It’s usually difficult for business owners who are not too tech-savvy to properly evaluate what their tech stack should look like. After all, there are no two same businesses, and everyone’s tech needs are different.
Things get even more complicated for growing businesses whose goals start to move away from mere efficiency towards expansion. In such cases, business owners typically struggle to find the right software for their situation. The result is often a waste of money and unnecessary disruptions in established (efficient) processes.
The aim of this article is to help define and categorize the two types of software that businesses need – efficiency and expansion software. In addition, we will provide a few tips on how to evaluate your tech stack and avoid making stack-related mistakes.
In the simplest possible terms, efficiency software includes all of the digital tools that a business uses in order to function as efficiently as possible. These tools can range drastically in terms of complexity and functionality.
For instance, an email client like Gmail is what you would consider efficiency software. (It’s definitely more efficient than sending actual physical memos.) However, something as complex as the Salesforce suite of products or comprehensive project management tools like Asana or VivifyScrum are also considered efficiency software.
(There’s a caveat to note here, though. Sometimes, with upgrades and additional integrations, these tools can become expansion-supporting solutions.)
Essentially, the vast majority of business processes can be made easier and more efficient with the right tools. We’ll cover the most useful and interesting types of efficiency software available to businesses in this section.
Different kinds of HR software have found their way into both small businesses and global corporations alike. For small businesses, they can be of great help in running a company full of happy employees.
From recruitment solutions such as SmartRecruiters to leave management tools like Flamingo and everything in between, digital HR solutions enable small businesses that do not have the budget for an HR department to successfully handle this aspect of running a business.
Software such as Finli makes it easier for small businesses to handle their clients’ payments. It’s also there to ensure the accounting can get an overview of the money flow at any given time. Of course, accounting software such as FreshBooks has become an integral part of pretty much every company.
Project and task management
Project and task management software was initially used mostly in tech companies, but over the years, it has proliferated greatly. You can now find all kinds of businesses using solutions to help manage their projects and keep their teams efficient. Even the smaller companies that do not require comprehensive solutions tend to use at least some simpler tools. For instance, calendar analytics and tracking tools like TimeTackle fall into that category.
Without good communication, there can be no efficiency. And that’s why modern-day businesses take advantage of a variety of digital tools to stay in sync. From email clients to tools like Slack and Zoom and CRM tools that help them communicate efficiently with their customers (more on them later), it’s hard to imagine a business that doesn’t use at least one such solution.
Expansion software includes any kind of software that can help a business grow, obtain new customers, augment its workforce, and more. As you might imagine, there will naturally be some overlap with efficiency software in some areas. But, there will also be completely new types of digital tools that can help companies expand.
Of course, the first type of software that comes to mind when talking about growth is marketing software, especially for companies whose products or services are sold online.
For example, a company might decide that it’s time to start advertising online, using Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or any other marketing channel that makes sense for them. These solutions were developed with business owners in mind, and they don’t require too much technical know-how to use. It goes without saying that you might want to consult experts to achieve the best results.
Search Engine Optimization is also a well-known marketing option, and the good news is that there’s no shortage of tools aimed at SEO beginners and experts alike. These include comprehensive products like Ahrefs or Semrush, as well as more specific products that handle individual aspects of SEO, such as AnswerThePublic, ScreamingFrog, or Keyword Hero.
For some companies, expansion means going online and starting to offer their products/services through a website. This is where various e-commerce platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce can satisfy the needs of most growing companies. Once again, they are built so that they can easily be used by people with limited tech knowledge.
Website and app building
Some business owners may decide that a website or even an app might be a better solution for their expansion needs. This is where they can either hire professional developers to handle this for them or use various platforms (WordPress) and low-code (Mendix) or no-code solutions (Bubble) that might do the job for them.
If they do decide to go solo, there is a whole universe of tools that can help business owners build the best website or app for their business. There are UX research platforms (Optimal Workshop), app testing software like Kobiton, and myriad other solutions that can help with every step of developing a website or an app.
Another type of software that most expanding businesses find necessary for growth is customer relationship management software. CRM solutions like Salesforce CRM, Zoho CRM, and ActiveCampaign are invaluable as the customer base grows and sales teams need a tool that can help them keep track of everything. Besides managing relationships with existing customers, these solutions also help sales teams find new ones.
Using blockchain technology
While blockchain is still seen as something of a passing fad by many business owners, it can actually be used for quite concrete things, such as supply chain management or smart contracts. If you happen to run an NFT marketplace like Spores, you do need to be careful regarding which blockchains to build your DApp (decentralized app) on, though.
EVALUATING (AND IMPROVING) YOUR TECH STACK
Building the right stack is never as simple as it sounds, regardless of whether you are expanding or not. In order to do it, you need to evaluate your current stack first. You’ll need to look into how it works for you and how it can work even better.
Assess your situation
Before anything else, you need to be 100% sure where your business is at and what kind of approach to technology your company requires. For instance, a business that is hemorrhaging money due to an ill-advised pricing strategy has more important things to worry about than what color the button on their due-in-six-months mobile app should be.
Even the best tech stack in the world is not a silver bullet that solves all problems a business might have.
You should also think long and hard about the main point of this article – is your business really ready to expand, or should you stay put? This will have a huge impact on how you assess and improve your tech stack.
Trying to expand too soon or too fast can be a big mistake. You need to analyze every aspect of your company before you can make that decision. Consider your current revenue, the availability of additional workforce, whether you can afford new office space, and much more.
Involve your employees
Once you are absolutely sure about whether you’re looking to expand your business or not, it’s time to talk to your employees. Namely, they will know more than you about how a certain piece of software is performing. For instance, your HR people will have far more knowledge about your existing HR software and potential upgrades. This goes for all other departments, too (accounting, logistics, marketing, etc.).
They will know exactly how much their present solution is helping them and what its value for the company is. They will also gladly share any problems that they are having with the tool.
In many cases, you’ll find that they already have ideas on what might work better for your company. They’ll know how you can upgrade your stack to support them better. In such situations, ask them to go through a three-step process:
- Test the solutions they are suggesting.
- Analyze the effects on how their department performs.
- Present you with a numbers-backed recommendation.
Big vs. small
When choosing a tool for your tech stack, there’s a very common dilemma you’ll face. Should you go for massive platforms that do a hundred things? Or, is it better to choose smaller tools, which don’t boast as many features but are often better at what they’re built for than the corresponding features on those big platforms?
Large platforms might seem like an obvious choice, as there are fewer tools to juggle and integrate with one another. However, they also have big cons:
- They often include features you will never use and still pay for.
- Their customer service can be impersonal and slow.
- Often, in their wish to make all their features good, none of them are really great.
Sometimes, going with the smaller, less-established solutions can be the right choice – of course, after you’ve done due research. You will often find 100% committed teams behind such tools, ready to do everything in their power to provide value for your company. And in some cases, you can even influence the future development of their tools, suggesting features that your team(s) would find useful.
If all of this sounds daunting and you are worried that you might drop the ball when it comes to your tech stack, perhaps the best solution is to consult experts in the field. Someone like Techvera will have an inexhaustible well of experience in helping businesses like yours. They will have encountered pretty much every problem you might have, and they will be able to recommend an IT infrastructure that will bring value to your bottom line.
The distinction between efficiency and expansion software is definitely something you should keep in mind when assessing and building your tech stack. It’s like the old saying – you need the right tools to get the job done. Hopefully, this article has provided you with a few ideas and tips that you can use as the starting point of your research and onwards.