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Why Treating Your Platform as a Product is Crucial for Digital Transformation

10 Tips for Building Platforms

By Bradley Clerkin

CTO, BreakFree Solutions

Frequently used platforms are at the heart of any organization that has navigated modern digital transformation. These platforms are treated as products that IT and business executives continue to support and invest in. This notion isn’t new for most of today’s IT leaders, and many organizations BreakFree has worked with have attempted to implement some sort of platform solution. However, leadership treating these platforms as products is what determines the success of these initiatives.

If you compare organizations that are treating platforms as products versus organizations that are not at a high level, you will observe the following:

When we encounter clients who are treating platforms as products, our aim is to provide high-impact resources (IT product owners and senior platform engineers, for example) that can help them create even better platforms.

However, based on the table above, if your company appears to have more in common with firms that aren’t treating platforms as products, we recommend the following:

  • Look for a willing IT business partner with aggressive digital transformation objectives that are linked to the creation of new revenue.

  • Create a cross-functional platform product team and find someone who isn’t afraid to learn how to be an IT product owner.

  • Find a way to contribute ongoing funding for the cross-functional platform product team for at least three years. If you can find a company partner with aggressive digital transformation goals who will provide a part of the cash, this may be simpler than you think.

  • Remove roadblocks in the path to cloud for the platform product team. The team’s viability depends on cloud.

  • Create highly measurable goals for near-term success that are based on platform usage and impact by working with the cross-functional IT platform product team and their product owner. OKRs are one of the best tools for this, but there are other methods to achieve it as well.

Set the following ground rules for the team to help achieve desirable results:

  • The team must be in command of its own quality, architecture, operations, and security.

  • Treat all input as error. This is a Tesla design approach that we think is profound in IT platforms. If the consumers of your platform need to input information to get access, then we should build software that no longer requires that input. Check out our blog that elaborates on this paradigm here: “All User Input is Error”. 

  • The team needs to be eating their own dog food. In other words, they must be using their products or services like Agile and DevOps. This is how you accomplish ground rule #1).

  • Focus on the concept of minimally viable. Cloud enables you to build great minimally viable features.

  • To assist, train, and pair the team, seek out a partner like BreakFree. We’ll lead them through it.

If you go down the path towards treating IT platforms as products, then your platform product team will be viewed as rock stars for their contribution to digital transformation. IT leaders should be prepared to rinse and repeat this process, and more importantly, advocate for increased funding. Once you’ve developed a working product, you want to increase exposure and return, which will require more investment in today’s digital world.

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