I'm currently on my annual re-read of The Phoenix Project and we're going through the different types of work that an Ops Team face. These are:

  • Project Work
  • Changes
  • Internal Projects
  • Unplanned Work

This time around I'm not convinced that these types apply directly to development teams (as opposed to Ops work).

We obviously have Project Work (pretty much everything in our backlogs). Unplanned Work is a no-brainer for anyone who's ever supported an incident...

But do we have an equivalent of "Changes" or "Internal Projects"? Internal Projects kind of correlates to Tech Debt...

Have the authors of The Phoenix Project (or other highly regarded figure in the DevOps community) compared the different types of work a development team may face and commented on whether it is different?

  • I've read "The Phoenix Project" (but perhaps I should endeavor to re-read it annually...) what is the difference between "Project Work" and "Internal Projects"? Jul 9, 2021 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


Nice question!

Possibly, Changes are further strategic product development beyond current work which is more than required by technical debt? For example, introducing a new framework, or nice abstraction layer. (which could break a lot though)

Internal projects could be custom helper tools to automate something invisible in the backlog. Sometimes you have also to fill in time sheets.

By the way Unplanned work could be also a request to support sales or HR or some unexpected meeting or all hands social skills training event.

There is anyway a sequel to "Phoenix Project" called "Unicorn Project" by same author, focusing on the Dev part of the equation.

I haven't read it myself yet but hope you might find the answer there.


I would say that changes come in order once your project work is done. You build it, you maintain it. In this phase, changes can be requested for small features, compliance or regulatory reasons for example.

Edit: misread dev team for devops team, made changes accordingly.

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