Any time you are considering a change to your tech stack, you need to consider two key things: business needs and technology needs.
If you focus solely on the business piece without considering technology concerns, you may end up keeping outdated technology longer than you should, or you may end up purchasing a new system that doesn’t do what you need it to do.
On the other hand, if you consider the technology side of the equation without a laser focus on business needs and benefits, you may end up investing in exciting new tech that does nothing to empower your business objectives.
If your tech stack is underperforming on one or both counts, it’s time for an intervention.
Here are 9 signs to watch for.
1. Your outdated technology is negatively impacting your business.
This is admittedly a broad statement. What we mean by it is that you are spending too much time, energy, and money dealing with your tech, and it’s preventing you from taking steps toward your business goals. What does that look like? You may be getting an unreasonably high number of support requests, you may have difficulty hiring IT staff to work for you because your technology is outdated, or you may spend more time and money than you should on bug fixes. Employees may not be able to do their jobs efficiently, or they may use elaborate workarounds to solve problems. We’re not saying you necessarily need the latest and greatest new tool on the market. But when your technology is causing roadblocks that hinder business growth or development, it’s time to make some changes.
2. Your technology can’t scale.
Scaling isn’t just about your technology’s ability to handle traffic and load. It’s also about having code that makes it easy to add new tools or meet changing requirements. If your system is clunky, old, or bloated, it can slow down your processes and make it difficult to innovate. Old technology isn’t necessarily bad—in some cases it makes sense to keep the current tech because replacing it would stall operations and be prohibitively expensive. But when your technology can’t meet the growing needs of your company, that’s a red flag.
3. You’re constantly fixing bugs.
Bug squashing is part of technology, but it shouldn’t eat up disproportional amounts of time. If you find yourself constantly fixing problems that crop up any time you make a minor change to system tools or requirements, then you need to take a closer look at the quality of your code. Outdated or poorly written code may need refactoring before you can add additional features or work out the bugs.
4. It’s difficult to find qualified developers to work with your tech.
This is a problem that often gets overlooked, but it can create significant challenges. Old technology is difficult to support. If you are hiring internally, it takes time to find someone who has the knowledge and credentials needed to work on your tech and who is also a great fit for your team. And if you’re outsourcing the maintenance, you may have trouble finding developers who support obsolete technology. This is especially a concern with older ERP systems that may no longer be supported by their original builders.
5. You have security concerns.
As technology capabilities expand, so do the number of cyber threats you have to worry about. Antivirus software and spam filters alone won’t keep today’s sophisticated threats at bay, and if your tech stack doesn’t have sufficient security protocols in place you could be facing serious problems. Poor configurations in your tech stack or safeguards in the cloud can also leave you vulnerable to accidental exposure of sensitive data.
6. Your current code can’t support new technology requirements.
Over time, code becomes outdated and difficult to manage. As your company develops needs for new capabilities, old code and technology creates “technical debt.” In other words, you have to pay the toll of catching up before you can move ahead and add new features. You may also run into navigation issues, system crashes, and time-consuming inefficiencies as you try to build new functions on top of code that wasn’t designed to support them.
7. Your tech stack can’t integrate with new tools.
New software tools that use AI, machine learning, or IoT technology can make your company more productive and cost efficient. But if your tech stack can’t integrate with them, you’re out of luck. A shiny new tool is worth nothing without a robust, functional tech foundation to build on.
8. You have tools that overlap in function.
As you make updates to your system, it’s not uncommon to acquire several tools that have similar functions. In some cases, it makes sense to purge your software and streamline your functionality. Evaluate each of your tech tools by asking questions such as:
* Does it have a unique purpose?
* Do we use it regularly?
* Does it promote efficiency?
* Does it integrate with our other software?
If the answer to these questions is no, ask yourself whether the tool is a need or just a carryover from a previous technology iteration.
9. Your customers and/or employees are frustrated.
Sometimes the best way to spot problems is to observe how people feel about using the technology. Can your customers find the information they need? Can they easily use the tools on your website? Can your employees perform their jobs efficiently? Do they have to jump through hoops to find the right data or execute daily functions of their jobs? Is your programming language or framework obsolete? What makes them want to throw their computers out of third-story window? Use your answers to pinpoint areas that need work.
What to Do When You Know Your Tech Stack Needs Work
Let’s say you see several of these red flags in your tech stack. What’s next? Here are three tips to help you determine your next step:
1. Have a plan
Should you scrap your current tech or just update it? That’s going to depend on the needs of your business and your system requirements. Start with a technology roadmap that identifies both your current needs and your future goals. You might not be ready for AI today, for example, but you may want the option to add an AI tool in the future. If so, your tech stack needs the ability to integrate that type of functionality down the road.
2. Consider talent availability
Is there a strong community of support and knowledge for the language and framework you’ve chosen for your tech stack? Will it be obsolete in a few years? At Worthwhile, we use Python and Django because they are clean, scalable, and straightforward to learn and maintain. It makes it easy to find people who can keep your technology running efficiently, even if you want to make major changes down the road.
3. Consider the innovative tools in your industry
What tools are the frontrunners in your industry using? What technology is available that could give you an edge over your competitors? Think about how you want to take the next step with your tech strategy, and then consider what your tech stack needs in order to implement those new ideas.
When is the right time to refactor your code or update your tech stack? When it fails to meet your needs in terms of functionality, productivity, talent, or customer service.
In an ideal world, your technology will always serve your employees, your company objectives, and your customers well. When it doesn’t, it’s time start making a change.