It’s no surprise that the C-Suite is focused on strategy and execution while keeping a stern eye on stakeholder value. DevOps leaders, however, are typically more focused on delivery cadence. Because of this, they’re often more comfortable speaking in terms of technical outputs, which can place a communication gap between DevOps and executive teams.

To bridge this gap, we need to focus on common goals. Value stream management (VSM) connects the C-Suite with Agile and DevOps teams and aligns their goals around customer experience.

Value Stream Management vs. Value realization

VSM is a set of practices that improve the way teams work to deliver optimal customer experience by focusing on two things – how fast and seamless the changes are to the customer and whether the customer realizes the value from those changes.

Value realization is whether an enterprise recognizes that it got the desired outcomes for the investment made. For example, if an enterprise purchases a product that’s aimed to make their workflows more efficient, is the product effective enough to actually make a noticeable difference in workflows? If so, congrats! The company realizes its value.

VSM’s focus on value realization helps all teams understand how well their plans delivered on results and expectations and how well they contributed to customer satisfaction and the company’s bottom line.

How to engage the C-suite in DevOps conversations

When DevOps outputs are used to define success, it’s harder to gain executive buy-in and budgetary support. If the C-suite doesn’t understand the true value that DevOps teams bring to the customer, they’ll treat it as a cost center rather than the profit center it is. That means they’ll be looking for ways to trim your investments instead of ways they can help you increase capacity to improve customer experience. That’s why it’s crucial for DevOps leaders to define success in terms of customer-focused outcomes. Here are three tips on how to do that.

1. Be attuned

Pay attention to where executives tune out and stop listening in meetings and one-on-one conversations. If their attention seems to be waning, ask yourself if you’re talking too much about delivery success metrics or using DevOps jargon like:

  • Did we blow up production? What was the downtime? MTTR?
  • How many defects did we uncover and address? How’s change fail rate tracking?
  • How many features or story points were delivered? What’s the velocity? Deployment frequency?

It’s up to DevOps leaders to translate their value into language that the C-Suite prefers. Instead of talking about technical outputs, change the conversation to value outcomes that relate to customer experience and business performance like:

  • Trends in usage and engagement of the digital product
  • Narrative from social sentiment, reviews, and referrals
  • How responsive the team can be to new customer requests
  • Conversions in the customer journey and how this relates to revenue

2. Recognize your value in customer satisfaction

To find where DevOps adds value to customers and the company as a whole, an inventory can be taken. Start by looking at the company’s key goals and initiatives and then what your teams have done or are currently doing that aligns with them. Then express the value of software delivery in terms that align with those goals – for example, how product enhancements have improved customer experience; increased retention rates; resulted in reviews and referrals; shortened customer journeys; and increased conversions, revenue, and competitiveness. 

Having VSM tools that provide real-time access to the data you need makes it easier to understand a digital product’s cycle time (e.g., how fast you can respond to customer needs). It also highlights how the deliverables your team built actually originated from a customer request and resulted in a tangible, measurable change in customer experience. Work with the team to ask yourselves:

  • Are the company’s websites, apps, and APIs user-friendly, secure, and the source of repeated customers? 
  • Do your products have innovative software that leads customers to buy from you rather than competitors? 
  • Where else do software developers positively impact the organization?
  • Are you able to release products faster by eliminating bottlenecks using an agile process?
  • Are costs being reduced by eliminating waste of resources, time, and money? 

It also helps to look at what competitors are doing like whether they’re using software development teams to win businesses and market share. Start collecting data points related to customers, costs, revenue, and market share as talking points and statistics so that you’re armed with research. Taking matters like this into consideration is important because C-Suite conversations revolve around these things.

3. Brainstorm with your team

Your teams are innovative, so let the ideas and creativity run wild. Keep corporate goals and initiatives in mind as you look at value stream improvements, such as product, process, cost, revenue, and staffing. Use these questions to encourage your team to think in ways that the C-Suite thinks:

  • What new products or product enhancements can you deliver that will delight customers?
  • What waste (money, time, staff, or other resources) has been identified that keeps the company from delivering innovative products?
  • What solutions can you offer to improve the quality of products? 
  • What opportunities are currently being missed?
  • Are there any inconsistencies between what the company says and what it does that cause systemic problems? For example, when a company is public about having enterprise agility while actually being highly matrixed with roadblocks set up in siloed personnel, processes, and timelines. 

Jira Align gets everyone on the same page

Jira Align is a handy tool that optimizes customer value (among many other things) and can help DevOps teams create a strategic plan for their initiatives and present them to the C-Suite. After revisiting long-term corporate goals, you can use Jira Align to ensure your software deliverables are aligned with those goals and establish how you expect them to deliver value to your customers. As customer experience improves, so does the performance of your organization and the status of your department. Jira Align can help get you there faster and easier.

Talking VSM: 3 tips for IT and DevOps leaders to engage the C-suite