Value Stream Mapping: A Complete and Simple Guide

Implementing the Scaled Agile Framework can be an exciting and thrilling experience once the transformation results start to show. But arriving at this stage could take a while. SAFe implementation is interlaced with concepts, processes and a lot of information that can be overwhelming and complex to master without proper guidance.


One of the quintessential aspects of the Scaled Agile Framework is the Value Stream which is truly a revolutionary step-up from the traditional project management. In this article we aim to provide you with a no-nonsense simplified and objective rundown of the Value Stream. You will learn what a Value Stream is, why it is needed, and how it is made. For those who stick till the end, there is a free, downloadable template to get you started on Value Stream Mapping.

What is a Value Stream?

A Value Stream consists of a series of steps taken by an organization to develop a solution or a service from concept to delivering value to the customer. It focuses on creating, understanding, organizing and building a product that provides continuous value to the end user. Portfolio within SAFe can consist of one or even multiple Value Streams.

Why the need for a Value Stream?

In traditional projects, you utilize the services of temporary teams that may only be motivated to work on a project just to complete it on time. These teams are generally working in silos with minimum coordination and hampered collaboration across the board. This compartmentalization is a dire problem on its own. This also increases delays and handoffs, thereby impacting project quality and productivity.


With Value Streams however, there can be long-lived cross-functional teams that work on an on-going basis, learning and improving continuously along the way. Instead of just delivering the product, the cross functional teams in the Value Stream are entirely focused on providing value and working towards delivering only that. There are no obvious silos which allow ideas and discussions to flow freely amongst teams creating a highly collaborative and supportive environment.


Value Streams are an excellent way of optimizing the system as a whole. By helping in clearly visualizing the valued effort that is being made, and working in small batches, it helps accelerate the time to market and helps build a product of high quality. It not only flows across silos but it encourages more face to face communication with one another assisting in easing the pain of alignment. Of course, creating independent Value Streams also minimizes those dreaded dependencies.

Types of Value Streams

In the Scaled Agile Framework, there are two types of Value Streams.

1. Operational Value Stream:

Centered on delivering the solution developed by the Development Value Stream for the end user. SAFe has broken this further down into four types of Operational Value Streams:


  • Fulfillment Value Stream:

    Consists of the steps necessary to fulfill a customer’s request. An example of this could be, a customer orders a pair of jeans online and that order is fulfilled by delivering to the customer.

  • Manufacturing Value Stream:

    Raw materials are converted into products that can be purchased by customers. An example of this can be a pulse oximeter.

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  • Software Product Value Stream:

    Software products that are used by the customer. This could be a CRM, ERP or a SaaS solution.

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  • Supporting Value Stream:

    A series of steps that goes to support current ongoing processes. An example of this could be all the activities that are necessary for doing an annual audit of an organization.

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2. Development Value Stream

Consists of the people who develop solutions that would be utilized by the Operational Value Stream. This is the part that most organizations are focused on as this concerns the people that need to build the systems.


It is essential to understand the Operational Value Stream prior to the Development Value Stream simply because the mapping to the Operational Value Stream, may be one to one, may involve multiple Development Value Streams or one Development Value Stream may be required for multiple Operational Value Streams.

Identifying a Value Stream

Discovering and planning any type of Value Stream is not a simple process. There can be a diverse range of aspects that you have to manage before launching an ART for the Operational Value Stream. A series of workshops would be required to identify the streams as they may likely contradict the prearranged silos within organizations.


Below are listed a few crucial points beneficial in understanding and planning your Value Streams.


  • Build a clear understanding of your product and the business
  • You need to know what business processes you will enable and how you can achieve your business objectives. Use your previous work as a reference point to better understand how your processes work and then build up from there. For planning your budget, carefully go through all the expenditures and earnings that have been done for earlier Value Streams.

  • Build an understanding for aligning the Operational Value Streams

    Knowing the business architecture and how the teams are aligned is very important. You need to have a clear understanding of how Value Streams will be aligned which means that you need to know the alignment of ARTs. This will enable you to understand the dependencies that exist, so that you can reduce the bottlenecks and handoffs.

  • Have a Robust Technical Architecture

    Introduce practices of refactoring, reducing technical debt and improving the architecture. Try to identify technical risks as well. Realize your delays and optimize things that are being used to suit the function. Identify all the larger and smaller systems that make up your product.

  • Focus on the Customer

    What service or product are you going to sell to the customer? What market are you serving? What products are you currently selling? These are the questions you have to ask yourself. At times you have to let go of control so that you can better serve the customer which can be very difficult for some individuals. You need to have the approach of thinking at a much larger scale, letting go of the ego so that you can fulfil what is really needed.

  • Know the Issues

    Due to its collaborative nature, when identifying your Value Stream it helps in highlighting all the underlying problems that have been affecting your organization. This helps in making better informed decisions on what to do in the future.

A Template for Value Stream Mapping

With all the variables around Value Stream identified, it is now time to map it using a template. Up till now, we have covered all the ways to identify a Value Stream. This is where you perform Value Stream Mapping.
Every Value Stream consists of these 5 elements that constitute its basic construct. These are listed below:


  1. Trigger: Initiated by a requirement or an order by the customer
  2. Steps: List and describe the steps in which you want to achieve your goal
  3. Value: Ensuring if the value is delivered to the customer when all of the steps are completed
  4. People:The individuals who will do the work
  5. Lead time: The amount of time it takes from starting to the end point when the value is delivered.

This simplified template can help you lessen the extent of complexity when you are doing Development Value Stream Mapping. This is assuming that you have already completed your Operational Value Streams and are ready to organize the ARTs around delivering value. To help you with this exercise, get your free Development Value Stream Mapping Template here. The template here will be used for guidance or illustrative purposes.

Value Stream Mapping Tool

In large organizations, one or more than one Agile Release Trains are involved in delivering solutions in a Value Stream. Thus Value Stream mapping is extremely important in building flexible structures or complex projects. The need for a scalable value stream mapping tool can not be ignored. With its superior visualization and smart data sets, Kendis provides an efficient way for accurately mapping your Value Streams with your Agile Release Trains with flexibility and ease. Organize your workshops and create them as soon as possible.


Want to explore how Kendis works out for your particular Value Stream mapping needs? Try it out for free!


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