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Book Review of the Phoenix Project

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Peter White@petewht
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The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win is a bestselling business novel by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford.

The book tells the story of an IT manager at a manufacturing company who is tasked with turning around a failing IT project, known as the Phoenix Project. Our main character is given 90 days to fix the mess or else.

If you’ve ever worked on an IT project with stakeholders and said ‘they should make a sitcom about this’, this is that deja-vu inducing sitcom.

One of the strengths of the book is its ability to make technical and business concepts relatable to a wide audience through practical manufacturing comparisons. The story is set in the context of a fictional manufacturing company, but the challenges and solutions discussed in the book are applicable to any modern organization.

The book also focuses on DevOps, presenting it is a bridge between development and operations teams that aims to deliver high-quality software faster and create a culture of collaboration and experimentation within an organization.

Another key theme of the book is the importance of measuring and managing IT performance. The characters in the story use metrics such as "lead time" and "deployment frequency" to understand and improve the performance of the Phoenix Project.

Usage of Manufacturing Metaphors

I enjoyed the 'factory tour' moments throughout the book, which serve demonstrate concepts and practices of IT management and DevOps.

One of the key manufacturing metaphors used in the book is the "value stream". The value stream refers to the process by which a product or service is designed, developed, and delivered to customers. The book describes how IT projects can be thought of as a value stream, with the goal of delivering software that provides value to the business as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Another manufacturing metaphor used in the book is the "queue". The queue refers to the time it takes for work to be completed, from start to finish. In the factory, this is the time taken to manufacture a product. In the book, the queue represents the time it takes for IT changes to be made, from the time they are requested to the time they are deployed.

Overall, the use of manufacturing metaphors in the book provides a clear and relatable framework for understanding the concepts of IT management and DevOps. It helps readers to think of virtual IT projects in the same way they might think of a physical manufacturing processes, making it easier to understand and apply the principles discussed in the book.

Lessons from The Phoenix Project

Below is the TLDR (too long didn't read) of the book:

  1. The importance of IT in modern business: The book presents a compelling case for the role of IT in driving business success and highlights the need for organizations to prioritize and invest in their IT systems and infrastructure.

  2. The benefits of DevOps: The book introduces the concept of DevOps and demonstrates how it can help organizations to achieve business agility and create a culture of collaboration and experimentation within an organization.

  3. The need for effective IT governance: The book illustrates the importance of IT governance in ensuring that IT projects align with the overall goals and objectives of the organization, and in preventing the "Shadow IT"

  4. The value of metrics in managing IT performance: The book shows how metrics such as "lead time" and "deployment frequency" can be used to understand and improve the performance of IT projects, and how an understanding of these metrics can help organizations to make data-driven decisions.

  5. The importance of collaboration and communication in IT: The book demonstrates how communication and collaboration between development, operations, and business teams are crucial to achieving IT success, it also showed how silos can be destructive for the company and how to break those silos.

Summary

The Phoenix Project is a highly engaging and informative read. It is a must-read for anyone in IT, as well as for anyone interested in understanding the role of IT in modern business. It strikes a great balance between fiction and technical insight, with some humor as well making it a enjoyable book to read.

I’d recommend the book - I enjoyed how it teaches through storytelling and I certainly preferred it to a dry textbook on IT change management. My only criticism would be that it is technically dated now, but the lessons about people and process still hold true.


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