What is a tech stack or platform?

No single software tool can accomplish everything a business needs. Successful companies leverage numerous apps and build a technology stack ("tech stack") or platform to achieve their business goals. According to HubSpot Partner Denamico, a tech stack or platform is defined as “a group of technology-based tools that help businesses to operate effectively, market efficiently, and enable sales and service teams to provide an optimal customer experience.”

It should be noted that “tech stack” has been used, traditionally, to refer to a “set of technologies an organization uses to build a web or mobile application,” including “programming languages, frameworks, libraries, patterns, servers, UI/UX solutions, software, and tools used by its developers,” according to Stackshare. While this definition is valid, this article is much more focused on the SaaS apps (such as HubSpot, Vidyard, Zoom, etc.) that businesses use to operate, rather than developer tools alone.

As your business adapts and grows, your tech stack will change as you seek to maximize efficiency and lower costs. Blissfully reports that an individual employee used an average of eight apps in 2019, and companies with 200-501 employees used approximately 123 apps.

With so many choices, how do you decide which apps are most fundamental to your business growth? In this blog post, we’ll review the importance of auditing your tech stack or platform and the steps you can take to complete an audit today.

 

Why is it important to audit your tech stack or platform?

When it comes to your company’s platform needs, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Each company has unique goals, offerings, and challenges. On the flip side, there are new apps and updates being launched every day, which is why we recommend auditing your tech stack on a regular cadence. By reviewing the apps your business uses, you may discover ways to:

  • Save employees time

  • Save money on apps

  • Consolidate apps

  • Maintain a single source-of-truth for data

 

Consider all the tools your business needs to run effectively. This includes everything from the content management system that your website is built on to the social media accounts you use to build your brand’s presence. Every app your employees use should be tied back to your business strategy. As your business grows, its needs will change and expand. You might not need certain apps you used in the past, or it might be time to invest in a new tool.

But as your list of apps gets longer, the law of diminishing returns comes into play, and it becomes more difficult to maintain peak efficiency. This is where an audit can help you revitalize your toolkit.

 

What tools are part of a tech stack or platform?

 

Consider all the tools you use across your business. To help you get started, here are some of the different types of tools you might need for your marketing, sales, and service functions:

 

Marketing:

  • Ad management tools

  • Chatbot automation

  • Data analytics

  • CMS (content management system)

  • SEO

  • Email automation

  • Lead generation

    • Example: A firm might use HubSpot for Ad management, chatbots, and SEO, while building their website on Wordpress CMS. 

Sales:

  • CRM (customer relationship management)

  • VoIP/call tracking

  • Data management

  • Sales enablement

  • Meeting scheduling,

  • Video recording/sharing

Example: A sales team might use HubSpot for CRM and meeting scheduling, while using Vidyard for sharing videos with prospects and AirCall for outbound and inbound calling. 


Service:

  • Ticket management

  • Help desk automation

  • Knowledge base

  • Live chat

  • NPS survey automation

Example: A firm's customer service team may integrate with SurveyMonkey to send NPS surveys to their customers, while using HubSpot's ticket automation to manage incoming customer queries. 

 

How should companies audit their tech stack or platform?

An effective approach to auditing tech stacks or platforms focuses on the business processes connected to each app, rather than the app itself:

  • How, where, and when a given app is used in a business process, rather than the raw number of apps

  • How ingrained a given app is in a given business operation, and how much it would cost to move to a different system or remove it from said process

  • How a given app has the potential to meet more than one need for a company

 

Start by getting input from all the stakeholders and app users from your business. This might include directors, team leads, IT leadership, and individual power users (individual contributors who use the apps daily), along with other people who have a voice in the technology decision making process. Focus on gathering the facts about each app and the underlying business process, while noting down users’ views on the effectiveness of each app for analysis later. Discuss topics like:

  • What are your business processes?

  • What are all the apps each team uses to complete daily tasks?

  • What is the business impact of each app? How does each app impact employee efficiency and the customer experience?

 


Platform Audit Worksheet:

As you are asking these questions, be sure to record your data in an audit spreadsheet, such as this one: “Platform Audit” worksheet. Since this is a read-only Google Sheet, you’ll have to click on “File” > “Make a copy” to edit it.

You’ll notice a number of columns on the sheet: “Name of app,” “Departments using it,” “Billing owner,” “Current role in business process,” “Total number of users,” “Objects,” “Metrics,” “Integrations with other apps?,” and “Total annual cost.” Feel free to add additional columns as and when needed. On your copy of this Google Sheet, you’ll be able to remove the first two rows of example data, and start filling in your own data. Once you have listed out the apps you can think of, pass this sheet to the rest of your departments for input, until all apps are accounted for as best as possible.

You will want to start focusing on the apps that impact the most people, have higher annual spend, and integrate with other apps. On the tab marked “Reports,” you’ll be able to see bar graphs generated by the data you input into the first sheet, ranking each app by number of users, annual spend, and integrations with other apps.


 

For each app you’re currently using, you can make one of three choices:

Option 1: Integrate the app with HubSpot:
  1. If there’s data stored in this app, integrate it with HubSpot so you have a single source of truth. Not only is this going to help your employees be more efficient, but it’ll lead to a smoother customer experience.

  2. Check out HubSpot’s App Marketplace and see if the app is available to connect to HubSpot.

    • If an integration is not available in the marketplace, consider swapping the app with a HubSpot-friendly tool that performs the same task, or reach out to our Solutions Partners to build a custom integration for your needs.

    • You can also use HubSpot’s APIs to build a custom solution for your business.

  3. Check for overlap:

    • Apps get updated frequently, so make sure to review the functionality of each app. It’s possible that you have two apps that include the same functionality.

    • Use the data with HubSpot tools you’re already familiar with. Segment contacts using lists, send targeted emails, trigger workflows, and analyze data directly in HubSpot.


Option 2: Replace the app with a tool available in HubSpot:

When you’re using another piece of technology that performs similar actions to the HubSpot software, you should look for opportunities to consolidate, since you’re technically spending more money than they need to.

However, this is not always the best recommendation. In some cases, an app might be used throughout your business, and you may be extremely happy with its performance. The cost of switching over may be prohibitive, even if it has some redundant features. 

Furthermore, if the app provides key functionality that HubSpot does not offer, you are better off not interfering.

Option 3:Continue to use the app separately from HubSpot:

Some technology solutions are critical to a business but may not be essential to the work being done within HubSpot.

Don’t integrate for the sake of integrating.

If the data will be unhelpful or could compromise their data integrity, it may be a good idea to keep the two systems separate.

Examples of this could include proprietary technologies that perform a function that HubSpot has no part in, or even cases in which data must adhere to an industry standard that HubSpot does not meet, such as HIPAA compliance.

 

When presenting these recommendations to your team, you can make it easier for them to make a decision by prioritizing each technology by factors such as ROI, time required for implementation, and resources required for implementation. By following this organized approach, you are more likely to win your decision makers’ support.

 

How does the HubSpot App Marketplace help with tech stack planning?

HubSpot launched an App Marketplace that features hundreds of third-party apps that HubSpot users can integrate with their accounts. Businesses can discover new integrations and connect their tools, teams, processes, and data with a single, connected system. Apps are also filterable by categories such as marketing, sales, and finance, each with subcategories within them.

According to Blissfully's 2019 SaaS Trends Report, the average 200-501-person company uses more than 100 apps, and that number isn’t likely to decrease anytime soon. As of November 2019, more than half a million apps have been installed across HubSpot’s user base alone! As businesses deploy more and more apps to solve various business challenges, it becomes increasingly important for SaaS companies to make it easier for those apps to work together and to create a platform with centralized data in one place.

Key features of the HubSpot App Marketplace include:

  • Clear context for more informed integration decisions, including reviews.
  • Easy discovery of relevant apps for HubSpot users.
  • Decreased friction and improved discoverability for app developers.

 

Check out this helpful article in our knowledge base that steps through everything you need to use the marketplace, from finding an app for your needs to actually connecting the app to your platform/tech stack.

By guiding your team through the capabilities of the HubSpot platform ecosystem, you will make it easier for your business to find the tools they need to succeed and grow better.

Originally published Apr 17, 2020 5:02:06 PM, updated April 17 2020