3 steps to help business owners save time & achieve more with fewer tools
Simplify your solutions stack and reduce your firm’s reliance on third-party tools to work more efficiently
15 April 2022 · 5 min read
As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate and no time or money to waste on tools that don’t help your firm succeed. And make no mistake, using too many different tools does waste time. According to a recent study, 43% of employees think they’re switching between too many separate apps during the workday, forcing them to reorient and refocus.
An easy way to boost your firm’s productivity is to evaluate and reduce the number of separate tools you use, so you only keep what your team actually needs. Reassessing and simplifying your tech and solutions stack — including the monthly subscriptions and platforms you pay for — aligns your team and makes everyone’s efforts more purposeful.
You should only invest in tools that impact your small business’ performance, support your team’s hard work, and allow you to save time. With a simplified solutions stack, your workflows are streamlined, and your team can focus on serving clients rather than wrangling multiple platforms and software to work together.
What is a tech stack?
Before we dive into how to evaluate the effectiveness of your tech stack, let’s first define it. A tech stack is composed of all of the business technologies that help you serve clients and manage your firm, such as:
- Data analytics
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Email marketing and automation
- Lead generation
- Content management system (CMS)
- Social media management
- Scheduling software
- Sales enablement
- Knowledge base
- Project management software
- Time and expense tracking
- Payroll software
- Accounting and invoicing software
- Payment processing
This list is just the start! When you see all these tools listed, imagine the time you spend every day jumping from each one. One report estimates that it takes 16 minutes to refocus between tasks. Multiply that by the number of separate tools you’re using and consider how much time you lose each week and how it could be better spent.
Then there’s the issue of onboarding new team members. If you need to get them up to speed on all of these programs, it delays their ability to start fulfilling their role and making a difference for your company. As your firm scales, this issue only gets worse.
Issues caused by an inefficient tech stack
It might seem like more effort than it’s worth to audit your tools and subscriptions. It’s another task to add to your already full plate. But in only a few hours, you can uncover significant issues caused by using numerous disparate platforms, including inefficiencies, inaccurate data, duplicate work, and delays.
Some of the most common tech stack issues are:
Information silos. When tools can’t properly communicate with each other, it takes more time to get work done and hinders productivity. If various team members or departments pull data from different sources or file versions, efforts aren’t coordinated and people aren’t on the same page. Information silos can lead to miscommunication, too much time spent trying to align, and difficulty determining which efforts are working for your business.
Data issues. Inconsistent, incorrect, or duplicate data and difficulty accessing the data you need can have huge consequences for your business. Making decisions based on data errors may significantly hurt your performance and profitability.
Wasted time. Of course, all business owners want to reduce labor costs wherever possible, but you must be mindful of employee morale. 74% of employees admit they feel overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data. Imagine how much worse it is when your data is slow to access, assess, or rely on.
Your team also isn’t happy when they waste time using difficult, duplicative systems, especially on administrative tasks that don’t help them hone skills or further their careers. Ask the team what their pet peeves are in your firm’s current processes to understand what frustrates them, confuses them, and slows them down.
Step 1: Audit and clean up your business tools
We’ve all had that moment where we realize we forgot to cancel a subscription, whether Amazon Prime, Spotify, a magazine, or an app we downloaded, and wasted some money. Now apply that mistake to your business, where every cent counts toward profitability. You always want to be sure you know what tools and subscriptions you’re paying for each month and if/when you’ll see a return on your investment.
To get an accurate list of your tools and evaluate their effectiveness:
- List everything your team uses
- Record how much each tool costs, what it does, how many users it has, which other systems it connects to, and the business needs it serves.
- Try to nail down its benefits, whether that’s automating low-value tasks, detecting errors, or simplifying communication.
Beyond saving you time or helping you get more done, there are other criteria to consider before you decide to keep or nix a tool. For example, does it help you keep up with industry standards and provide the convenience your customers have come to expect? Conversely, does a system have a shoddy user experience even if it gets good results?
Other issues with a system you otherwise like can include poor integration (i.e. friction when trying to use it with other tools), slow loading, lax security, or unresponsive customer service. In your evaluation, you may decide these issues aren’t worth overlooking and look for more flexible alternatives.
Once your audit is complete, take the plunge and cancel subscriptions that aren’t making an impact. The tidier your back-office operations are, the more effective your client-facing work will be.
Step 2: Eliminate redundancies and consolidate with an all-in-one solution
Some of your software and programs likely have overlapping features, and there’s no reason to have two systems with similar functions. Decide if you truly need both, and if not, choose the one that’s more powerful, easier to use, and fits your budget. You’ll want to eliminate the other or possibly replace both (and others) with another, more universal platform.
Rather than pay for separate programs solely dedicated to your website, invoicing, SEO, CMS, appointment scheduling, etc., it’s worth looking into one platform that combines the functionalities you need most and supports a multi-user experience.
When you’re shopping for a more inclusive system, ensure it meets all of your current needs and will make it easier for you to scale your business. You should also consider who will use the tool and how frequently. And is the cost to move to a new system worth it? It might be annoying to learn a new platform, but it will be worth it if it pays off in only a few months.
Two final considerations: Will the tool help your employees improve their performance, and will it impact your clients? Business owners need to be particularly thoughtful when making client-facing changes.
Step 3: Choose a platform that more team members and departments can use
As you finalize plans to migrate to an all-in-one platform or simplified tech stack, be sure the system(s) you choose is user-friendly for all team members, contractors, and collaborators who need to access it. Does it allow for multi-user functionality, is the onboarding straightforward, and is it realistic to be able to use it every day?
If you need some tools to be used by multiple people simultaneously, you may need more than one login. Before you purchase, find out how many users the platform can accommodate, if it costs more, and if your budget will allow you to add everyone who needs it.
Reducing your number of separate programs may allow you to see a return on investment sooner and help you achieve long-term goals ahead of schedule, thanks to the added efficiency and less friction or delay.
A technology and tools audit is a must for business owners who want to see improved ROI, save employee time, and maintain a single source of truth for crucial data. Evaluating and consolidating your programs, especially to an all-in-one, multi-user platform, can help you maximize efficiency and lower costs.
B12 is a team-friendly, all-in-one digital commerce solution for service providers that want to manage their website, invoices, payments, and appointments in a single place. A powerful combination of AI and experts make it easier for business owners to get an optimized online presence, attract new business, and conveniently serve clients.