Despite heavy investment in accelerating and scaling software delivery through Agile and DevOps, IT still struggles to deliver fast enough for most enterprises. As a result, they fail to achieve the velocity needed to escape the threat of disruption by startups and tech giants. Enterprises that transition from a project to product-oriented delivery have the greatest odds of succeeding, and that starts with understanding the Flow Framework®.
Transitioning from Project to Product with the Flow Framework®
Learn how the Flow Framework can guide and measure your organization’s transition to product value streams, as well as how to get started.Read the whitepaper • Transitioning from Project to Product with the Flow Framework®
The Flow Framework®: A Framework for Today’s Age of Software
Did you know that the management frameworks commonly used today are from the industrial revolution, based on manufacturing principles? In our new era of software development, enterprise IT and business leadership across every sector need a new framework to manage their software delivery organizations like the big tech companies.
Enterprise IT organizations still have problems answering the questions most fundamental to production:
- Who is the customer?
- What value is the customer pulling?
- What are the value streams?
- Where is the bottleneck?
- How is software delivery impacting revenues, quality, and costs?
- How are your DevOps, Agile, and SAFe® transformations performing?
- Where should more investment be made to improve business outcomes?
Instead of relying on activity-oriented proxy metrics like lines of code or the number of deploys per day, it’s time for metrics that measure business outcomes.
Seeing this need in the market, Planview CTO and former Tasktop CEO, Dr. Mik Kersten, introduced the Flow Framework in his Amazon bestseller, Project to Product. The innovative, prescriptive framework helps IT leadership shift from a project-centric mindset to a product-oriented organization that realizes more end-to-end value and responds faster to market changes.
What Is the Flow Framework®?
The Flow Framework identifies where work flows and slows down throughout the product value stream so that bottlenecks can be addressed. The framework also equips technology leaders with non-technical (and non-Agile) language to help effectively communicate with business stakeholders when setting priorities and measuring outcomes.
The Flow Framework is a structured, prescriptive approach to Value Stream Management in software delivery organizations. It allows you to:
- See the end-to-end flow of business value in real-time
- Instantly spot bottlenecks and use them to prioritize investment
- Test hypotheses based on real-time data
- Re-architect the organization around maximizing flow
Insights are gathered directly from the ground truth of what’s happening in the software delivery toolchain. The millions of artifacts (i.e., requirements, features, epics, stories, features, etc.) that represent the actual software delivery work can be analyzed and visualized to inform better decision-making.
Essentially, the Flow Framework opens up the black box of IT, creating an organization-wide feedback loop that reduces time-to-market and accelerates the flow of business value to customers.
How Does the Flow Framework® Work?
The Flow Framework uses Flow Metrics to measure the end-to-end software delivery value stream, from concept to cash. It shows how long it takes to deliver something from the moment work gets accepted.
Everything is measured—from committing to an idea through deployment, as well as all the practitioners and tools involved along the way. Organizations can find out whether things are slowing down due to a wait on shared infrastructure, security testing, or another team needing to finish their work.
Armed with that knowledge, long wait times can be addressed with solutions that have the greatest impact.
The Flow Framework avoids measures of activity in favor of tracking Flow Metrics and correlating them to business results, specifically Value (benefit to business), Cost (the cost of operating the value stream), Quality (of product), and Happiness (engagement of those doing the work).
Flow Metrics, along with Flow Distribution, measure individual product value streams and product portfolios:
- Flow Velocity®: Is value delivery accelerating?
- Flow Efficiency®: Is work upstream (ideate stage) in a wait state holding up delivery?
- Flow Time: Is time-to-value getting shorter?
- Flow Load®: Is demand outweighing capacity?
- Flow Distribution®: Are we investing in both business value generation and business value protection?
The Flow Metrics center around the principle that all software-related work (i.e., design, development, and delivery) must be creating value for the business. And if the work isn’t creating value, then is there a need to continue?
The Flow Framework categorizes this type of work into Flow Items, with each item representing a different type of value creation and protection:
- Features (business value)
- Defects (quality)
- Risk (security and compliance)
- Debt (impediments to future delivery)
There are no metrics of “how Agile” or “how DevOps” an organization is, just a focus on how much business value flows through each value stream and the produced results. For example, if responsiveness to the market is a key objective, the Flow Framework can highlight flow and feedback cycles that are too slow for a particular value, implying that more Agile practices may be needed.
This exercise forces the organization to define the boundaries of each value stream in terms of the teams and other costs, as well as mechanisms for deriving the results for each value stream, such as revenue and employee happiness.
Get an in-depth look at each of the Flow Metrics within the Flow Framework. Download the eBook, Flow Metrics: A Business Leader’s Guide to Measuring What Matters in Software Delivery.
Value Stream Networks
The Value Stream Network is the flow of business value within and across an organization. A connected Value Stream Network allows teams to measure, in real-time, all software delivery investments and activities and connect Flow Metrics to business outcomes.
To deploy the Flow Framework, the Value Stream Network is the key infrastructure needed to bring about the same kind of automation and visibility for software delivery that happens in manufacturing.
Flow Metrics cannot work without a connected Value Stream Network, as they would only show data for segments of the value stream, not end-to-end flows. Once Value Stream Metrics are connected to the Value Stream Network, organizations can get an unprecedented view of what flows through their software value streams and how that drives results.
In the shift from project to product, the Value Stream Network is treated as a product with its own stable delivery team versus a project with a defined end. The majority of Value Stream Network improvements, be they connecting different stakeholders or creating dashboards for Flow Metrics, falls on this team.
In cases where teams on a particular value stream need to make changes to their work process—for example, to remove waste by switching from manual compliance checks to an automated security tool—that work falls under the Debt Flow Items for that team.
The Artifact Network is where all the work being produced by teams is visible. In order to ensure end-to-end visibility, the Artifact Network must ensure every artifact is connected to all other artifacts it is related to.
The Artifact Network employs an Activity Model to categorize the various phases that the Flow Items pass through as they are being worked on. The Activity Model identifies each of the specific activities performed in the value stream and maps those to flow states (new, active, waiting or done), enabling a consistent way of measuring flow across all artifacts.
The nodes in the artifact network are artifacts, such as “tickets” and “defects”. These nodes are connected by the relationships between these artifacts. From the artifact network, the Activity Model can be used to map the detailed artifacts to the more generic Flow Items and flow states needed to produce Flow Metrics.
The bottom-most layer of the Flow Framework is the Tool Network. This is the collection of hosted and on-premise tools that contain the artifacts that support the Flow Items (i.e., Features, Defects, Debts, and Risks).
As soon as more than one tool is present, the only way to achieve flow and feedback is by connecting the corresponding tools that the Flow Items span.
For enterprise IT organizations who rely on multiple vendor-provided, in-house, and open-source tools, the disconnects in the Tool Network layer are what prevent the necessary flow and feedback.
As long as a developer tool like Atlassian Jira is not connected to a service-desk tool like ServiceNow, the corresponding lack of flow and feedback between those two silos creates an information bottleneck.
How the Flow Framework® and Enterprise Agile Frameworks Work Together
Numerous methodologies and frameworks exist for transforming, modernizing, and re-engineering every aspect of the business. Some, like the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) focus on enterprise software delivery. DevOps practices address bottlenecks in how software gets built and released. Other frameworks, like Moore’s Zone Management, address transformations from a business re-engineering point of view.
No matter what practices or frameworks an organization applies, the Flow Framework ensures that business-level frameworks and transformation initiatives connect to the technical ones. Rather than specify how to achieve agility, the Flow Framework helps enterprises track, manage, and improve their investments in automation and agility.
For example, if an Agile team constantly struggles to meet its release goals, the SAFe® or Scrum frameworks provide metrics and guidelines for better prioritization and planning. By contrast, the Flow Framework focuses on end-to-end metrics that identify where the bottlenecks exist (e.g., they could be upstream or downstream of development).
Learn how to apply the Flow Framework to SAFe®. Download the eBook, How to Use Flow Metrics in the SAFe® Cadence.
A Prescriptive Plan for Value Stream Management
The Flow Framework provides the blueprint for implementing Value Stream Management, connecting IT and the business, and transforming enterprises into high-performing tech companies.
This modern framework helps determine the outcomes of investments in Agile and DevOps practices, and provides the metrics needed to improve those practices. In summary, the goal is to provide enterprises with a means of scaling flow, feedback, and continual learning to work not just for Dev and Ops, but for the end-to-end business process of software delivery.