Diagram Industries

Testing on a Platform Team

Platform teams are everywhere right now. I have worked with various shapes and sizes over the last few years. But first, let’s head to an authoritative source, to give us a vision of what a good platform might look like, rather than my messy reality.

Evan Bottcher gives an excellent definition in this article:

“A digital platform is a foundation of self-service APIs, tools, services, knowledge and support which are arranged as a compelling internal product. Autonomous delivery teams can make use of the platform to deliver product features at a higher pace, with reduced co-ordination.”

This definition sounds amazing and something worth working towards. However, the world is often not shaped like the definitions we create. I say this because as a tester, it’s good to know the terms under which you are working.

Anti-Platform Patterns

If I’ve learned one thing over the years it’s that you should test from where you are and work towards where you need to be. Rather than trying to test in a perfect vision of a platform team that doesn’t exist. This is especially true with concepts as ambiguous as a platform team. These are some patterns from my recent past:

Being a tester on a platform team is a massive opportunity to influence the foundations of each product team. This make it an excellent spot to be able to influence testability, for both your benefit and that of the teams that consume the platform. Also, it has its problems. Many of the newly created platform engineers on this team may not be used to having testers around. From prior experience, the infrastructure world can be a more closed place.

Pro-Platform Testing Patterns

Aside from recognising what type of platform team you are on, starting from where you are and helping the platform to continuously improve, what should I do as a tester? My shortlist is below:

I will caveat the above with one warning. If you are less technically minded (argue amongst yourselves), it may be a place which is very hard for you to make your mark. For example, if the types of tasks in the ‘Do some platform engineering’ section make you feel very uncomfortable then make sure the commitment to support you exists before moving on to a platform team.

There is a lot of rhetoric around shifting testing to where it might add greater value. Being a tester on a platform team is one of the highest expressions of the shifting testing approach. Shifting testing anywhere has its roots in continuous improvement, as does building a platform. If you get the opportunity and its right for your career, give it a try. You might be enabling better testing for every team, not only your own.