Lesson 5

Get the most from your tech

Have you ever worked at a company with an internal tool that everyone disliked?

What you'll learn in this lesson...

The colossal cost of integrations
Recurring meetings to hold
How to evaluate tools
Plus, a vendor management checklist

Maybe it was a DOS-based system that forced you to keep a sticky note with commands on your monitor. Perhaps it was a laggy CRM, with dropdown menus that took forever to load—or simply crashed. Maybe it felt like it created more work than it saved.

Visualize that tool. And realize that at one time, that was a sparkly, shiny new piece of software that someone was really excited to bring into the organization. It solved a painful problem and had a purpose. But it ended up junk.

Every work system goes through an evolution from new and helpful to old and limiting. Some do it much faster than others. Your job—insofar as you’re responsible for buying, maintaining, and advocating for tech—is to prevent those systems from decaying. Select ones that will continue to work well together, and build an elegant system that continues to work long after you’ve left.

In this chapter, we’ll explore the art of managing business systems and getting the most from your tech.

Never underestimate the colossal cost of integrations

Whatever you are quoted to integrate two systems, assume it’ll take twice as long and work half as well. It’s just the reality. If there isn’t a native integration, things get expensive. A middleware needed to integrate a $4,000 per month software into your CRM can easily add another $10,000 per month. While there are an increasing number of integration platforms that can partly solve this, the rule holds: The more components and “hops” your data must make, the more fragile your tech stack is, and the more time you’ll spend managing (and apologizing for) it.

People underestimate integration work. I firmly believe that a software that meets 80% of the requirements and is easy to integrate is superior to a software that meets 100% of the requirements and is complex to integrate. Now, if the tool with the mediocre integration is significantly better, sure, go for it. But if they’re comparable, if they’re close, the integration should be the deciding factor nearly every time.
Sudhakar Jukanti  | Director of business systems at confluent

Identify problems irrespective of tech. Use tech to solve them

People often purchase software to solve what is actually a people or process problem. Why? It’s easier than confrontation. Nobody wants to have that difficult conversation with peers in other departments. So, they invest in software and that software doesn’t perform because … it’ll only work once they earn the participation from those teams they tried to bypass. It was always a people and process problem.

Before purchasing anything, ask yourself: Am I certain that the problem couldn’t be more effectively solved by addressing people and process?

"If you throw tech at a problem it’s not going to solve the problem. There’s an organizational structure component you have to figure out first."
Andy Mowat  | CEO and co-founder of Gated

Fewer platforms is better

Just as people who like to declutter their lives say you should get rid of a possession every time you purchase a new one, look for opportunities to consolidate systems as you grow. Perhaps two systems made sense when you were small. But now that you’re growing, you can afford the suite. Or maybe the tools have evolved. Perhaps your sales engagement software now has a call recording and analysis software. That’s solving two problems at once. You simplify your stack and reduce your future tech debt.

“When picking the system, especially for sales folk, pick a system so embedded within CRM (e.g. Salesforce ) they don’t even know it’s a different system.”

Sudhakar Jukanti
, Director of Business Systems at Confluent

Run a quarterly tech evaluation

Each quarter, review your systems with the architecture review board. You also might invite input from your technology partners. You can’t always keep abreast of how each of those vendors is innovating, so share the challenges you’re running into and allow the account managers to tell you how they might solve them.

If you are in charge of technology, Mollie Bodensteiner recommends this meeting schedule:

  • Bimonthly meetings with sales and finance—to look at targets, review commissions, and ensure you aren’t missing anything.
  • Bimonthly meetings with marketing—to notify sales of coming changes and campaigns and understand how to best help.
  • Bimonthly meetings with customer success—to discuss complex deals, upcoming renewals, and customer health.
  • Bimonthly all-hands sales meeting—preferably, two hours long. It’s a venue for communicating product changes, CRM updates, spiffs, and more. It may sound like a lot, but it condenses what would otherwise be many meetings into one.
  • Quarterly tech evaluation—because renewals will tend to fall on a similar cadence. Make sure to start the dialog early on what is working or not working to have a runway for evaluation, procurement, and budgeting.

Simplify things for sales reps, not finance

Don’t clutter your systems and dashboards with unnecessary metrics. Things like average contract value (ACV) which won’t impact the sale. That’s for the CRO and CFO. And if it clutters the salesperson’s interface, it’s a small but perceptible cognitive tax on your sales organization.

“Don’t add complexity to the sales process to cater to downstream systems. Often, downstream additions clutter the sales process and make it more difficult. If you want salespeople to be effective and do their job, you don’t need much: customer details, bill to account, ship to account, and contact along with what products they need, what price you’re offering, and what terms you’re negotiating. Get those billion other attributes out of their view and ask finance to do it.”

Sudhakar Jukanti
, Director of Business Systems at Confluent

Don’t let the exceptions tyrannize the many

When you receive requests, it’s important not just to consider what’s possible, but how common that use case is. If someone wants you to add a field, that sounds small. But think about the time cost to everyone who has to complete that unnecessary field, multiplied across every cycle and every team, for years. And it’s never just one field. It’s dozens. Think about the price of that across your entire organization, and wherever you can, minimize it.

“Make the workflow as seamless as possible. Don’t bring all the possible complexity into the 80% of the standard use cases. If you think of a standard sales flow, you really only have to customize things for a percentage of deals. (If the system is designed well.) For example, enterprise customers may need a master services agreement (MSA) or smaller customers may need custom pricing. Do not add that MSA or custom quote builder to every single deal or you’re slowing down everyone to accommodate just a few.”

Sudhakar Jukanti
, Director of Business Systems at Confluent

Use SaaS management tools

There’s a class of SaaS management tools that’ll allow you to view adoption metrics for your sales stack. It’ll help you understand who’s using which systems, and what systems aren’t being used. If you see low usage, it’s an indicator, but maybe not necessarily a bad sign. Some apps are critical but only used rarely. Others are critical to just a small number of users. But if it looks like it’s being underutilized for what’s normal for that system, survey your team.

Questions to ask in the technology survey:

  • Do you know you have this tool?
  • Does it provide value?
  • Please explain.

A SaaS management system will also help you track cost and renewal dates. If a platform doesn’t offer that, request it, even if they have to send a spreadsheet.

“If you can’t see utilization reporting that helps you make the right business decisions, insist on this from your vendors—either in-app or request a regular emailed report (they can always do that). If you are paying for a tool and not looking at the usage reports, it will cost you.”

Andy Mowat
, CEO and Co-Founder at Gated

Don’t be afraid to rip things out

You’ll need to make these decisions cross-functionally. Understand who’s using it, why it was purchased, and what the case for keeping it is. But anytime you can remove something and nothing changes, you’ve freed up budget and mindshare.

“I cut 40% of SaaS spend when I joined Culture Amp. We had purchased tools we weren’t using. Our teams weren’t trained on some tools (and in some cases didn’t know they had access). We had tools that performed similar functions. There were four people who thought they owned ABM. It is critical to have a vision for your technology and to enforce it.”

Andy Mowat
, CEO and Co-Founder at Gated


You’ve finished Lesson 5: Get the Most From Your Tech.
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