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The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win Paperback – Illustrated, February 27, 2018
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“Every person involved in a failed IT project should be forced to read this book.”―TIM O'REILLY, Founder & CEO of O'Reilly Media
“The Phoenix Project is a must read for business and IT executives who are struggling with the growing complexity of IT.”―JIM WHITEHURST, President and CEO, Red Hat, Inc.
Five years after this sleeper hit took on the world of IT and flipped it on it's head, the 5th Anniversary Edition of The Phoenix Project continues to guide IT in the DevOps revolution.
In this newly updated and expanded edition of the bestselling The Phoenix Project, co-author Gene Kim includes a new afterword and a deeper delve into the Three Ways as described in The DevOps Handbook.
Bill, an IT manager at Parts Unlimited, has been tasked with taking on a project critical to the future of the business, code named Phoenix Project. But the project is massively over budget and behind schedule. The CEO demands Bill must fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill's entire department will be outsourced.
With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with a manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize work flow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited.
In a fast-paced and entertaining style, three luminaries of the DevOps movement deliver a story that anyone who works in IT will recognize. Readers will not only learn how to improve their own IT organizations, they'll never view IT the same way again.
“This book is a gripping read that captures brilliantly the dilemmas that face companies which depend on IT, and offers real-world solutions.”―JEZ HUMBLE, Co-author of Continuous Delivery, Lean Enterprise, Accelerate, and The DevOps Handbook
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From the Publisher
The Three Ways of DevOps
The First Way of DevOps emphasizes the performance of the entire system, not a specific silo or department. The focus is placed on all business value streams that are enabled by IT. It begins when requirements are identified (the business or IT), are built (Development), and then transitioned into production (Operations).
The Second Way of DevOps creates right-to-left feedback loops. The goal is to shorten and amplify feedback loops so that necessary corrections can be continually made. The Second Way facilitates understanding and responding to all customers, internal and external, and embedding knowledge where it is needed.
The Third Way of DevOps encourages the creation of a culture that fosters continual experimentation (taking risks and learning from failure) and understanding that repetition and practice is the prerequisite to mastery. Practicing the Third Way of DevOps allocates time for the improvement of daily work, creates rituals that reward the team for taking risks, and introduces faults into the system to increase resilience.
Gene Kim: Looking Into the Future
The problems that DevOps solves are at the center of what every modern organization is facing. When The Phoenix Project was first published in 2013, DevOps was primarily used in internet companies. Now, it has been amazing to see these principles and practices in large, complex organizations across every industry vertical. Now more than ever, technology is not just the nervous system of an organization—it actually composes the majority of the muscle mass. Without a doubt, the best times for technology are ahead of us, not behind us. There’s never been a better time to be in the technology field and to be a lifelong learner.
About the Author
Gene Kim is a multi-award winning CTO, researcher, and author. He is the founder of Tripwire and served as CTO for thirteen years. His books include The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbook, The Visible Ops Handbook, and Visible Ops Security.
Kevin Behr is the founder of the Information Technology Process Institute (ITPI) and the general manager and chief science officer of Praxis Flow LLC. Kevin has 25 years of IT management experience and is a mentor and advisor to CEOs and CIOs. He is the co-author of The Phoenix Projectand The Visible Ops Handbook.
George Spafford is a research director for Gartner, covering DevOps, technical change, and release management, in addition to the use of bimodal IT and the pace-layered application strategy. His publications include hundreds of articles and numerous books on IT service improvement, as well as co-authorship of The Phoenix Project, The Visible Ops Handbook, and Visible Ops Security.
- Publisher : IT Revolution Press; 5th Anniversary edition (February 27, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1942788290
- ISBN-13 : 978-1942788294
- Item Weight : 1.04 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.05 x 1.17 x 8.99 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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You forget you are learning things in the book as it relates to business management. I wish that there was a version of this genre applicable to every type of department.
The Phoenix Project is actually a novelization of DevOps principles rather than a strict how-to book on transforming IT Operations. It is written in the tradition of IT Novels such as the Stealing The Network series, which I read voraciously when I was learning about Information Security. I find the idea of using the genre of fiction to teach IT theory to be extremely effective, especially the concepts of DevOps, which are foreign to so many who are in the "traditional" IT space. The Phoenix Project provides a vivid use case that describes the dysfunctional relationship which exists, not only between traditional IT and the Lines of Business, but between different groups within IT itself. But not only does the book describe the problem, it offer a path to follow in order to transform IT into a true partner to the Business.
The protagonist in The Phoenix Project is Bill Palmer, newly promoted to VP of IT Operations for Parts Unlimited, a leading automotive parts manufacturer and retailer. The problem is that Palmer has been promoted because his managers were fired due to the failures of the IT department, particularly in completing a software initiative, called The Phoenix Project. This Phoenix Project is a software suite, developed in-house, designed to integrate manufacturing and retail while allowing Parts Unlimited to be more agile and nimble in accommodating to changes in market conditions. The project is intended to save the company, which has missed earning consistently and has fallen behind its main competitor; unfortunately, the project is millions of dollars over-budget and years late in delivery. Palmer is thrown on to the proverbial sinking ship and quickly caught up in one emergency after another and soon realizes that unless something quickly changes, The Phoenix Project is doomed to failure and along with it, Parts Unlimited. However, Palmer finds himself ill-equipped to understand and to implement the necessary changes to right the ship, especially when there is so much distrust and infighting within the IT organization and with the Lines of Business.
Then Palmer meets the enigmatic Erik Reid, a potential board member with some very unusual ideas for how to run IT Operations. Palmer is understandably skeptical but is soon drawn in as Reid takes him down the rabbit hole; through a series of encounters and events, Reid enlightens Palmer as to what is the true mission of IT and what must be done to make IT work as a partner to the Business. The truths that are discovered not only change Palmer but the entire culture of IT at Parts Unlimited.
I had two different reactions as I was reading The Phoenix Project. The first half of the book often made me reflexively reach for the Maalox as I found myself standing in Palmer's shoes, reliving outages caused by buggy code and miscommunication between IT departments. The second half of the book reads like the script from The Karate Kid, as we see Erik Reid, Aka. Mr. Miyagi, guide Bill Palmer, Aka. young Daniel, down the path to enlightenment about not only the methodology of DevOps but the cultural shift that is required for change. Sometimes the lessons involve seeing tasks that seem to have little value to sound IT Operations, but Reid is able to masterfully walk Palmer through the process until he sees the proper connections between Manufacturing Plant operations and IT Operations.
That relationship between Manufacturing Plants and IT was, for me, the key insight provided by the book. As Erik Reid succinctly states to Bill Palmer, "If you think IT Operations has nothing to learn from Plant Operations, you're wrong. Dead wrong. Your job as VP of IT Operations is to ensure the fast, predictable, and uninterrupted flow of planned work that delivers value to the business while minimizing the impact and disruption of unplanned work, so you can provide stable, predictable, and secure IT service." This is one of the best definition of IT Operations and also one of the most insightful statements on resource management that I've read to date. After all, what can be more basic to resource management, rather it be a data center, software development team, Cloud, or people, than ensuring they deliver value through the completion of planned work? Yet I would argue that because this is not the ultimate goal of many IT shops, they are easily sidetracked by the urgent and prevented from doing what is important.
The rest of the book shows how Palmer, with help from Reid, is able to inculcate a new culture in the IT department at Parts Unlimited so they can focus on the mission of saving the company by enabling the business of the company. Along the way, they learn about the four categories of work (business projects, internal IT projects, changes, and unplanned work), the Three ways, and the importance of Kanban. Each new discovery by Palmer and team is a call to action for IT departments that know they cannot maintain the status quo and must transform themselves to meet the demands of the current business environment.
I look forward to learning more and applying the principles from books such as the Phoenix Project. Now if only I could find a portable version of a Kanban Board!
The Phoenix Project takes this idea to the somewhat strange conclusion. Instead of being an exploration of IT topics with fiction within it, this is a piece of fiction that is an exploration of IT topics. A particular IT topic, in this case - lean development and DevOps. For those not in the know - lean software development is an evolution of agile software development that attempts to take lessons learned from the factory line (especially Toyota and just-in-time management) and apply them to IT and development. Its been around a whilso; I recall attending a session at a conference about it at least five or seven years ago. DevOps is a much more recent concept that, I think, emphasizes a focus on all pieces of an application - not just the code, but its exeuting environment, its network, its process for being changed. Its a really new concept, and one st ill being explored (note that "The Visible Ops Handbook" is not actually a book, at this point).
The book follows the "adventures" of Bill, a newly promoted head of IT for an ailing automotive parts/retail corporation. The company's IT department has a history of failing to meeting obligations and having a revolving door management. This is particularly problematic given that it is also responsible for delivering "Project Phoenix", a massive undertaking to revolutionize the company. It is not going well, and it is made clear to Bill that delivering Phoenix is vital to the future of his career. Bill himself seems like a nice guy, and is definitely the "reluctant hero" of this tale; he had no particular interest in advancing in his career and had to be cajoled by the CEO of the company.
He quickly regrets this - the IT organization is an underfunded disaster, with failing infrastructure, absolutely no process or change management, and a single employee (Brent) who knows everything about everything. Bill's first day is spent running into a crisis involving the company's payroll, caused by the company's over-zealous head of IT security and leaving the company unable to print paychecks. It does not get better; Phoenix is quickly and clearly failing to meet a deadline pushed by a politicing SVP, whom has the power to push the CEO to demand its release on the unreasonable schedule of one week. No one working in the IT field will be surprised when this deadline proves a disaster, though in this case one of rather excessive scope. I will say at this point that it is clear the authors have been in one or more combinations of these disasters before - they write them vividly enough that I think anyone who has worked for a large IT organization will find themselves sympathizing with their plight and remembering past IT disasters of their own.
Bill is mentored in his "quest" by Erik. A quirky potential board member with a history in the technology industry. Erik completely serves as the sagely master in this novel. Most of his lessons take place at a local factory, where he illustrates his points about the four kinds of work and how to deal with constraints and how to move work through the system. His quirky personality works extremely well - picturing him as the Yoda of the novel wouldn't be entirely far off.
The book winds down to its conclusion through very interesting portrayals of corporate betrayals, triumphs, and even a character whom entirely changes their conception of their job and life. The end is, inevitably, triumphant - this probably wouldn't be an effective illustration of the principles the author wants to get across otherwise.
As a piece of fiction, I'm a fan of this novel. It manages to make a dramatic, interesting story about a bunch of employees in a corporation learning about a new IT methodology. It, mostly, avoids stereotypes - the characters are well-defined and have actual motivations. Even the aforementioned Brent is presented reasonably, as a helpful person who has simply been around forever. He's a problem, but more in the way his job has developed than any particular maliciousness. The weakest characters here are probably John, the head of IT security, and Sarah, the villain of the piece. I get the impression that the authors have no particular respect for the way IT security runs at most orgs, and Sarah is mostly here to be a pushy, political executive. It works, for the story, mostly because the actual villain is the IT process - Sarah is simply there show the failings and stomp on them until they break. The other flaw is that the characters, especially Erik, are prone to exposition - this is probably unavoidable given the goals of the novel.
In terms of this book's value as a work illustrating a new IT process, this is more mixed. They definitely explain all the points; I can't say I don't have an understanding of the four kinds of work at this point. The problem is that the book has limited value as the kind of reference guide that would be needed to put these thoughts into actual practice. This is one of the few novels I've ever read that could strongly benefit from an index. It could also strongly benefit from a companion volume that goes through all this in the more traditional manner. I suspect the "IT Ops Handbook" was meant to be that, but its impossible to say since that book does not yet exist.
Overall, I recommend this book. Its both a good read with an interesting, if unusual, story to tell, and certainly capable of getting one to think about the right ways to approach IT management.
Top reviews from other countries
With these realistic problems that no doubt face most of us the Pheonix Project lays out a number of tools and approaches that will lead the reader to think "damn, that's a good idea" or "that's an amazing way of looking at it". There's a moment in the book (I got it on kindle first, but now I have a physical copy that's getting the highlighter treatment) where one of the executives more or less goes "well dur well done you've figured it out" to which another goes, "well why didn't you think to explain this to everyone?" we often assume that the obvious is obvious to everyone, it's like a person watching poker on TV who can see everyone's cards going "well that outcome was obvious" clearly it wasn't to the people playing who couldn't see the cards.
All in all this book should be a must-read for everyone in IT or work with IT, it sets out the groundwork for implementing lean principles in IT and I wish I'd read it years ago. To be honest I think anyone with aspirations to help improve workflow through an organisation should read this, and the Goal and then sit down and think about the lessons presented within.
I'm not depressed at all, no I'm fine. Really. Thanks. *inaudible weeping*
The story follows the life of the newly promoted IT Manager who is tasked with solving these problems and while tackling the issues he learns about DevOps. I found the book itself to be a very entertaining read and the concepts introduced both made sense withing the context of the story and reflect the real world issues a lot of us face as well.
The book does have a somewhat "accelerated" rate of adoption within the company, most real world scenarios would probably take considerably longer and be much more of a struggle with considerable more meeting - however I doubt many people who be enthralled by that. The story pacing certainly benefits from this approach.
The comparisons between IT and a typical manufacturing plant makes understanding the concepts underlying DevOps easier than speaking about them in the usual IT language.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who works in an IT / DevOps environment and wants an enjoyable read that also helps with the daily job.
From the frantic mess of the SAN upgrade (apparently) fighting the Payroll run in the opening section (we've all been there, done that, got the tee shirt <that is, if we are to be really honest with ourselves, folks, eh?>), to Brent and his knowledge of everything, with nothing documented.......
I grimaced at the developer who'd had to do a rushed change that broke, gone on holiday, and no-one knew. We all know that one.....
Its a gripping read, though understanding the mindset of Erik the guru is hard at times, and I'd have liked a little more domestic background.
The story is boring and takes a big effort to finish it