5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Attempt To Build Your Own Flow Metrics Tool

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Over the last year, restaurants (like most companies) have been forced to think creatively about how they continue to serve customers without physical interaction. In the UK, many of our favorite food outlets, from the delicious pizzas of Franca Manca to the high-end Indian delights of Dishoom, are creating bespoke packages to enable us to cook their meals from the comfort of our own homes.

UK chains, like Franco Manca, send DIY packages to your home.

For the same price as an average takeaway, these companies provide food kits with fresh ingredients and recipes to enable us to recreate their menus in our own kitchens. While not quite the same experience as dining in, if you close your eyes you can almost transport yourself into your favorite haunt.

The recipe and ingredients enable you to whip up a storm in your own kitchen.

Which got me thinking, what if we could send our own DIY kit for our Flow Metrics tool—Tasktop Viz™—to our Fortune 500 customers across major industries such as automotive, manufacturing, healthcare and finance? 

What if we could provide them with everything they need to practice data-driven value stream management (VSM) to measure and analyze the flow of customer value across their software portfolio? 

As VSM becomes the de facto way to master software delivery at scale to accelerate digital innovation, it’s vital that you’re able to generate a specific set of value stream metrics to measure your software delivery against clear business results in real-time.

But as we started to prepare the inventory for the kit, we quickly realized it wouldn’t be possible; it’s simply too complex. The below steps give you an idea of just some of the effort, time and costs that go into building a Flow Metrics solution that can scale across your portfolio and organization: 

Step 1: Gather Your Cooks and Serving Staff

While rustling up a pizza doesn’t require specialist cooking skills, creating an enterprise-grade measurement tool is just slightly different from making and baking dough and applying toppings.

On average, you will need at least nine full-time(!) roles to build a solution for just one product value stream, as well as laying the architectural foundations to scale across multiple value streams in your portfolio. Like a well-run kitchen, teamwork and collaboration are paramount in continuously creating and serving a delightful end product.

Typically, you will require a:

  • Product Manager: Manages the build and maintenance of the value stream metrics product
  • Value Stream Architect: Understands the tools being used in the enterprise and how product-critical data flows across the toolchain that underpins the value stream
  • Partner Account Manager: Liaises with leading tool vendors (such as Atlassian Jira, Microsoft Azure DevOps, Micro Focus, ServiceNow), maintaining close relationships for the latest information on tool suites, upgrades and other changes, with timely access to APIs and SDKs

Development Team

  • Tool Experts: Has a deep understanding of various tool APIs and the data stored in tools in order to leverage them for collecting and generating value stream metrics
  • Developers: Optimizes a tool’s usability and maintenance, as well as the tool integrations to ensure the right data is continuously flowing across the toolchain
  • Testers: Ensure a rigorous testing process (combined with test automation) that can swiftly find and fix tool defects and bugs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Data Team

  • Data Analyst: Performs analysis of data from the various tools, transforming and aligning them to generate value stream metrics
  • Data Architect: Designs the data acquisition, storage and optimization to support
  • Visualization Expert: Designs, develops and maintains changes to dashboard (such as Tableau) presenting value stream metrics.

Step 2: Find Your Ingredients

“Cooking is art and patience a virtue. Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist.” Keith Floyd, British Chef

Like cooking, software delivery is an art form. Rustling up a quality Flow Metrics tool requires a methodical and creative approach that relies on a constant source of fresh data that is accurate and actionable. Successfully fishing meaningful real-time information from such a vast sea of data across your toolchain requires the proper technology and expertise. Especially when you consider that, on average, most organizations use 4-10 tools across the four key stages of the value stream (ideate, create, release, operate). 

You will face a number of challenges in your attempts to capture this data:

  • Tools may exist on-premises or as SaaS; most tools are moving to the cloud, so you will need to mitigate disruption when this happens
  • Whatever you build, it better be able to handle capture, storage and processing in the face of changing artifact schema across all tools
  • The tool must have the ability to keep up with the constantly changing tool landscape:
    • Inevitable changes to existing tool APIs and version updates that you don’t control
    • Schemas constantly change and get updated with each new version 
    • Security updates
    • Tech debt from evolving tools 
  • You’ll have to be able to do rigorous testing for minor and major releases 
  • Keep up with regular tool maintenance 
  • You’ll need the ability to scale configuration and data ingestion across potentially hundreds of value streams 

While capturing data is a complex endeavor, if you have the right team with the time and genuine love for what they do, and listen closely to what customers want, then you should be up and running in no time! For this process, you will need to call upon your:

  • Value Stream Architects
  • Tool Experts/Architects
  • Developers
  • Testers 

Step 3: Begin Cooking

Once you’ve collected your fresh cross-tool data, you need a way to store it quickly and meaningfully to begin creating quality Flow Metrics. You can’t have missing or stale ingredients; time is of the essence, so you need to be able to find the right data if you don’t want to burn your real-time measurement to provide accurate and actionable data at scale. You’ll need to:

  • To capture all events from tools in real-time to determine granularity around active and wait time
  • Be able to transform cross-tool data into a normalized view to generate the Flow Metrics
  • The ability to adapt and evolve as the definition of “normal” evolves as normalization can’t be hardcoded

You’ll also need to call upon your:

  • Data analyst
  • Data architect

Step 4: Plate Up and Serve

A Flow Metrics dashboard should present software delivery performance through the eyes of the business.

Presentation is everything. You’ll need a way to calculate and visualize the data for each and every value stream in a way that IT and business leaders like to consume information. You’ll need the ability to:

  • Correlate and display Flow Metrics with business results such as  value (revenue), quality, cost of the value stream and happiness of user
  • Obtain a point-in-time view of metrics for trend analysis to track changes and improvement
  • Surface actionable insights to improve flow 
  • Access bottleneck analysis to find constraints impacting overall output 
  • Roll up to portfolio leaders with a birds-eye view of all your product lines, helping you rebalance and prioritize as needed
  • Progressively add to the metrics and scale across all value stream within the enterprise 
  • Ensure quick turnaround to changes in the value stream
  • Apply a retrospective view for accurate measurement when lens is changed to recalibrate your Flow Metrics i.e. if you decide that all Epics with a Label of “Security” should be treated as Risk Flow Item, you want to be able to apply the lens of Risk for all Security Epics to both future and past to the Flow Metrics to date
  • Constantly refactor reports as tools and normalized view changes 
  • Tag timelines with events to measure the impact of changes within a business context (such as headcount, process, tools, M&As, strategy pivots, funding approvals, releases) 

For this, you’ll need your:

  • Visualization expert (e.g., for Tableau dashboard for metrics)

Step 5: Calculate Your Profit Margins

The restaurant industry is a cutthroat business because of the slim margins involved with operating a premises, paying utilities, employing staff and selling food at a fair price to diners. When building your own Flow Metrics tool, there are a number of key costs and other considerations that make you realize why a DIY approach of Flow Metrics is not a viable business investment:

  • Cost of Cooks and Serving Staff 

You’re looking at least $1,000,000 (based on an average salary of $100,000) to pay for a team to build, maintain and scale your solution. It’s important to note that this is a full-time job. Is using your talent and resources on a measurement tool, instead of developing great customer-facing products that drive revenue, really the best use of their time and your money? 

  • Time-to-value

Business and IT leadership are hungry for real-time insights to guide their decision making today. In our experience, building a Flow Metrics solution for just one value stream can take between 12-24 months to deliver (depending on adequate staffing, the level of talent and the complexity of toolchain). 

We estimate that about 10% of the first 18 months of implementation effort goes into creating the Flow Metrics themselves, while the other 90% goes into flow modeling and the data pipeline. Internal teams often realize this about six months into implementation, at which point they typically abandon the project as the cost and time of the full implementation is fully realized. We know of one Fortune 100 customer who spent millions on a two-year initiative to build their own version of Flow Metrics that ultimately failed.

Can you really afford to wait that long to measure one product, when you need to understand how the whole IT portfolio is performing against business results today? Moreover, it’s most likely that any findings you’re able to glean after a year will likely be irrelevant (if, for that matter, that specific product value stream you measured is even still in use…).

  • Infrastructure Costs

Any good kitchen worth its salt needs the best and latest equipment to efficiently deliver quality food. The same goes for your IT infrastructure. From hosting to security to licenses and maintenance, the technology that supports the build and delivery of a Flow Metrics tool is not cheap.

Can you really afford to add even more costs and complexity to your software environment?

  • Scaling

With success comes even more growth. Just as successful restaurants upgrade to bigger premises and create chains and franchises, you need visibility and measurement across all product value streams as you maintain a healthy and innovative IT portfolio.

Do you have the time, money and human effort to scale your Flow Metrics solution across your ever-growing range of products? 

  • Managing Your Flow Metrics Solution as Product

An adaptable, scalable and reliable Flow Metrics solution is not just a nice to have add-on. It can become the beating heart of the decision-making guiding your digital journey, as you look to measure and continuously improve the flow of customer value across your product portfolio.

Your solution must evolve as your software ecosystem (tooling, teams, processes) and business needs evolve. That means a product roadmap that’s connected to changing customer needs, clear value streams that show how value-creating and -protecting work is flowing, a set budget, OKRs and more. Ask yourself, are you able to commit that sort of effort over the long-term?

Once you’ve crunched these numbers, considered the cost of delay and the opportunity costs involved. Ask yourself if building your own Flow Metrics tool is really something you can afford to do. You may have some of the cooks and some of the ingredients, but can you really replicate the genuine experience and value of a turnkey solution? Can you absorb the cost of failure? 

If you’re not sure you can quickly deliver a high-quality, real-time metrics solution at scale (in the necessary time period you need to guide your decision-making) it’s perhaps best to leave it to the professionals. After all, you’ve got bigger fish to fry in building customer-facing software products that give you a competitive edge.

We’ll Cook For You: Tasktop Viz™— Turnkey Flow Metrics in ONE Easy Step

Don’t end up on the IT equivalent of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Tasktop Viz comes to your home with all the ingredients, equipment and cooks to do all the heavy lifting for near-instant, scalable and sustainable Flow Metrics so you can begin measuring in weeks, not years.

With Tasktop Viz™, you have an oven-ready Flow Metrics tool that:

  • Seamlessly plugs into your organization and begins measuring across your software portfolio without disruption to existing teams, tools, methodology or process
  • Never stops working even when your organization scales and evolves 
  • Comes with support from the leading VSM and flow experts to provide enablement and support learning curve 
  • Allows you to spend your money and time on building innovative products that differentiate your business
  • Enables your IT and business leaders to make meaningful decisions today to accelerate flow against key business outcomes

The Proof is in the Pudding

A U.S healthcare leader doubling its feature velocity. A telecom giant changing its outsourcing strategy to negotiate better terms with its service partners. An online investment firm discovering a system bottleneck impeding digital channel innovation; Tasktop Viz is yielding great success at some of the world’s largest and most impactful organizations, from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies. 

Reach out today to see how you too can begin sampling the profound insights generated by Tasktop’s market-leading VSM platform.


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