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Book Summary – The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations

Technology affects every organization regardless of its size or industry. How well we manage our technology can mean the difference between simply surviving and thriving as an organization. In this book, authors Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, and John Willis provide a step-by-step guide to help IT professionals and business leaders to understand (i) what DevOps is all about, and (ii) how it can deliver quality, secure, and reliable tech solutions for internal/external clients at a fraction of the time and cost. In this free summary of The DevOps Handbook, you’ll get an overview of DevOps and how to implement DevOps transformations in your organization.

Overview of The DevOps Handbook

Any software/application launch or update involves several parties including: Product Owner(s), IT Development (Dev), Quality Assurance (QA), Information Security (InfoSec), and IT Operations (Ops). In many organizations, these IT professionals work in silos, necessitating multiple handovers and long wait times. Each code/software update can take months and often involve delays, outages, and drama.

Traditional IT Setup vs DevOps Setup

Traditionally, code is developed by Dev, then checked by QA and InfoSec, before being pushed “live” by Ops onto a production environment where end-users can see and use the solution. Dev may not know how their code will behave in the production environment until it’s released. Or, they may get inputs from QA and InfoSec when it’s too late to make major changes. This results in delays or major disruptions when defective code is deployed, e.g. entire finance systems or point-of-sale systems may break down.

Each time this happens, people must drop their work to put out fires. Last-minute code fixes and workarounds may also lead to additional code breakages and complications. Over time, a huge “technical debt” builds up. The IT team gets so overwhelmed fighting daily fires that they have no time/energy to fix defects at the root or improve the system/processes.

These come at a huge cost to the organization, customers and the economy. Failures in databases, ecommerce or payment software mean massive losses in revenue, goodwill, rectification work, and opportunity costs. IT staff must work ever-longer hours and feel powerless to change things. In 2011, IDC and Gartner estimated that about $3.1 trillion of global GDP was spent on IT. We can create enormous value just by redirect a fraction of the wastage to productive use.

The DevOps Handbook - Improving the Technology Value Stream

DevOps = Dev + Ops

DevOps provides a solution to the problems above by combining the best practices in several domains, and unifying all parties’ efforts. High-performing organizations that adopt DevOps practices are now deploying code changes within minutes/hours to deploy hundreds/thousands of updates daily. This gives them a significant advantage over companies that need weeks or months to deploy a single change.

In a previous book, The Phoenix Project, the authors introduced the concepts and principles of DevOps. This book provides a detailed guide of how organizations can create their own DevOps transformation, to deliver quality, secure, and reliable technology solutions for internal/external clients, with just a fraction of the time and cost.

DevOps Theories, Concepts, and Principles

DevOps practices/principles come from a combination of many concepts/models such as: Lean, Theory of Constraints, Agile software development, resilience engineering, and learning organizations.  In our full, 21-page version of The DevOps Handbook summary, we’ll cover each of these terms/concepts in greater detail: Lean manufacturing, value stream, technology value stream, deployment lead time, process time, and percent complete and accurate (%C/A).

For now, let’s move on to understand the core DevOps principles and practices, which can be summarized as the “Three Ways”.

Overview of The Three Ways

The authors break down each of the Three Ways into a set of principles and detailed technical practices to help you understand and apply DevOps in your organization. In a nutshell:

The DevOps Handbook summary - The Three Ways


The goal is to accelerate the flow of work throughout the tech value stream from Dev → Ops → Customer. This improves both (i) the lead time and (ii) quality and reliability of services.

There are several principles for accelerating flow: using visual tools (e.g. Kanban boards) to make work visible and detect/resolve bottlenecks, limit work-in-process (WIP), reduce batch sizes, reduce the number of handoffs, and remove bottlenecks and waste.

These principles can in turn be achieved by combining several technical practices, including:
• Continuous delivery and deployment pipelines;
• Automated testing & continuous integration;
• Simplifying deployments and releases; and
• Rearchitecting to reduce overall system risks

The technical practices above jointly makes it possible for code to be constantly tested and deployed safely into production, instead of having to wait for weeks or months to complete, test and deploy the codes.  In our complete version of the The DevOps Handbook summary, we dive into technical details like how to generate production-like environments on-demand, use automated tests to validate that every piece of completed work is deployable (rather than test/validate work only at the end of a project), how to create/use a shared version control repository, get developers to work in parallel then continually integrate small batches of work into the “main trunk”, etc.


In complex systems, components are so closely interlinked that it’s hard to isolate one component from another. The goal here is to accelerate two-way information flow at every stage of the value stream, so as to (i) detect and fix problems before they escalate into major failures, and (ii) prevent them from recurring. Such feedback and feedforward loops can make complex systems more robust and secure.

There are several principles for accelerating feedback: See problems as they happen, “swarm” and contain problems early, get everyone in the value stream take ownership for the quality and safety of their work, and build quality into every step of your process by optimizing for downstream work centers.

These principles can be achieved with 2 key sets of technical practices:
• The use of production telemetry and statistical tools; and
• The use of ongoing feedback and experimentation

The idea is to automatically measure and transmit data about your applications’ performance and how far you’re achieving organizational goals. This requires that you develop tests before writing the code, log system-wide data at the right levels, analyze and visualize data to identify outliers or anomalous behaviors, and integrate feedback and experimentation into all stages of the value stream.

THE THIRD WAY: Continual Learning and Experimentation

The goal is to learn as quickly and cheaply as possible from failures, capture knowledge from internal and external sources, then multiply them by ensuring local discoveries are translated into organization-wide learning.

There are several principles for accelerating learning: to build a culture that supports continuous improvement, reserve time for organizational improvements, translate local discoveries into global learning, and redefine the role of leadership (to empower people for problem-solving, instead of providing all the answers).

These principles can be achieved with several technical practices:
• Cultivate the right culture where people see themselves as lifelong learners, feel safe to experiment and take risks in their daily work, and discuss/learn from failures (e.g. having blameless post-mortems, and simulating failures to build resilience).
• Facilitate organization-wide learning, e.g. using chatrooms/chatbots to facilitate comms/learning, capturing processes and policies in code for easy implementation, etc.
• Devote time for organizational learning/improvement and to clear technical debt; and
• Facilitate shared learning (e.g. internal coaching, mentoring, and peer training).

Integrate InfoSec into All Parts of the Value Stream

By using the principles and practices from The Three Ways, it’s possible to complete a tech value stream in minutes or hours, instead of weeks or months. However, this cannot be done by Dev and Ops alone. You must integrate InfoSec, compliance and change management into all parts of the deployment pipeline to improve efficiency, reduce conflict, and protect/strengthen your systems.

In our full summary bundle, we further expand on how you can (i) make InfoSec a part of daily DevOps work, and  (ii) protect the deployment pipeline by integrating InfoSec into change management processes.

How to Start Your DevOps Transformation

DevOps transformations take time, manpower and resources, and you may only have 1 real shot at it. Generally, it’s also harder to transform existing software (with existing code, teams, and processes) than to build new software from scratch.

So it’s crucial to start with the right value stream that allows you to learn and build momentum, without risking the entire business or organization.  From there, you can create a dedicated transformation team, map out the value stream, define shared goals, use the right organization structure and service architecture to achieve those goals,  and integrate Ops into Dev’s daily work.  Do check out our full version of The DevOps Handbook summary for a detailed breakdown of each step involved.

Getting the Most from “The DevOps Handbook”

In a fast-changing, competitive world, DevOps provides companies with a solution to maximize productivity, innovation, and learning. It changes an organization’s cultural norms and operational flow to improve the quality, reliability, and security of products/services for customers. If you’re ready to improve your organization’s technological flow and setup, do check out our full book summary bundle that includes an infographic, 21-page text summary, and a 40-minute audio summary.
The DevOps Handbook summary - book summary bundle

This is a voluminous book packed with case studies ranging from LinkedIn to Netflix, Target, Google, eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and more. You can purchase the book here or visit for more details and resources.

You may also enjoy The Phoenix Project summary (which is like a prequel to this book) or use the insights from The Digital Transformation Playbook to rethink your organization’s digital strategy!

About the Authors of The DevOps Handbook

The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations was written by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, and John Willis.

Gene Kim is a multiple award-winning CTO, researcher and author. He was founder and CTO of Tripwire (which has been adopted by >5,500 enterprises worldwide) for 13 years, and has written 6 books. Since 2014, he has been the founder of IT Revolution and the organizer of the DevOps Enterprise Summit.

Jez Humble is the co-author of Lean Enterprise and the Jolt Award-winning Continuous Delivery. He works at 18F, teaches at UC Berkeley, and is CTO and cofounder of DevOps Research and Assessment, LLC.

Patrick Debois is an independent IT consultant who is bridging the gap between projects and operations by using Agile techniques, in development, project management, and system administration.

John Willis has worked in the IT management industry for more than 35 years. He has authored 6 IBM Redbooks and was the founder and chief architect at Chain Bridge Systems. Currently he is an Evangelist at Docker, Inc.

The DevOps Handbook Quotes

“Now more than ever, how technology work is managed and performed predicts whether our organizations will win in the marketplace, or even survive.”

“When IT fails, the entire organization fails.”

“The challenge is how to keep migrating from the architecture we have to the architecture we need.”

“Greatness is not achieved by leaders making all the right decisions—instead, the leader’s role is to create the conditions so their team can discover greatness in their daily work.”

“DevOps is not just a technology imperative, but also an organizational imperative.”

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