Are you looking to boost your business productivity and streamline your workflows?
One major key to doing that is choosing the right productivity tools for your tech stack. With a plethora of options available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which tools will actually work for you and your team and still get the job done.
Imagine having a customized tech stack that perfectly aligns with your business needs and personal preferences, helping you to work smarter and get more done. By choosing your ideal productivity tools to create a tailored tech stack, not only you can maximize your efficiency, you can also reduce your stress and mental load along the way.
Interested? In this blog post, I’ll guide you through a step-by-step tutorial that will help you build a tech stack that’s specifically tailored to your unique needs and preferences. Let’s get into it.
What is a tech stack?
A tech stack refers to the combination of software, tools, platforms, and technologies that work together to power your online business. It’s the digital equivalent of a foundation for your online presence and operations.
Each bit of tech plays a crucial role in helping your business to run smoothly. By choosing the right software, platforms, and services that align with your goals, needs, wants, and preferences, you can streamline processes and workflows, boost your productivity, and save time, money and mental energy along the way.
Why do I need to know how to build a tech stack?
Planning out your tech stack is an essential step as an online business owner, whether you’re selling digital products, courses, services or a combination of these. By adding different tech to your existing tech stack without considering how they all play together, you could easily run into a number of challenges that will hinder your productivity.
Common Challenges in Building Your Business Tech Stack Without a Plan
1. Integration Challenges
Integrating different software and tools to work together can be a headache, whether it’s due to compatibility issues or the complexity of connecting them.
2. Technical Overwhelm
Some tools have lots of great features but the learning curve to start using them may be overwhelming. So you may only use bits of it or stop using it altogether. Even the best tools are useless if they don’t get used to their potential, or worse yet, don’t get used at all.
3. Limited Budget
Budget constraints are a common concern for us small business owners. Balancing functionality with cost-effectiveness becomes crucial when selecting tools, because using the wrong tools can quickly add up to huge unnecessary expenses.
4. Scalability Concerns
As your business grows, knowing that your tech stack can scale accordingly becomes important. On one hand, you don’t want to start with a free plan, only to need to pay for expensive add-ons in a few months’ time. On the other hand, you don’t want to get overloaded with extra features that you may not need for several years yet.
5. User Experience Issues
User experience covers that of your customers where applicable, but also you as the business owner. Your tech should enhance how you work, not hinder your workflow.
6. Security and Data Protection Concerns
Protecting both your data and your customer data is more important than ever. Choosing secure platforms, and complying with privacy regulations are essential.
Key reasons to learning how to build your tech stack
Simply put, using the right set of tools will simplify your workload. Remember that if you get distracted by shiny features that “you never knew you needed,” you could easily end up creating more work for yourself rather than solving the initial problems you set out to fix. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to build your tech stack.
Understanding how to, and planning out, your tech stack before building it is helps you with:
A well-designed tech stack streamlines your business processes and workflow, automates routine and mundane tasks, and improves your overall efficiency. It helps you organize and manage your tools effectively, allowing for smoother workflow routines and better productivity.
Scalability and growth
As your business expands, having a scalable tech stack becomes important. It ensures that your systems can handle increased demands, such as higher website traffic, growing customer databases (like your email list, customer access portal, etc), and possibly also more complex automation requirements. Building a scalable tech stack helps you navigate these obstacles easier when they come up.
By carefully choosing and using the right tools for your situation, you can optimize your costs. A well-planned tech stack helps you identify cost-effective options that offer you essential functions (where you determine what’s essential to you) without unnecessary expenses. It lets you make informed decisions about free tools, premium options, and the benefits of each.
Enhanced customer experience
A well-structured tech stack can help you deliver a seamless and personalized customer experience. It can help you make your customer support more efficient, create targeted marketing campaigns, and even personalized interactions at different posts of your customer journey.
Adaptability to change
Knowing how to build a tech stack empowers you to adapt your tech to changes like your business needs, industry requirements (like privacy laws), and customer expectations as your business evolves. It gives you a framework for you to embrace new tools and tech, explore emerging platforms, and keep optimizing your business processes and workflows.
By carefully considering your specific needs, wants, and current pain points, and taking the time to plan out your tech stack, you can make the overall process of setting up your tech a lot smoother. Doing so will help you to get set up quickly, with a better and more efficient workflow for your online business. And that’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to do in the process below.
Step-by-Step Instructions to build your tech stack
Setting up your tech stack for your online business can feel like a daunting and massive undertaking, with so many options and features to consider. My step-by-step process below will guide you through it all so that you can build a tech stack suited to you.
Here’s the process at a glance:
- Evaluate your existing tech stack tools
- Identify your important business processes
- Prioritize your tech stack needs: must-haves, nice-to-haves, and distractions
- Research available options: free tools and premium versions
- Find recommendations and reviews
- Consider integration and compatibility between your tech options
- Plan for scalability and growth
- Start, test, evaluate, and iterate for optimization
- Repeat the process as needed
By following this step-by-step process, you’ll build your own customized tech stack that streamlines your operations and workflows, and is tailored to how you like to work. Let’s jump into it.
Step 1: Evaluate your existing tech stack tools
Take a closer look at the tools you’re currently using in your business. Assess what you like about them and what you find limiting or frustrating. This is the time to be brutally honest about how you like to work and what you don’t like.
Based on your evaluation, consider each of your tools and decide whether you want to keep it, look for an option to replace it with a more suitable alternative, or potentially ditch it completely if it no longer serves your needs effectively.
Step 2: Identify your important business processes
Look at what you need to do in your business and highlight the specific tasks, processes or workflows where you need or would really want help from tech to make them easier in some way.
This can be things like streamlining your sales follow up, automating part of your social marketing, more easily scheduling calls with customers or potential customers, or even organizing or enhancing your content creation workflow.
Knowing where you want tech to streamline your workflow or boost your productivity will help you choose the right tech stack for you, and help you to stay focused on what truly matters to you.
Step 3: Prioritize your tech stack needs: must-haves, nice-to-haves, and distractions
Here, you need to drill down a little into the list you made in the last step. Categorize and prioritize each of your tech needs based on their importance: must-have, nice-to-have, and distraction.
The must-haves are the essential tools that are vital for your business operations.
The nice-to-haves are optional but beneficial tools that can enhance efficiency or provide additional value.
The distractions are the shiny tools or features that may tempt you, but are most likely unnecessary for your current focus or stage of business. You need to carefully consider if these align with your current goals or if they might steal your attention away from more important parts of your business.
Remember that a tool should lessen your workload, not increase it by enticing you to do things “you didn’t know you needed” before you found this feature or fun tool.
Sorting and prioritizing our needs now will help us avoid wasting time and money on tools we don’t really need when we start looking at our options.
Step 4: Research available options: free tools and premium versions
Explore free tools and software that offer the necessary features to fulfill your must-have essential needs. While the free tools may come with limitations, weigh their capabilities against your budget and current requirements.
For the must-haves and certain nice-to-haves, also look into some premium versions or paid alternatives, considering the added functionalities, scalability (see step 7 below), customer support, and potential time and resource savings they offer.
Sort your options based on your priority list.
Step 5: Find recommendations and reviews
Ask for specific advice and recommendations from business owners or industry professionals who understand your business model and/or have faced similar challenges in building their tech stack.
Include context using the work you’ve done so far, because better questions with the right context will help you get better, more applicable suggestions and advice when people respond to you.
Read reviews (and case studies if and where they’re applicable) to get a better understanding of the real-world performance of the tools you’re considering. Learning from others’ experiences will help you make more informed decisions.
Again, sort these recommendations based on your priority list. You may find that some recommendations mention features that you don’t know were possible with tech. You’ll need to decide whether each of these features are helpful, or if they’re distractions. If it covers something in your business that you already do or need to do, it could fall into your nice-to-have, or must-have categories.
Step 6: Consider integration and compatibility between your tech options
Assess how well the various tools you’re considering will integrate with each other, and with your existing systems that you decided to keep in step 1.
For example: check that the tools you’re considering are compatible with your website, content management system (CMS), payment gateways, email marketing software, and other essential (aka your “must-have”) platforms.
For certain workflows where multiple pieces of tech are involved, smooth data flow and automation are key—so check whether the tools you choose can work together seamlessly (either natively, or with a third-party tool like zapier). This will help you avoid any compatibility issues that could potentially make things harder instead of easier for you.
Remember to review your priority list. This step especially, may shuffle some of your tech around on your list based on how well they work together for the functions you need.
Step 7: Plan for scalability and growth.
Consider the short- to medium-term future needs of your business. As you grow, you can anticipate increased traffic, larger customer databases like your email list or student portal, and any other evolving requirements.
The longer you’ve been in business, the further ahead you’ll be able to plan, but for now it won’t help for you to plan for a team of 10 and a million if you’re still working on getting your business up and running.
At the same time, you don’t want to need a new tech stack in 3 months time. Choose tools that can scale with your business and adapt to changing demands without causing disruptions or requiring frequent migrations.
Finalize your priority list based on this step.
Step 8: Start, test, evaluate, and iterate for optimization.
It’s time to drive in and get started! To build the first (or next) version of your tech stack, start by implementing the essential tools you’ve chosen, and then add in the nice-to-haves as you go.
Keep evaluating each bit of tech, for example whenever you use something, or check in weekly or monthly depending on the process that the tech is helping with. You’ll want to evaluate based on how each platform performs, how easy they are to use, and how they impact your business workflows.
Step 9: Repeat the process as needed
If you find something isn’t working for how you like to work, make adjustments, explore new options, or replace the existing tool with something better.
If you’re finding that your business needs have changed since you set up your existing tech stack, repeat the process from step 1 so that you have more clarity into your current needs and choosing appropriate options.
This will keep your tech stack optimized and make sure it keeps meeting your evolving needs.
Key considerations for successfully building your tech stack
When building a tech stack for your online business, there are several key considerations to keep in mind that complement the process (outlined above) as you move through it:
Stay flexible and adaptable
Your tech stack should be able to roll with the punches and adapt to the changing needs of your business, not necessarily for the long term but definitely longer than just the short term. Tech is always evolving, and your business might go through its fair share of changes too. So, go for tools and platforms that can scale up, be customized, and play nice with other systems for longer than just a few months. This way, your tech stack can grow and evolve alongside your business, at least for the medium term.
Keep the user in mind
Look for tools that make life easier, both for you and your team. User experience matters! Go for tools that are user-friendly, intuitive, and don’t require a master’s degree to figure out. Consider how much time and effort it takes to get up to speed with each tool, and whether they provide good customer support, help documentation and tutorials. A tech stack that’s easy to use means smoother workflows, happier teams, and more time to focus on what really matters.
Protect that data
Privacy and security should be top priorities when choosing your tools. Make sure the platforms and software you select take data protection seriously. Look for robust security measures, strong encryption protocols, and compliance with relevant privacy regulations (GDPR is one of the big ones). By safeguarding customer data and ensuring secure transactions, you build trust with your audience and safeguard your business reputation.
Remember, building a tech stack is an ongoing journey, and these considerations can help you make informed decisions as you navigate your options.
Taking your tech stack to the next level: how to optimize efficiency and adaptability
To really get the most out of your tech stack, you’ll want to consider the following strategies and approaches:
Embrace automation and workflows
While the process outlined above helps you identify the right tools for your business, it’s essential to optimize their usage by leveraging automation capabilities of the tools themselves, and hone your business workflows to get the most out of your tools.
Foster a culture of learning and adaptability
Building a successful tech stack goes beyond the tools themselves. Encourage a culture of learning and adaptability within your organization.
Embrace experimentation and flexibility within your tech stack journey.
While the outlined process provides a solid foundation, be open to exploring new tools, features, and integrations that can enhance your business operations.
By embracing automation, fostering adaptability, and staying open to experimentation, you can unlock the full potential of your tech stack.
Alternatives to building your own tech stack
While learning how to build a tech stack can be empowering, it’s important to recognize that it may not be the right path for everyone. Here are a few alternative options to consider:
If building a tech stack yourself seems overwhelming, consider outsourcing the task to an expert. Work with consultants, agencies, or specialized firms who can assess your needs, recommend suitable tools, and even handle implementation and integration for you if you want to be completely hands-off.
All-in-one platforms provide comprehensive solutions for multiple business functions. Instead of piecing together individual tools, these platforms offer website builders, CRM systems, email marketing, analytics, and more in a single ecosystem. While they may have limitations compared to custom-built tech stacks, they provide a streamlined option, especially for small businesses or those with limited technical expertise.
Pre-built solutions are tailored for specific industries or use cases, and can be an attractive alternative to building your own tech stack from scratch. These done-for-you options will address common needs and challenges of a particular type of business, with pre-configured integrations and functionalities to offer you a plug-and-play style solution. While they may partially or completely lack customization, they offer a quicker and more straightforward solution for businesses with specific requirements.
If you’re considering alternatives, keep in mind your unique set of circumstances, resources, and business objectives when you’re weighing your options. Look at the pros and cons of each option to choose the approach that best aligns with your goals and constraints.
Frequently asked questions about small business tech stacks
Q: What is a tech stack and why is it important for small businesses?
A: A tech stack is the combination of software, digital tools, platforms, and technologies that you use to run your online business. Having a right-for-you tech stack is important for your small business because it lets you be more efficient, it supports your business growth and it can even improve your customers’ experience with your business.
Q: How do I evaluate my existing tech stack tools?
A: To evaluate your existing tech stack tools, start by listing them all out. Then one-by-one, assess their strengths and limitations, consider your likes and dislikes about them, and determine if they align with your business needs and short- to medium-term future goals.
Q: How do I prioritize my tech stack needs?
A: Prioritize your tech stack needs by categorizing them as must-haves, nice-to-haves, or distractions based on their importance, relevance, and impact on your current business processes and workflows.
Q: How do I choose tools for integrating different software?
A: When selecting tools to integrate various software, consider their native compatibility options, data flow, automation capabilities, and ease of integration with your essential must-have platforms like your payment gateways, email marketing software, and content management systems.
Q: Should I opt for free tools or invest in premium options?
A: Choosing between free tools and premium options depends on your budget, your must-have required features, and the trade-off between cost and additional nice-to-have functionalities or support that the premium options will provide.
Q: How can I ensure scalability and growth with my tech stack?
A: You can be confident in your tech stack’s scalability and growth potential by choosing tools that can handle increased traffic, larger customer databases, and evolving automation requirements without any disruptions or frequent migrations.
Q: How can I have a seamless user experience with my tech stack?
A: Prioritize tools with intuitive interfaces, fast loading times, and optimized website performance to deliver a seamless user experience. This will let you minimize friction for both you and your team, and your customers.
Q: How can I protect data and ensure security with my tech stack?
A: Protect data and ensure security by choosing platforms with robust security measures, encryption protocols, and compliance with privacy regulations to safeguard customer information (and your own).
Q: How can I optimize my tech stack for automation and workflows?
A: Embrace tools that offer automation capabilities, and customize your own workflows to optimize your tech stack, streamline your business processes, and increase your overall efficiency.
Q: How can I foster a culture of learning and adaptability within my business?
A: Foster a culture of learning and adaptability by actively encouraging your team to explore new tools, features, and integrations that can enhance productivity, by even a little bit, in any part of your business.
Wrapping up, and my experience with different tech stacks
Choosing the right productivity tools for your own tech stack can significantly enhance your business workflows and your overall efficiency. With a wide range of options available, it’s important to consider your own preferences and work style.
In the blog post above, my step-by-step tutorial walks you through the entire process of building a tech stack that works for you. Not every tool is suitable for every business, so it’s crucial to find the ones that align with your specific needs, wants and preferences.
As a virtual assistant, project manager, and process manager for small online businesses for over 5 years, I have worked with diverse teams, ranging from diverse global online teams with a dozen or so team members to solopreneurs where I’m the only, very part-time, assistant.
This experience has given me a deep understanding of the intricacies of different tech stacks, how they relate to the businesses’ unique workflows, and the importance of choosing the right tools for the team at hand.
Remember, the best set of tools for your situation are the ones you’ll actually use.