Let’s start this series of posts by looking at the Categories of Work Kim, Behr, and Spafford describe in The Phoenix Project for the world of IT Operations: Business Projects, IT Projects, Changes, and Unplanned.
Category 1: Business Projects
Business Projects are those projects that produce value external to the company. This is where the organization touches the customer and where revenue is generated. In manufacturing this is the manufacturing plant producing products; in IT Ops it is the development and release of customer (revenue generating) applications. In the world of Technical Sales it is the execution of the Technical Sales Process.
Category 2: IT Projects
IT Projects are those projects required by the organization but not directly touching the customer. They are important, but not directly related to producing revenue. For us in Presales, this type of work ranges from training and certification programs to activity tracking and reporting.
Category 3: Changes, or System Maintenance
This category is all about System Maintenance – making sure that the infrastructure supporting Business and IT Projects is stable to both run the existing projects and handle projects coming in the near future. It is the important but not urgent activities that often get postponed or remain undone. In the Technical Sales world, this is about maintaining the relationships required to keep projects on track. These relationship are with both customers and the organization in which we work.
Category 4: Unplanned work
Fire drills, emergencies, outages, customer problems, product issues – all of these are the realm of Unplanned work. Another way to look at Unplanned work from the The Phoenix Project is “the work we generate when we do it wrong.” Unplanned work kills productivity and reduces value in the system. Unplanned work is the same everywhere, from manufacturing to IT Ops to Technical Sales.
How does apply to my work in Presales Operations?
Applying the Four Categories of Work to Presales was one of those “ah-ha” moments. Once I thought about the Categories in terms of Technical Sales, two applications became apparent.
The first application is that Category 1 work – driving sales campaigns – is priority one when operating at normal course and speed (of course, Unplanned work becomes the priority in an outage, followed by System Maintenance to deal with the damage). The importance, then, of absolute clarity around the Technical Sales Process is paramount. It is important to note that the Technical Sales Process is different, in varying degrees according to the organization, from the Sales Process. Whereas the Sales Process focuses on getting the commercial win, the Technical Sales Process focuses on the delivery of a complete solution resulting in the technical win. When it comes to Category 1 work, my role in Presales Ops is to:
- Drive clarity around the Technical Sales process: ensure the organization understands and is in agreement on the process.
- Identify constraints in the system: Working with the field SEs, identify obstacles to moving efficiently through the system (more on this when we discuss Theory of Constraints in a different post).
- Visualize the Technical Sales effort taking place: Provide a tool for Technical Sales Leadership to visualize all work that is happening in their organization against the Technical Sales process (more on this when we talk about Kanban).
The second is around Category 2 work – internal, company mandated effort. My role in Presales Operations is to limit this category to only that which is either mandated by Legal/HR, or that which will make the SEs more efficient at Category 1 work. Any internal project not directly related to improving our ability to execute the Technical Sales process more successfully is a hindrance. The best thing I can do in my role is to say “no” to internal mandates as much as possible.
By the way, I believe these applications are for Technical Sales Management as well. As a manager, there is an operational component to the job that should focus on the same things and work hand-in-hand with the operations team.