Technology
Strategy

Curate Your Tech Stack Using Design Thinking

by Jaron Jackson & Carrie Pickering

A human-centered process for selecting software vendors that best serve your needs.

Curating the right tech stack for your brand is important–the right tools will help you keep business on track with your goals and timelines. But with the ever growing number of software options available offering different features and integrations, it can be overwhelming to select the ones that best fit your needs. That’s where we’ve got you covered.

We take a people-first approach to everything we do–that means we focus on the needs and desires of the people whom the digital experience impacts, which is a process rooted in empathy (think: how will people feel? How will this experience improve their lives?). We’ve applied our human-centered process for problem-solving to software vendor selection to help you build a tech stack that is tailored specifically to your brand’s biggest priorities. Here are the steps to set you up for success:

1. Human observation of the problem.

Practicing design thinking means making sure that the consumer or user is the north star of all decisions. When you’re building a tech stack to best equip your team with the tools you need to be successful in your business goals, your needs as the user are the top priority–how well those needs are addressed will determine how effective your investment in software vendors will become.

When we helped a Big 4 accounting firm select a vendor for thought leadership distribution, the human problem they were up against was irrelevance. Their biggest goal in creating and sharing thought leadership was relationship building—and for those valuable relationships to feel authentic, they knew the content they were sharing needed to be relevant to the specific recipient.

2. Gather assumptions.

Taking a step back to absorb and interpret the big picture provides a crucial foundation for forthcoming work–understanding how the human problem affects and is affected by surrounding factors up front will save your team the time and effort of having to pivot later. Consider assumptions such as who on the team will be using the tools, how a tech stack could change your process, what your channels of delivery will be, and what the internal approval process for produced content looks like on your team. All of these factors may impact the efficacy of your proposed solution and should therefore be discussed and challenged from the get-go.

We considered all of these factors before we began ideating to combat irrelevance for our client. And we were glad we did–applying this foundational context worked to our benefit in the long run, as we approached the testing phases more informed.

3. Audit the current state.

Now that you’ve gathered assumptions by looking around you, it’s time to look inward. Yep, the next step is making sure you’ve got a deep understanding of how your current processes are working and failing. What does a day in the life with your current tech stack (or lack thereof) look like? What are the biggest challenges in the software’s features and capabilities that are keeping you from peak performance?

Here’s an example–for an enemy like irrelevance, one of the biggest roadblocks to nurturing key relationships with relevant content was customization. What’s relevant to one is not relevant to all. Understanding that customization was a weakness in our client’s current tech stack set us up to test new solutions with a clear path forward.

4. Identify the vision.

Write a vision statement based on the human problem you identified back in step one and the challenges holding you back in the current state. What does the “promised land” of an ideal-state software solution look like? How will it make your life easier?

Try to condense this vision into as concise a statement as possible–that will make your task feel actionable and less daunting. In our client’s example, the vision statement looked something like this:

Account teams need a thought leadership customization tool to deliver content to clients in a personalized way, allowing more proficient targeting to drive impact down the sales funnel.

5. Feature prioritization.

Let’s regroup: at this point, you know your enemy, you’ve aligned with your team on a vision to move forward, and you’re clear on the biggest challenges currently keeping you from an ideal state. The time has come to apply those challenges to the world of product features. What features could best solve your challenges? We recommend mapping out software features that could serve your needs on two axes: the level of novelty vs. the level of indispensability. This should give you a clear idea of how well the features address your goals–and which features make sense for you to prioritize.

In our client’s case, they recognized that in order to increase relevance by sharing more customized content, segmentation was going to be a high-priority product feature.

6. Demo the product.

Knowing which product features you are going to prioritize in your software selection process greatly reduces the risk of failure by helping narrow down your list of potential vendors. Create a “product demo scorecard” based on what you’ve identified as your biggest feature priorities (such as segmentation) and gather your shortlist of potential vendors. Now comes the fun part–demo them out! Test out how well the products meet your needs as the user and give them a score. This makes the process measurable and evidence-based, giving you the highest chance of a successful result.

7. Vendor evaluation.

And finally, the moment of truth. Take a look at the scorecard you’ve filled out during product demos, and determine which product stood out from the pack. Making that final selection is an important decision–the tech stack you curate is an investment in the future of your business. A tech stack that aligns with your top feature priorities and ideal-state vision will help your brand scale and grow to reach its potential.

There is a constantly growing number of software vendors out there to serve almost any need businesses have these days. And the important thing to remember is that there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all vendor–your needs as the user will be unique based on your individual goals and constraints. That’s where applying a human-centered design thinking methodology is key to helping you dig out the solutions that will best work for you.


When we deeply understand people’s challenges and frustrations, what they love and what they hate, their environment and their purpose, we create powerful experiences that help them get things done, enabling them to work faster and smarter, making a meaningful impact on their lives. Drop us a line to chat more about using human-centered design to solve for your brand’s needs.

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