Whether you’re just using a word processor and some spreadsheets or you have a wide range of software that automate processes across every business function, every company nowadays uses some form of technology.
The tools you use generally don’t all operate in isolation of each other, which is why they’re thought of collectively as a tech stack.
What is a Tech Stack
“A tech stack generally is the collection of tools that an organization is using to achieve any set of goals,” says Revenue Operations Manager Pat Buono.
You can have tech stacks that are multi-purpose and assist with functions company-wide or you can divide the technology your company uses into function-specific stacks like marketing, sales, finance, project management and employee engagement.
“It’s all those different tools, and I think the word ‘stack’ has become prevalent because so many of them can talk to each other now,” Pat says.
While the way these tools talk to each other and can build upon each other is the origin for the term, not all tools in your tech stack have to be integrated with each other.
But, thinking of your software as a collective as opposed to disparate parts helps you become more aware of how your business is operating as a whole.
Considerations for Building a Tech Stack
1. Technology is a long-term investment
Implementing and adopting a new piece of software at a company requires significant resources, and once a tool has become built into your processes, it’s very difficult to get rid of it — even if there are better options available.
Plus, most software are subscription-based, which means you’re continuing to pay for them for as long as you use them. They’re not a one-time sale. So, as you’re choosing the tools that make up your tech stack, don’t settle on something that’ll be fine for now.
“If you’re evaluating a tool, keep in mind that you’re likely to be on this thing for a while,” Pat says.
2. How will your tech stack accommodate your company's growth?
“Platforms are specialized for certain targets,” Pat says. “Some can hang with large enterprises and some can’t. Some are built for startups and some are not.”
As you’re piecing together your tech stack, it’s important to consider how your software will fit into your company’s growth trajectory. You need to find tools that meet your business’s needs and budget in the moment, but you also don’t want to grow out of your tech stack every couple months.
Tools built for larger companies can be more expensive, but they also give you room to grow. So, you’ll need to balance budget with scalability.
3. Who will be using the tools?
Before choosing any tools for your tech stack, consider who will be using each tool and what their needs are.
It’s always best to consult the end-users before deciding on software so they can provide input on how the tool will impact their jobs.
In addition to considering how tools will impact end-users, you should also take into account what training will be required and how that’ll impact employee onboarding.
An extensible platform that enables users to perform most of their tasks from a single tool will allow for a much more streamlined onboarding process, but might not have the same depth of features as a function-specific platform. So, what’s more important for your users?
4. How do your tools work together?
When selecting software for your tech stack initially or adding new tools later on, always think about how the tools fit in with each other.
Are there integrations available between your tools that can make using them easier?
“If you can limit disparate systems, that’s better, if the integration is useful,” Pat says.
However, you shouldn’t aimlessly integrate tools. Integrations can greatly improve processes when you connect closely related tools, like your CRM and marketing automation platform. But integrations also require maintenance in order to continue functioning properly.
Poorly maintained integrations or integrations that don’t have a real benefit can bog down all connected platforms.
“What do the integrations actually do when you connect tools? You shouldn’t just be trying to connect,” Pat says.
5. Can your tech stack be consolidated?
If multiple tools accomplish the same task, it’s best to try and eliminate some of the duplicate tools to have as small a tech stack as possible.
“In general, [consolidation] is a great philosophy to have. Don’t have extraneous stuff,” Pat says.
The fewer tools you have, the easier it will be to report on them and maintain them in the long-run. Consolidating your tech stack saves money, simplifies training and makes it easier for employees to follow the processes built around your tech stack.
6. Who’s responsible for each platform?
If you don’t designate someone to be in charge of the different tools that make up your tech stack, that responsibility will still fall to someone.
If you don’t assign the responsibility of platform setup and maintenance to someone who has the bandwidth and skills to prioritize it, keeping your tech stack optimized and ensuring it’s actually making your employees work better will be put on the back-burner.
Tech is a big investment, giving someone a stake in maintaining and optimizing it is more scalable and better for your company’s health.
You want someone to be monitoring user behavior and permission levels for the sake of security and efficiency. Plus, when something isn’t working, your team needs to know who to turn to with questions.
Otherwise, errors can be caused accidentally by well-meaning employees trying to fix something in a platform they’re not trained to use.
“Your tech stack is a foundation of your processes,” Pat says.
It’s important to be intentional with how you’re building it because the technology you structure your processes around will likely stay with your company for a long time.
Additionally, in order to ensure you’re maximizing the value you gain from your tech stack, you need to designate responsibility for maintaining and analyzing each tool.