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After years of talking about digital transformation, we’re moving into what IDC has termed the digital business era. Companies have deployed, refactored, developed, and migrated their applications, services, and infrastructure. While there is still more to be done, they know that simply being digital is no longer a competitive differentiator. 

Enterprises recognize that as the cost of innovative technologies continues to drop, simply acquiring those tools doesn’t matter. The growth of platforms like ServiceNow, used by 85% of Fortune 500 companies, means that your competitors use the same easy-to-use solutions. Value and a competitive edge come from how those tools are deployed. 

Supporting Sustainable Growth

From a development perspective, getting an app into production and out to customers isn’t special; everyone is doing it. What will support continued, sustainable growth is being able to do it quickly, as efficiently as possible, without compromising security and compliance. 

As such, businesses are looking for ways to accelerate application delivery and shorten the time to value. 

One approach that’s increasingly attracting interest is platform engineering. Gartner attributes platform engineering’s growing popularity to “its promise to optimize the developer experience and accelerate product teams’ delivery of customer value.”

Discover how to deliver better software and systems in rapidly scaling environments.

Discover how to deliver better software and systems in rapidly scaling environments.

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The Rise of Platform Engineering

Platform Engineering is proving so popular that analysts predict 80% of large software engineering organizations will establish platform engineering teams by 2026. It’s no surprise the practice is quickly gaining ground, thanks to its promises, including:

  • Greater levels of developer productivity mean developers can focus more on writing code and less on patching together delivery pipelines.
  • Improved security and compliance, with guardrails providing a framework for developers to experiment safely.
  • Faster time to value, ensuring an acceleration of product team delivery, getting apps and services into the hands of customers quickly.

At a time when labor shortages continue to present a real risk to technology teams, improving developer productivity, enhancing security, and, most importantly, realizing value faster has huge potential. No more stretched teams struggling to meet the demands of the business; no more falling behind competitors that can meet customer expectations for digital experiences faster and more efficiently. 

Avoiding Pitfalls

Of course, no opportunity is without its pitfalls. Platform engineering may have immense potential benefits, but only when it is deployed appropriately. Enterprises looking to implement this methodology will need to overcome:

  • Lack of organizational buy-in: Like implementing DevOps, platform engineering initiatives require support and buy-in from various stakeholders, including leadership, development teams, and other business units. Failure to secure this buy-in can lead to resistance, lack of adoption, and, ultimately, the failure of the platform engineering efforts. 
  • Ignoring developer experience: One of the core principles of platform engineering is to improve the developer experience. However, if the platforms and tools created are overly complex, poorly documented, or do not align with developers' needs, they will face resistance and low adoption rates.
  • Overthinking it: While platform engineering aims to abstract away complexity, it's possible to over-engineer solutions, leading to unnecessary complexity and overhead, hindering adoption.
  • Lack of governance and standardization: Without proper governance and standardization, platform engineering efforts can lead to fragmented and siloed solutions within an organization, defeating the purpose of consistency and reusability.
  • Technical debt accumulation: If platform engineering teams do not prioritize sustainable practices, such as automated testing, continuous integration/deployment, and code quality checks, technical debt can accumulate rapidly, making platforms challenging to maintain and evolve.
  • Ignoring security and compliance: While platform engineering aims to streamline development processes, it's essential to incorporate security and compliance considerations from the outset. Neglecting these aspects can introduce vulnerabilities and regulatory risks.

Four Steps to Success

To combat these challenges and get started with platform engineering, businesses need to:

  • Understand the fundamentals: Familiarize yourself with the core concepts of platform engineering, such as self-service platforms, infrastructure as code, automation, and developer experience. Learn about the principles and best practices that guide platform engineering efforts.
  • Leverage DevOps practices: Platform engineering heavily relies on DevOps practices. Tools used for continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, monitoring, and observability will be part of any platform engineering practice.
  • Draw on SRE principles: Site reliability engineering (SRE) principles are closely related to platform engineering, as they focus on building and operating highly reliable and scalable distributed systems.
  • Start small and iterate: Implement platform engineering practices and tools on a small scale within your organization or personal projects. Learn from experience, gather feedback, and continuously improve your approach.

What's Next?

When deployed effectively, platform engineering is less a practice and more a paradigm shift focusing on creating self-service platforms that amalgamate software engineering, operations, and a superior developer experience.

Businesses that enable this will be better placed to accelerate time to value through the faster deployment of the apps and services users need. Do that, and they will be well-placed to grow continuously in the era of digital business.

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Scott Willson
By Scott Willson

Scott Willson, Head of Product Marketing at xtype Scott has over 20 years of technology experience that spans software development across financial services, manufacturing, government, and tech industries. Professionally, Scott has built software, managed professional services, sold and implemented software, and is currently applying that background to marketing. Scott is passionate about technology and helping businesses achieve value through technology and was leading DevOps at organizations before it was coined DevOps. He has also co-authored papers for the DevOps Enterprise Forum.