Ranger4 DevOps Blog

The Phoenix Project Game is LIVE!

Posted by Ryan Dobson on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 10:06 am

And we’re live! The Phoenix Project Game is a go! For those of you who are part of the DevOps movement or are looking into DevOps as a way to improve your business, The Phoenix Project (TPP) is a must read. Unlike most other IT process books, TPP is written as a novel and revolves around the protagonist and newly promoted VP of IT Operations, Bill. The company, ‘Parts Unlimited’, is at an all time low; stock has tumbled and they now trail the competition in sales growth, inventory turns and profitability. Behind closed doors however, Parts Unlimited has invested heavily in its secret weapon: “The Phoenix Project”, which has long promised to close the gap on competition by combining new, cutting edge technology with existing practices. However, not all goes to plan and the company is on the brink of disaster.

In short, Bill ends up meeting the business version of Yoda, who inevitably shows him the ways of the force, or in DevOps terms “The Three Ways”. As Bill progresses on his journey of discovery, he starts to combine the practices of Agile, Lean and ITIL, and slowly but surely, manages to save the business!

The simulation game is based on this best-selling book that has inspired thousands of business leaders to implement digital business transformations in their organisations. The Phoenix Project Game has been designed by Jan Schilt from GamingWorks (with DevOps specific assistance from Ranger4!) who were also behind the very successful ITSM game “Apollo 13”.

It explores how to bring in Lean, Agile workflows and real collaboration within the IT function and create ‘enterprise-savvy technical specialists and digital-savvy organisation leaders’. It encourages decision making, change planning and implementation in a continually evolving, and sometimes political, business environment. Stakeholders are also involved, who have varying degrees of understanding of digital transformation.

Ranger4 are one of the first to be offering this game and last week I was lucky enough to get involved with a taster game in London. When you arrive for the game experience, the room of 10 - 14 participants will take on the roles below. They are listed in order of hierarchy. (eg CEO/CISO at the very top, down to IT support/Operations/Test/Change Management at the very bottom) 

CEO --- CISO

CIO - Retail Operations - CFO - HR

VP IT Operations - Application Development

IT Support - Operations - Test - Change Management

Your challenge is to use the DevOps principles and apply them in this serious business simulation. In three rounds you will work on the IT projects and issues to ensure that “The Phoenix Project” will be finished on time. But, beware, the business keeps coming up with new ideas, demands and external developments beyond your control that you must also address. This can throw a spanner in the works.

The game begins with the CEO of Parts Unlimited outlining the aims of The Phoenix Project and the company targets of increasing revenue from £100K to £330K and share price from $21 to $42.

Both the business and the IT teams are handed their related assignments with instructions on what area of the organisation they are and what changes/applications/upgrades/releases need to be in place in order to complete the projects.

In the first round the teams are left to their own devices, and the point of this preliminary round is to discover how an organization is used to operating. As Jan said, "When you start the game, you will see the attitudes of the people… like a mirror of current attitudes.” And it’s true, within minutes it becomes clear who are the ones that are used to leading, who likes to hold the power and who shies away and lets others battle it out.

After an initial bit of chaos, the group gradually sets some sort of order and manage to finish some of the projects they were tasked with. During the break the facilitators tally up the scores and the round finished with “Parts Unlimited'” share price up by $2 to $23 and the revenue up $10k at $110k. Not a great improvement but an improvement nonetheless.

The second round is all about improvement and collaboration - the game now introduces a few more elements including the option to train and learn new skills. With a little help and advice from the game facilitators, the teams are given their next bunch of projects and away they go. The first obvious improvements are the levels of team work and collaboration and we also see the first sign of a flip-chart! End of the round and share price is at $23.5 and revenue has risen to $130K.

The third and final round is where we see the biggest improvements. Without giving too much away, there was a lot of tape and post-it notes involved. Like the previous rounds, the teams are handed their new projects but this time they have a visible process and things are looking a lot less hectic. The final round finished with ‘Parts Unlimited' share price at a steady $28 and revenue at $200K.

At the end of the day it was disappointing that the teams had not hit their target of $42 share price and $300K revenue. However, what was clear was that there were vast improvements made to the teams’ processes and team work. Just by looking at the mid-round reviews of what worked and what didn’t, you can see how, from the participants' point of view, how things improved:

Self-Review after Round 1:

What worked:

  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Group discussion

What didn’t work:

  • Process
  • Cross team communication
  • Structure
  • RACI (Responsibility / Accountability / Consulted / Informed)
  • Involvement of Test Team
  • Business and IT engagement
  • Visibility
  • Capacity Planning
  • Unplanned work

Self-Review after Round 3:

What worked:

  • Process / Workflow
  • Communications
  • Structure
  • Capacity Planning
  • Test Team involved from beginning
  • Business and IT engagement
  • Visibility
  • Feedback-loops

What didn’t work:

  • Unplanned Work
  • Testing and final stage
  • Projection of projects

Everyone involved was also asked at the end of the round to give one word describing how they felt. Needless to say after round 1, the majority were feeling ‘deflated’, ‘confused’, ‘disorganised’. Yet, at the end of the day we heard words such as: ‘energised’, enthusiastic’, ‘committed’, ‘clear-headed’.

It is clear that the way The Phoenix Project Game uses a practical and real-life setting to get everyone involved, it conveys the DevOps message in such a way that the principles learned on the day will be remembered for a long time to come.

A finishing quote from one of the participants: "This is the best game I have ever attended. It comes so close to the real world and it touches all critical elements of DevOps." 

The Phoenix Project Game is available now should you wish to try it - just hit the button below!

Topics: DevOps, DevOps Game, Simulation Game, communication, collaboration, The Phoenix Project Game