Flow Defined


Flow is a method to manage software development, implementation, and maintenance through a continuous process. It’s a service-oriented process that reduces the friction and delays associated with traditional software development methods.

The Flow process creates pipelines segmented by very small logical and cross-functional teams.  Work is created in daily tasks and distributed through a priority-based algorithm without bias.  All daily tasks are implemented either at the end of the day or of the next day. This increases user absorption and reduces training events and implementation delays. Flow also reduces technical debt by a continuous refactoring in order to keep software fresh and usable, thus reducing the high cost of maintenance.

Flow incorporates the features and functions of agile/Scrum, DevOps, Normalized Systems, DEMO, and microservices. Flow can sit on top of current applications or new minimal viable products. Flow pipelines represent a single budget item and thus eliminate the high overhead cost associated with traditional project and change management. 

The Flow structure is broken down into flow sponsors and two major distinct groups: producers and actors. Each sponsor supports teams of producers and actors.  This support can be either stable or dynamic.  In a stable condition, the producers and actors are tied directly to the sponsor.  In a dynamic condition, the producers and actors float between sponsors as work objectives change.  The sponsor provides inspiration, direction, and imagination and is ultimately responsible for the work product of the two teams. (The skills needed to be a good sponsor are outlined in our guide and appraisal, The Good Sponsor.)  

Producers define the work, manage the backlog, and present activities to actors. Producers are a combination of former project managers, business analysts, Scrum product owners, and subject matter experts. Producers generally work in teams of two to four people. Their main job is to break down the work into daily microservices that actors can complete in one day.  (They often use DEMO for rapid design and thinking.) Actors perform and implement the work the producers give them—work that is expected to be completed within one day. Actors are generally developers, installers, and experts in quality assurance, security, and computer operations. Each team of actors comprises three or four people, often using Normalized Systems.  Both producers and actors work in self-directed teams. (The skills needed to be a good teammate are outlined in our guide and appraisal, The Good Mate.)

As we see it, there are only three factors involved in success: a good sponsor, a good team, and a good place in which to work.  There are 10 principles and 50 skills involved in being a good sponsor and a good mate. We are working on a similar guide and framework for a “good place” and are centering it around the principles and skills necessary for a successful Flow process. 

  |     |     |     |     |  

Subject Matter

Agile ProcessOptimizing ScopeSkilled ResourcesExecutionGeneral Interest

About the Author:


Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is chairman of The Standish Group. He has been professionally involved in the computer industry for over 40 years and has a long list of published books, papers, articles and speeches. He has a combination of technical, marketing, and research achievements focused on mission-critical applications and technology. He is best known for his research on project performance and early recognizing technology trends. Jim is a pioneer of modern research techniques and continues to advance in the research industry through case-based analytical technology.

The Standish Group
Jim JohnsonJim
Jim CrearJim
Lou ViannaLou
Theo MulderTheo
Lee GesmerLee

The Standish Group News

The Standish Group Events


CHAOS Tuesday Podcast

The Dezider