Plaid uses DX to treat Platform as a product

Plaid
About

Plaid is a digital finance company powering over 12,000 financial institutions.

Key results
Platform uses DX to understand their customers and track their impact
Chose DX over in-house surveys and system-based metrics
Transformed the way Platform Engineering operates

Plaid takes a ’platform as a product’ approach, meaning the Platform team manages their work the same way customer-facing product teams do. This includes using data to deeply understand and solve their customers’ problems. “This is table stakes for both customer-facing teams and internal-facing teams,” says Russ Nealis, Platform Product Manager at Plaid. “It’s eat-your-vegetables type of stuff. How can I make a case to the business that we need to invest more in developer productivity without data to ground us, keep us accountable, and make sure we’re actually making progress?”

How can I make a case to the business that we need to invest more in developer productivity without data to ground us, keep us accountable, and make sure we’re actually making progress?”
- Russ Nealis, Platform PM

Before DX, Nealis and the team at Plaid used in-house developer surveys and system-based metrics to get insights about developers’ pain points. “I had put together a ton of surveying capabilities, but it was extremely time consuming,” Nealis says. “Even at my previous company where I had a lot of resources to build these things out, surveying was a big chore. When I joined Plaid, I knew how painful it was. But it’s absolutely critical work. I honestly don’t know how you would operate as a platform team without survey data.” Plaid had implemented system-based metrics for DORA, pull requests, and more, but surveys were the most acute pain point for the Platform team.

Nealis notes that one of the problems they had with their surveys was being able to drill down into the results. “I got the information I needed, but then came the questions: Can we drill down? How’s this team or that persona doing? What about folks in Europe versus the US?” Nealis says. “I couldn’t easily get that information. That was one of the game changers with DX. With DX, I could easily go in and view data by business unit, team, persona, et cetera.”

After discovering DX, Nealis saw adopting the product as a “no brainer.” He explains, “We were already spending a percentage of our time towards this type of work. To be able to expand the capabilities, and build what DX had for ourselves internally, it would cost a lot of money. That’s not just with DevEx 360 but also PlatformX and Data Cloud. If I wanted to build a similar solution in a homegrown way at Plaid, it would be very expensive and it would be non-differentiated value.”

We were already spending a percentage of our time towards this type of work. If I wanted to build a similar solution in a homegrown way at Plaid, it would be very expensive and it would be non-differentiated value.”
- Russ Nealis, Platform PM

After choosing DX, Plaid’s Platform team gained the insights they needed in about a week. They started with DX’s DevEx 360 product. They then implemented PlatformX for real-time surveys and Data Cloud for integrating quantitative metrics, a process that took about a month. “It integrates with Jira, PagerDuty, and other systems quickly,” Nealis says. "But you have to think about the data you’re getting in the context of your business and organize it in a way to make sure you’re getting what you want out of it.”

Today, Nealis says DX has transformed the way the Platform team operates. “It’s changed how we think about operating the platform, prioritizing different investments, and defining success. It’s a bit of a cultural shift. Now, when people are discussing whether or not to do something, they go to DX and share links to reports. Like, ‘Did you see this?’” Nealis explains. “It goes back to the quote, ‘If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.’”

Now, when people are discussing whether or not to do something, they go to DX and share links to reports. It goes back to the quote, ‘If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.’”
- Russ Nealis, Platform PM

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