Cover of the The Phoenix Project, 5th anniversary edition

Cover of the The Phoenix Project, 5th anniversary edition

Cover details from the The Phoenix Project

Cover of The Unicorn Project

The Phoenix Project & The Unicorn Project

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps & Helping Your Business Win is a business novel that shows how the principles of lean manufacturing can be used to dramatically improve the IT production environment and, ultimately, help business win in the marketplace. The book shows that when IT is failing, there are detrimental effects on the business as well as very real human costs. And conversely, when IT wins, the business wins.

Written by three luminaries of the DevOps movement — Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford— Phoenix is a fast-moving and entertaining story that will resonate with anyone who works in IT.

The book’s main character, Bill, is an IT manager reluctantly thrown into the revolving-door position of CIO during a time of dysfunction in his department and intense market challenges at the company he works for, Parts Unlimited. He has been assigned to tackle an over-budget and terribly-late project that is critical to the future of the business, code named Phoenix Project. He has 90 days to fix things or get his whole department outsourced.

The design of a new book jacket is always a good challenge. There is a lot to convey in the limited space of a front cover. What will help make a connection, quickly, with the intended audience of readers? How can the subject matter be recognizable and meaningful for them, but also fresh and unexpected — without clichés?  

The book jacket needed to say “IT” and “fiction.” There were many elements and approaches to consider and explore: an engaging cast of characters, the hoped-for turnaround, the substantial human efforts behind all that, and familiar (as well as painful and hilarious) scenarios.

After reviewing the manuscript and speaking with the client about their vision, a range of design directions were prototyped and tested with the target audience. The feedback resulted in a title change, and a confirmation that it made sense to focus on the human aspect of the story. We finalized the book jacket design and worked with eboy to develop an illustration of a “server volcano” that’s threatening to erupt, surrounded by detailed depictions of specific characters in the narrative.

In the end, the jacket reflects the authors’ aim to positively influence people working in IT, and by extension, have a positive impact on initiatives that, while labeled as “IT” are, at their root, very human endeavors.

The Phoenix Project has sold millions of copies and influenced business school curricula. To follow on that success, Gene Kim returned to the practice of software development at the fictional company Parts Unlimited in The Unicorn Project: A Novel About Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data.

This Wall Street Journal Bestseller follows Maxine, a senior lead developer and architect, who is exiled to the Phoenix Project as punishment for her role in a payroll outage. She navigates a heartless bureaucracy and a bogged-down system where committees and paperwork thwart progress. Rebel misfit developers convince her to band together to overthrow the existing order, liberate developers, bring back the joy in their work, and innovate to help the business win.

These books and their tremendous commercial success further IT Revolution’s goal “to elevate the state of technology work, quantify the economic and human costs associated with suboptimal IT performance, and improve the lives of millions of IT professionals.”

Are you developing a business-changing story?