Announcing the Platform Smells Playbook: Diagnose and fix common problems with your technology platform

At Ad Hoc, we believe that shared technology platforms are often a critical part of government digital modernization efforts. We’ve helped agencies design, build, and manage platforms supporting some of their most important and vital digital services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, and others.

During this work, we’ve seen some challenges that agencies face when they begin to adopt a platform approach or when they scale their platforms for broader use.

As part of this work, we’ve developed the Ad Hoc Platform Smells Playbook describing some of the most common issues that agencies run into when adopting platforms. In it, we provide details that help agencies diagnose when these common types of problems might be occurring and offer detailed steps that they can take to clean them up.

The concept of a code smell comes from agile software development and refers to a characteristic of code that may indicate a deeper problem in need of correction. This same idea can be applied to platforms. These platform smells are indicators that something more fundamental might be wrong with the platform. Once we recognize the fundamental issue causing a platform smell, we can take concrete steps to correct the issue and enhance the performance of the platform.

For each of the top ten platform smells we’ve identified, the new Playbook provides the following details:

  • Platform smells: Specific indicators that you can look for to determine if your platform may not be performing as well as it could or as well as you would like it to.
  • What it means: A description of the underlying issue that’s causing the platform smell and impacting the performance of your platform.
  • Clean-up strategies: Specific steps that you can take to address the underlying issue and get rid of the platform smell.

We believe that this playbook provides an important complement to the other excellent resources that are already available (many of which we’ve developed or contributed to) on how to adopt a platform approach to digital services. The Platform Smells Playbook provides agencies with a set of practical steps that they can use to identify and address common issues with their technology platforms.

We’ll continue to update the Playbook as we work with agencies to build and support their platforms and as we deepen our understanding of how these critical components can help support broader modernization efforts.

Join us for a webinar on July 19, where we’ll dive deeper into the playbook and discuss how agencies can benefit from incorporating these steps into their platform management strategies.

Can’t make the webinar but want to learn more about platform smells and how Ad Hoc can help? Contact our team at

Read the Platform Smells Playbook See the Platform Smells webinar