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Zalando & Meltwater kickoff Knowledge Sharing Around Managing Internal Software Delivery Platforms

In late August 2019 Meltwater had the pleasure of hosting Zalando in our Berlin office for a knowledge sharing session about applying product management for internal platforms that improve software delivery performance.

In this post we will explain how this meeting came to be, provide a sneak peak into the topics we covered, and what upcoming iterations of this exchange could look like.

The Emerging Trend of Internal Software Delivery Platforms

The great work done by the DevOps Research and Assessment team has shown that “the best, most innovative organizations develop and deliver their software faster, more reliably, more securely, and with higher quality, standing as high performers in technology,” as measured by market share, productivity, and profitability.

Zalando & Meltwater both recognise the need to invest in engineering culture by empowering teams to solve their business problems autonomously and by providing them the best tools to do their work. A considerable chunk of that investment is in central teams that reduce the overhead of building complex, large scale, distributed systems by providing internal software delivery platforms that provide solutions for CI/CD, container orchestration, telemetry, and security among other shared concerns.

While conferences are great for sharing large ideas, they rarely provide enough time to dig deep into the topics presented. Having met engineers from Zalando’s Digital Foundations department, and seen a few presentations from Henning Jacobs about their work, we reached out and found that we had both accumulated practices and principles over the years that could solve some of the challenges we are both experiencing and were excited to share.

A First Exchange

A few weeks later 6 of us met in Berlin for an impromptu Lean Coffee meeting. We shared insights into how our engineering culture and constraints impact the way we develop our platforms. We also discussed practices, principles, as well as anti-patterns, that guide the product management approach of our internal platforms. Throughout these discussions we touched on how we provide “customer support” to our “internal customers” (i.e. our fellow engineering teams) and how we use a combination of off-the-shelf and homegrown tools to provide a high quality experience to them.

We went over our documentation challenges, specifically finding and trusting documentation. We agreed on the strategic importance of treating documentation as a first class product in it’s own right and the value of investing in optimising the documentation for discoverability. Alongside self-serve documentation we also discussed the need for providing training and how our respective approaches differed as a result of the different scales of our engineering organisation.

Compliance is important for both Meltwater and Zalando, as it should be for any responsible technology company. Zalando shared their approach of being “compliant by default”, and how the overhead of being compliant can be shifted to the Platform and in turn reduce the impact of software delivery performance, specifically lead time.

What’s Next?

At the end of our session we agreed that it was a valuable exchange and that we need more time to dig deeper into sharing what we know and identify overarching principles and practices that can be used regardless of the specific industry a technology company is in.

The next installment will be a full day of Unconference talks in the Meltwater Berlin office, and we are excited to expand the attendee list beyond Meltwater and Zalando.

Please reach out to us if you are interested in attending by filling out this form.

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