Do you know how many software tools and apps your small business uses? You could have a tool for every task, but is each one contributing to the productivity of your employees or the turnover of your business? Perhaps not.
The mix of tools and apps your business uses every day makes up your company’s tech stack. And it’s important to optimize this tech stack so your employees are spending more time on their actual work than on switching between multiple tools.
If you’re building a tech stack for the first time or reevaluating the one you already have, keep your long-term goals in mind and select software that can scale as your small business grows. Also, ensure the tools within your stack(s) work well with each other so you can easily share business data across departments.
In this article, we discuss how to build a tech stack from scratch and share tips to get the most out of your investment. We’ll also look at some commonly used tech stacks and their components.
A tech stack, also called a software stack, consists of the software apps and tools your business uses every day to get work done. For instance, your marketing tech stack—i.e., the tools used by your marketing team—could include email management, social media management, CRM, and survey solutions. Similarly, other teams such as HR, IT, and operations could be using different sets of software tools to automate and streamline their daily workflows.
Due to less complex workflows, small businesses, like yours, usually have a smaller technology stack than enterprises. The HR team of a small firm, for instance, can use a single integrated human capital management (HCM) solution to handle all HR workflows. A large business, on the other hand, would have to use dedicated tools for performance management, attendance tracking, benefits administration, and other HR processes.
Thus, the size of your tech stack solely depends on the complexity of your business workflows. As your company grows, you may have to add more tools to manage different workflows. Therefore, select solutions that are easily scalable and can integrate with your existing tools.
Investing in software alone isn’t enough to build an ideal tech stack. You have to organize the tools with the stack as well as understand how each one supports your workflows. Let’s look at some ways to do that.
Look for processes or workflows that software can help automate. For example, if you send promotional emails manually to customers, consider using an email marketing platform to automate the process and save time. List all such workflows that can be automated using software to improve efficiency.
Certain workflows are similar in nature and can be served better by a common tech solution. For example, you can use the same chat tool for team communication and collaboration between different departments.
Identifying such similar business processes will not only lower your tech investment but also optimize the use of software tools across your organization.
Shortlist software tools that offer the functionality you need within your budget. Use third-party platforms such as GetApp to check which solutions best fit your tech stack. On GetApp, you can read what real buyers like you have to say about product features, integration capabilities, scalability, cost, vendor support, etc.
The technology landscape changes frequently, and new tools and features enter the market every few years. Therefore, monitor your tech stack regularly to track current usage rates, identify bottlenecks, measure the return on investment (ROI), and foresee any tech gaps. Add new tools or features based on how well—or poorly—your stack is performing.
To get the most out of your tech stack, ensure its components can communicate with each other. In other words, the apps and tools in a stack should be able to integrate and share data between them.
Let’s say your marketing stack consists of an email marketing tool and a marketing automation tool. Both should integrate well so you can easily share customer details and campaign metrics from one system to another.
The image below depicts a sample marketing technology (martech) stack along with the various tools used for automating workflows such as customer acquisition, customer relationship management, social media management, customer service, and referral marketing. The arrows show how customer data moves between the different tools, and the bottom bar indicates the customer journey stages in which these tools are used.
The tools you select should also support interstack integration—i.e., integration between different tech stacks. For example, your project management stack, which includes project planning and resource management software, should be able to interact with your HR stack, which consists of workforce management and HR analytics software, for better utilization and tracking of resources across projects.
Most software solutions have built-in integration capabilities (i.e., a direct connection between two tools for data sharing). If a product doesn’t offer built-in integration, use third-party integration platforms such as Zapier to connect the various tools in your tech stack(s). Many vendors also offer open APIs that allow two solutions to interact with each other.
To learn more about integration, read our primer: What are software integrations?
Factor in the integration aspect right from the time you’re planning your technology stack and not after you’ve already shortlisted the products. This will help ensure the tools you’ve selected fit into your existing technology ecosystem without any hassles.
In this section, we’ve listed tech stacks commonly used by businesses across industries. We’ve included the common tools of each stack, but you may not need all of them.
A martech stack includes the digital tools your marketing team uses to complete everyday tasks such as creating ad campaigns, sending campaign emails, and tracking leads. It helps automate end-to-end marketing workflows and improve productivity.
Here are some tools to include in your martech stack:
Email marketing software: Plan, execute, and monitor your email marketing campaigns. Automate communication, and track campaign performance.
Social media marketing software: Manage social media activities such as scheduling online posts and replying to comments.
Marketing automation software: Automate marketing workflows, and measure the performance of campaigns across channels, including email, social media, and website.
Content marketing software: Manage, track, and share digital content and assets on websites, third-party blogs, etc.
Customer experience software: Manage customer interactions, collect client feedback, and track customer sentiments.
An HR tech stack is a set of integrated digital tools supporting your HR department. It can include some or all of the following software:
Payroll software: Automate payroll calculations, ensure regulatory compliance, and manage employee overtime and absence tracking.
Performance management and appraisal software: Create employee goals that are aligned with company objectives, and track employee progress over time to identify the top performers.
Workforce management software: Optimize workforce productivity by matching the right candidate to the right job, scheduling resources, tracking time and attendance, monitoring compliance, and more.
HR analytics software: Analyze employee data (payroll, attendance, etc.) to generate insights for decision-making.
A project management stack refers to the various tools you use to effectively manage business projects. Common tech components of a project management stack are:
Project planning software: Break down large projects into small tasks, and estimate the time required to complete them.
Project tracking software: Track different project parameters such as budget, schedule, and resource productivity.
Resource management software: Plan, assign, and track which employee is working on which project and for how long.
Time and expense software: Track the time and money spent on different projects to calculate profitability and track operational efficiency.
Collaboration software: Share project documents with team members, and collaborate in real time via voice and video calls, live chat, and screen sharing.
A security tech stack includes the various security technologies protecting your IT systems and data. Common elements of a security stack are
Email security software: Scan incoming and outgoing emails and attachments for viruses. Automatically categorize emails by sender, priority, or risk level.
Authentication software: Verify the identity of users by checking the credentials submitted by them against a database of user information.
Think other tools are a better fit for your tech stack? Head over to our business software page that lists a variety of tools, grouped by the business function they support. Filter the products by your business size, budget, or integration requirements; read what others have to say about the products; and opt for demos or free trials to make the right buying decision.