For a podular system to work, cultural and technical standards are imperative. This means that a pod’s autonomy does not extend to choices in shared standards and protocols. This kind of system needs a strong platform that clearly articulates those standards and provides a mechanism for evolving them when necessary.
For small and large companies alike, the most advantageous standards are those that are most widely adopted, because those standards will allow you to plug in more easily to the big wide world – and the big wide world always offers more functionality, better and more cheaply than you can build it yourself. Platform architecture is about coordination and consistency, so the best way to organize them may not be podular. When it comes to language, protocols, culture and values, you don’t want variability, you want consistency. Consistency in standards is an absolute requirement if you want to enable autonomous units.
Platform decisions can be dictated from above (for example, the way Apple dictates standards for its App Store) or agreed by consensus (for example, the way Web standards are developed). What’s most important about platform decisions is that they focus on the connections between pods rather than within pods In other words, a pod can do what it likes internally, but when it shares or receives information it needs to speak the same language as other pods.