That’s the word everyone loves these days, right?
Simply put, innovation is the process of coming up with new ideas and making money or gaining some other form of value from it.
We’ve all heard of the leaders in innovation: Apple, Tesla, and Amazon to name a few. As business managers and owners, we aspire for our own companies to be up there with them.
It only makes sense then, that innovation has become a top priority for developing businesses. Companies today are investing more and more on innovation as it’s proven to be essential for new companies to grow—and for traditional companies to survive.
So, how does one go about implementing said innovation to their business?
You start from your foundation: your tech stack.
What’s a tech stack?
Most businesses want to grow.
That means getting more customers, generating more revenue, expanding their product offering, serving more geographic locations, and hiring more great people.
Your tech stack is how you get there. It’s literally the tools you use to facilitate that growth.
Your “tech stack” refers to all the technology and apps your organization uses to get work done. A good tech stack will make sure that work gets done as efficiently as possible.
The hard part is putting a good tech stack together. This is especially true for established companies.
Think of it this way: which of these scenarios sounds more challenging? Furnishing an empty condo or replacing all the furniture in an existing one?
The second one, of course. You have to get rid of the existing stuff first—and work around people who have grown really fond of the janky old sofa with holes in the cushions.
This is what it’s like putting a new tech stack together for a startup vs. a traditional company. (No one said it was easy!) But it’s a renovation that’s well worth the effort.
So, how exactly does a traditional company choose the tools that’ll make up its new-and-improved tech stack? Keep reading to find out.
An example of an elaborate tech stack—but you don’t need all of these tools. Implementing just a few key ones can make a world of difference for traditional companies.
Introducing SaaS and its digital disruption.
SaaS stands for “software as a service,” and makes up the majority of modern-day tech stacks.
These are software that are backed up by a network of remote servers hosted on the internet (aka. cloud computing). Basically, instead of having all your digital storage, management and data processing on your personal computer or local business server, it all happens remotely on the cloud instead. This has some big pros to it, including:
- Programs are based on the internet, so no installation required (just log in!)
- They’re easy to integrate with existing tools
- There’s strong emphasis on delivering a positive user experience
- Security is a top priority for SaaS vendors
SaaS has the added benefit of being mainly subscription-based. This gives your business access to a vast selection of powerful tools at an affordable monthly or yearly subscription rate, and the freedom to easily cancel or switch out any programs that aren’t proving valuable.
It also means SaaS vendors care more about delivering an exceptional customer experience, since they’re aiming to keep you around for life—not just until you make a one-time purchase.
That’s right, the 21st century’s all about digital empowerment for the consumer:
Traditional companies: do these challenges sound familiar?
1. You have a bunch of software programs, but they don’t get along.
In other words, your workflow is choppy.
Many traditional companies tend to acquire a number of older clunky programs over the years, installed from earlier software generations.
These programs don’t integrate with each other at all (integration wasn’t always the big deal it is today). Aside from the software often being laggy and outdated, users are forced to spend a lot of time switching from one program to another.
New hires face a steep learning curve when going through onboarding because the programs are so company-specific..
That’s a lot of wasted time, energy, and resources.
Nowadays, many SaaS products have APIs, allowing you to integrate different applications with each other. This simplifies the overall process of running a business down to the daily operations (we have built-in meeting schedulers and automated reporting now—what a time to be alive). It also gives more time back to the company that can be used on far more productive things (like building those all-important relationships that older companies especially rely on).
2. It takes months—or years—to make a purchase decision for new tech.
Execs still calling the shots on buying new tech? That’s kind of… old-school.
Leaders of the departments that are using the departmental tech should be the ones conducting research and evaluating its efficiency in their workflow.
Because they’re the ones who will ultimately be using the software on a regular basis, they can offer the most insight when attesting to a program’s value.
Execs have other things to focus on. They don’t have time to find and evaluate new tech, nevermind implement them and ensure everyone is trained properly. Plus, they’re not usually the ones using those tools—the departments are.
So it only makes sense for the department leaders to make the decisions on buying new tech. If anything, all the execs should have to do is say “yes.”
3. IT teams are focused too much on the tech, not on the tech’s role in the organization.
Because SaaS companies typically take on the responsibility of dealing with technical issues and database management for their clients, your business’s IT team can redirect their focus on ensuring the rest of your employees are getting the most value out of your tech stack.
For example, since moving to cloud-based tech, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (a US fast food chain) is able to operate with just six IT staff. Popeyes’ CIO, Tim Davis, explains their modern role: “With no production servers or apps to run, three [people] are dedicated to making sure the restaurants have whatever technology they need. The rest are project managers and manage our relationships with vendors."
So how does one plan a new tech stack?
1. Decide what your goals are.
Follow Stephen Covey’s advice and start by listing out what kind of results you want to gain from your tech stack.
- Are you wanting to improve communication speed?
- Are you trying to find platforms that integrate with existing services?
2. Prioritize how important each goal is to your company.
Now that you know what outcomes you’re looking for, prioritize them.
- What are the most important services that would provide the most value in terms of effectiveness and efficiency to your organization?
- What areas could improve within your company?
Keep in mind, factors such as user experience are important. A good user experience would require fewer resources for training and can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
3. Figure out which tools will help you achieve your goals.
After you’ve nailed down your goals and which outcomes are most crucial, you’ll start to have a good idea of what your ideal products will look like. Most likely, they’ll narrow down to one of each of the following tool categories:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): where all your customer data and interactions will be stored, and should serve as the source of truth that anyone in your organization can refer to in order to see where any lead, prospect, or customer is at in your sales funnel.
- Example: Copper
- Content Management System (CMS): this is the digital tool that allows you to build and manage websites.
- Examples: WordPress, Contentful
- Marketing Automation (MA): this streamlines the tedious stuff like manually sending emails and posting content online, and gives you insights into how effective each of your marketing campaigns really are.
- Examples: Buffer, GetResponse
4. Determine what the foundation for your stack will be.
Because the goal is to “stack” these different technologies, it’s critical to distinguish what your main platform will be.
For example, if your primary goal is to build positive relationships with your customers, you may choose a CRM to be the foundation of your tech stack. This means you’ll assess all other technology based on how well they integrate with your CRM.
5. Research and do some free trials before buying.
Finally, you’ll want to put in some time to do the research.
Having a thorough understanding of what a service’s capabilities are and taking them for a test drive (many offer free trials!) will allow you the space and time to become familiar with the product before committing to buy. Try out a few and see which one offers you the most value.
Hello, business growth.
Growth. We all want it, but not all of us know how to achieve it.
The answer lies in the tools you use everyday. Find the right ones and start putting together your killer new tech stack today.
Want some more inspiration? Learn how a 50-year-old building material company upgraded its tech stack and boosted its numbers.