Menu
What is value stream mapping? A lean technique to help CIOs improve business processes

What is value stream mapping? A lean technique to help CIOs improve business processes

VSM is a lean management technique that helps businesses eliminate process redundancies and waste by improving current lean and agile business processes

Credit: Dreamstime

Companies are always looking for ways to operate lean by reducing waste and redundancies in business processes throughout the organisation.

Value stream mapping (VSM) found its start in manufacturing, but it’s proved equally as helpful in the enterprise as a visual mapping technique to optimise and improve systems and processes.

By implementing value stream mapping techniques, companies can eliminate waste and redundancies in processes and increase customer value by delivering improved systems and products.

What is VSM?

Value stream mapping is a lean management technique for analysing the flow of materials, requirements and data associated with a given process, system or product. VSM requires strong communication and collaboration between several departments in the organization.

For organisations that have siloed or isolated departments, encouraging more cross-collaboration between business units might be a worthwhile adjustment.

Implementing value stream mapping can be time consuming, especially if a CIO chooses a complex process, product or system to analyse. The larger the project, the more people and business units that will be involved — that means a plan might be required on allocating several months, or even years, to completing and implementing a VSM strategy.

Value stream mapping process

Before IT executives can start building a value stream map, they need to objectively evaluate the organisation’s business processes, products and systems. Start by talking to leadership, department heads and other key stakeholders who can give more insight into what can be improved.

CIOs will need to get hands-on experience with the process, product or system and have other employees walk through their part.

It’s important to collect as much data as possible — for example, any inefficiencies in the process, how many workers are involved, what resources are used and any downtime. Any potentially relevant or noteworthy data is helpful in fleshing out the final VSM flow chart and achieving insights into what can be refined or improved.

CIOs will then create two separate VSM flow charts — a current state value stream map and a future state value stream map. The current state VSM will be used to establish how the process currently runs and functions in the business.

This is where IT executives will demonstrate issues, significant findings and establish key requirements. The future state VSM, on the other hand, focuses on what the process will look like once the organisation has completed all of the necessary improvements.

7 value stream mapping steps

Peter Hines and Nick Rich of the Lean Enterprise Research Centre in Cardiff, U.K., established seven value stream mapping tools in 1997 to help businesses embark on value stream mapping. Hines and Rich note that the VSM toolkit shouldn’t stay confined to "any particular theoretical approach".

It’s up to each organisation to decide which agile or lean management framework to use, but the authors attest that following these seven steps will help implement value stream mapping alongside any IT management framework. Relevant lean and agile IT management frameworks include Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma, Kanban or business process re-engineering.

  1. Process activity mapping: Establish process flows, identify waste and redundancies and analyse workflow and business processes
  2. Supply chain response matrix: Identify any roadblocks in the process using a simple diagram
  3. Production variety funnel: Look to other competitors and industries to see what solutions they’ve discovered for similar problems
  4. Forrester effect mapping: Create line graphs that illustrate customer demand against production to visualise supply, demand and possible delays
  5. Quality filter mapping: Identify any defects or problems in the supply chain
  6. Decision point analysis: Determine the push-and-pull demand in the supply chain, a process to determine production orders based on either inventory or customer demand
  7. Physical structure mapping: A top-down overview of what the supply chain looks like at an industry-level

Value stream mapping software

CIOs don’t necessarily need any advanced tools or software to create a VSM flow chart, as they can easily map one out on a whiteboard. But creating a value stream map can be a long process involving multiple departments and several key stakeholders, so they might want to invest in software designed to make the process easier.

VSM software can also help create flow charts, keep everyone informed and offer collaboration and visualisation features that make it easy for everyone to stay on task. CIOs can also find value stream mapping templates online that can help get started with mapping out business processes.

Here are some popular VSM software tools to help CIOs get started:

  • Smartdraw
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Tableau
  • LucidChart
  • Visual Paradigm Online
  • Creately
  • eVSM Software
  • Edraw

Value stream mapping training and certification

If IT executives want to learn more about VSM and how to create a value stream map or implement the process into the company, they can find plenty of courses and training programs on the topic. Most are offered online and they can even find some that are specific to relevant lean or agile management frameworks, such as Six Sigma.


Show Comments