J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Stevey's Google Platforms Rant

Stevey's Google Platforms Rant

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I’m a fan of lessons learned.   I especially like Stevey’s Google Platform Rant because it’s raw and it’s real, and it’s an insider’s lessons on what they think Amazon does right, and what Google does wrong, and how to fix it.  It’s a call to action.

It did not strike me as a bash post (although it might feel like that if you’re on the receiving end of the rubber mallet Winking smile  )… but instead, I see it as a great wake up call by somebody with passion, conviction, and who actually cares about the great opportunity at hand …  The opportunity to build an amazing platform, and take a page out of the playbook from companies that do platforms well.  I’m a big believer that great change requires a sense of urgency, and that people are often so desensitized because of overload to what’s truly urgent (and important) … that the wake up call needs a bit of sting (and nothing stings like dabs of truth.)

What makes this particular post truly insightful (and keep in mind it can be yanked from the Web), is that it’s from somebody who has spent six years at  Amazon and six years at Google.  (It really is an insider’s view.  In fact, the original post was not meant to be shared publicly.)  Steve has the benefit of contrast, and the benefit of seeing how strategies and tactics play out over time.  More importantly, Steve has the ability to tune in and surface the vital few surprising insights that count.

Here is my short-list of key take aways from the post:

  1. “When software -- or idea-ware for that matter -- fails to be accessible to anyone for any reason, it is the fault of the software or of the messaging of the idea. It is an Accessibility failure.”
  2. “Amazon had transformed culturally into a company that thinks about everything in a services-first fashion. It is now fundamental to how they approach all designs, including internal designs for stuff that might never see the light of day externally.”
  3. “But they do services because they've come to understand that it's the Right Thing. There are without question pros and cons to the SOA approach, and some of the cons are pretty long. But overall it's the right thing because SOA-driven design enables Platforms.”
  4. “… the same way Amazon did it: all at once, for real, no cheating, and treating it as our top priority from now on.” (In reference to shift to a platform and service-first mindset)
  5. “a platform-less product will always be replaced by an equivalent platform-ized product”
  6. “The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them.” (Regarding how very few people in the history of software do this well)
  7. “We don't get Platforms, and we don't get Accessibility. The two are basically the same thing, because platforms solve accessibility. A platform is accessibility.”  (Regarding Google’s opportunity)
  8. “Any teams that have successfully internalized the notion that they should be externally programmable platforms from the ground up are underdogs.”
  9. “But making something a platform is not going to make you an instant success. A platform needs a killer app.”
  10. “The Golden Rule of Platforms, ‘Eat Your Own Dogfood’, can be rephrased as ‘Start with a Platform, and Then Use it for Everything.’ You can't just bolt it on later”

The meta-lesson reinforces what I’ve come to believe to be true, which is that platforms and services win in the end, and that applications are the pull-through.  It’s the applications that make the platform’s capabilities meaningful, contextual, and relevant, and it’s the platform that makes the applications sustainable for the long-haul and consistent where it counts.  And the elegance of the platform is what empowers the ecosystem to takes things well beyond what anybody originally dreamed up … as a catalyst for innovation and possibility.