The Phoenix Project Book Summary - The Phoenix Project Book explained in key points
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The Phoenix Project summary

Gene Kim

A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

4.5 (157 ratings)
30 mins

What is The Phoenix Project about?

The Phoenix Project (2013) explores how integrating the Development and IT Operations teams of a company’s IT department can improve communication, accelerate workflow, and increase value. It uses a fictional lens to unpack a common real-life scenario – demonstrating how the DevOps approach enables organizations to deftly adapt to sudden changes, updates, or market pressures.

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    The Phoenix Project
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    Chaos in the IT department spells failure for the entire company.

    It’s Tuesday morning, and Bill is running late for work. He’s speeding down the highway when he gets the call – he’s supposed to come see the CEO, Steve, as soon as he arrives.

    Uh-oh, he thinks. I’m going to get fired. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise. As head of a midrange technology group at Parts Unlimited, Bill has always taken pride in doing his job well. He’s built a reputation for being reliable, efficient, and candid; he was a former Marine, after all. But Parts has been struggling, big-time.

    Bill looks around the near-empty parking lot he’s pulling into. It seems like its competitors are constantly innovating, and Parts is being left in a trail of dust. With all the layoffs in the past couple years, Bill’s department has increasingly had to do more with fewer resources.

    But Steve isn’t firing him. He’s giving Bill a “promotion.” As the new VP of IT Operations, Bill will report directly to Steve and ensure that the impending Phoenix Project rollout is a success. The company’s future depends on Phoenix, Steve says – Bill knows that, right? Customers need to be able to shop from Parts both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Otherwise, soon there won’t be any customers: the company will no longer exist.

    The key message here is: Chaos in the IT department spells failure for the entire company.

    Bill doesn’t want the promotion – he’d effectively be agreeing to take on the role of janitor, in charge of cleaning up a colossal IT plumbing mess. So he’s horrified to find himself shaking Steve’s hand in agreement.

    Where’s he supposed to start? The entire IT infrastructure is in complete and utter disarray.

    John from the Information Security department is continually creating SEV1 outages – critical incidents that everyone has to scramble to fix – because he bypasses the proper clearance procedures to push through Development changes he deems important for auditors. Of course, Operations isn’t ever able to test these changes first; there’s no test environment because there’s no budget.

    Meanwhile, Patty, the director of IT Service Support, informs Bill that changes aren’t ever documented; no one wants to spend time using the company’s clunky change management tools. And no one attends the weekly Change Advisory Board, or CAB, meetings.

    How does anyone keep track of anything that’s going on? The answer, Bill realizes, is: they don’t. No wonder things have gone to shit.

    Bill looks at his desk. His old laptop was displaying the blue screen of death, so he’s just received a replacement. It’s at least ten years old – a bulky, heavy dinosaur of a machine. Half the lettering has worn off, and the battery is taped on.

    He can’t help but wonder if the universe is telling him something.

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    About the Author

    Gene Kim is an award-winning CTO, researcher, and author. He founded the cybersecurity company Tripwire and spearheaded it for 13 years. Kim has written six books, including The Unicorn Project and The DevOps Handbook. Since 2014, he’s led the DevOps Enterprise Summit, which explores technology transformations of large organizations.

    Kevin Behr is an IT management specialist with over 25 years of experience. He’s the founder of the Information Technology Process Institute and general manager of Praxis Flow LLC, a design and strategy consultancy for IT organizations. He also coauthored The Visible Ops Handbook.

    George Spafford is a research director for Gartner who covers DevOps, DevSecOps, and site reliability engineering. He’s published numerous articles and books on IT management and is a coauthor of The Visible Ops Handbook and Visible Ops Security.

    Who should read The Phoenix Project?

    • Business leaders looking to increase value through their IT department 
    • IT managers seeking to streamline their teams’ workflow
    • Tech employees wondering how different parts of a business interrelate

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