PEX Awards Finalist: Phytel

Craig Sharp

The annual PEX Awards are just a few short weeks away, and with the finalists having been recently announced, now is be the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the projects that made it through to the final judging round!

The Awards, which take place at PEX Week Orlando in January, highlight some of the most ambitious, inventive and successful Process Excellence projects of the year. It’s our opportunity to celebrate the continued evolution of Process Excellence and the ingenuity of those who continue to push change forward.

This entry comes from Phytel, who have been shortlisted in the "Program Director of the Year", "Best Business Process Improvement Program (Over 2 Years)" and "Best Technology-Enabled Process Improvement Project" categories. Here, they tell us about their project "Metamorphosis: Going from Good to Great", which is the finalist in the "Best Business Improvement Program (Over 2 Years)" category.

Tell us about your project, why did you launch it?

We knew that the software industry is very competitive. Companies that stay in business for the long-term know how to write code quality code quickly, market and sell their software effectively, and always implement on time. Just being good is not enough in our business, we knew we had to be great. Change was necessary for survival. Using ISO 9001: 2008 as a foundation, we plugged in Lean-Six Sigma (L6S) as our approaches to continuous improvement in our ISO 9001 Quality Management program. Changing the culture was critical. We started that by training employees in ISO 9001 and L6S, including the C-Suite who are trained as L6S Green Belts with 80 total hours.

What were the key objectives? Did you have an end game in mind?

1. Increase the quality of our product - eliminate software defects

2. Speed software development - lean the process and empower the teams

3. Speed product delivery - implementation at client site

The overreaching goal is to continue being the supplier of choice thus increasing revenue, while focusing on client retention through defect reduction and speed of implementation.

What were the key challenges you faced during the project? How did you overcome these?

Change Management throughout all areas of Phytel was certainly a key challenge. We rely heavily on Dr. John P. Kotter’s eight-step process to change for our transformation efforts. It started and continues by creating and communicating the sense of urgency on the ease of displacing a software company and the speed of technology change continuing around the world. The next important thing we did was to get short-term wins and celebrate along the way. This was a take away from the PEX interview last year and the impact has been tremendous on employee engagement.

Did any unforeseen benefits come out of the project?

Although an increase in employee satisfaction was not necessarily unforeseen, the increase was greater than anticipated. There is so much excitement here at Phytel, it has become a fun environment that fosters a positive approach to change associated with continuous improvement.

What’s next? Is the project ongoing or are you looking to the next one?

We are always looking to improve how the software is developed and delivered to our clients so we consider this an ongoing project. Our strategy for the next year will focus on deploying a methodology called continuous delivery where the product feature or fix can be immediately released into production when ready by the development team. This empowers the Product Owners, those representing our customers, to turn on new features when each customer is ready for it, or leave it off until they are even though the development has been completed and tested. This also gives us the opportunity to pilot a platform change with a customer with which we have a friendly testing relationship. Then, when it is perfected, it can be turned it on for all customers.

What does it mean to be selected as a finalist for a PEX Award?

Being selected as a finalist is winning in-and-of-itself. While it confirms that we are on the right track with our approach to process improvement, it also provides us the opportunity to discover new areas to target for improvement based on the outside-looking-in feedback we get from the expert judging panel. Every year we push ourselves harder to improve upon our last submission. That is the real value of being a finalist because our customers ultimately benefit.

What would your message be to others who’re looking to begin a PEX project or who are unsure where to start?

Start with the voice of your customers. Ultimately it is your customers who should benefit from your chosen improvement project which would become your PEX project submission. Keep in mind that you first win by bettering your organization. An award nomination would validate the selected approach and be the icing on the cake!