Don’t Become A Tech Stack Prisoner

Hidden questions to ask yourself before adding a tool to your tech stack.

The silhouette of a person standing behind jail bars and a curious white dove flying by on the other side.

As a busy marketing consultant, I meet with too many tech stack prisoners.

The biggest problems I see:

  • The tool is cookie-cutter.
  • The tool bottle-necks growth.
  • The tool is based on ancient tech.

A modern tech stack should take care of the dirty clockwork for you — not be the dirty clockwork.

It doesn’t matter if it looks like a newfangled Ferrari from the outside if what’s under the hood is actually 1995 Honda Civic parts.

What I see way too often is a CEO handing off all tech stack responsibility to the CTO without knowing a thing about the limitations.

Many of these CTOs recommend a “universal” tech stack.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but if a CTO walks in the door telling you to use a “universal” tech stack — you should probably look for a new CTO.

  • Every startup has different needs.
  • A universal tech stack doesn’t exist.

The real reason many CTOs don’t want to switch to more modern solutions is likely because they’ve been using the same dusty stack for years and they don’t have the balls to do some learning.

Before trusting anyone to pour new tools like cereal into your tech stack ask yourself the following questions.

Does the tool scale?

Look for tools that grow with you.

The same tech stack that brought you from A to B will not always bring you from B to C. And that’s okay for little things, but you don’t want to be migrating your payment gateway or database every 6 months for example.

The best tools to add to your stack are those that support little dreams and big dreams. Stripe is a brilliant example of a tool that is modular enough to do just that. Whether you’re just starting out or if people call your brand a Unicorn — Stripe grows with you.

Does the tool create a better user experience?

A chainsaw is cool.

But cutting a chicken with it is a bloody mess.

Whether the tool is seen by your customers or by your team, it needs to make their lives easier — not harder. It also shouldn’t take a Ph.D. to master.

Not sure if a tool is user-friendly or not?

Look at the interface without clicking around.

  • If you intuitively know what it does, it’s user-friendly.
  • If you don’t it’s probably not that user-friendly.

Does the tool allow you to pivot fast?

Say you want to do a full rebrand tomorrow with a:

  • New name
  • New logo
  • New fonts
  • New colors
  • New tone

How long will it take to completely turn your brand upside down?

With the right tech stack, it should—at least technically — be possible within 24 hours.

Does the tool allow you to act on customer data?

Many tech stacks show data.

Few actually allow you to act on that data.

Instead of just showing you the problem areas, does the tool actually help you fix them, or is it just data C-suite executives use to brag about on the golf course?

The best tools allow you to see, fix, and prevent problems.

Does the tool sync in real-time with the rest of your tech stack?

Latency is real.

Just ask the lady who booked a seat in the movie theatre online while the man who chews popcorn like a hippo booked that exact seat at the POS counter for Jurassic World.

There is no more excuse not to have real-time syncing.

If a customer gives her email on the live chat on your website, the data needs to be synced seamlessly to your CRM. If a customer made an in-app purchase, inventory data needs to instantly update stock on your website through a real-time database.

A 5-second latency might not seem crazy at the beginning, but before you know it, you’re sitting with a massive problem.

Does the tool have (friendly) cross-channel API, Webhook, and Zapier integrations?

Nobody likes to spend hours going through terrible API documentation.

And no marketing team wants to wait for some nocturnal back-end wizard to finally crack the code that connects one tool with another.

A Zapier connection gets the ship moving — at least until the back-end gods responded to the nocturnal creature’s pleas.

Does the tool have a supportive community around it?

There’s nothing worse than having to search every inch of the internet not to be able to find the answer you’re looking for.

Does the tool allow for custom experiences or is it cookie-cutter?

Some tools may look pretty, but they are cookie-cutter.

Shopify is an example that comes to mind.

Do you really with your online store to look like everyone else’s? If not you better have a brilliant team of developers at hand to update the living heck out of every experience.

Your tech stack should allow you to stand out from the noise.

Does the tool use growing or aging technology?

Open Google Trends.

Type in the tool/technology’s name.

  • If interest is growing, that’s a good sign.
  • If interest is fading, you probably should look at why it’s losing market share.

I find that there’s usually a new competitor making life a little easier.

You don’t want to look back in 5 years sitting with ancient tech without updated support.

If I can leave you with one final piece of advice, make sure every tool you use allows you to seamlessly migrate when you decide to move on in the future.

I’m curious, what’s in your tech stack for:

  • Project management
  • Marketing/CRM
  • Backend/CMS
  • Frontend

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