How to define a platform

Sujith Jay Nair writes:

I think we can agree that there is a dichotomy in engineering platforms: public platforms and internal (or private) platforms. AWS S3, Snowflake, and others are examples of public platforms, while internal platforms are engineering platforms built within a software organisation to serve internal users.

A typical engineering definition of scalability would be along the dimensions of reliability and fault-tolerance; the system should be reliable and fault-tolerant as usage of the system increases. But for a platform, we need to consider cost scalability as well: the marginal cost of the platform should diminish as usage increases.  

Internal platforms are essentially monopolies within a company for a certain value-producing activity. And monopolies tend to commodify their adjacent in the value chain. If you consider the product teams or other internal users using the internal platform as the layer adjacent to the platform in the value chain of the company, it follows naturally that internal platforms should cater to a wide spectrum of users (or use-cases) which it commodifies.

This is an intriguing post around platforms and building scale (and relevance). I was looking at it from the context of EMR (and as health care enterprises grow more complex), the choice between buying an external third party platform versus building one of the own becomes substantial. The problem is unrelated to digitising the workflows, as much as it is related to making a cultural shift; the impediment is to define the extent for “future-proofing” the system.

Highly recommended read.

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