Human DevOps

Friday 24th March 2023 - AIs, LLMs and the Phoenix Project

Published about 1 year ago • 2 min read

Hello and welcome to another weekend!

As we continue to ride the AI hype train - I give you three things to think about this week. Firstly, AI is a massive industry all of a sudden. It's sucking in all the talent in a global gold rush. This is explored in the article Risk of Industrial Capture Looms over AI Revolution

"The MIT research found that almost 70 per cent of AI PhDs went to work for companies in 2020, compared to 21 per cent in 2004. Similarly, there was an eightfold increase in faculty being hired into AI companies since 2006, far faster than the overall increase in computer science research faculty. "Many of the researchers we spoke to had abandoned certain research trajectories because they feel they cannot compete with industry"

It's the next big tech hype cycle. If your career might depend upon it, here is some advice from Paul Graham:

If you're an ambitious engineering student and you're wondering what to work on to advance your career, you're asking the wrong question. Work on whatever you're most excited about; if you're ambitious, your excitement will outweigh the hotness of the field you choose.

Secondly, the gold rush will mean a corresponding increase in noise across all media. Not just new applications and software but how it is represented and promoted - images, sounds, writing. Anything digital will be pattern matched and iterated upon using Large Language Models. It will become even more important to differentiate your technology business using positioning. Market position through differentiating your offer - using the AI tools to deliver more quickly and efficiently, but not using the tools to decide what you need to build. Use them to help with what you build.

​Thirdly, it's worth thinking hard before integrating that ChatGPT API into your software. While it might seem tempting to offer "AI' assistance to make the experience better for your customers, remember that could mean handing over customer training data to those running the AI. LLMs need data. It's datasets that the big AI companies are after. Ask yourself - is the addition of some smartness worth the cost of potentially undermining your own business by providing customer information directly to big tech?

This third item in particular, will only come under more scrutiny in the coming months. Thanks to this tweet for bringing this issue so succinctly to my attention.


I completed the Phoenix Project this week and it's a wonderful book. Read it, learn it, live with it in your business. I'm going to use it as one of the cornerstones of my course "Beating the Monolith: Understanding Modern Software Delivery" Although now I feel that "Software Delivery" is too narrow. As with the Phoenix Project, IT delivery for your business (of which software delivery is a growing part) is the whole shooting match. Software in itself cannot be delivered in isolation.

The Phoenix Project shows us how to be successful in a modern business - it must fully embrace IT and be honest about what type of a business it truly is.

Have a great weekend!

-- Richard

Learning to Live With The Phoenix Project

Published on March 23, 2023

Having devoured the Unicorn Project first, I took my time and savoured the Phoenix Project. There is so much clever detail hidden in the conversations between particularly Bill and Patty. It pays dividends to analyse it closely. What it shows us clearly is how is easy to get overwhelmed by work in progress (WIP). Reading… Read More »Learning to Live With The Phoenix Project


Human DevOps

by Richard Bown

DevOps at is the heart of modern software systems. In my regular newsletter, I dive into the human factors that make successful engineering organizations where teams and platforms thrive at the heart of your socio-technical systems. From leadership to team setup, maximizing performance, tools and techniques.

Read more from Human DevOps

I'm sitting on the sidelines watching another big digital transformation roll into town. Those who have tried this before before know that big digital transformations don't work, so we're better not calling them that. Instead, these days we talk about cultural change. Realistically though this means the same thing. How can you recognise one happening in your firm? Well, suddenly there are a lot of meetings, and workshops looking backwards and training looking forwards. Some people might call...

about 19 hours ago • 1 min read

Software development is mentally and emotionally challenging work. Studies reveal that around 50% of developer time is spent on maintenance or wasted in workplace inefficiency. How can we, as individuals, enjoy our work and stay productive and healthy while positively influencing efficiency, quality and customer value? This question has bothered me throughout my career, and I'm finally on a path to finding some practical answers. As I delve into this topic, I'm struck by the profound...

8 days ago • 1 min read

Sometimes you need to give a little to get a little. Sometimes you need to ask a lot more from your employer than you might think is fair. But what's the alternative? Staying in a job just because you are scared of what's next? Staying in a job that is making you miserable? While we might fear our jobs will be taken over by AI, or we'll be left behind, or we'll never get enough experience to be taken seriously, just remember, everyone else is doubting as much as you are. Keep balanced, keep...

15 days ago • 1 min read
Share this post