Optimal Platform Engineering Team Sizes

Anya Salhi, July 19, 2023

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to businesses around the world. Companies have had to rapidly adapt their operations and strategies to survive and thrive during these difficult times.

Jon Shanks and Jay Keshur discuss the sizes of platform teams and their roles in optimising business efficiency, stating that the right range required for a platform team is less than five percent of the total developers. They then elaborated on the importance of having a budget and the possibility of businesses with no operational cost, such as a shop that runs itself with AI. They further delve into the concept of a “no-person company” and universal basic income. The takeaway from this conversation is to strive for no-person companies and not build platforms. 

Platform engineering teams are no exception, as they are responsible for developing, maintaining, and optimising the technology infrastructure that powers a business’s operations. This article discusses how platform engineering teams can be optimised for business efficiency and tech optimism during the covid19 pandemic. Topics such as optimising the number of developers needed, embracing automation tools, and investing in digital transformation initiatives were covered. 

Optimising the Number of Developers Needed

In the discussion, Jay highlights that startups have varying requirements for the number of developers and other professionals they need to function effectively. He said that “in some places, the team has grown exponentially large with a huge amount of engineering and different roles, which may not be cost-effective or optimal for cloud delivery or developer self-service delivery.”

He notes that if a company has sufficient developers but lacks enough support team members, the outcome of the service may be affected. This is because a good product is not only about its production but also about successful shipping and delivery, which is usually the support team’s responsibility. Jay also provides an example of how a team of a hundred developers split into twelve groups may require a specific number of people to provide them 24/7 support. If this support is lacking, it may impact the final results of the product.

Even though it is important to have a sufficient number of workers in a specific team, it should also be noted that too much of the required number is risky. According to Jay, “having a high ratio of people who support a product versus those who actually deliver business value can be problematic. As the number of people supporting the product increases, there may be an opportunity to streamline processes and eliminate inefficiencies. A ratio of 10 people supporting 200 developers was quite high, and even a ratio of 5% is excessive.” Jay suggested that the need for many support staff may indicate that the product or service is commoditized and that there are better, more efficient solutions available.

Invest in Digital Transformation Initiatives

Platform engineering teams should focus on modernising legacy systems with new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) which can help automate mundane tasks while providing valuable insights into customer behaviour patterns that can be used to optimise operations further down the line.

Jon and Jay further discussed how companies may niche down in order to create a competitive advantage, when building a platform team from scratch. Jon says “If I were creating a new company with 100 software developers split into teams, the first thing I would do as a platform team or even creating that platform team is to set a budget. That will keep me honest on how much we want to commit to the team in relation to what the business revenue is we’re expecting.”

Investing in digital transformation initiatives helps create a culture of innovation within an organisation which is essential for staying competitive in today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, where new technologies emerge almost daily, requiring businesses to stay ahead of trends if they want to remain successful over time.

Leveraging Cloud Computing Technologies 

Platform engineering teams can ensure that their organisations remain competitive in an ever-changing digital landscape by embracing and practising recent advanced technologies, such as cloud computing.  By leveraging cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), companies can quickly scale up or down their IT infrastructure based on changing business needs without having to invest heavily in physical hardware or software licenses.

Additionally, cloud services provide access to powerful analytics tools that allow companies to gain valuable insights into customer behavior and usage patterns, which can be used to optimise operations and improve customer experience. 

Embrace Automation Tools

Automation tools are essential for streamlining processes within a platform engineering team’s workflow. Automation allows engineers to focus on more complex tasks while mundane tasks such as provisioning servers or deploying applications are handled by automated scripts or bots, which significantly reduces time spent on manual labour while also increasing the accuracy of results due to fewer human errors being made along the way.

In the conversation, with the occurrence of covid 19 and the effect associated with it, Jon and Jay considered, “the possibility of businesses existing in the future without any employees, not even operational costs. It could be a one-time setup with all the automation and AI in place, and just let it run operationally without any human intervention.” Even though it was established that it would be difficult, the likelihood of it happening wasn’t ruled out. This was considered possible as automation helps reduce costs associated with manual labour by eliminating the need for additional personnel resources. 

Bearing all these factors and scenarios in mind, we can boldly say that platform teams can be fully utilised to optimise business efficiency and outcome, especially during the event of a pandemic, such as the COVID-19.