Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A contrarian’s book review

You’ve heard about The Phoenix Project, right? This great new book by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford has received a lot of praise- and deservedly so.  The book is described as “A novel about IT, DevOps, and helping your business win”.


That’s right, a novel.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but it works; it provides practical context for the issues raised.  Some of the problems seem a bit contrived, especially in some of the combinations presented- until you think back on the stunningly dysfunctional places you’ve seen, then it becomes all too believable.

The book explores many common IT issues and extrapolates the consequences across the enterprise- and it also explores the many factors which limit IT’s success, both internal to IT and from the rest of the organization.

I will admit that the ending left me a little disappointed, heroes need to die in the end, or at least ride off into the sunset leaving others behind crying- but this is a business and technology novel, not a western, so I guess I’ll have to forgive them for allowing our hero to both make substantial progress, and survive.  But if there’s a sequel, well, there just had better be fewer survivors.

There is one character who is at risk of not surviving, he suffers from serious burnout- and I want to thank the authors for integrating this very real fact of life into the book (yeah, I know- I owe you an update on that project).  It is a reminder that people are a critical part of technology.

So you already know all about modern business, DevOps, and making technology work for the organization instead of the other way around?  You’ll still get something out of the book, but you may find the book most valuable as a gift to those who you struggle to make understand these issues; this book makes our rants understandable and approachable.  I will admit that I entertained the idea of asking for an “ultra-hard cover” version so that I could use it for percussive persuasion on some folks I’ve dealt with, but Gene didn’t seem to think that was appropriate.  He also seemed to think that “delivering” the book laminated to a clue-by-four was inappropriate- but Gene is a much nicer person than I (and he probably has lawyers and stuff to advise against such things).

The Phoenix Project is available in hardcover (but not ultra-hardcover) and Kindle versions.

If you want to hear from Gene Kim himself about this and whatever else is on his mind, he will be joining us on this week’s Pauldotcom podcast.