Do you Use VSM Software?

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 23rd, 2019

Value Stream Mapping SoftwareThere are at least two schools of thought related to the use of software when drawing value stream maps.

Some lean purists claim the use of value stream mapping software is heretical while others have no problem with it.

My Opinion

My personal preference is to always use pencil and paper initially. I stress pencil since I’ve never completed a value stream map that didn’t have eraser marks all over it.

Then, once the team is satisfied with the map I usually transfer it into my value stream mapping software of choice. I’ve become quite speedy with the software and can usually document a complex map in less than 30 minutes.

Don’t Roll it Up!

No matter if you use software or not, I strongly recommend keeping the actual paper version (preferably a huge sheet of paper stretching across the wall) posted for all employees to see during the transition from current state to future state.

What about You?

What about you? Do you use software to document VSM’s? Or are you a paper and pencil type of person?

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  1. Chris

    August 14, 2008 - 8:13 am

    I have used Visio before but it takes me forever. Does anyone know of a better software package?

  2. Ron Pereira

    August 14, 2008 - 9:23 am

    Chris, I feel your pain with Visio. I actually use Flowcharter from iGrafx. It’s a bit pricey but works well once you get the hang of it.

  3. Mark Graban

    August 14, 2008 - 3:48 pm

    Absolutely always start with post-it notes. I’ve used Visio and iGrafx… Visio is more likely to be owned by a client, so that’s probably the best choice after trying both. iGrafx has advanced features (like process simulation) that aren’t worth the time to learn or use, at least given current circumstances.

  4. Rick Foreman

    August 15, 2008 - 8:21 am

    As with Mark, always start with post it notes or simply just write the steps down on a paper chart. I’m not sure of the value of “duplicating” the information to a software package to make pretty or in my case definitely more legible. I believe the greatest aspect of VSM’s is in what they communicate because we always find that what team members think is going on and what is really going on are quite different. In my humble opinion there is too much “muda” in duplicating information the more simple it is the better. The goal is to communicate where we are and brain storm for where we might go.

  5. Mike Z

    August 15, 2008 - 1:59 pm

    I use eVSM which is an add-on to Visio.

    I always start with paper and move it to software. I think it is critical to have it on the wall or laid out. I like to have the people involved do the mapping.

  6. Mark Graban

    August 15, 2008 - 3:37 pm

    I think that it can’t be emphasized enough that it’s not “the map” that matters as much as the discussion that is required to build the map. You absolutely have to get a team of people from the process discussing, mapping, and observing in the workplace (not just doing this in the conference room).

  7. Ron Pereira

    August 15, 2008 - 3:49 pm

    Excellent points everyone!

    One comment… I’ve actually found pre-printed process boxes/data sheets under them work better than plain old post it notes. If you use the right kind of sticky pads you can still move them around. Anyhow, that’s how we do it.

    Perhaps I will make some free templates for download and people can use them if they want to give it a try.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

  8. Daniel Renner

    August 20, 2008 - 12:42 am

    I prefer the digital way. I found it very messy with paper, pencil and notes, especially when people from the team aren’t familiar with VSM. And like most of the efforts to improve something, the follow up action is much weaker than the initial step, so the energy for transfering the paper to an electronic format should be used for improvements 😉
    I think the major advance of an digital VSM is the usage for different things like capacity calculations with Excel, usage for presentations and a fast and easy comparison of current/future state. And it looks better.
    I’m using Visio, it isn’t that comfortable but it does the job if you have created a template once.

    • Doug

      April 6, 2012 - 11:32 am

      The problem with starting out the “digital way” is that it is not usually condusive to group discussion. I suppose if you have at least a 72″ display screen on a wall, it would work but very few conference rooms are so equipped. I have seen it tried with projectors but that too became very frustrating and slow. Post-It notes on a wall are or dry-erase board are hard to beat.

      I have seen tablets used too but was quickly dropped because it was not large enough to display the even 20% of the process flow.

  9. Alina Hsu

    August 30, 2008 - 11:34 am

    I use a tablet pc. I can draw on it as if I were using a pencil and paper, but it is an electronic document and therefore editable. I can draw in Visio, Word or PowerPoint, depending on the context.

    I find this to be a lean approach to documentation: sketching on the tablet is easy and quick — there’s an electronic eraser, and I can select and move blocks of the stream to add steps as our understanding evolves — and I don’t need to spend time converting the end result.

  10. Nikhil Lobo

    October 12, 2011 - 10:40 pm

    Hi Ron,
    This is a wonderful tutorial. I have spent several weeks searching the web for a good tutorial on VSM but could not find it. Your tutorial is well explained and has really helped. Could you tell me which software you used to construct the VSM charts in current and future states. As I would like to procure the same.

    Thanks Ron

    • Ron Pereira

      October 13, 2011 - 9:06 am

      Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the VSM series, Nikhil. I used iGrax Flowcharter to make those maps.

      Be sure to check out the Transforming your Value Streams course we made over at Gemba Academy for far more detailed explanations on VSM. You can learn more about this course at: http://www.gembaacademy.com/products/courses/value-streams.html.

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