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This week, Humanitec CEO Kaspar von Grünberg weighs in on the developer portal vs. developer platform debate. And while we have you here, be sure to submit your PlatformCon 2023 talk before it’s too late!

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Developer portals =/= developer platforms

Kaspar von Grünberg, CEO @ Humanitec

Contrary to popular belief, platform engineering is not about building a fancy UI. Many organizations conflate developer portals or service catalogs with Internal Developer Platforms (IDPs), when in fact they are very different things.

According to Gartner, “internal developer portals serve as the interface through which developers can discover and access internal developer platform capabilities.” Take for example Netflix, who built a developer portal on top of its platform tooling.

An IDP on the other hand, is the sum of all tech, tools and processes that a platform engineering team binds into a golden path for developers. Golden paths reduce cognitive load and drive standardization by design. So an IDP doesn’t need a developer portal to deliver value to developers.

When I chatted with ~300 platform engineering teams last year, I learned that many start their platform engineering journey by building a developer portal. They do it because it feels obvious, the product is something you can show off to managers, and conversations around interfaces are relatively active.

However, less than 20% of these teams were able to get developers to adopt and use the portal. Developers resent having “yet another interface” to learn and use. Additionally, many organizations overestimate the tangible benefits of having a portal and underestimate the amount of time and resources needed to keep the portal up-to-date.

In most cases, I’ve found that two changes yield the biggest results. Making sure you have basic CI/CD flows set up reduces toil and increases efficiency. Restructuring your configuration management from “static” to Dynamic Configuration Management (DCM) enables standardization by design, separation of concerns, and continuous self-service with low cognitive load.

Instead of building a UI developers didn’t ask for, organizations should treat their platform as a product. Taking this approach enables you to understand your developers needs based on user research, prioritize their concerns, and build a platform people actually want to use.

TLDR: Platform teams that prioritize building a portal before the rest of the platform will likely waste valuable resources and see a low adoption rate.

Read the full article.

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