However, despite having a crew of 40, imagine the ship was designed with only one set of oars. When the rower gets tired, they pass along that single pair of oars to any of the 39 fresh crewmembers to switch off.
So — despite having all of the features of an excellent sea vessel: a hull, a deck, a rudder, and a means of propulsion — your ship is woefully underdesigned. And because of that, your chances of thriving as Vikings have pretty much sunk.
Modern SaaS tools are often not unlike this ridiculous ship. Despite seeming to check all the boxes, they may encourage patterns of work which will ultimately slow your organization. The trouble is that these flaws have to do with the information, transparency, collaboration, and culture. All are intangibles that are a lot less noticeable than a whole bunch of missing oars.
When evaluating a tool for your stack, look beyond features and price. Ask these 4 questions to see if it passes the culture checklist.
Does It Consolidate Power?
One aspect of SaaS tools that are rarely considered or discussed is how the tool impacts the balance of power or share of voice in an organization.
If a tool is priced per-seat, often non-critical team members will not be given a login. Take something like Product Board, a product management solution where user feedback and product prioritization come together. This can be an incredibly valuable source of customer information, but in my experience, marketing and customer success may be left out of such a solution in an effort to curb incrementally-increasing costs.
This has the impact of consolidating knowledge and information within one group. That places the onus on that group to proactively share all useful information within their siloed system.
Is It Collaborative by Nature?
Consider two organizations. In one, it’s common to use Microsoft Word to create docs and send individual files around. In another, Google Docs are used universally and often shared and commented on before work is in its final stages.
You’re probably very familiar with the above setup. The industry has (mostly) moved away from the problematic approach of single, un-shared docs.
But have you considered that there is a similar choice — albeit more nuanced — with just about every SaaS tool in your organization?
Examples of features in software designed for collaboration:
- Simultaneous editing
- Make information public/discoverable by default
- Add notes or comments
For instance, we use Autopilot for marketing email and Miro for virtual whiteboarding. Both tools are so collaborative that you can even see another person’s mouse moving on your screen if you are both in the same project.
By making collaboration and transparency something we value not just in our culture but in our tools, we elevate these values because your tools determine how you work.
Does It Give Your Team Members a Voice?
Something started coming up in our customer interviews at Hugo. We heard that when our users collaborated on meeting agendas and meeting notes, many felt they had more input into how their organization ran. In particular, this feedback often came from women and non-cis genders and minorities.
We were so fascinated, we launched on a study on the topic. The results were revealing. Women, and especially minority women, felt much less heard in meetings and other aspects of their organizations.
However, with a more empowering tech stack which might include chat, project management, video conferencing, and connected meeting notes, many noticed an improvement in their share of voice in terms of input and decision-making.
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Does It Lead You down the Customization Trap?
The more customizable a tool is, the more you will customize it. You become the product designer of your own experience.
Well-designed products go through a process that includes a careful reflection on challenges or jobs-to-be-done, design/ideation, development, QA testing, and user experience interviews. But when you start customizing, you probably skip all that and grab a pair of oars.
For example, when you decide to create a new custom field in a CRM like Salesforce, you may think you don’t need to go through this process. This solution is self-evident, you tell yourself. Let’s get this over with so we can continue with the work!
This may be a mistake. You may also be creating a version of technical debt in your SaaS tool — call it ‘customization debt’ — and sooner or later, you’ll have to reinvest in even more customization to make it work for your organization again.
Often these needs can be overcome with integrations. Instead of trying to customize one tool into the perfect thing, have it integrate with the tool that already works best for you.
In my organization, we believe in building what we call a 10X Culture. It’s the idea that how we work is so important, having a strong, purpose-guided culture can enable a business to grow by an order of magnitude.
A 10X Culture feels like having the wind in your sails and all of your oars rowing in sync. Having a tech stack that encourages the right styles of work is a huge asset in this goal. So the next time you’re evaluating a SaaS tool, don’t just look at features and the monthly rate. Consider the cultural implications, and whether the software is likely to unleash your team potential.