Jan Bosch is a research center director, professor, consultant and angel investor in startups. You can contact him at jan@janbosch.com.

Opinion

Platform lesson #2: Avoid the platform/product dichotomy

Leestijd: 5 minuten

The traditional view on platforms is one where the platform provides generic functionality used by multiple products in a portfolio and family. These products can then simply take the platform as a lego brick and build their product-specific functionality on top of it. Like software from external providers, you simply integrate the platform as a component in your product and you’re good to go.

The reality is rather different. As the platform is company-internal software, it’s much easier for the product and platform teams to build significant interactions and dependencies that are beneficial in the short term but easily increase coordination costs in the long run. Also, external software is typically not concerned with the application domain in which you’re operating whereas the platform is – deeply. That causes deeper interfaces between platforms and products through variation points, extension interfaces, optional components, and so on.

The result can easily be a situation where an overloaded platform team, receiving requests from multiple product teams, deprioritizes functionality until a product team is ready to partner on the development and the interface between product and platform can be established collaboratively. This then delays the introduction of innovative functionality that products desperately need but the platform team doesn’t prioritize.

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