With our hands regularly in both digital and physical spaces, the BIPi team spends a lot of time thinking about the tools that we use. Whether it’s swearing by eBags for travel gear, or refusing to use anything other than Teamwork for task management, the right tool can make your workday so much easier that the tool itself seems to practically disappear. Your choice of tools can get even more important once you start expanding beyond one or two people to an entire team (who may or may not be in the same space at the same time).
The term “tech stack” originated in the world of software development, where coders and project managers pay very close attention to choices made early on in the process of building a piece of software. Just the choice of coding language used in a project can result in limitations — or opportunities — in the future. Today, the concept of a tech stack has expanded beyond software development into tech in general, referring to the collection of software and tools that a business uses to operate and manage its day-to-day tasks. This can include everything from email and messaging apps to project management software, accounting tools, and more.
While the term “tech stack” originated in the software development industry, it has since become a widely used term in the business world. Today, a company’s tech stack can be seen as an essential part of their operations and can greatly impact their overall success.
You already have a tech stack, whether you’re aware of it, intentional with your choices about it, or focused on maintaining it or not.
Where to start when choosing and organizing your tech stack
The right tech stack supports you in automating business processes, increasing efficiency, and ultimately saving time and money. But how do you decide what your tech stack should include? And how can you ensure you’re choosing the right tools to support your specific business needs, in the beginning and in an ongoing way?
Consider your business’s specific needs
This may involve identifying pain points or inefficiencies in your current processes, or anticipating potential needs as your business grows.
For example, if you anticipate a need for remote work capabilities, you may want to prioritize tools that allow for collaboration and communication across multiple locations, time zones, and individual work styles.
If some of your team will be in the field or on-site at a client project while others are in an office somewhere, you may want to prioritize real-time communication tools that are easy to use on both mobile and desktop devices.
If it’s just you, wrangling a bunch of contractors, and you don’t ever see that changing, you can be more self-centered in your choices… but if you plan to hire and grow a team of full-time employees, you’ll want to consider how your choices will impact them.
Research and compare
Many digital tools these days operate on a “freemium” model, or they offer a free trial period. Take advantage of that and try out multiple options that claim to address your needs. You’ll want to look for tools that are user-friendly and have a track record of success within your industry. Consider factors such as cost, ease of implementation, and level of support provided by the vendor.
This will not be a quick process. You’ll want to set aside time to explore the tools yourself, as well as consult the rest of your team. It’s super important that, whatever tool(s) you choose, you have buy-in from your team. A hammer is doing no one any good if it stays hooked to a tool belt 24 hours a day because everyone hates how it feels when they grasp the handle!
Consider the long-term impact of your tech stack choices
Despite the fact that all you really know is what you know today, considering the future impact of your choices can benefit you over the long-term. Will the tools and software you select be able to grow and scale with your business? Will they require frequent updates or maintenance? Will it be possible to migrate to a different tool, should the day come, and how much of an impact might that migration have on your team’s workload and capacity?
Anticipating these factors can help you avoid costly mistakes down the line and ensure that your tech stack is able to support your business’s success over the long term.
Don’t forget to be mindful of available integrations
It’s crucial to consider how different tools and softwares will integrate with one another. Ideally, your tech stack should be cohesive and integrated, with different tools working together seamlessly to support your business’s goals. You may already have a tool that you’re 100% committed to using; making sure that any new tool you choose will “play nicely” with existing tools is incredibly important.
Our favorite story on this front is the ongoing frustration we have with QuickBooks (our accounting/tax software) and JP Morgan Chase (our bank). QuickBooks’ integration with Chase isn’t perfect – it is only able to automatically pull transactions from Chase into the QuickBooks interface for one of our two credit cards. This means that every month, we have to manually pull those transactions and import them. It’s not a huge deal now, but we can see that it will be in the future, and we know that at some point we’ll have to come up with a better, automated solution.
Making sure that your selected tools integrate with each other may involve prioritizing tools that have built-in integrations or APIs, or working with a consultant or IT professional to ensure that your tech stack is optimized for integration and compatibility.
What’s in BIPI’s tech stack?
Just from a digital perspective, we use a host of tools that today we find we can’t live without! Here are some standouts:
- Google Tools: We especially love Google Workspace, Voice, Authenticator, Analytics, and Search Console. Our use of those products started when they were all still free, but they’ve become crucial to our operations and we don’t expect to move any time soon!
- Teamwork: We have used many task management tools over the years, but Teamwork remains our favorite. Not only does it handle everything we need for task management, specifically, but it is set up to allow us to easily grow our business. It’s got a trouble ticketing system, time tracking, user management, workload balancing & estimating, and integrations with other tools that we like.
- QuickBooks Online: to be brutally honest, we don’t like QuickBooks (or Intuit in general), but we use it because it’s the best, most widely-used option. Our bookkeeper and accounting team both love it, so we are sticking with it.
- FreshBooks: There are a bajillion invoicing systems out there (including one inside QuickBooks), but we love FreshBooks primarily because of the user interface. It was super easy to set up and use, allows for recurring invoicing with Stripe payment processing, and is ready with additional features when and if we want to expand.
- Adobe Creative Cloud: We’ve experimented with other tools similar to Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, and XD over the years, but we always come back to Adobe products for heavy lifting. While we do routinely use Canva for collaborative, basic graphic design work, Adobe will always be in our stack.
- WordPress + Divi: Our website platform of choice is WordPress, and we’ve hitched our development wagon to the Divi framework. This choice could deserve a whole post to itself, but the big takeaway here is that WordPress and Divi are both easy to use and easy to train others to use. If you’re curious, you can find out more about choosing a website platform here
What if you want to outsource choosing your tech stack?
If you’re not tech-savvy or don’t have the time or resources to research and choose the right digital tools for your business, you can outsource this task to a technical advisor for small business. These professionals can help you establish a set of digital and tech business tools that are tailored to your specific needs and goals.
To find a technical advisor for your business, start by asking for recommendations from other business owners who are in your network or who are in a stage of growth similar to your own. You can, of course, search online for reputable consultants; in that case, look for someone with experience working with businesses similar to yours and who can also provide references or case studies to demonstrate their expertise.
A technical advisor will start by getting a basic understanding of the types of tools your business needs. You can start to identify these by considering what daily tasks take up the most amount of your time, and think about what you’d need to outsource those tasks. For example, you may be spending 8-10 hours a month on bookkeeping using spreadsheets and hating every second of it. Or, if your team struggles to meet or even just keep track of project deadlines, you may need a project management tool.
If you’re not up for hiring a technical advisor to manage this, you could also seek out professionals who specialize in the specific areas where you know you need help. If your accountant that you adore requires that you use QuickBooks, there’s no real choice to be made there… but if you’ve identified that you need a project management tool and just have no idea where to start, seek out a seasoned project manager. They might be able to offer up some free advice, or they may have a consulting service that you can take advantage of.
Berry Interesting has served businesses in this capacity before, and we routinely find that we offer up this type of advice to our website support clients. Your website itself is a component to your tech stack, and it’s always crucial to ensure that your site can integrate with other tools such as invoicing software, booking calendars, CRM tools, and email marketing platforms (in fact, SEO is a type of integration itself – making sure that your website can “integrate” with search engine bots/spiders is key for pretty much any business). Our network of specialists is extensive, so we’ve pretty much always got someone trustworthy to recommend if we don’t have an opinion ourselves!
What if parts of your tech stack aren’t working for your team
It’s important to routinely audit your tech stack to ensure that each tool is still meeting your business needs and is being used effectively by your team. You may find that certain tools are no longer necessary or that there are better alternatives available. To audit your tech stack, start by surveying your team to see which tools they find most helpful and which ones they rarely use (or, worse, ones that they dread using). You may also be able to review usage data and metrics to identify any areas of low adoption.
You might want to first start with some remedial-style training, to see if you can make the existing tool bend to your team’s needs. If that’s not working, or your team is super resistant, selecting a new tool may be in order. This can involve conducting audits of your tools and processes, soliciting feedback on new options from select team members, and doing deep-dive research into new tools or technologies that have become available since your last decision.
If you’ve identified parts of your tech stack that need to go, it’s important to mindfully plan the transition to a new tool. This may involve providing training and support to help your team learn the new tool and ensure a smooth transition. This transition is also an excellent time to get serious about documentation (and hopefully avoid future transitions).
Creating internal documentation for your company’s unique tech stack
Setting up and maintaining documentation and training resources on your company’s unique tech stack is crucial for maintaining consistency and efficiency within your business processes. Existing team members should be able to easily find and reference this documentation, and new team members should be required to review this documentation during onboarding.
Your documentation should provide an overview of all tools that are in use, how they are being used and by whom, and who is responsible for maintaining them. It should also provide guidance on how to troubleshoot common issues and provide active links to training resources provided by the tool’s creators. One way to create this documentation is by using a knowledge management system, such as a wiki or a shared document. This system should be easily accessible to all team members and regularly updated to ensure that it remains relevant and accurate. It’s also important to designate “owners” for specific tools or areas of the tech stack, who can serve as experts and resources for team members who have questions or issues.
When onboarding new team members, it’s important to provide thorough training on your company’s specific tech stack. This training should cover the tools that are being used, how to use them effectively, and who to contact if there are any issues, while allowing the new person to ask questions and witness real-time demonstrations. Depending on the size of your business, it might be a good idea to provide ongoing training and support to ensure that team members are able to keep up with any changes or updates to the tech stack.
By creating and maintaining internal documentation on your company’s unique tech stack, you can ensure that your team members are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to work efficiently and effectively. This can help you streamline your business processes, reduce errors and downtime, and ultimately improve the success of your business.