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The Successful Platform is a Product

“A platform isn’t always planned. It can be an engineering reaction to an organisational constraint.”

I gave a talk this week in Amsterdam about how the inescapable gravity of Conway’s Law means that your organisation will eventually constrain your most valuable assets, your platform teams.

In this talk, I emphasised how platform teams are inevitable and essential to your DevOps organisation. Sometimes, rather than being planned, platform teams form naturally and yet we don’t always recognise them as such. They often start because of well-intentioned thoughts from leadership or from ‘Agile anti-patterns’. Ad-hoc platform teams, without proper management and nurturing, can become seen as the weakest link even though, in reality, core platform teams are often staffed with the best engineers with the most product-oriented mindsets.

I also explored how platform teams come to be seen by the organisation (using DevOps Topologies examples) and how they can better define their role through a Team API definition and ensure they adopt a product mindset.

Further, I discussed how the organisational and environmental constraints applied by Conway’s Law can inform our platforms as products. By analysing operational workloads, our platform teams can learn about what they need to do and find internal product opportunities which will further our external product opportunities.

Product thinking doesn’t always come easy to engineers when they are under pressure to deliver and support other teams and have no fixed mandate. Internal platforms can be more effectively productized by reducing the scope of these teams, easing cognitive load and enabling time for more creative thought.

I concluded that by recognising how crucial platforms are to the engineering posture of your company, you can not only improve your overall product quality and speed and look for more opportunities to align your organisation with the customer’s perception of your product.

The slides from the talk are available here.

The One Script Your Wrote is Now a Platform – Richard Bown, DevOops Meetup – Amsterdam 22 November 2023