Business & tech
How to audit your business technology
In March 2020, Pew Research reported that only 7% of civilian workers in the United States have access to a flexible workplace. According to the National Compensation Survey (NCS) published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in September 2020, 64% of Americans are now working at home.
Considering drastic changes in mobility and the way people work, the use of business technology is becoming a key differentiator between companies that succeed and those that fail in the digital economy. How does your company stack up?
One way to find out how well business technology supports your team and goals is to perform regular tech audits. Keep reading to learn how to perform a tech audit.
The tech stack
A tech stack is simply a group of technology-based tools that help a business operate more efficiently, market more accurately, and enable sales and services teams to provide a stellar customer experience.
As a business adapts and grows, the tech stack will change. This is also the case for post-pandemic operational needs, as people seek to lower costs and maximize efficiency. Some organizations used this time to clean shops and go lean. Others introduced new technology to improve digital operations and meet new customer trends.
You may find that certain systems have poor integration, run too slowly, or lack the security for an at-home setup. It may be time to evaluate your tech stack.
Why is it important to audit your business technology?
When it comes to modern business needs, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Each brand has unique needs, goals, and challenges. Considering also that new apps and platforms are developed each day, it’s helpful to audit your tech stack to stay on the right track.
A consistent review will help you to:
- Gain better ROI on all software and tools
- Reduce labor costs and employee time
- Consolidate systems and improve integrations
- Maintain a universal source of truth for all data
- Provide better customer experience
The more systems you have, the more critical it is to perform an IT audit. Every app used should be tied back to business strategy—everything from accounting to website management, to customer relationship management (CRM) systems, to social media accounts.
What types of tools are part of a tech stack?
Consider all the tools you need on a daily basis. The best tech stack can include, but is certainly not limited to:
- Marketing automation
- Content management system (CMS)
- Lead management, including lead scoring and tracking
- Email automation
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Data analytics
- Ad management tools
- Social media management
- Creative asset
- Chatbot automation
- Customer relationship management tools (CRM)
- Meeting scheduler
- VoIP/call tracking
- Data management
- Video recording/editing
- Sales enablement
- Ticket management
- Live chat
- Knowledge base
- Help desk automation
- Time tracker
- Survey automation
Signs it’s time to audit your business technology
The major reason to audit your tech stack right now is the shift in the global economy and rise of the remote workplace. From productivity to collaboration to customer management, needs are changing and you may need new and different tools to meet them.
Other factors that will indicate it’s time for a technology audit include:
A good sign it’s time to audit is when you start seeing data silos that hinder productivity. When the tech tools you are using don’t communicate with each other, it takes longer to get the job done, causing inefficiencies in both individual and team schedules.
Data silos also hinder collaboration between teams. If departments aren’t pulling the data from the same spot, it’s going to impact the success of operations. It will be hard to distinguish what is working from what is not.
If a system doesn’t easily integrate or is taking up too much time, consider getting rid of it or replacing it with a flexible alternative.
If you are brewing mistrust for your data, it’s time for a tech audit. Inconsistencies, errors, duplicates, and problems with shared information can all lead to disaster.
If not right away, the loss of labor over time (to fix these issues) can certainly add up. Don’t let problems go unresolved. If a system isn’t working, fix it, upgrade it, or get rid of it.
As more people start working from home, businesses are brutally aware of wasted labor. If people are used to operating with mediocre software, all their time is spent working out the kinks, rather than shopping for a better solution.
Spending too much time on tools because you don’t know how they function is also a sign it’s time for a system audit.
Consider adopting easy-to-use, intuitive systems and training new staff around the tech stack as part of the onboarding process. This ensures high adoption rates and consistent usage of key systems.
Sometimes your tech software features overlap. If two separate systems do the same thing, you probably don’t need them both. You may decide to choose to keep only one or purchase a new system that can completely replace both systems.
If you need to get a new budget approved, it’s time for a tech audit.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Are you seeing a return on investment (ROI) from the technology you use now?
- Are the number of paid users the same as the number of people using it? Or, what is the system adoption and usage rate?
- Do the tools fit in with your long-term goals?
How to conduct a business technology audit
When it comes to performing the actual audit, every business has its own method to the madness. Start with the following considerations:
- How, where, and when a tool is used in business processes
- The cost to move to a different system
- The number of needs a single tool or system meets for the business
- Systems with overlapping functions
- Can you scale your business with the existing tech stack?
Instead of directing all your attention to the apps themselves, a better approach is to think about the business processes they support.
You should also consider how each tech tool affects employee performance and productivity. This will have a direct influence on the customer experience.
The audit process: step-by-step
The best way to determine if you have the right business technology in place is to make a list of what you already have. Ask the following questions:
- What tools am I paying for?
- How many licenses/users does each program have?
- What does each tool do?
- How are all of the systems connected to each other?
- What critical business needs does each system serve?
- How much does each solution cost?
Once you have a broader view of exactly what’s running operations, follow through with these IT audit steps:
- Conduct a security sweep of the network and every device attached to it
- Audit the software in use
- Consolidate the hardware
- Inspect all security and backup systems
- Audit the document management system
- Ensure the company has a strategic technology plan
Deciding on what you need
When it comes to accommodating the gig economy, there are a few solutions that are critical for success. Here are a few things you’ll need for remote workers:
Secure and easy access tools
If you provide remote workers with tools that are too complicated or have a sharp learning curve, chances are they’ll go back to using their own. If your VPN is too slow for company apps, workers may end up using unsanctioned online tools.
Remote collaboration apps make it easier for people to work from home—and that’s the whole point.
Leveraging the cloud
Most modern brands have a heavy hand in the cloud and SaaS space. This means fewer issues with bandwidth and remote access. The more data that can be stored off-site, the easier it is to reach.
In the new normal, it’s a great idea to increase your cloud footprint. Ways to save money using the cloud include:
- Auto-terminating development during off-hours
- Reducing the need for “on-demand” resources
- Using storage-efficient apps
A business technology audit requires input from everyone on the team. Ask for feedback on the daily tools your teams use. Make sure these discussions focus on gathering the facts and the underlying business processes. Ask people their thoughts on the effectiveness of the tool and any suggestions on what else might work.
Customer churn and retention is a major concern for businesses across every industry and vertical. People have shorter attention spans and competition is fierce. This issue only becomes magnified during a post-pandemic situation.
Any business technology audit you perform must have serious considerations for customer relationships. In fact, your main focus when shopping for new solutions should be “how can this make the customer happier?” It’s the means to every end.
Robust CRM tools can help insulate companies from economic downturns and push revenue growth even in the toughest of times.
Instead of using separate point solutions for marketing, sales, and services, you could consider a unified platform with built-in integrations with other systems, including finance and accounting, HR, and/or e-commerce.
Setting up for success
Ignoring tech tools in your arsenal can cost you money and hold your business back from growth. Consider performing a business technology audit on a regular basis, just like you do with finances. Once a year is a good practice, but it can be more or less depending on your industry and changes in the economy or consumer behavior.
To stay on track, create an audit schedule. A set schedule will help you and your team to prepare and construct a methodology for changes, including additions. It also helps to keep teams communicating and integrations running smoothly.
When was the last time you reviewed your tech stack?
Before the coronavirus, telework was an optional benefit, mostly for the affluent few. Drew Desilver. Pew Research Center. March 2020.
National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 2020