Better developer platform is the key to better digital products

A real developer platform requires a product approach. But this means a commitment to capture the context of development work and recognize how that context (both technical and organizational) will change and evolve over time. On a broader scale, this requires sensitivity to the work that developers do and their role within an organization: it is ultimately impossible to develop an effective developer platform while still holds the view that engineering teams are nothing more than a resource for building and running the required code.

Align developer context with commercial goals

But what does being sensitive to work really look like as developers? What is it related to?

On one level, it requires you to make any assumptions about what developers might need or how they might want to work. We need to start from scratch and understand collaboration, tools, processes, skills, and culture.

At Thoughtworks, we advocate a technique we call map the path to production. While this is a simple idea – where teams would literally get together and map out all the steps needed to make a change and then put it into production – we rarely seeing customers do it, leaving developer inefficiencies and bottlenecks discovered and unresolved. The same goes for teams, it helps to ensure there is a common understanding of how things are done. Ultimately, it forces people, on many levels, to commit to figuring out what developers really do and what they need to accelerate the rate at which value is achieved. This is a valuable foundation for any future platform development.

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

This will vary widely depending on the type of organization. It is for this reason that a preconceived idea of ​​what a platform should be (i.e. what features it must have) can be at risk. It would be nice to be able to list examples of exemplary developer platforms — Spotify’s Backstage actually, often mentioned here — but the point is no role model. A perfect developer platform in one context is an inflexible antimatter in another. Essentially, a good platform that implements railings allows developers to focus on what they do best: writing and shipping code. It will decrease group cognitive loadminimize the risk of errors and maximize the time developers can spend on value-adding work.

The needs of software developers and the commercial needs of an organization are best managed or mediated by the product owner. This is an often overlooked role. Neither a business analyst, nor a person in a strict development role, the product owner is essential in ensuring that developers are empowered and that they are delivering value as well. value for the larger organization.

Internal marketing

It is important, however, that capturing feature requirements is not considered the entire job of the platform as the product. Attention to detail matters, but we need to pay attention to more than just the nuts and bolts of the base: we need to make sure that the value of those nuts and bolts can be discerned. . That can only be done with a consistent and sustainable internal marketing and communication strategy.

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