The Phoenix Project

One word required for this book – Awesome!

OK, so I’ll write a little more than one word. While I was still working in New York my client began showing interest in DevOps as their Head Office in Europe had already progressed quite well with their transition to Agile and had begun pushing towards DevOps in some teams. I was asked to run some initial workshops where key staff from Head Office would visit and discuss their transition and some of the challenges they had faced, etc. It was a great opportunity for me as I learned a great deal and my interest was spiked.

One of the visitors mentioned some resources for me to look into, and The Phoenix Book was one of them. The reason he suggested it was due to me advising that I generally don’t enjoy technical books. That I much prefer a story which tells me the same thing, well at least as much as it can of course.

The Phoenix Project is just that; a story. A fictional novel centred on an IT Ops Manager, Bill. It’s written so well, and its structure based on a project timeline is great as it’s so easy to relate to. 

The book’s blurb…

Bill is an IT manager at Parts Unlimited. It’s Tuesday morning and on his drive into the office, Bill gets a call from the CEO.

The company’s new IT initiative, code named Phoenix Project, is critical to the future of Parts Unlimited, but the project is massively over budget and very late. The CEO wants Bill to report directly to him and 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 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.

A story that anyone will recognise… yep, I sure did. The first half of the story, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, was like reading the first 10 years of my career! Not specifically from an Ops point of view as I’ve never spent much time in Ops, but more from the general perspective of working in ‘traditional’ ‘silo-ed’ ways. I could relate to so much of what was written that it hooked me like an episode of Law and Order SVU – I just had to see how it ended.

Being a fictional story the technical details surrounding DevOps are not prescriptive in the writing, but they are there and the use of ‘common’ DevOps language means they are easier to recognise (assuming you have a basic understanding of the core principles). For those that prefer a more technical approach, there is a section in the back of the book dedicated to resources which are very helpful. However, technical details date quickly, which is why I enjoy the story. The principles tend to stay current, so building a story around those will keep the book as timeless as it can possibly be. 

There are approaches to try, lessons learned, benefits realised… and although they may be fictional, I have lived through a few so I know they are coming from a non-fiction place! One thing that may have helped me was the addition of diagrams. There are times in the story when Bill and his crew are trialling a new approach and white boarding things, and it would have been good to have more visual aid with this. However, the writing is fairly descriptive so it’s not a deal breaker.

Finishing the book I feel like I have a better grounding in order to start more research. It’s almost like I’ve now got a ‘real life’ story on which to base my understanding. Sure, I know it’s not actually real… but it feels more genuine coming from that rather than a text book of theory.

If you’re interested in DevOps, then you should read this. If you’re interested in a funny story about IT, then you should read this. If you want both, then you guessed it.


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