parts of the IT delivery supply chain into a room (e.g., business stakeholders, development, testing, project management office (PMO), operations, business analysis).
  2. Prepare a whiteboard with a high-level process for delivery. Perhaps write “business idea,” “business case,” “project kickoff,” “development,” “testing/QA,” “deployment/release,” and “value creation” on the board to provide some guidance.
  3. Ask everyone in the room to write steps of the IT process on index cards for fifteen minutes. Next, ask them to post these cards on the whiteboard and work as a group to represent a complete picture of the IT delivery process on the whiteboard. Warning: you might have to encourage people to stand up and work together, or you may need to step in when/if discussions get out of hand.
  4. Once the process is mapped, ask one or more people to walk the group through the overall process, and ask everyone to call out if anything is missing.
  5. Now that you have a reasonable representation of the process, you can do some deep dives to understand cycle times of the process, hot spots of concerns for stakeholders due to quality or other aspects, and tooling that supports the process.
  6. Get people to vote on the most important bottleneck (e.g., give each person three votes to put on the board by putting a dot next to the process step).

In my experience, this exercise is the best way to make your IT delivery process visible. You can redo this process every three to six months to evaluate whether you addressed the key bottleneck and to see how the process has evolved. You can make the outcome of this process visible somewhere in your office to show the improvement priorities for each person/team involved. The highlighted bottlenecks will provide you with the checkpoints for your initial roadmap, as those are the things that your initiatives should address.

2) Baselining Your Metrics

Because having a baseline of your metrics is such an important part of the transformation governance, I want you to spend a few minutes filling out your own table like the one below. Identify the metrics you care about now and in the future, and identify the mechanism you will use to baseline them. There are a couple of ways to identify the baseline. The baseline approach can be based on surveys, time-in-motion studies, or, ideally, existing and historical data. Where this is not possible, you should think about investing in an automated way to measure this metric. Where that fails, you can run a manual investigation and measuring process (e.g., time-in-motion studies), but those are less reliable and more time consuming.

MetricDefinitionMeasurement MechanismBaseline ApproachBaseline Value
Release Cycle TimeThe average time it takes for a story to go from a “ready” state to being deployed in productionExtract of date and time from Agile life-cycle-management systemHistorical analysis of the last six months of user stories that were successfully deployed in production168 days

3) Reviewing Your IT Governance Process

There is a lot of talk about automation to help improve the IT delivery process when it comes to speed of delivery and quality. One thing that people underestimate is how much they can influence by just improving their governance process. Here is a short checklist that you can use to review your governance process. Ask these questions to guide where IT delivery governance is really required. Based on the answers, you can evaluate the impact and risk of removing the process step, ideally even with an economic model reflecting monetary impact and risk probability.

IT governance checklist:

  • How often has someone rejected a submission to the checkpoint based on reasons other than process compliance?
  • What would really happen to the process if an incorrect decision was made?
  • What value is being added by the person approving this checkpoint that a computer could not provide automatically based on a number of inputs?
  • How much time and money are being spent on this governance process (including the usual wait time that initiatives encounter while waiting for approvals)?
  • Is this governance step based on objective measures or a subjective measure? How do you know?
- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

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