Why Your Startup Might Need to Shrink Its Tech Stack
This post originally appeared on blog.up.co
The global economy has been in a record shape for the last decade, with technology and digitization fueling growth in business markets globally. What has resulted, is an environment where the average person can casually accrue a huge variety of services, products, and devices that they want but do not need.
A superfluous selection of products mirrors the content on these devices as well, which are overflowing with applications that were once trending or downloaded on a whim—but now waste memory and screen real estate as they clutter up our attention.
Businesses often suffer a similar fate. These days it’s easy for a startup to build its foundational workflows on a series of apps and software products, using licensed enterprise software, cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), open source, and frequently all the above in tandem.
Together, this precarious collection of software may contain the functionality required for a business to operate, but a startup’s tech stack is often haphazardly managed without much consideration that its complexity may undermine output.
With today’s startups often using dozens if not hundreds of apps and tech systems, it’s no wonder that minimalism has taken off in recent years.
Get a Visual on Your Stack
An obvious consequence of too many applications in your software stack is “context switching,” which is a type of productivity fatigue that comes from a lack of interface continuity. To be continually switching between tasks and environment means that employees work harder for a lower quality of work, and might lose up to 40% of their productivity as they hop between platforms.
These days that’s the status quo, with people bombarded by notifications from Slack, text, email, Asana, Trello, social media platforms and more. Though it’s true that modern workers are bred multi-taskers and seem to thrive on it, confining the tech stack to a certain size is vital.
To appropriate minimalist theories and apply them to the workplace is easy because less clutter promotes thought and creativity, whether we’re reducing the physical objects surrounding us or the many digital environments we jump between. It’s an ROI-positive endeavor.
To start, it’s crucial to “zoom out” and gain a broad perspective on all the applications your employees use every day, just as you would organize the items in your home before determining which ones aren’t necessary. Organizational tools like Torii help in this regard by enabling your IT administrators to audit, connect, observe, and manage all your SaaS products from one dashboard.
IT professionals are some of the most qualified in any organization to identify which apps are “one trick ponies,” and this is simple with full visibility of the software stack thanks to SaaS management solutions. It could be that you have six different apps that do six different things. Each might add value in some way, but context switching, elements of redundancy, and integration obstacles make for a bumpy workflow.
Employees are able to do the same amount of work and at a higher quality when this multi-system chaos is quieted.
Mixing Minimalism and IT
Translating minimalist theories to a startup’s technology stack is difficult, but the opportunity cost of not doing so is great. A global study found that workers at firms which are “tech laggards” are five times more likely to experience frustration on the job, and if the technology is clunky, outdated, or haphazardly deployed, they are six times more likely to want to quit. At organizations which are proven to be agile and lean in their deployment of tech, only 7% of workers feel this way.
Accordingly, any workplace that wants to boost job satisfaction, keep employees more focused, and control the inevitable complexity of growth should take a page from Marie Kondo’s book—metaphorically of course. The KonMaridecluttering method can be interpreted for apps just as it can article of clothing or old toys.
After you’ve established which apps are part of your stack, you should observe employees using these tools, and make them a part of the conversation to determine which are “sparking joy” and which take their head out of the game.
It could be something as small as an app that doesn’t export into a format recognizable by the next, requiring manual work that represents a bottleneck and detracts from the context surrounding the task. You might discover that some utilities are missing, that apps are outdated, or most commonly, able to be folded into fewer interfaces without sacrificing functionality.
The goal of any decluttering endeavor is to establish highly integrated systems that feel as though they’re one.
This sometimes means adding, removing, or rearranging layers of the stack with the goal of taking the fewest steps from point A to B, regardless of the business flow. It’s usually the “biggest” solutions that are most highly integrated, such as Google’s G-Suite, Salesforce, and HubSpot, so migrating business flows to these platforms from others may benefit scalability over the long-term and reduce worker stress levels medium-term. (Because short-term, switching tools prompt an accompanying learning curve).
Purge Your Apps, Gain Peace of Mind
To reduce app clutter in the workplace is to empower your employees by listening to them, getting down to their level and understanding the pros and cons of each application they deal with every day.
The lesson learned for most companies, often too late, is that adding a new application to your tech stack should be considered more carefully. Will it fuel context switching and distraction, or seamlessly integrate with the tools employees are already using every day?
Making important decisions and staying focused on the task at hand is easier when your workers aren’t harried by a tech stack resembling a Rube Goldberg machine. Instead, encourage clear-minded creativity and concentration with a well-defined application stack, and watch as employees reap the rewards on your behalf.