There’s an often-repeated saying that is attributed to Mark Twain: “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Based on what I’ve witnessed over the course of the past several decades I’ve been in this arena, I’d say this observation is very applicable to the enterprise software market. There’s been consistent rhyming as you see solutions, approaches, and vendors evolving. 

Repeatedly, what’s happened is this: Innovative point solutions spring up to meet specific team requirements that legacy solutions weren’t addressing. Over time, vendors tied those disparate capabilities together, and in the process, offered breakthrough benefits. This happened back in the early days of mainframe applications and again when client/server ERP solutions emerged.  For example, an application used by the human resources team was integrated with a financial management application, so these teams could collaborate more effectively. In recent years, similar changes happened within the customer relationship management space, where companies like Salesforce emerged, and started to aggregate point solutions.

A similar shift has been occurring in the area of value stream management (VSM), and I’d argue it might be ushering in the most significant innovations to arise in decades. For those unfamiliar with this practice, VSM is about understanding all initiatives across the organization, so teams can make real-time feature, cost, and resource tradeoffs—all with a focus on maximizing customer value. 

How VSM Breaks Down Silos

Through the effective application of VSM strategies and tools, teams can finally overcome some age-old obstacles. Historically, a fundamental gap existed between leadership of two key groups:

  • On one side, there were leaders who took a top-down, investment-driven view. These executives tended to be focused on how decisions about funding and resourcing translate into value for the organization. 
  • On the other side, there were leaders who took a team-based, results-driven view. These executives were concerned with execution and keeping teams focused on efficiently delivering against priorities.

Across these groups, success metrics, objectives, plans, and even definitions of common terms were discon