Value streams and value networks

Lean thinking is based on a model of delivery in which raw materials are progressively developed into a finished product that is consumed by a customer. This linear path is called a value stream. Many in the software community have criticized this model as too simplistic at best, and harmful at worst, as it risks ignoring key stakeholders by focusing on "the" customer.

In real life, a software product has many stakeholders. There may be multiple customers who have different needs and different usage patterns for the software. There may be people involved who are affected by the functionality or quality of the software product who are not, strictly speaking, customers. The process of building and delivering a software product is far more complicated than a simple, linear "stream" of activities. For those reasons and more, some people prefer the term value network to the term value stream. Continue reading