7 Internal Developer Platform Best Practices
From optimizing your team to finding the right development approach, here’s how to successfully build an IDP
Software development moves as fast as any discipline — its tools, terminology, and philosophies are in a constant state of flux. Many of these innovations go by the wayside almost as fast as they are introduced. But some, like the Internal Development Platform (IDP), will likely be part of the profession for years to come.
From optimizing your engineering team to finding the right development approach, here are seven best practices for building an Internal Developer Platform the right way.
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7 Internal Developer Platform Best Practices
Clarify the Business Goal
It’s easy to forget to put first things first, even with complex and expensive projects like building an Internal Developer Platform (IDP). Before diving into architectural sketches or open-source resources, ensure all the project’s stakeholders agree on a business goal — the why behind the Internal Developer Platform. Clear and concise language is key here: If you’re not intentional, the product of your consensus will be too vague to serve as your North Star.
Optimize Your Organization
Once you’re clear on the business goal of your IDP, it’s time to review the organization of your software development team. While it may feel natural to begin conceptualizing your platform at this point, the real-world functioning of any IDP you build is highly constrained by the underlying structure of the engineering organization and its communication patterns. This principle — known as Conway’s law — means that any improvements you want to make to how your team works have to start with the people themselves. Once you’ve addressed those, you can move on to create software that complements the existing ecosystem.
Conceptualize Your Solution
With your goals established and your team design considered, you’re ready to begin sketching your IDP. Using your business goal as an anchor, think through the core features you want your IDP to have, the applications it will incorporate, the platform’s storage requirements, and more. One of the most important things to remember is how you will create consistency in the user experience: An effective IDP minimizes the learning curve of development tools by providing a UI that removes unnecessary idiosyncrasies and simplifies requirements.
Understand Your Development Approach
Now that you understand the vision for the IDP, you’re ready to think through the development process at a high level. Specifically, you need to decide whether to build your IDP from scratch, buy an out-of-the-box IDP, or customize open-source software. One of the evaluation techniques you can use to make this decision is known as a Wardley Map. This framework can help you understand how important customization is to your IDP project. If customization is critical, you may want to develop the platform from the ground up. If it isn’t as crucial, then an out-of-the-box IDP may fulfill your project’s goals.
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Drive MVP Development
To ensure you can successfully deliver a minimum viable product (MVP), you must keep your team motivated. As the inevitable difficulties emerge — delays, mistakes, miscommunications, etc. — regularly remind your platform development team of why you’ve taken on this project. It’s important that these reasons are authentically connected to your collective passion for this project. If not, any energy generated will quickly fade under constant pressure.
Focus on Delivering Value
As you’re developing your IDP, make sure that everything each member of your platform development team is working on directly translates to a valuable aspect of the IDP. You can help bring this level of focus to your team by mapping the development roadmap to common product team requirements. Break down the value your product team aims to deliver — like a cloud application — into specific IDP requirements — like automation pipelines, data storage solutions, containerization methods, etc. Once you have your platform requirements, you can structure them as milestones that your platform development team can use to ensure their work always creates value for the end users.
Think Long Term with Adoption
After you deploy your MVP, regularly survey the development team to understand how the IDP is performing in the wild. During this process, you will undoubtedly find that your users aren’t accessing features you thought they would or use the platform less than you want them to. In fact, even if the IDP delivers on your goals, the development team will likely resist breaking their established working habits to transition to the new tool. Expect these challenges and take a long-term approach to rolling out your IDP: Only time and numerous iterations will drive adoption.
When to Utilize an Out-of-the-Box IDP Solution
While some organizations follow these best practices to build their own Internal Developer Platform, many companies find that the costs outweigh the benefits. The home-grown development process can easily cost millions of dollars and drag on for years, meaning that the eventual IDP would have to create enormous efficiency gains to be a successful initiative.
If your business cannot take on these risks — but your development team could still benefit from an IDP — an out-of-the-box solution might be the right option. Providing the self-service and automation features modern engineering teams need, DuploCloud is a powerful out-of-the-box IDP. Read our white paper to learn how your company could accelerate deployment rates with DuploCloud.