Book Review: The Phoenix Project

Earlier this year the “DevOps” movement hit a new milestone with the publication of the first novel on the subject (yes as in an entertaining work fiction).

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps and Helping Your Business Win…

If you can’t be bothered to read this whole review, then my advice is to buy it. Just don’t then blame if you don’t like it… you should have read the whole review.

To anyone familiar with the Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s “The Goal”, The Phoenix Project will feel pleasantly familiar.…

To anyone unfamiliar with The Goal, it is basically the crusade of a middle manager faced with the challenge of turning around a failing manufacturing plant to save it from closure. This challenge is supported by a quirky physicist advisor who uses the Socratic method to reveal how to apply scientific reasoning in favour of conventional manufacturing processes and economics. Throughout The Goal book, there are lots of simple models designed to explain the principles and teach you something. It makes you feel good whilst you are reading it, but at the end a little uncertain whether you’ve actually learnt anything you can apply in the real world.

Modernise the hero and substitute their dysfunctional manufacturing plant for a dysfunctional IT Operations team, and you aren’t far off The Phoenix Project. In fact it is almost a sequel in The Goal series. A manufacturing plant which could easily have been from the The Goal is used heavily in The Phoenix Project to highlight what manufacturing can teach IT. – This is a great metaphor that I definitely subscribe to.

So is The Phoenix Project entertaining and do you actually learn anything?

I certainly found it highly entertaining, the observations were very sharp and definitely reminiscent of things I’ve seen. There are plenty of familiar examples of poor decisions about trying to go too fast at the expense of quality and stability, unpredictability and mayhem. All exciting stuff to a DevOps freak.

Do you learn anything from the Phoenix Project? Perhaps mostly just through re-evaluating your own experiences. There isn’t a huge amount of detailed substance on DevOps implementation in the book and in fact, it appears to be a good plug for the author’s next book, the DevOps Cookbook:
Really looking forward to that!!

In summary, personally I recommend reading either the Phoenix Project or the Goal and I eagerly await the Cookbook.