Tech Adviser: Use Technology to do the things that Don’t Scale

By George Brooks

In a world where every company is now a tech company, new tools can help you achieve more and be more efficient. Look around your company. Ask your team: What tasks or activities are taking hours, days or months to accomplish? Where is communication breaking down?

Absolutely every company is a tech company. The products and the services you provide are helping people solve problems or find conveniences in business and life. In a fast-moving, global economy, every businesses, from independent contractors to Fortune 100 enterprises must think about scale: How to serve more people, find more clients, gain more traction, and manage more people and resources. But you’re not a tech company because your IP is not in Internet software?

I would suggest that we are thinking about “tech companies” the wrong way. The primary purpose of tech is to do things that don’t scale. Take a moment and look around your company. Ask your team: What tasks or activities are taking hours, days or months to accomplish? Where is communication breaking down? These are generally problems that hold back your business’ growth. You might already have some solutions in place. But what is keeping you from scale? Consider how the solutions you’re using now can be updated, changed, or supplemented to empower your team and customers to produce more value at scale. This is where technology thrives.

Software is the most common and often most cost-effective technology to put in place in most businesses. Gone are the days of purchasing large software packages with steep annual licenses. Here to stay is SAAS (Software-as-a-Service). Primarily web-based, SaaS products of all shapes and sizes tend to be a great solution for solving each of those “things that don’t scale” you found when you looked around the office.

Still fighting your old billing system? There’s Quickbooks Online or Xero. Need to share files between your team or your customer? There’s Dropbox or Box. Looking to collaborate on a content calendar for marketing? Check out the local SaaS company Divvy. Need to better communicate in the office? Cut back on e-mail and move to Slack. Or like we’ve seen so many companies do, take advantage of the Google suite. Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, etc. Each of these tools has product teams laser-focused on crafting individual solutions that solve for that one activity that doesn’t scale.

One thing is for sure: There is absolutely no “one app to rule them all.” Why? Because any app that claims to be a solution for everything likely does few things well. Or often, they built one thing well, and then acquired lots of other companies and attempted to bake them together, resulting in something that was never designed to actually do it all.

How do you keep track of all of these apps? This is probably my favorite thing about the Internet today. So many of these solutions really play well with others. You can create your own custom integrations, flows, and formulas with tools like Zapier and IFTTT. These allow you to simply log into different services, and then connect them to immediately synchronize activity across your SAAS solutions. Take this even further with APIs (like the pipe-works of the Internet) and you can directly connect your SaaS solutions together.

So you’ve taken the time to pause and see where your activities are keeping you from scaling. You’ve done the research and have implemented or replaced SAAS solutions to solve some of these issues, and you’ve even set up integration tools to connect some of these solutions together, but there is still a gap. You can’t seem to find the solution that fits a unique company situation.
This is when custom software should be considered. Building your own technology will take time and money. If it helps you scale, then that ROI comes along with the growth of the company. When considering building your own tech, remember that technology is never done. Successful SaaS companies have teams of people continue to support, improve, and iterate on their solutions.
Finally, if your custom tech is a good fit for you, the next big question to ask is, “Could other companies like mine use this?” If the answer is yes, you may have a great SaaS solution on your hands—and a new venture to get started. Remember that technology is a tool that with clarity and focus can help companies scale business.
Just remember: Use that tech to do things that don’t scale.