Better developer platforms are the key to better digital products


In fact, developer platforms require a product focus. But this should mean a commitment to understanding the context of development work and an acknowledgment of how that context (both technical and organizational) will change and evolve over time. On a broader scale, this requires sensitivity to the work developers do and the role they play within an organization: ultimately, it is impossible to develop an effective developer platform while maintaining the view that technical teams are little rather than a resource that builds and executes code. demand

Alignment of developer context with business goals

But what does it really look like to be responsive to the work of developers? What does it entail?

On some level, it requires you to remove any assumptions about what developers might need or how they might like to work. We need to start from the ground up and understand collaboration, tools, processes, skills and culture.

At Thoughtworks we advocate a technique we call Production Roadmaps. While this is a simple idea, where teams will literally get together and map out all the steps needed to make a change and then push it to production, we rarely see customers do this, leaving issues and uncovered and unresolved developer inefficiencies. Also for teams, it helps ensure there is a shared understanding of how things are done. Ultimately, it forces everyone, at various levels, to commit to figuring out what developers actually do and what they need to accelerate speed to value. This is a valuable foundation for any future development of the platform.

On another level, we also need to articulate and recognize the broader goals and drivers of the organization. In other words, where do development teams add value? And how they can add value faster?

This will vary greatly depending on the type of organization. It is for this reason that a preconceived idea of ​​what a platform should be (that is, what features it should have) can be risky. It would be great to be able to list examples of exemplary developer platforms (Spotify’s Backstage is rightly often held up here), but the problem is that there is no example. A perfect developer platform in one context is an inflexible anti-pattern in another. Basically, a good platform implements guardrails that allow developers to focus on what they do best: writing and shipping code. It should reduce the cognitive load on the team, minimizing the risk of error and maximizing the time developers can spend on value-added work.

The needs of software developers and the business demands of an organization are best managed or mediated by the product owner. This is a role that is often overlooked. Not a business analyst, nor strictly a development role, the Product Owner is an essential person in ensuring that developers are empowered and also provide value to the overall organization.

Internal marketing

However, it is important that feature requirement capture is not considered the full extent of platform work as a product. Attention to detail matters, but we need to pay attention to more than just the nuts and bolts of the platform: we need to make sure the value of those nuts and bolts can be realized. This can only be done with a consistent and sustained internal communication and marketing strategy.



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