Value Stream Management with SpiraPlan

September 28th, 2022 by inflectra

We recently demonstrated SpiraPlan to a large, multinational manufacturing company. During the series of demonstrations and proof concepts, we configured SpiraPlan for a set of different use cases, including demand management, program management, portfolio management, configuration management, and value-stream management. In this article we will be covering the topic of value stream management and value stream mapping

What is Value Stream Management?

Value Stream Management (VSM) is a method that allows you to optimize the steps necessary to envision, implement and deliver software to your customers. Value Stream Management is a management technique or practice - common in Scaled Agile frameworks such as SAFe - that focuses on increasing the flow of business value from customer request to customer delivery. Its systematic approach to measuring and improving flow helps organizations shorten time-to-market, increase throughput, improve product quality, and optimize for business outcomes.

In traditional organizational structures, individuals are organized into functional teams, and then temporary teams are formed to meet the demands of specific projects, borrowing individuals (or percentages of individuals’ time) from those functional teams. The temporary nature of the teams and organizations means that no one is focused on the long-term creation of value, no one has the overarching business goal in mind, and the opportunity to retain and grows skills in the team is lost.

From Project to Product

In contrast to this approach, VSM promotes the idea of long-lived product teams (often called an Agile Release Train (ART)). With established value streams and long-lived teams of teams, people are assigned to one cross-functional team for the life of a product. However simply organizing people into products is not sufficient by itself. You also also need to be able plan, track and monitor the consistent flow of value from the original ideas to the delivered product. Consequently, a Value Stream (VS) itself is simply, the steps by which a business takes an idea and turns it into realized value. Typically a value stream is composed of multiple agile release trains, each of which will have multiple, individual agile teams.

For large, complex initiatives, you may have an intermediate grouping called a Solution Train (ST). The relationship between the items is as follows:

  • Value Stream - this represent the series of steps that an organization uses to implement Solutions that provide a continuous flow of value to a customer.

  • Solution Train - this is the organizational construct used to build large and complex Solutions that require the coordination of multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs), as well as the contributions of Suppliers. It aligns ARTs with a shared business and technology mission using the solution Vision, Backlog, and Roadmap, and an aligned Program Increment (PI).

  • Agile Release Train (ART) - this is a long-lived team of Agile teams, which, along with other stakeholders, incrementally develops, delivers, and where applicable operates, one or more solutions in a value stream.

What is Value Stream Mapping

Value-stream mapping is a lean-management method for analyzing the current state and designing a future state for the series of events that take a product or service from the beginning of the specific process until it reaches the customer. The purpose of value-stream mapping is to identify and remove or reduce "waste" in value streams, thereby increasing the efficiency of a given value stream. Waste removal is intended to increase productivity by creating leaner operations which in turn make waste and quality problems easier to identify.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your software practices and tools, you need total visibility throughout the software delivery life cycle. Therefore value stream mapping should be a part of the overall lean approach that allows you to analyze the current state of your processes and build a better future state based on the series of events that take your product/service from initial concept to the finished product that the customer receives. This eliminates waste and allows you to prioritize based on your customers' needs.

Using SpiraPlan for Value Stream Management

SpiraPlan's hierarchical workspace structure supports the different levels outlined above: value streams containing solution trains, that themselves contain agile release trains:

List of workspaces mapped to Value Streams

The mapping we recommend is:

  • Portfolio => Value Stream
  • Program => Solution Train
  • Product => Agile Release Train

Furthermore, you can decompose each agile release train into multiple agile teams, which are essentially SpiraPlan top-level releases. These can then contain child releases and sprints.

Scheduile view of workspaces


Another option is to use the product components to represent the agile teams. This can be useful if you want to have multiple levels of release that are separate from team.

Then, within each of the agile teams, you can have sprints as is conventional in agile methodologies such as Scrum:

Board showing agile teams and sprints

What's Planned In The Future?

This is just our initial implementation of SAFe and Value Stream Management. On the roadmap for SpiraPlan is the ability to have backlog items at the program and portfolio levels, allowing SpiraPlan to more easily track program increments, solution increments and have backlog items natively at the value stream and solution train levels.

value stream management value stream mapping scaled agile

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