What should startups look for while choosing their technology stack?
Look at any business today and you will find a compelling dependence on technology. Today, technology also forms the core of any successful startup. When it comes to startups, it has sometimes been seen that while entrepreneurs focus on building the front end of their business, the job of choosing the right product technology stack features low on the priority list…almost as an afterthought.
The right choice of technology stack for product development contributes greatly to the efficiency and smooth running of a start-up. Ensuring that the right technologies are being leveraged ensures that you release on time. At the same time, given the overwhelming number of technology options, this can be a tough decision to make as well.
Many non-technical founders tend to depend on developer opinion when choosing a technology stack. This sometimes can backfire as developers can be biased towards particular technologies depending on their proficiency and comfort level. They also might assess the technology based on its technical merits rather than on the business requirements. Technology options need to be evaluated more objectively and here we take a look at some business considerations that need to be made before choosing a technology stack for building the product that will define your startup.
One of the primary considerations before making a technology selection is to first identify how and for what the technology will be used. The usage aspect heavily influences a technology decision as a technology that works perfectly for developing an eCommerce website might not necessarily be best suited for an enterprise mobile application. ‘Purpose’, thus, ranks the highest when selecting a technology. The technology stack has to be such that it fulfills the requirement demands and helps in establishing the business.
UI and UX Focus
The consumer of today goes by the principle of ‘don’t make me think’. Having high-end user experiences thus becomes of paramount importance. Simple, intuitive and intelligent user interfaces that facilitate a seamless user experience are a must. Technology choices have to be made such that they act as enablers of usability and allow the application users to be consistently productive in their work.
You might want to choose the next hot technology on the block but if you cannot find the talent to work with this technology then all you’ll be stuck! This, for startups, can be a big financial drain. For example, finding developer talent to create a chat server with Erlang may prove harder than finding developers proficient in Java, Ruby or Python. Leveraging mainstream technologies that are open source and opting for a development methodology such as Agile or DevOps with a heavy testing focus is a good idea. This will give your startup the advantage of getting to market faster, rapidly shipping code and getting the desired features to the users at the earliest.
Startups need to look at the maturity of the technology before selecting a particular technology to ensure that the technology is built to last. Programming languages such as Ruby are relatively recent but have gone through several iterations and has now achieved language maturity. Mature technologies also give startups the benefit of a mature tools ecosystem that allows bug tracking, code analysis, facilitate continuous development and continuous integration etc. all of which make development faster and easier.
When looking at technology maturity, it is also essential to assess how easily you can build and share solutions built on the technology stack. Leveraging a technology that has great third party packages or ready to use, community generated code or a complete suite of easy to use and build solutions, or automated testing capabilities helps in not only attracting more developers but also helps in making development quicker and convenient.
All it takes is one weak link to bring down a large fortress. Take the case of the Heartbleed bug which was caused because of the OpenSSL component in the library. When this bug was introduced, every technology that leveraged this widely used cryptographic library was affected. This just goes to show that when making a technology choice you have to ensure that the primary and secondary technologies are robust and secure and that their dependencies can be managed easily. So if for example, you are looking at Ruby on Rails, you should know that Rails (the Framework) is the secondary technology since it relies on Ruby (the primary technology) and that Ruby will also have its own set of dependencies. To leverage the two well you need to know the risks of both.
Scalability and Accessibility
Technology choices should support the demands of a growing business. The technology that a startup chooses thus has to allow for adding more users over time, add new functionalities or services, allow iterations, and enable integration with higher technologies. These days, looking at technologies that support a Service Oriented Architecture or SOA, gives more scope for extensibility to a startup by accommodating changes and iterations according to the needs or the market or product evolution demands.
Along with this, startups also have to ensure that the technology choice that they make allows for greater accessibility and security to allow business users access the product or service anytime anywhere.
Community support might not rank highly in the startup technology choices priority list, but it probably should. Why? Simply because, as a startup, you can do with all the help that you can get. Along with this, a strong developer network and back-end support emerge as crucial resources when you are exploring the technology to either solve a problem or add new functionalities.
When evaluating technology options, startups also need to consider the maintenance needs of the technology, its compatibility capabilities, and security levels. Choosing the right technology is an imperative for the success of any startup. Startup entrepreneurs thus need to tick the right boxes when it comes to making the technology choice if they want to enable their startup to maximize their chances of success.