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Book Review: ''The Phoenix Project''

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Book Review: ''The Phoenix Project''

John Vester offers his opinion ''The Phoenix Project,'' a fictional novel about an IT department at a large corporation.

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Earlier this year, my department was asked to read The Phoenix Project by author Gene Kim. As a freelance writer and seasoned Information Technology (IT) professional, I was excited to read the 2013 publication.

The Story

The basis of the book is to capture the glimpse into the life of an IT department at a large corporation. The storyline details various challenges and complications and the learning experience that emerges from understanding their current state. Through the eyes of the main character (Bill), a critical project (code-named the Phoenix Project) is critical to the future of the company, yet the project is far over budget and well past published deadlines.

My Thoughts

Upon reading the user-supplied comments on various book-selling websites, I was excited to read the publication. About an hour into the reading, I began to realize that I wasn't reading a case-study of a realistic situation, but rather a fictional scenario where things continued to get worse and worse and worse. As I read on, I became less excited about reading Kim's fictional account. Upon realizing the book was 345 pages in length, a new challenge emerged to merely finish my reading assignment. Not exactly what I was hoping for. Why was this?

Too Far Fetched

Without going into the details, the collection of things that were happening at this fictional company just could not exist in the real world. The controls that are put into place, for that very reason, would have altered the storyline if exhibited in the real world. I was bummed because I felt like Gene Kim had done a wonderful job building a problem situation. He didn't have to continue to make it worse and worse and worse.

Character Development Too Shallow

The character development in the book was another item I noticed. It seemed like everyone had the same sense of humor. In fact, at times I found myself having to figure out who was actually talking since I felt like there were multiple clones of the same person. My 25+ years in IT certainly has demonstrated a wide array of personalities that could have been leveraged.

At one point, Kim was trying to get me to care of about Bill's family, but there wasn't anything in his writing to make me really care about his home life. So, in all honestly, I simply skipped those paragraphs later in the book.

Not the Best Story Teller

I am not sure if the author has a strong career in IT or if he thought it would simply be a cool idea to tell a story from an IT professional's perspective. In my view, Gene Kim seemed to fall short in telling the story in a way that had me enjoying the journey. Perhaps he was too focused on painting the worst scenario ever and building from that point, but his approach caused me to lose interest and focus only on getting to the end of the required reading material.


In hindsight, upon understanding the message Gene Kim was presenting in The Phoenix Project, I would have much rather preferred reading a case study based upon true events instead of a very long novel that seemed a bit extreme for me. For me, learning from real-life events is always more meaningful than taking a journey down a fictional road.

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book review ,devops ,the phoenix project

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