Sunday, April 29, 2018

Book review: The Phoenix Project

The full title of this book is The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, and it was authored by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford. This book is a story of the difficult transformation of a company's Information Technology department, and how they are able to go from an outdated, inefficient model of IT management, to being a critical part of the business, by beating the odds and by being knowledgeable and resourceful.
It was a nice read because it's a story you can relate to if you're someone who works with software in any capacity.

This book rings more bells if you have read another book before called The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox . Only because it's an interesting formula of a book, a fictional narrative with characters but that aims to educate you by example. The caveat is that you have to suspend your disbelief, especially when reading dialogs between people that wouldn't happen in real life, for example when a room of a IT experts explain to each other the basics that everyone in IT knows already. When you're going through those awkward dialogs, just be patient and remember that it's a "pretend" situation. 

What I liked about the book is its insistence in the fact that IT in an enterprise is no different than manufacturing. There were many concepts that were presented that belong to enterprise resource planning, along with technical situations and their solutions, some of these are applied to people problems, and things that are in the minds of business people.

There are so many ideas in this book that I believe it's worth a second read; I used my iOS Kindle app to read this book out loud, and a lot of the solutions they implemented in the story had technical depth and business basis, but to the casual reader this might appear as magical hand-waving.

Half of the book describes a somewhat realistic business scenario that might be very familiar for anyone in the field, where everyone in the company is hopelessly overworked. This is presented as a problem. In many companies it is believed that the status quo of the staff is to be overworked and to have a poor work-life balance. What the book proposes is that it's not OK to have that company culture, and there is a way to work hard and work smart without making big personal sacrifices.

If I had read this book 10 years ago, it would have been revolutionary. The thing is that personally I have read several books that have the same urgency: to tell IT people to put on their business hat. The valuable thing of this book is that they speak the technical language along with the business concepts, and there are many references to other books on the subject. I recommend this book.

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