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DevOps / Platform Engineering

Platform Engineering, Yes/No? A Guide to Making the Call

Before adopting platform engineering, companies should consider if it's the right fit for where they are in their software development journey.
Oct 9th, 2023 6:27am by
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This is the seventh post in the series “The Journey to Platform Engineering” by Facets Cloud. 

The hype around platform engineering is hard to ignore, and for good reason. Platform engineering is getting a lot of attention because it helps businesses move faster, makes tasks easier for developers and ensures consistency across teams. It sounds like a perfect tech solution for many companies.

However, it’s essential to understand that platform engineering might not be right for everyone. Before adopting it, companies should consider if it’s the right fit for where they are in their software development journey. Not every project or company is ready to benefit from platform engineering. So it’s crucial to think about whether it’s the right move for you before diving in.

Who Should Opt Out of Platform Engineering?

Startups in the Product-Market Fit Phase: Prioritize Simplicity

In the critical phase of seeking product-market fit, startups need agility but not necessarily the kind delivered by platform engineering. When the focus is on rapid prototyping and iteration, elaborate platform engineering setups may prove to be more of a hindrance than a help. At this stage, simpler and more cost-effective application delivery solutions, and even no-code prototyping solutions, often suffice.

Enterprise Users of Off-the-Shelf Software: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Enterprises typically operate a complex blend of legacy systems, packaged software and custom solutions. If your enterprise relies heavily on third-party software like ERP systems, guidelines for deployment and management are generally provided by the vendor. Introducing platform engineering into this mix can be like opening Pandora’s box — it adds a layer of complexity and costs that may be entirely unnecessary.

Stuck in Time: The Case of Stagnated Products

Some companies maintain mature products that require minimal updates. Additional speed and agility in this context would be like fitting a race car engine into a horse carriage — interesting but futile. Companies with mature, rarely updated products may find little value in platform engineering. If your release cycle is slow and your product is not evolving, additional agility is not beneficial.

The Waterfall Holdouts: Agility Not Required

Businesses that still adhere to the waterfall model of software development. If a phased, noniterative approach has always worked for you, the agile, iterative cycles of platform engineering might feel like trying to mix oil with water. If you’ve been successfully operating this way, the benefits of platform engineering may not align with your needs.

Companies That Should Be All Ears

Racing Ahead: The Case for Tech-Intensive Companies

In sectors like consumer products, gaming or SaaS, release velocity is a competitive advantage. Being the first to market with a groundbreaking feature can significantly elevate a company’s standing, attracting more users and boosting revenue. Platform engineering enables this by streamlining the development process, making it quicker and more efficient to deploy new features and services. This speed is a significant competitive advantage, one that can make or break success in these fast-moving sectors. Platform engineering here is not a luxury; it’s a competitive imperative.

Nonfunctional Requirements at Scale: The SaaS Scenario

When you’re a SaaS company, nonfunctional requirements like cost of service (cloud), security and compliance are also your currencies. If not done correctly, audit overloads in a growing SaaS company can drown you once you move cross region, cross cloud or up market. Platform engineering streamlines the above along with the deployment of tailored environments, translating to happier clients and increased revenue. Simply put, speed of features and efficiency of operations are health indicators, and platform engineering delivers both.

One Rulebook for All: The Drive for Standardization in Enterprises

Large organizations often wrestle with the hydra of inconsistency across various tech teams. Organizations with a large portfolio of products and services often have to train different teams on different practices, since each team works in silos and follows their own set of practices. A centralized platform can provide a unified set of guidelines and frameworks, ensuring that all teams, regardless of their location or specific focus, are aligned in their development practices.

Closing the Talent Gap

Hiring specialized cloud architects is a tall order for many companies. But what if your developers could handle cloud engineering end to end? Companies that find it hard to attract specialized architects or retain such talent can empower their existing development teams to take on these responsibilities. Platform engineering by standardizing and simplifying complex cloud architecture tasks and automating repetitive tasks empowers existing developers to easily handle cloud-related tasks. This not only alleviates the hiring burden but also creates a more versatile, agile and accountable tech team.

The Roadmap Backlog: Speeding Up Cloud Modernization

If previous efforts to modernize feel like a never-ending spiral because of complexities, platform engineering could offer the escape velocity you need to break free. Platform engineering offers a set of standardized tools and frameworks for deploying and managing cloud resources. This standardization removes the guesswork and enables teams to focus on implementing features rather than worrying about the nuances of cloud infrastructure. It speeds up the process of migrating existing systems to modern cloud platforms.

Full-Spectrum Developer Autonomy

The new-age developer wants more than just to code; they want to own the entire life cycle of their work. Platform engineering often involves creating portals and dashboards where developers can deploy, monitor and manage applications themselves. This hands-on control allows them to make real-time adjustments without waiting for operational approval, enhancing their independence. Platform engineering promotes the use of decoupled architectures and microservices. This allows developers to work on discrete, manageable pieces of an application, empowering them to make decisions at the micro level without affecting the entire system, thereby encouraging a sense of ownership and control. In essence, it turns developers into fully empowered craftsmen of the digital age.

Lean but Mean: Efficiency for Small Ops Teams

Lean operations teams are often manage complex infrastructure with limited resources. Platform engineering can be the catalyst that enables these teams to perform at an optimal level, regardless of size. It enables self-service portals where developers can manage their deployments. Platform engineering reduces the dependency on Ops teams for day-to-day tasks. This frees up time for the Ops teams to work on more strategic projects. The benefits of platform engineering — automation, standardization, self-service and more — combine to allow even small teams to punch well above their weight.

A Gut-Check Before You Dive into Platform Engineering

In the tech world, adopting new paradigms often feels like a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. This is particularly true for platform engineering, a practice that offers the allure of speed, efficiency and standardization. But don’t rush to join the bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it. Wisdom lies in discernment; it’s essential to assess whether platform engineering is indeed the missing puzzle piece for your organization. Not every company needs a race-car engine; some just need a reliable set of wheels.

When it comes to adoption, alignment is key. Do your company’s objectives, current technology stack and the skill sets of your team line up with the transformative promises of platform engineering? If so, it could act as a powerful tailwind, propelling your projects and goals forward at an accelerated pace. But if implementing such a platform doesn’t make sense for your company at this time, perhaps your resources are better invested in optimizing existing processes or increasing the skills of your team. In either scenario, the critical factor is a clear understanding of your unique needs and constraints, which serves as the cornerstone for making informed tech-strategy decisions.

This is part of a series on platform engineering. Read the entire series:

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Shelf, Pragma, Simply.
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