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Platform engineering: Open Source your platform

Is your platform team the bottleneck in your software development process?

As your engineering team expands, the demands on your platform team grow exponentially. New feature requests, different infrastructure stacks, endless configuration tweaks — it can feel like a never-ending game of catch-up. The platform team becomes the bottleneck, and frustrated developers look elsewhere, potentially creating shadow IT problems.

But what if you could dramatically multiply your platform team’s output? What if you could turn your platform into a powerhouse of innovation fueled by the very engineers whose problems it’s designed to solve?

The answer lies in a surprising place: open-source principles.

By treating your internal platform engineering initiatives like an open-source project, you unlock the forces of collaboration, transparency, and accelerated problem-solving.

Here’s how to make it work:

  • Everyone has access to the code: Just like in open-source communities, grant all engineers access to the platform’s codebase. This transparency empowers them to pinpoint the root cause of issues and even start sketching solutions.

  • Open-office hours and demos: Schedule regular meetings where the platform team discusses roadmaps and gives demos. This is also a chance for motivated developers to showcase their contributions and troubleshoot problems collaboratively.

  • Communication hubs: Create designated forums, Slack channels, or distribution lists. These dedicated hubs foster a constant exchange of ideas and make it easy for contributors to get support.

3 Key Actions to Make It a Success

Transitioning to this model requires intentionality. Focus on these three aspects:

  1. Quarterly Goals and Scope: Before each quarter, clearly define the project’s goals. It helps everyone align on priorities and understand what falls within the initiative’s scope.

  2. Clear Contribution Process: Set guidelines for code style, testing, and documentation. This ensures smooth integration of new features and saves everyone time.

  3. Comprehensive Documentation: Enable developers to self-serve with thorough documentation on the platform’s design, usage, and contribution process. Less hand-holding means your platform team can focus on the big picture.

Culture is King

Like any successful open-source project, the key is fostering a welcoming, inclusive, and accessible culture. Here’s how engineering leaders make it happen:

  • Set codes of conduct: Ensure everyone feels safe contributing and that feedback is always constructive.
  • Champion contributors: Recognize and reward developers who consistently create value for the platform.
  • Accessibility first: Make the roadmap and decision-making processes transparent to the entire engineering organization.


If you’re an engineering leader, tired of seeing your platform team swamped, it’s time for a mindset shift. By embracing open-source principles, you’ll empower all engineers to solve their own problems and accelerate your entire company’s progress.

Actively studying how successful open-source projects are managed will give you a powerful blueprint for your own platform initiatives. Remember, the platform engineering team is not only building a product but is also building a community.

Start small, prioritize a culture of inclusivity, and watch your platform — and your team’s capabilities — flourish.

Published Mar 19, 2024