Tale of Two Books


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

By Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford

(Portland, OR: IT Revolution Press, 2016)

The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations

By Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, and John Willis

(Portland, OR: IT Revolution Press, 2016)

By Jim Johnson

It’s always nice to see another book out by an author you enjoyed. I had reviewed The Phoenix Projecton the May 10, 2016, CHAOS Tuesday radio program—I gave it 5 out of 5 butterflies and my recommendation. In fact, I approved the book for use in my latest master’s class at the Antwerp Management School, and three of my students reviewed it for submission to PM2GO (you can see their comments below).

Like The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbookis focused on educating, explaining, and pitching DevOps. However, the Handbook has a laser focus on the features, functions, and skills needed to implement and maintain a DevOps environment. The Phoenix Project (much like my book The Public Execution of Miss Scarlet) is a fictional tale of a project in trouble—and its rescue through DevOps.

The Phoenix Project received high marks from my colleague Bob Kelley,who found it “an enjoyable read.” Bob is an experienced CIO and a frequent contributor to both CHAOS Tuesday and PM2GO. (He admitted that he identified with Bill Palmer, the hero of the story.) My student Joseph Puthenpurackalagreed: “This book is highly recommended for anyone starting on a DevOps journey within their teams.” Another student, Frederic Crabbe,commented, “The underlying idea is to take the lean methodologies from manufacturing, and bring them to IT,” and a third, Han Dijckmans,noted that “organizational anti-patterns that commonly impede business and IT cooperation are nicely described.” (You can read their full reviews by clicking on their names.)  

As I explained above, The DevOps Handbookis an instruction manual and a roadmap for implementing and maintaining a DevOps environment.  It offers some insight into the practical ways that organizations can and have implemented DevOps.  It also provides concrete examples of organizations that have successfully implemented DevOps.  In addition, the authors recommend several tools that will help in the implementation.

I recommend both books, though I’m not sure in what order you should read them. Here’s what I think: If you are primarily a technical person, then you should read The DevOpsHandbookfirst and then use the insights you’ve gained there to understand how Bill Palmer became the hero of The Phoenix Project.  Basically, you can use the handbook as a reference.  If, however, your role is primarily in management, consider reading The Phoenix Projectfirst, and then move to the handbook. 

For 25 years, The Standish Group has been campaigning for the benefits of “small batches” (microprojects), the iterative process, continuous delivery, and fast feedback.   We have also crusaded in favor of “fast failure” and failure tolerance rather than “blaming and shaming.” Since both these books preach the same concepts, they provide a verification of our quarter century of project research

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Subject Matter

Agile Process

About the Author:


Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is chairman of The Standish Group. He has been professionally involved in the computer industry for over 40 years and has a long list of published books, papers, articles and speeches. He has a combination of technical, marketing, and research achievements focused on mission-critical applications and technology. He is best known for his research on project performance and early recognizing technology trends. Jim is a pioneer of modern research techniques and continues to advance in the research industry through case-based analytical technology.

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