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'The Phoenix Project' glossary

Written by authors Gene Kim, George Spafford and Kevin Behr, The Phoenix Project is a narrative-style book about a failing company and how its members save it through enacting DevOps practices. The book gives a general idea of what hard and soft skills are involved in this process. Published in 2013, it quickly gained popularity, motivating a growth in the DevOps strategy.

The following glossary is a list of terms that appear in the book to use as a reference guide.

Chapter 1 

"Restore critical business operations and keep us out of the front-page news. Got it. Thanks." -- Bill Palmer, newly promoted VP of IT Operations

  • chief executive officer (CEO) - executive responsible for implementing existing plans and policies, ensuring the successful management of the business and setting future strategy.
  • chief financial officer (CFO) - executive responsible for managing the company's financial operations and strategy.
  • chief information officer (CIO) - executive in charge of information technology (IT) strategy and implementation.
  • information technology (IT) - the use of computers and computing resources to create, process, store, secure and exchange electronic data
  • IT operationsthe overarching term for the processes and services administered by an organization's information technology.
  • mission-critical application - a software program or suite of related programs that must function continuously in order for a business or segment of a business to be successful.
  • network availability - the measure of uptime over a specific time interval.

Chapter 2

We need to establish an accurate timeline of relevant events. And so far, we’re basing everything on hearsay. That doesn’t work for solving crimes, and it definitely doesn’t work for solving outages. -  Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

  • change management - a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization's goals, processes or technologies.
  • database - a collection of information that is organized so that it can be easily accessed, managed and updated.
  • distributed computing - a computing model in which components of a software system are shared among multiple computers in multiple locations. 
  • firmware - programming that's written to a hardware device's nonvolatile memory.
  • network operations center (NOC) - a room containing visualizations of the network or networks that are being monitored, workstations at which the detailed status of the network can be seen, and the necessary software to manage the networks.
  • outsourcing - a business practice in which a company hires a third-party to perform tasks, handle operations or provide services for the company.
  • payroll software - automates the process of paying salaried, hourly and contingent employees.
  • rollback - undoing partly completed database changes when a database transaction is determined to have failed.
  • storage area network (SAN) - a dedicated high-speed network or subnetwork that interconnects and presents shared pools of storage devices to multiple servers.
  • virtualization - technology in which an application, guest operating system (guest OS) or data storage is abstracted away from the true underlying hardware or software.
  • virtual machine (VM) - an operating system (OS) or application environment that is installed on software and imitates dedicated hardware.

Chapter 3

I curse when I see an e-mail from our company PR manager, with a subject of “Bad news. We may be on the front page tomorrow…” I sit on the bed, squinting to read the accompanying news story...Parts Unlimited flubs paychecks, local union leader calls failure ‘unconscionable.’ - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

  • chief information security officer (CISO) - executive responsible for developing and implementing an information security program, which includes procedures and policies designed to protect enterprise communications, systems and assets from both internal and external threats.
  • compliance audit - a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines.
  • data corruption - computer data that has become unusable, unreadable or in some other way inaccessible to a user or application.
  • deployment - encompasses all the processes involved in getting new software or hardware up and running properly in its environment.
  • midrange - computers that are more powerful and capable than personal computers but less powerful and capable than mainframe computers.
  • tokenization - the process of replacing sensitive data with unique identification symbols that retain all the essential information about the data without compromising its security.

Chapter 4

Before, I was merely worried that IT Operations was under attack by Development, Information Security, Audit, and the business. Now,
I’m starting to realize that my primary managers seem to be at war with each other, as well. What will it take for us to all get along? - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

  • blue screen of death (BSOD) -  the informal name given by users to the Windows general protection fault (GPF) error.
  • information security (infosec) - a set of strategies for managing the processes, tools and policies necessary to prevent, detect, document and counter threats to digital and non-digital information.
  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) - a framework designed to standardize the selection, planning, delivery and maintenance of IT services within a business. 
  • network switch - connects devices (such as computers, printers, wireless access points) in a network to each other, and allows them to ‘talk’ by exchanging data packets.
  • offshore outsourcing - the exporting of IT-related work from the United States and other developed countries to areas of the world where there is both political stability and lower labor costs or tax savings.
  • operating system (OS)
  • Patch Tuesday - the unofficial name of Microsoft's scheduled release of the newest security fixes. Currently occurs on the second Tuesday of each month.
  • point-of-sale terminal (POS terminal) - a computerized replacement for a cash register.
  • software patch - generally fall into three distinct categories: bug fixes, security updates and feature updates. 
  • user experience (UX) - the art of planning a product's design so that interactions with the completed product will be as positive as possible. 

Chapter 5

“You just want a list of organizational commitments for our key resources, with a one-liner on what they’re working on and how long it will take. We’ll start with all Phoenix and audit remediation resources first, but will eventually cover the entire IT Operations organization. Do I have it right?” - Patty McKee, Director of IT Service Support

  • financial management system - improves short- and long-term business performance by streamlining invoicing and bill collection, eliminating accounting errors, minimizing record-keeping redundancy, ensuring compliance with tax and accounting regulations.
  • IT audit- determine whether IT controls protect corporate assets, ensure data integrity and are aligned with the business's overall goals.
  • IT controls - a procedure or policy that provides a reasonable assurance that the information technology (IT) used by an organization operates as intended, that data is reliable and that the organization is in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
  • personally identifiable information (PII) - any data that could potentially identify a specific individual. 
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act Section 404 (SOX Section 404) - mandates that all publicly-traded companies must establish internal controls and procedures for financial reporting and must document, test and maintain those controls and procedures to ensure their effectiveness.
  • work in progress (WIP) - inventory that has begun the manufacturing process and is no longer included in raw materials inventory, but is not yet a completed product. 

Chapter 6

"I’ll probably need to have some of my people help organize all of the change cards over the weekend. Frankly, I’m stunned by how many changes there are." - Patty McKee, Director of IT Service Support 

  • change control - a systematic approach to managing all changes made to a product or system.
  • change request - a formal proposal for an alteration to some product or system.
  • version control - processes and tools designed to keep track of multiple different versions of software, content, documents, websites and other information in development.
  • data migration - process of transferring data between data storage systems, data formats or computer systems.
  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) - network management protocol used to dynamically assign an Internet Protocol (IP) address to any device, or node, on a network
  • firewall - software or firmware that prevents unauthorized access to a network.
  • network engineer - technology professional who has the necessary skills to plan, implement and oversee the computer networks that support in-house voice, data, video and wireless network services.
  • preventative maintenance - practices that reduce the risk of failures and improve the likelihood of quick recovery in the event that a failure does occur.
  • quality assurance (QA) - establishes and maintains set requirements for developing or manufacturing reliable products. 

Chapter 7

I think back to my meeting with Wes and Patty. Wes mentioned we have a separate list for IT infrastructure projects and business projects. Are infrastructure projects another type of work? - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

  • bottleneck - point in the enterprise where flow is impaired or stopped entirely.
  • compliance - a state of being in accordance with established guidelines or specifications, or the process of becoming so.
  • deliverable - work that that is due on a specific date.
  • first-in, first-out (FIFO) - an approach to handling program work requests from queues or stacks. The oldest request is handled first.
  • lean manufacturing - methodology that focuses on minimizing waste within manufacturing systems while simultaneously maximizing productivity.
  • Theory of Constraints (TOC) - a philosophy of management and continuous improvement originally developed by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt and introduced in a book called The Goal.
  • The Three Ways - a set of principles that encourages organizations to optimize big-picture workflow, open short feedback loops for quick communication, and create a culture of learning and experimentation.
  • total quality management (TQM) - a management framework based on the belief that an organization can build long-term success by having all its members focus on improving quality and delivering customer satisfaction.

Chapter 8

“One last thing. I just want to point out that we’re tying up two people, as well as myself, running this manual process. It’s very labor intensive. Eventually, we’re going to have to think about some way to automate this." - Patty McKee, Director of IT Service Support 

  • internal audit (IA) - an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine how well it conforms to a set of specific criteria.
  • Java - a widely used programming language expressly designed for use in the distributed environment of the internet.
  • Pareto principle - a theory maintaining that 80 percent of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input. (Also known as the 80/20 rule).
  • throughput - a measure of how many units of information a system can process in a given amount of time.

Chapter 9

If changes are a type of work different than projects, does that mean that we’re actually doing more than just the hundred projects? How
many of these changes are to support one of the hundred projects? If it’s not supporting one of those, should we really be working on it? - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

Chapter 10

Wes, I want a timesheet from Brent every day, and I want every escalation Brent works in the ticketing system. We need that documented so we can analyze it later. Anyone using Brent’s time will need to justify it to me. If it’s not justified, I’ll escalate it to Steve, and that person and his manager will have to explain to Steve why they think their project or task is so important. - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

  • audit log (AL) - a document that records an event in an information (IT) technology system.
  • downsizing - reducing the number of employees on the operating payroll.keylogger - a type of surveillance technology used to monitor and record each keystroke.
  • replenishment - keep inventory flowing through the supply chain by maintaining efficient order and line item fill rates.

Chapter 11

“You want me to get my arms around the changes that are heading to Brent, indicating them on the change cards and maybe even requiring this information on all new cards. And to get back to you when we know how many changes are Brent-bound, what the changes are, and so forth, along with a sense of what the priorities are. Did I get that right?” - Patty McKee, Director of IT Service Support 

Chapter 12

"...Wes just called. Apparently, the Phoenix application started showing the entire world people’s credit card numbers. It’s a
huge security breach, so I’m driving back in right now." - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

Chapter 13

As I’m talking, I realize how liberating it is to state that my team is absolutely at capacity and that there aren’t any calories left over for any new tasks, and people actually believe me. - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

Chapter 14

I think it’s important that we get our guys to drop by the party. In order to succeed, we need to create these relationships with Chris’
team. Even if it’s only for a half hour. I grit my teeth and call Wes. As Spock once said, “Only Nixon could go to China.” And I guess I’m Nixon. - Bill Palmer, VP of IT Operations

Chapter 15

"Being able to take needless work out of the system is more important than being able to put more work into the system. To do that,
you need to know what matters to the achievement of the business objectives, whether it’s projects, operations, strategy, compliance with laws and regulations, security, or whatever." - Erik Reid, Board Member Candidate

Chapter 16

"So what I want from you, Bill, is to stay sufficiently on top of things, so that I don’t have my CFO saying that you’re dragging your feet. The house is burning down, and all I hear from you is about drawing pictures and timelines. What in the hell is wrong with you? You afraid to get people out of bed?” - Steve Masters, CEO

Chapter 18

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

  • sprint (software development)

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

This was last updated in July 2020

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