How to make the most of your tech stack and assess future debt
In a bid to quickly innovate their digital strategies during covid and enrich the customer experience by adding new tech to their tech stacks, many retailers have found themselves with an excessive amount of systems that are becoming hard to manage or are not fit for purpose.
So how do you refine what you have, sweat your platform to create smoother processes and work towards a future-proofed stack, all while meeting the evolving expectations of your customers? And when do you need to look for additional tech or tools to achieve your overarching digital ambitions?
In our latest series, we’ll talk through how you can elevate your digital strategy and enrich customer experiences leveraging a rich and manageable tech stack.
Knowing where to start is often the most challenging step. In order to move forward, you’ll need to take stock of where you are now and get to grips with what you have before figuring out what else you need. This means getting a holistic view of your goals, customer journeys and auditing your current tech stack to reduce customer and team friction.
At Tryzens our experts have helped hundreds of retailers better understand how they can leverage tech to meet their overarching objectives. Here are a few of their tips on how you can assess the effectiveness of your platform and develop future-proof solutions.
Start with your strategy and customer insights
It may seem like an obvious place to start but it is crucial that you begin your audit with a clear understanding of your growth strategy and objectives so your whole business is aligned on what you’re aiming for.
At this stage, it’s pivotal that you focus on the voice of the customer. The key is to develop or revisit your customer personas and then breakdown their key characteristics, needs and expectations, and how your product, messaging and brand is relevant.
To kick off the process you will need to perform a customer journey mapping exercise that will cover the full end to end commerce journey, including post purchase activities, based on the as-is solution. At each step within the flow, you should think about:
- Journey step: what steps of the experience are your describing? E.g Awareness, Consideration etc.
- Actions/requirements: What does the customer do at this stage? What information do they look for?
- Needs and pains: What does the customer want to achieve or avoid?
- Touchpoints: How are they interacting with your brand at this stage?
- Customer sentiment: How is your customer feeling?
- Opportunities: What actions can your brand introduce or improve at this stage? Eg. Optimising your product descriptions and information during the customer’s consideration stage.
Technical Audit: looking at tech performance and interfaces
Now that you have assessed your shopping experience from the perspective of your target customers, you’ll need to check under the hood of your platform and carry out a ‘health check’. This will help you understand any area where best practice is lacking, issues that have or could manifest and quick wins that could improve the general health of your code.
Here some key areas that you will need to delve into:
- Coding Standards & Style – coding best practices (Object Oriented Programming), design patterns, code structure.
- Localisation – language and multi-country capabilities.
- Data Model – what is your data model setup and structure.
- Code Upgradability – can the codebase be upgraded with minimum effort?
- Documentation – readability of code a barometer for standards maturity and expertise.
- Unit Test Quality – coverage & quality of the test case scenarios.
- Error Handling – exception case treatment, logging for diagnostics and troubleshooting.
- Code Performance – run time performance (site behaviour when code is running).
- Site Speed – is your site performing to standard?
- Security – how protected is the site from injection attacks that modify code or data and operational access.
- Integrations – quality & stability of integration points.
- Resilience – how well the site behaves under exceptional conditions, how interdependent is it (tightly coupled), how easy is it too break the site.
- Supportability – live operations is there application performance management, logging, instrumentation?
- Accessibility – is the application compliant with accessibility norms?
- Core web vitals – how does each page score in the web vitals report?
Features function audit: highlighting all your digital requirements
As a next step we recommend you develop the ideal customer journey. Feature maps can help you break down the customer journey and define what features or functionalities are required to meet their needs at each stage of their purchasing journey – from search and browse to purchase and post-purchase.
We always recommend starting with what the ideal journey looks like and then finding the right technology that can help support that. It’s also important to note that it doesn’t always mean implementing new technology, but also assessing where your current stack can be better utilised.
Prioritisation and key areas of focus
Once you have a clear picture of your platform, your customers and the digital requirements needed to meet their expectations, you can then use a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) status to rate and prioritise what you should focus on first based on impact and effort.
Create a programme of work to address your top areas of focus in the short, medium and long term, with a defined period of addressing ‘technical debt’. This may mean pausing current projects or running alongside, depending on capacity of your team to deliver. By solving problems one step at a time, processes will start running smoother and you’ll soon notice that your once precarious tech stack will start becoming more efficient to run and manage.
Once you go through this process, you should also think about how you can develop processes that build a culture against creating technical debt and better utilising the systems (i.e. don’t keep add new things without addressing the potential technical debt that it can create).
Your analysis may have also helped you realise that your requirements have outgrown the capabilities of your current stack and it’s time to select a new platform.
In the next blog in our series, we’ll explore how platforms compare for customer experience to help you get to grips with the digital landscape.
At Tryzens, we work with clients across the breadth & depth to help then examine their business goals, desired customer experiences and the best approaches. We do this by working with technologists, ex-retailers and solutions experts to examine every facet of your business to make sure the pieces all come together and you have a stack that’s manageable, no matter what the team size is to support.
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