Experience the journey to DevOps maturity in: The Unicorn Project

The Unicorn Project is a fictional story of Parts Unlimited, a large car parts manufacturing business that defies the trend of organisations being digitally disrupted into insignificance. They come close to collapse, but manage to make the DevOps transformation journey to maturity - becoming a disruptor themselves.

I aspire to be part of a development shop that is considered at the top of the game. Now that I’ve finished the book, I want to share a few of my take-aways.

The Software Engineering DevOps Story

It’s a sister book to The Phoenix Project, which focuses more on transforming Operations, whereas The Unicorn Project focuses more on software engineers / developers.

The story makes DevOps more understandable. It becomes clearer why it’s needed and what kinds of things need to be done to achieve maturity.

When it comes to specifics on the techniques and practices, The DevOps Handbook is much more prescriptive.

Big Slow Enterprise Context

If you have little experience with big, slow enterprise technology shops, this book can provide the necessary context. It gives historical reasons for why things are that way. It can instill healthy fear of letting an organisation go back to those old ways of doing things.

For this reason, I recommend this to any junior level engineer starting out in an enterprise organisation.

Vision for Seniors and Leadership

Given the DevOps movement’s claims are backed by research showing what it takes to be a high performer, it’s almost a no-brainer to follow these recommendations.

The book has inspired me to investigate functional programming further - not just in terms of functional languages and features, but the overarching philosophies and principles at play.

It also does a great job of showcasing the softer, cultural parts of the DevOps transformation journey. What a blaming vs blameless culture is like.

The Five Ideals

If you want the TL;DR, the book boils the lessons down to five ‘ideals’:

  • The First Ideal is Locality and Simplicity
  • The Second Ideal is Focus, Flow, and Joy
  • The Third Ideal is Improvement of Daily Work
  • The Fourth Ideal is Psychological Safety
  • The Fifth Ideal is Customer Focus

…but I’ll leave you to research what those mean. Muahaha.

These ideals are laid out reasonably early, and repeated many times in the story. Trust me, the book is enjoyable.

Succeeding With Data

A significant part of the story is about easy access to data can drive success. They architect a solution that enables data-based innovation.

They do pay particular attention to privacy and security of the data.

Engineering Career Aspirations

The story’s hero, Maxine, is an experienced developer with a can-do/growth-mindset who can work with the business. She’s got coding chops, but the book doesn’t make her out to be a super-human/mythical 10x developer. She’s very much about learning along the way, and focused on building collaborative teams.

She becomes instrumental in helping lead a ‘rebellion’, or an inside-out transformation of the Parts Unlimited organisation.

In one case, she brings testers and developers together, and almost drops the distinction entirely.

The book paints a picture of an interesting and fulfilling career, where developers can individually climb high on the organisational/career ladder, without necessarily needing to manage people.


I actually listened to The Unicorn Project using Audible. Not only was it convenient listening on my evening bike rides, whilst hanging out the washing, or doing the dishes, but I believe it also helped me keep better track of the story. I found it difficult to keep track of who was who in The Phoenix Project.

I’m no book reviewer, but given that I was engaged the whole time, I got a lot out of it, and see the application to medium/large organisations - five stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Buy the book, get free samples, and more at itrevolution.com

Next up on my list: Accelerate