Managed platforms are quite effective in providing a host of benefits. There is quite rightly a strong focus on the core value—the offering that a platform provides. To increase the odds of success with your platform, focus on building a broader ecosystem.
What do I mean by a broader ecosystem? Here are a few things to consider:
- Co-creation: Enable your client developer community to create capabilities for the platform. Design, publish, and evangelize APIs that allow them to extend and contribute to the platform. You can start simple via interfaces or have a full-fledged Plugin mechanism. Either way, ensure there is a well-defined process to assess the fit, maturity, and platform integration. More importantly, ensure there is an easy way to allow contributors to test their creations. You can provide utilities that works with common testing frameworks, such as JUnit (e.g. Rule that encapsulates complexities with using the underlying Platform APIs, bootstrapper classes that initialize/shutdown platform APIs, etc.)
- Enterprise Integration: Make your platform work out of the box with existing platforms/standards within the enterprise. Specifically for areas such as authentication/authorization, alerting/notifications, instrumentation, discovery, etc. Taking optionality away from your clients is a very good thing in this space. They can save costs as these things work natively–no need to worry about creating, testing, and integrating. Obviously, if something doesn’t exist and needs to, co-create it with your clients if that can be done as part of a business deliverable!
- Documentation: Platform teams must make client-facing documentation a priority. Think about making your firm’s developers more productive. Make it easy for them learn the core concepts and API constructs to get up and running on the platform. Provide API documentation (such as Javadocs), cheatsheets, user manuals, and code examples that demonstrate typical usage scenarios.
- Support Tooling: Getting clients to self-serve via enterprise-approved tools will be extremely important for their day to day experience interacting with the platform. Think about logging, remote debugging, tracing, reconstructing incident state, etc., and provide integration with tools that they are already familiar with for existing apps. You may not need to or want to expose too much here but constantly think about native integration that is presented in a manner that makes it easy for clients to get to the root cause. If they keep calling you to troubleshoot issues, that is time to introspect and improve!
- Community Events: Provide opportunities and channels for your clients to communicate not only with the platform team but also with each other. Having regular meetups–from simple introductions to joint design/contribution reviews and updates–are very effective. If there is a broader community to rely on, clients can help themselves and learn from each other on an ongoing basis.