Book Review: The Phoenix Project

TLDR Version: The Phoenix Project is a great novel that describes the impact that DevOps practices can have on a failing IT system. The writing is excellent and the storyline is intruiging.

Told from the perspective of the newly appointed VP of IT Operations, Bill Palmer, it describes the turnaround of struggling auto parts company Parts Unlimited. The book very effectively captures the stereotypical IT setup – unstable systems, urgent and over-budget projects, slipping deadlines, ridiculous and ineffective security measures all held together with endless red tape.

At the center of it all is the Phoenix Project, a classic massive software project that promises the world and failed to deliver on all fronts. With the CEO and business owners breathing down his neck Bill must battle to save the struggling project and turn the IT department into highly performant partner to the business.

With the help of a mysterious prospective board member and a healthy dose of lean thinking Bill starts to view the IT department as a manufacturing plant – with surprising results. The book does an excellent job of showing how to apply these concepts to a struggling enterprise.

I was especially impressed with how well the book succeeds as a novel – the general storyline is intriguing and the cast is spot-on. The combination of great drama and numerous highs and lows yields a great book.

Of course, none of this book is fiction. If you have experience in IT Operations, Development or as a Business leader you will easily identify with one of the characters. Are you a Bill, Steve, Sarah, John or a Brent?

I would highly recommend The Phoenix Project to anyone involved in IT. It’s a great read.