Alex Chiri's Blog

A platform is a community

Hands and feet coming together on a grass field

Among the common patterns around platforms is that it is very hard for a platform to exist in a sustainable way without a community. If a community is formed intentionally from early stages of a platform, then the path to growth is usually smoother.

Communities are a necessity for a platform from multiple perspectives.

1. Community where everyone supports each other

Permalink to “1. Community where everyone supports each other”

Platforms are a sign of a company in accelerated growth. They are created in medium to large companies. A platform is usually supported by a team or a couple of teams (7-16 people?) and it is being used by hundreds if not thousands of people. The deck seems stacked against the platform team. How can a handful of people manage and support a platform with such a large number of users without being overwhelmed?

Good engineering of the platform plays an important role, where most things are automated and the architecture and features of the platform match the needs.

But having a community around the platform from early stages is as important. Many people want to be a part of shaping a product they like. And by being part of a community that helps shape the platform is a good way to help the platform team and have its users involved in the evolution of the platform.

Members of the community can pitch in and help others in need, that maybe are trying to achieve things that they have already done. The community is a place where its members share best practices and carry conversations around the matters of the platform. This can be driven by the platform team, but not only.

Community catalysts can be elected from the dedicated members to facilitate the discussions with the help of the platform team.

The community organizes regular internal events around the platform, where demos can be made, questions can be answered, hackathons can be organized.

The platform team can and is involved in these, but they don’t need to be everywhere, they cannot be everywhere.

2. Community where the platform’s users have a front row seat

Permalink to “2. Community where the platform’s users have a front row seat”

The platform makes no sense without its users. It is a product made for its users. And in case of platforms, we are lucky to be so close to our users. We are all colleagues in the same company, working towards the same goals.

Communities are great environments for users to express their opinions, feedback and contribute to the development of the platform. We are all software engineers, aren’t we?

A great community around a platform has simple and effective mechanisms for its users to influence its path. This can be through some sort of feedback portal, meetings and events or pull requests. Any mechanism that helps build a platform that matches best the needs of its users.


Permalink to “Conclusion”

Sounds like a lot of work for “just” a platform. But here’s the thing: platforms are meant to be accelerators for growth. They can easily become the opposite without a community.