To provide world-class developer experiences and get applications to production quickly and securely, you need a team of experts devoted to running your platform as a product. For organizations that build and publish software at scale, developing the tech stack on which developers will create applications and push them to production is often the main focus. However, organizations may face tech debt, management, and observability issues without a team to support the tools and technology developers require.
In a recent webinar delivered on the topic, Haydon Ryan, specialist solution lead at VMware, spoke on the need for dedicated platform teams in software development organizations. Developing a modern application platform team requires time, talent, and budget to provide exponential value for your organization when done well.
According to Ryan, "A successful, modern application platform team allows developers and stakeholders to experiment and solve business-critical problems faster, in more innovative ways without sacrificing reliability or adding extra staff. And this, in turn, creates client value.” The ultimate application platform elevates the developer experience and makes app deployments frictionless. Yet, business capabilities and outcomes are not solely tied to technology or the tools used in this process. At the end of the day, people inside an organization need to focus as much as possible on creating business value. Therefore, attention must be given to the people who support this toolset.
The platform team is integral to a DevSecOps practice. Not only do they build and run the platform developers use to create new applications that drive business revenue, but they are also conduits between your dev team, IT operations team, and security team. Additionally, the platform team provides a route for business leaders, security personnel, and the rest of the organization to communicate business needs and meet business challenges. These integral members of your organization will bring a variety of skills and abilities to their roles on the team.
Traits of a successful platform team
Knowing what to look for when hiring for your platform team will help build a group that melds the best combination of business, technical, and people skills. Ryan points out three main focus areas for organizations when building a platform team. These are a willingness to learn, a data-focused mindset, and an ability to adapt to change. Platform team members should leave politics and personalities at the door and focus on data-driven decision-making to continuously improve the platform. Being comfortable with change is integral to the culture of a platform team. Ryan notes that "There are a lot of different applications that are across different layers that are all moving. Some are modernized, some are end of life. The platform team needs to be confident with that; needs to be able to understand those needs as they change; needs to be able to change their practices and their processes to better suit the change as more application teams come onto that platform. Again, change is constant."
Platform operators should approach the platform with a product mindset, endeavoring to alleviate the frustrations of their end users and provide an elevated developer experience. In order to provide developers with the tools and capabilities they need to do their best work, platform teams should be looking at things like automation, developer self-service portals, and third-party integrations. Approaching the platform with a product mindset will help platform operators create a roadmap for the platform and decide what elements are necessary to produce a product that their end users love to engage with. Involving developers in this process through feedback loops can help build trust and enhance communication between the teams.
Communication is key
Above all, platform teams should have excellent communication skills. Good communication is necessary to ensure that developers, IT ops, and business units such as HR, marketing, and finance understand the platform and can help to champion it. Your platform team will first need to talk with various stakeholders to understand their needs through user-centric design. Once they have been able to absorb and distill this information, they will then create a product to be consumed by as many of these stakeholder areas as possible. The platform team will also need to demonstrate how the platform brings value to stakeholders to justify platform changes, funding, and staffing needs.
Finally, investing in outside mentors and services to help you build and grow your platform and platform team can be helpful. Ryan closes with this: "Pick outside services that can help you do this transformational work, that can help you build an application platform, and you'll find that this goes a lot easier. They can point out things that, due to political issues, you may not be able to realize, or you may not be able to overcome within your organization. They can build best practices around the holistic stack from culture, methodology, tools, and product. And they can help accelerate the speed that it takes you to get from the start, to day one, all the way through … operating at a massive scale with massive numbers of applications and a small platform team."
For more information, check out the replay of this webinar, Creating a Platform Team to Support a Modern Application Platform. For more information on how VMware Tanzu Labs helps organizations like yours build great teams, visit us at tanzu.vmware.com/labs or book a free appointment with Tanzu Labs Virtual Office Hours to get help crafting a plan to build your own platform team.
About the AuthorMore Content by Colleen Green