Modern enterprises rely on more than just good products and services to grow.
Even product-led growth companies, which lean on their core product to drive customer acquisition, retention, and expansion, need extra support to operate and scale effectively. They also require a reliable tech stack. With the right tools in place, companies can build products efficiently and securely, armed with better insights about product-market fit. As a result, Gartner estimates that companies will invest around $5.1 trillion in IT software in 2024.
But tools that are unreliable or require constant maintenance may end up causing costly friction for a growing company. So which tools are actually key to your company’s health, and which require more maintenance than they’re worth? In this piece, we’ll discuss the types of tools that empower teams to accelerate their time to market, protect your business, drive measurable positive impact, and make the most of their engineering talent and resources — making them worthy of a place in your tech stack.
The benefits of a reliable tech stack
A good tech stack empowers teams to focus on their products and services, without spending unnecessary time managing the company’s operations. This can significantly affect your return on investment (ROI) because teams can lose a lot of time — and money — due to inefficient systems. For example, the 2023 Stack Overflow Developer Survey found that 63% of respondents spent at least 30 minutes a day troubleshooting problems, and 49% spent at least 30 minutes helping others solve their problems. A reliable tech stack is one that requires less troubleshooting, freeing teams up to focus on high-impact work, like optimizations and product development.
A solid tech stack will also scale with your company so it’s not necessary to continuously integrate new tools as your company’s needs grow. This means IT leaders can spend less time identifying and buying new tools, and all team members can spend less time learning how to use new tools. Since time itself comes with a hefty price tag — a recent report estimated that it costs roughly $2,000 for an L2-level employee to learn a new tool — investing in scalable tools early on can yield significant savings.
Finally, the right tech stack can deliver the insights you need to build better products and solutions for your customers. Successful products require careful iteration based on information about potential users and competitors. Tools that supply this information in a digestible way can help teams uncover insights and opportunities to further improve their core products.
Taking all of these reasons into consideration, it’s clear that a solid tech stack can help companies maximize their precious — and often limited — engineering resources, leaving more capacity to hit their business goals.
What kinds of tools should today’s enterprise businesses evaluate?
There are many types of tools and tech available today that promise to solve engineering team pain and challenges — but not all of these are worth the investment. Here are the broad categories that tend to bring the greatest value to enterprise companies’ tech stacks.
- Frontend frameworks (e.g., TypeScript, React) that provide reusable, modular code for UI elements.
- Backend frameworks (e.g., Django, Ruby on Rails) that provide reusable, modular code for tasks like server configuration and routing.
- Version control (e.g., Github) to manage updates to the codebase and code reviews.
Deployment and code infrastructure systems
- Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD; e.g., Circle CI, Jenkins) to automate testing, building, and deployments.
- Servers and data-hosting (e.g., AWS) to allow users to access your product.
- Load balancing (e.g., AWS, NGINX) to ensure that your products perform well when user traffic surges.
- Observability and incident response (e.g., Sentry, Datadog) to track performance metrics and monitor your site and systems for errors and traffic spikes. These tools help you maintain SLAs, alerts on incidents, and trace issues back to their source.
- Customer Relations Management (CRM) (e.g., Hubspot, Salesforce) to collect customer analytics and manage the sales process.
- Data lakes (e.g., Snowflake, Databricks) to store your data in a way that is secure, recoverable, and easy to access.
- ETL tools (e.g., dbt, Fivetran) to manage and automate how you extract, transform, and load data from different sources and to various destinations.
- Analytics (e.g., Tableau, Google Analytics) to derive insights from data about your products, usage, and systems.
Web development and marketing
- Search engine optimization (e.g., Moz, Ahrefs) to ensure that your website appears when potential users search for terms related to your business, product, or service.
- Marketing analytics and automation (e.g., AppCues, Sendpulse) to introduce users to a web interface, assess the effectiveness of marketing strategies, and target users for email campaigns.
- Visual development platforms (e.g., Webflow), which help teams build websites to draw in potential customers. Visual-first development tools also empower non-technical teams — such as marketers and designers — to own and manage websites autonomously, as well as collaborate with technical teams for complex web initiatives.
Collaboration and productivity systems
- Project planning and management systems (e.g., Jira, Asana) to ensure that everyone focuses on the highest-priority tasks, in the correct order.
- Customer service software (e.g., Zendesk) to handle customer support tickets.
- Intra-company communications (e.g., Slack, Gmail, Zoom) to help teammates collaborate and discuss their work.
Security and authentication systems
- Access management (e.g., Okta), including Open Authentication (OAuth) to manage logins and Identity Access Management (IAM) to manage permissions.
- Cybersecurity (e.g., Arctic Wolf) to protect your product from cyber attacks.
- Password managers (e.g., 1Password) to securely manage employees’ access to third-party tools.
Should you build or buy your tools?
How do you decide whether to build your tools in-house or buy them from a third-party vendor? The right decision will depend on the tool that you’re building, so here are some questions to ask before making a final decision.
- Time: How much time will it take to build this tool? How will this impact your go-to-market plans?
- Cost: Can you build and maintain this tool for less than the third-party alternative? Building a tool in-house may seem like the cheaper option, but oftentimes, that’s far from the reality of the cost of the resources needed to plan a build, execute a build, and maintain it.
- Expertise: Does this tool require specialized knowledge or skills to build it? Do you already have people in-house with the necessary expertise?
- Expected value: How likely is it that you’ll succeed in building the tool that you want on your timeline?
- Control: How much do you need to customize this tool to your particular use case? Building a tool in-house allows you to build the exact tool that you need — with no unnecessary features. This also means that you may be able to alter and refine the tool easily as your needs shift.
- Relationship to the core product: Will this tool become a part of your core product? Will building this tool help you build skills and systems that will make your product development smoother?
Choosing the right tools for your stack
Even if you build some of your tools in-house, most of your tech stack will likely come from a third party. Keep the following considerations in mind when choosing from the various solutions available on the market today.
- Cost: Does the tool’s value justify its cost, including the time it takes to integrate it into your system and train your team?
- Power: What return on investment (ROI) can you expect from the tool?
- Scalability: Will it be able to handle increases in user traffic, data, code, etc.?
- Flexibility: Can multiple teams use the tool, and can it be deployed to solve multiple problems?
- Integration: Can you integrate the tool into your stack seamlessly, so that it can connect with additional parts of your stack?
- Security: Does the tool keep your business safe from cyber attacks or security threats? Do you have a plan to handle security incidents should they arise?
- Onboarding: How easy is it to set the tool up? Do you have to do the work of integrating it with the rest of your stack, or is it a SaaS product that you can securely log into? Once it’s set up, how easy is it to train employees to start using it?
- Control: How much control would your team have over how the tool operates and supports your product or business? Oftentimes, ownership impacts how a team can leverage a piece of technology. For example, you may have more ownership over a tool that is deployed on-premises, whereas a SaaS product may be harder to customize.
- Support: Does the vendor offer ongoing support to help you navigate any issues that come up? Will they train your team to effectively use the product?
Investing in your tech stack pays long-term dividends
However you build out your tech stack, investing in reliable tools is key to building a successful enterprise business. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but thoughtful choices for your stack will set you up to work and grow with agility, empower your teams, and help you build robust, secure products while accelerating your speed to market. Once your tech stack is in place, your products can speak for themselves.