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Tasktop brings new visibility to value stream management

Value stream management is central to digital transformation at scale. VSM vendor Tasktop has a new dashboard that gives users a clearer view of their software delivery processes.

Any enterprise undergoing digital transformation at scale might be wise to look into an emerging category of value stream management products and services.

Value stream management (VSM) tools help organizations get a better view and understanding of their processes for delivering software and whether or not they're delivering value. Forrester Research defines VSM as "a combination of people, process, and technology that maps, optimizes, visualizes, measures, and governs business value flow (including epics, stories, and work items) through heterogeneous enterprise software delivery pipelines," according to a blog post.

Tasktop Technologies, based in Vancouver, B.C., and a pioneer in the nascent VSM space, recently launched a new addition to its value stream management platform and gained $100 million in funding in an investment round led by Sumeru Equity Partners, with Elsewhere Partners and Yaletown Partners contributing.

"VSM, with its roots in lean manufacturing, is now being applied to the delivery of software," said Neelan Choksi, president and COO at Tasktop. "My simplified translation of that is that value stream management, definitionally, is the flow of value from customer request to customer delivery, from ideation to consumption."

Neelan Choksi, president and COO, TasktopNeelan Choksi

The Tasktop VSM platform consists primarily of Tasktop Viz and Tasktop Hub. Tasktop Viz gives users a real-time view of how their software delivery process is working and where bottlenecks occur. Tasktop Hub enables users to connect all their software delivery tools, such as Jira, ServiceNow and Azure DevOps. The integration system connects dozens of tools across hundreds of projects.

"VSM helps dev leaders, agile planners, app portfolio managers and operational leaders make work visible," Forrester analyst Chris Condo said. "VSM integrates with each tool of record -- Salesforce, Jira, Jenkins, etc. -- and creates a semantic model of the software delivery process allowing it to track the flow of value from idea to production."

Tasktop's approach to VSM

Tasktop CEO Mik Kersten's book Project to Product describes how VSM can accelerate the software development and delivery lifecycle. If it takes a company months for an innovative idea, product or digital service to reach a customer, that company is at a disadvantage against an organization that delivers in days, Kersten said in an interview.

"This is a common challenge for traditional businesses that struggle with the scale and complexity of teams, tools and metrics that are at the core of their software-led digital transformation initiatives, and why it's critically important for business leaders to know the time-to-value for each of their product teams," he said.

Mik Kersten, CEO, TasktopMik Kersten

Tasktop's new component, the Tasktop Viz VSM Portfolio Insights Dashboard, provides IT and product leaders and C-level executives with visibility into how their digital transformation is going and pinpoints areas that should be optimized or improved upon.

"At the highest level [the dashboard] allows for the enterprise to gain metrics and insights at portfolio level, whereas VSM has typically been at team level," said Bryan Fleming, senior vice president of product and technology at T-Mobile. "This is a big capability to help the enterprise manage their products. Insights also provides a common language that business partners and IT can use when discussing the health of the portfolio and the necessary changes that need to be made to drive greater value for the enterprise."

VSM at T-Mobile

T-Mobile is a Fortune 40 company with a complex ecosystem and a large IT workforce, Fleming said. "Having a common view of work progressing through the SDLC [Software Development Life Cycle] is essential to maintain and increase the velocity of work," he said. "Common metrics are also critical to drive continuous improvement across teams and processes."

Although the term value stream management may seem amorphous, users of the processes and technology swear by it and have said it cannot be accomplished with typically available Agile or DevOps tools.

VSM helps dev leaders, agile planners, app portfolio managers and operational leaders make work visible.
Chris CondoAnalyst, Forrester

For instance, when T-Mobile started its digital transformation journey five years ago, the company's tool portfolio contained a significant number of disparate tools that could not provide an end-to-end view regardless of the combination, Fleming said.

"It was near impossible and extremely costly to keep the data in sync across the tool network," Fleming said. "The only solution that met our need was Tasktop Hub and Viz."

The VSM tools landscape now includes Tasktop, as well as a host of others including Digital.ai, Salesforce, Plutora, ConnectAll, CloudBees, GitLab and Targetprocess -- which was recently acquired by Apptio.

"Expect to hear more from Atlassian and other dev tooling companies seeing VSM as a way to reach tech leaders -- like Copado, which serves Salesforce developers," Condo said. "It's a rapidly growing space that more vendors continue to enter."

T-Mobile tried most if not all of Tasktop's competitors and was left wanting, Fleming said. Because Tasktop is solely focused on end-to-end value stream management, it allows companies the ability to select the best tools for each step of the SDLC, he said.

"The competitors are trying to either cover every tool needed and doing a poor job, or being subject matter experts in one step of the SDLC," Fleming said. Neither solves the problem because companies will always be forced to compromise."

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