The power of reading was evident to one MSP, Illinois-based ProdigyTeks, with “The Phoenix Project” by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford.
The business parable provides valuable lessons to IT leaders through an engaging story about a fictional IT manager and the problems he must overcome.
Here’s a closer look at how “The Phoenix Project” proved to be truly transformative for ProdigyTeks, as shared in a recent podcast interview featuring CEO Paco Lebron and IT Operations Manager John Dubinsky.
Facing Growth Challenges
For a time, ProdigyTeks had enjoyed healthy growth in both its team and client base in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But then, the company suddenly began to experience operational problems.
“[Inefficiencies] were really a big issue internally,” Lebron recalled. “It was affecting our clientele and the customer experience. We had to stop sales because we just could not keep up with making sure the impact we had with our clients was positive.”
Despite its best efforts, the team struggled to effectively address the challenges of rapid growth, he explained. “We knew we had problems, but we couldn’t categorize them, or we didn’t think to categorize them properly.”
However, Dubinsky had read “The Phoenix Project,” and was impressed by its lessons. He recommended Lebron read the book as well. That’s when their situation began to transform.
One of the immediate takeaways from the book was that an MSP’s work can be divided into four distinct categories:
- Business projects on behalf of clients
- Internal projects describing all internal work (stack change, employee onboarding, etc.)
- Change requests
- Unplanned work
The ProdigyTek team created new ticket types for each type of work, while breaking down the categories into ticket subtypes for common issues encountered.
“We looked at where our highest metrics are in that unplanned work; let’s say those were password resets. In that case, we developed either automation or a way for users to reset passwords on their own; how to self-service those items,” Dubinsky shared. “Or if it’s an unplanned item that came in a lot, we built a couple of scripts that our admin can now run before assigning it to a tech.”
Ensuring that team members fully documented all relevant details became another key point of the organizational change. These details were important for admins to know what was going on, and to provide training for new techs.
This was a learning process for the team, as Dubinsky recalled. “Many times, I would post in the ticket, reopen it, and say, ‘You’re not done. You’re missing so much stuff here. Go back, fill it out.’ The admins have now learned that if a customer call comes in and they’re passing a ticket to a tech, they’ll put the customer’s level of frustration in the email — just so the tech knows what they’re walking into.”
Achieving Desired Outcomes
There were some challenges in applying principles derived from “The Phoenix Project.”. For example, the team had to conduct monthly ticket reviews to ensure they were applying their new process correctly, and the company had to provide more training.
However, the entire team already knew changes were needed, and this spurred instant buy-in, Lebron said. “We were just all so committed to solving it that it wasn’t as hard to get some of these things in line.”
Plus, the team took ownership of it, so Dubinsky now can focus on other tasks, he said. “I hear all the time in our coordinator meetings, ‘Why can’t we do this to make it better? Do you think this would make it better?’ I’m not having to implement these anymore. The team is doing it.”
Updated ticketing procedures and the use of automation have gone a long way in helping ProdigyTek reduce unplanned work — which resulted in more time for training its techs.
In fact, the company has enjoyed many positive results since applying the principles from “The Phoenix Project,” Lebron said.
“Lead times went down, and customer touches have improved. Our clients now know we’re on it and they have that visibility. The information that we’re collecting [is] concise information on the first try, not multiple times throughout the ticket life.”
Living the Dream
Both Lebron and Dubinsky recommend that other MSP leaders read and apply principals from “The Phoenix Project.”
As their own experience proves, the lessons within are transformative. “We’re raising our rates as well, and there was no resistance … because they saw the difference in the quality of our work,” Lebron concluded. “It’s definitely been life changing for the business.”
Added Dubinsky: “If you’re a business manager, … [it has] about 100 lessons in how to control the chaos of your business with concrete examples.”