In the context of software development, visibility refers to the ability of team members to see the status of all work. Visibility shows how much work has been done, how much is in progress and how much remains.
Limiting Work in Progress (WIP)
Visibility allows the team to be more aware of their Work in Progress or WIP. Teams work more efficiently when they limit how much work is in progress. A higher amount of work in progress adds overhead to a project, and reduces how much work the team members are actually able to accomplish.
The core problem with work in progress is that developers can underestimate the time required to finish a feature, as well as how many distractions they may encounter during a project. If requests take more time than expected, or developers encounter more distractions, they can fall behind on their work. As the team adds more work to the work that is already in progress, developers try to switch between duties, to make progress on multiple problems. The overhead of switching between these different responsibilities makes developers less efficient. By properly planning for work, and minimizing work in progress, developers can do fewer things better.
Reduction of Batch Sizes
A more efficient development team also improves the operations portion of the project by reducing batch sizes. Large batches of new features are generally unfavorable in a software product. With larger batches comes more potential for bugs and errors, more documentation to explain these features, and a larger installation package requiring longer downloads and more storage space.
Minimizing work in progress reduces batch size in turn. Operations technicians can more effectively handle a steady stream of new features and releases, rather than inconsistent bursts of new product. In addition to easing the burden on the operations department, smaller batches yield more polished features, which users can incorporate into their workflow more readily.
Reduction in Number of Handoffs
A handoff is the process of transferring a request or feature from one group to another. Much like switching between different work items in progress, a handoff adds overhead to a project. Each time the item is handed off, the previous team must explain any new progress made, and the receiving team must understand their responsibility for the item and how to divide the work across its members.
More handoffs increase the effort required for a feature to be finished. Increasing work visibility allows teams to better prepare and reduce the number of handoffs. A reduction in handoffs with less work in progress allows all teams to focus on fewer features. Focusing on a few specific features allows teams to work more efficiently, and produce new features more quickly, rather than adjusting to each new request received from a handoff.
What is the Value Stream?
The value stream is the regular delivery of new products and features to customers. Information in the value stream spans from the request for a new feature, all the way to delivery of the finished feature to users. A consistent value stream improves the product for users and allows the organisation to be competitive in the market. The value stream map is a way to visualise the process, and see where the team can make improvements or remove waste.