You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You’ve gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people! We’ve gotta stop them somehow!
Everyone has a platform.
The concept of Platform as a Service implies Platform not as a Service.
Your platform is whatever enables the development and deployment of software. Everyone has a platform, but few have a fit for purpose platform. The platform is not just a collection of technologies but a socio-technical system. A platform can be inadvertent or a deliberate investment in software optimizing for developer productivity and operational efficiency.
We build our platforms the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins."
-adapting Ellen Ullman
Many organizations have a hard time recognizing the platform they already have. Too often, the “platform” is hidden in plain sight. Made up of people who manage infrastructure, operate services, maintain code, and deploy software, sometimes as a responsibility, but frequently unplanned toil done by the conscientious. This platform can be critical to the success of the software and the organization, but is often overlooked or undervalued, an unfunded mandate and an externalized cost.
The Soylent Platform
In the movie Soylent Green, the titular product is revealed to be food made out of people. While that may seem far-fetched, many organizations unwittingly make their platform out of people, relying on their knowledge, skills, and conscience to keep the software happening. Suboptimal at best and at worst leads to burnout, turnover, a lack of institutional knowledge and ongoing complaints that the organization doesn’t have the right talent.
Recognizing a platform was critical to the success of any modern software initiative of the last decade, take ownership and initiative to optimize yours. By applying principles of sociotechnical design and investing in the people, practices and platforms together, organizations can streamline their process, increase throughput, and improve the experience for developers, operators, security, compliance, and last but not least customers.
The Soylent Platform is a cautionary tale about the dangers of relying on people to build and maintain critical services and infrastructure. By identifying the platform you already have and treating that like another software value stream to iteratively improve, organizations can avoid the pitfalls of the Soylent Platform to build a more sustainable and successful future.