DevOps Made Clear
The Phoenix Project

DevOps Made Clear

This surprisingly readable business parable – and the clear information that follows – provides a rare, concise, clear overview of DevOps.

Information technology experts Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford offer the basics of DevOps, an IT management system that promotes collaboration and coordination among IT operations, software developers, other business units and product owners.

This pragmatic approach to IT is a philosophical movement that set out to change IT operations as much as the Toyota Production System revolutionized production lines in the 1980s. The authors structure their book as a business fable – indeed, a business parable – about how DevOps saves the fictitious auto parts company Parts Unlimited.

DevOps principles are universal, and they are largely independent of the underlying technology being used.Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

This best-selling guide also offers an essential appendix, “The Phoenix Project Resource Guide,” which provides a detailed overview of DevOps and what it entails. If you work in IT or a related field, you’ll relish this entertaining, informative, compelling read.

The authors frame their parable around a failing auto parts manufacturer and seller. In deep trouble, it brings in a new vice president of IT operations, Bill Palmer. He doesn’t want the promotion, and his unease is understandable. Parts Unlimited had already churned through several new chief information officers, each lasting about two years.

At Parts Unlimited, CIO stands for “Career Is Over.” Vice presidents of IT didn’t fare much better. Palmer became the target of criticism from senior executives, but after trial and error, he instituted a DevOps system to get the firm’s business units, including software development and IT, collaborating smoothly and productively – and he turned the company around.

Project Management

Applying conventional project management to IT operations isn’t smart, efficient or productive. The authors warn that without DevOps, unanticipated, unplanned work can bury your IT specialists. Deep-seated issues between IT operations and software development can create delays in moving products or services to market and impede new product or feature releases.

Outcomes are what matter – not the process, not controls or, for that matter, what work you complete.Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

To address the divide between Dev and Ops, DevOps integrates the two groups to bring software development and IT operations together in a seamless, productive unit. 

Techniques and Cultural Norms

The DevOps development pipeline applies Lean principles to IT’s value stream. The authors trace DevOps’ roots to Lean Startup, Innovation Culture, Toyota Kata, Rugged Computing and the Velocity community, and walk you through its methodology and cultural framework.

DevOps is a system of systems and a philosophical, pragmatic approach to managing IT operations. Under a DevOps system, the authors promise, business units – IT, product management, development, information security, and others – collaborate smoothly. DevOps improves product quality, solidifies customer satisfaction, and accelerates innovation and experimentation.

The name of the game is quick time to market and…fail fast.Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

DevOps uses feedback loops to eliminate or at least reduce future production problems. Fast feedback loops help firms make sure that they find and fix production problems quickly. With DevOps, firms can get product features to “market and test them” more quickly and efficiently. DevOps enables IT to spot and fix problems quickly, thus avoiding disruptions.

“Three Ways”

This philosophical approach to IT operations is the foundation of the DevOps system. The First Way is to create a fast workflow “from development to IT operations to the customer.” Have IT professionals work with small batch sizes at specific work intervals. Do not move defects downstream. The Second Way is to implement a regular “flow of fast feedback,” to help IT professionals be proactive by giving them a way to avoid problems before they occur. DevOps halts production when “builds and tests” go awry.

Business agility is not just about raw speed. It’s about how good you are at detecting and responding to changes in the market and being able to take larger and more calculated risks. It’s about continual experimentation.Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

The Third Way provides for ongoing experimentation within a corporate culture of innovation. The authors note that such a culture runs on trust, not command and control. It depends on intelligent risk-taking and the ability to learn from success and failure. Under this rubric, a job is not complete when software development concludes coding, because the code needs testing, too.

DevOps relies on “repetition and practice” to build mastery. Its trial-and-error process enables IT professionals to improve their work systems continually.


The authors warn that misconceptions can cloud people’s understanding of DevOps. For example, DevOps works well with – but doesn’t require – Agile. DevOps is the sensible extension of Agile.

A core, chronic conflict between Development and IT Operations preordains failure for the entire IT organization, as well as the organization it serves.Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

Some data professionals view DevOps as a “backlash” to the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and IT Service Management (ITSM). DevOps is, in fact, complementary to both, but because it involves “faster lead times and higher deployment frequencies,” firms must automate many of their ITIL processes.

NoOps translates as the complete elimination of IT operations. That’s not DevOps’ purpose. However, the authors insist, development will take responsibility for some IT and operations engineering functions.

Just about every unicorn – Google and Amazon, for example – began with the usual problems of a conventional horse. These unicorns didn’t commence with DevOps; they graduated to DevOps. But the authors, speaking from inside IT, assert that DevOps matters more for horses than for unicorns.

Parables and Information

Though novelistic business book parables can be irritating, this one flows naturally, presenting a readable overview of DevOps that focuses on a functional breakdown of its details. The last eight chapters offer a straightforward, useful foundational overview and then explore practical work situations.

Newcomers will appreciate the authors’ clarity and determination to eliminate any confusion surrounding DevOps’ implementation. Even if they may, at times, yearn for less detail, readers who persevere will appreciate the authors’ thoroughness.

A great team performs best when [it practices]. Practice creates habits, and habits create mastery of any process or skill. Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

However, the authors’ structure requires you to read every word of the parable to get to the heart of the book – a readable, highly detailed and admittedly technical rundown on DevOps. The parable is an accessible spoonful of sugar, but the medicine still has to go down.

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