Everyone knows the typical behaviour and complaints about IT developers who seemingly throw untested software solutions over the fence into the productive environment and Operations has to pick up the pieces. On the other hand, the developers complain about obstacles that Operations puts in their way and thus delays the deployment or/and about the workload in the form of noisy small updates, problem fixes, non-functioning applications etc. imposed on them by Operations.The increasing penetration of other business areas by IT and the growing demand for more and faster, customer-oriented solutions, aggravate the problems even more. As a result, the workload on developers and IT operations continues to grow, workflows get stuck, IT projects fail, and management is frustrated with lost business opportunities and risks in business operations. Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford have written an excellent novel on this topic: "The Phoenix Project" is about an organisation that faces exactly these challenges and overcomes them by applying DevOps principles and achieving decisive improvements and higher business value.
The simulation starts with a newspaper report about the dramatic situation at Parts Unlimited.
Round 1 is a practice round. Participants are given some projects, features and problems so that the team can start slowly, with only a small amount of work.
The team is facing a huge backlog of IT related issues such as incidents from users in Sales, HR and Finance. The workload is huge, everyone is busy, but there seems to be no visibility as to why something is needed and what happens if something is not completed. IT support cannot meet the agreed service levels and at the same time they are faced with various demands from the business, incidents need to be dealt with faster and the business-damaging effects of a sudden outage on the business need to be prevented. Support needs capacity from the development team to resolve some of the critical incidents, but the developers are all involved in new innovative development projects. The development department, in turn, is struggling to complete all the business features and projects because they lack a clear picture of the priorities from the business and their requirements exceed the limited number of resources. Another problem concerns the test team, which seems to find many serious problems in the new applications or systems that cause serious impacts on the business.
To manage this situation, the team must create a consistent workflow throughout the supply chain. They need to work together and function as an end-to-end team that manages competing work requests and ensures that work moves through the supply chain without bottlenecks, delays or rework. The team accomplishes this through Kanban boards, Post-It's and good communication.
In DevOps language, the team has discovered what they call the "First Way". The results from putting the First Way into practice include never allowing a known bug to pass downstream processing stations, never allowing local optimisation to cause global degradation, and always striving to increase workflow.
After this round, there is a reflection on what happened, what went well and what needs to be improved. The aim is also to find out how this relates to DevOps theory and how their own work can be improved by applying DevOps principles. The team then has time to implement what they have learned in the next round.
The third round is more challenging. The CFO comes in with some serious SOX-404 negligence issues that desperately need to be resolved. It also seems that wages are not being paid on time, which could cause unity issues and end up in the newspaper headlines. Meanwhile, Retail Operations is showing more and more concern as the Phoenix project is starting to show serious delays and problems, which is also exacerbated by the fact that such revenue projects have been communicated to the financial magazines. Retail Operations gets the impression that the priority is not on this project. In addition, there is still the backlog of features and issues from the previous round that need to be resolved quickly. In addition, there are some new projects from HR that need to be completed on time. IT support has serious problems with the SLAs and the whole team is slowly reaching the breaking point. But the consistent workflow in the team is supposed to make things easier, surely?!
The team is now learning how to use the workflow and how to build a working feedback loop into the supply chain - responding to feedback from the customer and using it immediately for improvement opportunities and to maintain the workflow. Teams are working better and better together. As a result, hopefully an increase in turnover and a rise in the share price will show up.
At the end of the round, there is again reflection, looking at DevOps principles and identifying opportunities for improvement for the next round.
In DevOps language, the team has now discovered the Second Way. Second Way outcomes include understanding and responding to all customers, internal and external, shortening and strengthening all feedback loops, and embedding knowledge where it is needed.
The last round is also the most important. It is the last opportunity to plan financial activities and projects in the different teams of Operations and Development. Now it is about setting the right priorities and making the right decisions. It is essential that the team now learns how to integrate the small feedback loops into the individual steps in the workflow. So don't just test at the end of the round with the risk of not approving a change, creating rework and business-critical project delays.
In DevOps language, the team has now discovered the "Third Way". The Third Way is about creating a culture that supports and encourages two things: continuous experimentation, which requires taking risks and learning from success and failure; and an understanding that repetition and practice are prerequisites for mastery.
At the end of the round, the whole day is reviewed. What have the participants learned? What can they use in their everyday work?
Parts Unlimited is in trouble. Newspaper reports have revealed the company's poor financial returns. The only way to not only save the company, but to make it competitive and profitable again is the "Phoenix Project". It stands for a business transformation enabled by IT, where Retail Operations is the business owner of the project. The Vice President of IT Operations has been asked to lead the IT department and ensure the success of the Phoenix Project. But he faces a huge workload, a huge backlog of issues, features and projects. The participants act in different roles of the Parts Unlimited company. One can act as Retail Operations, Human Resources or Accounting, embodying the business of the company, including ongoing projects. Or you can act as VP of IT Operations or one of the members of its IT team, which has to develop the applications and solve IT problems. The challenge here is that DevOps principles have to be applied and they have to be transferred to the simulation. There are four rounds of working on the IT projects and problems to ensure that the Phoenix project is completed on time.
But be careful, business is always coming up with new ideas and requirements or external developments outside your sphere of influence, throwing a spanner in the works here and there.
In DevOps, we speak of "3 ways". They describe the values and philosophies that shape processes, procedures and practices, and prescribed steps. The first way emphasises the performance of the whole system as opposed to specific silos of work or departments - this can be as large as an entire division (development or IT operations) or as small as a single employee (developer, system administrator). The second way is about creating feedback loops. The goal of almost any process improvement is to shorten and at the same time strengthen feedback loops so that necessary corrections can be made continuously. The third way is about creating a culture that supports and encourages two things:
This simulation is suitable for all roles and staff in Business, IT Development and IT Operations who want to apply the principles of Lean, Agile and ITSM to improve their IT services or add value to their IT solutions. This simulation is also suitable for organisations that want to develop such a culture in order to achieve better collaboration and, as a result, faster and less error-prone deployment of their solutions. The simulation can be used for: