An Executive’s Guide to Selecting a Tech Stack

May 18, 2016

By Steve Mezak

An Executive’s Guide to Selecting a Tech StackChoosing a technology stack (tech stack) is big challenge that many organizations face at one time or another, particularly as computers double their capabilities every 12-18 months, as does the technology running on them. This turns a complex decision for company executives into an even larger challenge. Options can be overwhelming if you aren’t already familiar with stacks and all of the related technology language. CEOs, CIOs and other high-level executives are often hesitant to select a tech stack because committing to a framework or language that turns out to be a bad fit could have major consequences later on.

However, if we take a step back, there are really a few basic things you must be sure to consider when choosing your tech stack. It is actually quite an easy – and quick – process to narrow down your choices to a manageable list. First, let’s remove the confusion around the actual term “tech stack.”


What is a tech stack?

A tech stack is essentially a software set that provides the infrastructure for a computer, and developers use to build web or mobile applications. It comprises the operating system and related supporting programs like source code editors, support modules of commonly used functions, configuration management tools and a testing framework specific to a programming language such as Java or PHP. Much like building blocks, the components stack on one another to create a full technology suite.

There are also different tools needed for back-end and front-end tech stacks, and they differ depending on whether they are installed in a client or a server. For example, the developers require a different tech stack to create applications that will run on a user’s web browser or mobile device. A common example of a back-end stack includes Linux (operating system), Apache (web server), MySQL (database) and PHP (programming language) – each piece builds upon the other. The front-end tech stack is what the user sees and interacts with, so it’s often a visual programming language like HTML, CSS or Javascript. Popular front-end frameworks using these languages include AngularJS, React and Ember.

Of course, there are a number of other technologies and languages that can also be incorporated into the stack to support each application that’s developed.


How do I choose a tech stack?

Software and its development is key to any organization’s digital future. Executives must understand the effects of technology and the many ways it can create change and disruption in order to choose the best tech stack match. Consider the newest technology trends and what they will mean for your organization. For example, Ruby and Python are also popular programming languages, and many developers are choosing them in favor of PHP. Ruby offers certain advanced features and time efficiency; however, Ruby has a steeper learning curve than PHP and is less friendly when it comes to errors.

If you aren’t so familiar with the technical language, it can be tempting to go with the first developer you find and trust their advice. However, be wary that developers could be biased toward tech tools they feel most comfortable with or judge those tools on technical assets rather than considering your business needs. Choosing a tech stack can simply be a matter of planning ahead, as all programming languages come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

As an executive, you should anticipate the needs and potential changes to your business model based on the programming language most familiar to your software development team. With watchful analysis and monitoring of product performance and market trends, you will understand how your resources can fulfill the needs of your product and the chosen tech stack.

That being said, it is probably best to not select a tech stack all on your own—you may want to consider hiring an outsourcing partner.  


Outsourcing  

There have been many landscape shifts in the tech stack arena. Single vendor solutions are a thing of the past. Technology moves so quickly that even the largest organizations are having trouble staying ahead. (Twitter was rewritten several times before it became what it is today.) Very recently, tech stacks were much simpler and usually vendor-specific, like Microsoft stacks with .NET languages and programming, for example. Newer tech stack options have blown up with new platforms and tools.

And as companies increasingly go digital, more collaborative teams have become a necessity. Today, outsourcing is no longer focused as much on cost savings, but rather on supplying a high-quality workforce. As tech stacks become ever more complex, the range of required skills has increased dramatically. The technology continuously changes and the skills necessary today will be different than tomorrow. It is not only essential to have talented staff who possess today’s skills, it is also key to employ IT staff members who can keep ahead of the trends of tomorrow. Increasing your tech stack in order to be a digital enterprise will mean increasing your vendor complexity as well.

Because selecting a tech stack has gotten very complex over the last few years, you are better off not doing this on your own. Use expert outsourcing to transition to a newer, more maintainable tech stack. It’s certainly true that selecting a tech stack is a commitment that is not easily reversed. So it is essential to consider all of your options carefully—do not rely solely on your internal team to do a specialist's job. Employ a world-class partner to help you in this endeavor.

If you are struggling with finding software developers who understand tech stacks, contact us. At Accelerance, access to our certified partner network and in-house software development experts is free, and we’ll ensure that you find quality partners for all of your software development needs.  

Need help searching for a software outsourcing partner? Our free e-book can guide you through choosing a partner that fits your needs.

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