A big shift has been happening in the software development space over the last few years. As engineering teams have become larger, more mature, and increasingly agile, leaders have had to invest in foundational capabilities that ensure consistency and reliability in their products, while also empowering developers to do their best work. Platform engineers and site reliability engineers (SREs) have been introduced as key players within engineering departments, working in the background to ensure that product development is as effective as possible.
As part of this shift, internal developer portals (IDPs) are emerging as robust technology solutions designed to empower platform engineers and SREs in doing their jobs. However, the benefits of a comprehensive IDP extend beyond these two teams. They can also act as a launching pad for product developers to start building new features, equip engineering leaders with the data they need to make key decisions, and provide increased visibility for other external teams, including product management and design.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how various teams can benefit from an IDP and outlining why your organization might want to consider adopting one.
Platform engineers become more strategic
Platform engineers are typically tasked with applying software engineering principles to accelerate software delivery. They are responsible for ensuring that product and application development teams are productive in all aspects of the software delivery lifecycle. In practice, this means establishing standards for delivery and ensuring they are met, responding to developer tickets, and establishing workflows that enable developers to rapidly code and ship software.
More recently, as software companies have worked towards getting more features out the door faster, platform engineers have also been tasked with allowing developers to self-serve where possible. This makes platform engineering more of an enabling function, as it doesn’t become a barrier in getting things out the door when the number of requests is too high.
An IDP is the perfect support for platform engineers, as it acts as a central, tangible representation of the platform they are managing for developers. With an IDP, platform engineers can roll out critical standards with ease and confidence, making them easily available to developers. They can also set up reusable templates, that let developers side step having to make a request and start their work faster, with a recognizable framework. Plus, an IDP also provides platform engineers with a holistic view of the software ecosystem, giving them insight into what is being built, who owns it, and whether it meets the best practices they have established for the engineering team.
With the support of a modern IDP, platform engineers are freed up to do more strategic work within the organization. Instead of spending time chasing down developers or answering queries, they can spend more time refining the platform with automated features, building feature requests and dev tooling, and researching capabilities that can do more to improve the developer experience.
SREs can trust reliability standards are being met
Similar to platform engineers, SREs are typically a supporting function for engineering departments. Instead of prioritizing the acceleration of software delivery, they apply software development principles to improve the reliability of product features and applications—an important performance metric for today’s software providers. As such, SREs are responsible for making sure that reliability standards are being met across the software development lifecycle, and that any issues are quickly identified, recorded, and resolved.
An IDP makes it simple for SREs to set pre-established requirements for services to be considered production ready and trust that engineers are deploying code that meets reliability and quality standards. With OpsLevel, for instance, SREs can set up campaigns to roll out new standards as a time-bound initiative that prompts service owners to upgrade their services. Other IDPs have maturity rubrics that indicate whether a service meets existing standards. At OpsLevel, we’ve used our maturity rubric to gamify production readiness and make it easier for SREs to meet these standards faster, without having to chase product developers.
The best part? An IDP helps engineering teams attain this level of quality assurance without compromising the speed of development. Plus, with an IDP that provides expansive visibility, SREs are also able to quickly check the health of individual services and pinpoint any problem areas that need to be addressed.
SREs that rely on an IDP are also freed up to better embed themselves within teams and help drive further adoption of tools and standards. This ultimately improves the developer experience and removes a lot of the friction that typically exists between SREs and developers.
Product developers move faster and with more confidence
An IDP is a crucial enabler for product developers. For starters, an IDP that has a centralized software catalog provides engineers with self-serve access to all the information, tools, and templates they need to build, ship, and maintain features. It acts as a one-stop-shop that developers can leverage to produce high-value work, without having to go searching for information in different places or reinventing the wheel. When set up properly and used effectively, an IDP can even be a homepage for developers where they can launch the work they need to do day to day.
Built-in standards and requirements mean that developers never have to worry about their features being non-compliant. Best practices are baked in. This takes a big burden off their shoulders while simultaneously improving their relationships with teams that are focused on the quality of the code—like SREs and security teams.
With an IDP in place, and platform engineers and SREs that inform it, developers can also trust that they’re operating in a culture of continuous improvement that not only focuses on best practices, but on ensuring an optimal developer experience. This ultimately improves the quality of life a developer has on the job, and encourages them to stay within their roles.
Engineering leadership can make data-driven decisions
Engineering leaders can benefit in a number of ways from a comprehensive IDP. For starters, the portal can provide increased access to rollup metrics from entire domains of the business. If the IDP has a domains view, leaders can see, for instance, what their total AWS spend is across the business, what their footprint is in a specific area, and how entire systems work together. This can be crucial data for making decisions, reporting to other business executives, and choosing where to prioritize efforts on a quarterly or annual basis.
By empowering product developers and freeing up platform engineers and SREs, a modern IDP helps drive efficiency within an engineering team. When it comes to OpsLevel adoption, for example, customers said their teams were as much as 60% more efficient once they fully adopted our IDP. This is a clear ROI that helps the engineering budget stretch further—which is particularly important as the tech sector reduces its spending.
With all the benefits we’ve outlined above, engineering leaders can also rest assured that their software ecosystem is scaling effectively and that their developers have the systems in place to deliver effective and reliable code, quickly. They can trust that their team members are empowered to do their best work, with the right guardrails and standards in place. Plus, since IDPs help remove a lot of the friction between different teams, leaders don’t have to spend time resolving conflict between peers.
The rest of the business benefits, too
Adopting an IDP isn’t just going to benefit the engineering team. When developers are freed up to do their best, most impactful work, they can vastly reduce the time it takes to get core features to market. This means customer needs are met faster, and the business can become a trusted leader in their sector.
The availability of system- and domain-level insights that exist in an IDP also mean that the engineering team can better collaborate with and inform other departments, including product managers, designers, and customer support.
It’s time to leverage the value of an IDP
Gartner estimates that 75% of all organizations will have an internal developer portal by 2025—and that’s hardly surprising. If software companies want to stay ahead of customer needs and increase their agility in taking products to market, an IDP is a no-brainer. Not only will it streamline how teams operate within the engineering org, it will also enhance how that org contributes to the rest of the business.
Curious to learn more about IDPs and how to choose the right one for your team? Read our blog post on the topic.