As if we weren’t already consuming technology fast enough, lockdowns, working from home and remote work pushed us into technology overdrive. It’s pretty easy to see the stress and strain it’s placing on teams, with 92% of serious mental health concerns in the Australian workplace being attributed to work-related stressors. The real risk is not just the increasing mountains of subscriptions costs but the time, energy and potential change fatigue from adopting, learning and maximising the value of a tool. In this post, I am going to get down and dirty with what the adoption of new technologies looks like today and provide you with the opportunity to approach new tech in a strategic, commercial and zen-like way. 🧘
The “Band-aid” tech stack
As industry professionals, we know how important it is to be solution-focused. When an operations issue is identified within a business, we can get excited to find a solution, fast, and in 2020, we were forced to find a lot of solutions. Whilst we are living in the age of technology, answers are just a Google away, whether it is a shiny new product, or a brand that has been throwing itself around the ad space, when we see a solution we take it, grab it and run with it. We miss that all crucial step – the consideration and planning. Unsurprisingly, this trend has had an impact on spending on technology products and services in Australia was predicted to grow by 5.7 per cent in 2020.
It’s human nature to find a band-aid solution for problems that are severely impacting how we work; and just like a broken arm, no amount of band-aids will fix the problem. It was found in a 2019 study that marketing leaders believe they are only using 58% of their martech stack’s potential. Ultimately, it’s concerning, especially when, on average, marketing teams use over a quarter of their budget on their marketing tech. If you are spending that much, you are going to be wanting to use your tech stack to the best of its ability. This seems to be a recurring theme in 2020.
How do we do more with less? How do we streamline our tech stack?
Keep things simple and add new tech only when you’re truly ready to leverage it.– Sancar Sahin, VP of Marketing, HotJar
With this context in mind, I am going to introduce you to my very own, tech stack selection loop. Use this methodology when you notice a problem in your tech stack. Some statements you might be saying to yourself include:
- This tool is so annoying, it doesn’t do what we need it to do!
- What tools can I use? What tools does my organisation use? There are too many to keep track of!
- Did you guys know we are paying for “generic tool name here”? Does anyone use it? How often?
- Oh, I didn’t know “general tool name here” could do that! That’s cool.
- Why is everyone using this tool differently to me? Why can’t they just use it how I use it?
- I have no bloody idea what the marketing team are doing, it’s doing my head in!
Sound familiar? Let’s get into it!
The Tech Selection Growth Loop
Identify the problem
Ask the simple question, what is the problem? For example, maybe your marketing and sales team are disjointed and the vital information they have is siloed. To make sure all stakeholders involved in the selection process stay on track, write this problem statement down somewhere. If you need help, use a job story to get you started! At Focus, we are real lovers of the jobs to be done framework, which we have provided below. Despite its usual use to help understand your customer’s needs or “jobs”, we use it here to brainstorm the true need of a product.
“When ________, I want to __________, So I can __________.”
Situation Motivation Outcome
In order to assist with this step, you may want to consider listing out the products you already have in your pocket. Using a product like G2 Track or even a Google Sheet can help you see the real problems within your tech stack and prioritise which problem or goal is a “must”.
Come up with a list of must-have features
Once the team is aware of the problem you are trying to solve, come up with a list of “must-have” features. These are parts of the new tools you will need to help fix your problem statement. By thinking in a feature-lead way, this will stop you from being vague around the solution you want your new tool to fix (The “it needs to do everything” statement is not going to help you). Be wary though! I notice teams are often swayed by cleverly-named or well-sold, not needed features. Continue to keep your problem at the top of your mind – if you are clear on your problem, your solutions will be clear with the right features.
TOP TIP: Do not let a good design, brand or marketing get to you. You are looking for a job to be done, not a pretty picture. Let’s look at some features for our previous example.
Problem Statement: When the Marketing team receives a new lead, I want the Sales team to be able to work with the information the marketing team has already collected so that they aren’t working from a selection of disjointed information.
Example Features List:
- A robust CRM that allows the Sales team to track their comms with prospects.
- The ability to feed marketing information collected from my prospects, into my CRM.
- Live data reporting.
Research and compare tools
Now the fun part, research! Use your must-have list as search queries in good ol’ Uncle Google, and see what pops up! Make sure to bookmark the products that spark your interest. Also, try not to forget to put your current tools on the list! This is a great time to start signing up for free trials and demos so that you can get a full hands on experience. It’s also a great idea to put in place a review period so that you can avoid being as “ad-hoc” or “at need” as possible. Plan your needs as best you can and continue to consider each tool as a part of your stack.
TOP TIP: During this step, make sure to keep your data flow in mind. How will your data flow from one tool to another in your stack? If you’re not sure, create a tech stack flowchart with a tool like Whimsical or a classic whiteboard to see how your data is running in and out. If it’s starting to look messy it may be time to consider a Customer Data Platform (CDP)or Customer Data Infrastructure (CDI) tool like Segment (if you haven’t heard of a CDP or CDI, I’d recommend giving this a read.)
Compare your list and consider connectivity to your other tools
Compare the tools from your research and how they match your problem and must-have list. Aim not to get distracted by pretty websites, it’s about the functionality. If you are stuck on two products, I recommend checking out how the tool links up with your current tools. Are they API friendly? Do they have integrations?
To continue with our example, our fictitious team found two tools during their endeavours; SalesForce and HubSpot.
Choose your product and plan your implementation and adoption
In this set up you pick your product and get into some planning. To help you understand the importance of this step, let’s go back to our example. Our fictitious team decided to go with HubSpot as their marketing team is already using it, and believe it will help them work together nicely. Whilst some products, like HubSpot, will offer onboarding and implementation, you may decide you feel competent enough to set up the tool and processes yourself. If you decide to go this route, here are some things to consider:
- Is there any data you will need to move? How will you do this?
- Are your account default settings set up correctly?
- What are your use cases for each area of the tool? Can you set up any standard operating procedures for your team?
- If you are reimplementing a tool you previously used ask things like, why didn’t this work for us last time? What features can I use more robustly? Has something new been added to make this tool useful now?
Complete your implementation and test
Time to get down and dirty with your new product. Use your planning and implement what you need to before onboarding the rest of your team. I also recommend using a tool like Wistia or Descript, to help you create training videos for your team, especially if you are working remotely.
Onboarding and gather feedback
Onboarding and change management can be tough. Make sure your team knows exactly why they are making the change to a new tool and how it will benefit them directly. Make use of documentation and videos to explain any hard parts of the product. Ensure there is a standard operating procedure around using the product to avoid teammates using it in different ways. What I have noticed with the team I have supported, is whether the documentation was right or wrong, the teams that already had discipline around documentation are easier to support in optimisation. It can always be tough to get the whole team on board with documentation, especially when it comes easy to some but not others, but all in all it will make internal and external onboarding easier in the future.
Optimise and analyse feedback
Finally, use the learnings and feedback you have received to make your process and use of the tool even better. Ask yourself, what could be leaner – more streamlined? Is there a process the team keeps complaining about? How can I make life easier for my team with technology? Then, you get to start all over again from step one 😉
TOP TIP: Create one easy and clear place to gather intel on the tools used, with examples of it’s challenges. If you have chosen tools with good customer support – then feed it back. You might be surprised by the willingness to adapt the tool or develop a feature you need.
Optimising your tech stack in 2021 doesn’t need to be hard, and when the outcome is higher savings, additional time and a calmer team, who wouldn’t want to optimise!
Your tech stack can be the glue that holds your team together, and the adoption of a new piece could mean the make or break of that process. So if you take anything from this, try not to use band-aids for broken bones – analyse your problem and plan for success.