The Modern Business Software Stack for Product & Growth

A good business software stack should help digital teams understand their customers and allow them to act on that understanding.

Best Practices
October 18, 2021
Image of Brandon Khoo
Brandon Khoo
Senior Product Manager, CDP, Amplitude
Business software stack

By 2022, the cloud SaaS market size is expected to exceed $362.3 billion. With so much new business software entering the market, it’s hard to know where to look to find the right tool—especially when it comes to product management and growth marketing.

Both product management and growth marketing rely on a deep understanding of the audience. And while 94% of business leaders note that “understanding digital user behavior is a priority,” 71% said they don’t know how to do so.

This isn’t a failing on their part—it’s a failing of their business software.

Business software stacks aren’t usually tailor-made for product- and growth-minded leaders. These stacks have to help companies achieve many things—from finance to data orchestration—and despite it being a priority, understanding the customer journey is a task that’s liable to get lost in that jumble of tools and functions. This tangle of tools contributes to why business leaders encounter difficulty when trying to understand their customers.

For product-focused companies, building a business software stack should center on one question: “Will this tool help me improve customer experience?” There tend to be a few types of business software that help companies answer this question consistently and accurately, and together, they form a solid business software stack.

Data Management, Storage and Governance

At the heart of a good business is a software stack with a thorough data management strategy for processing and storing customer information from many sources. A business that masters data management will have clean, accurate data, which helps them build a deep, detailed understanding of their customers.

When it comes to data management, there are two components: data processing and storage.

A customer data platform (CDP) will serve most businesses’ data storage and processing needs. It provides a simple way to collect and standardize customer data from many different touchpoints. Data storage is taken care of by a database (generally for smaller datasets) or a data warehouse (generally for larger datasets) that serves as one central place to store all the data collected and standardized.

But, the art of data management can go much deeper depending on how much data is collected and how it’s used. Businesses that collect and use a lot of data should consider using ETL tools to streamline the process of ingesting data into a data warehouse and data transformation tools to model that data for many different use cases.

To this day, 49% of companies have difficulty understanding user behavior. Understand your customers’ behavior by collecting, standardizing, and storing user data with the following data management tools:

  • Snowflake is a data warehouse that scales easily.
  • Amazon Redshift is a long-trusted data warehouse of choice for many companies.
  • Segment is a CDP with a focus on customer segmentation.
  • mParticle is a CDP with a focus on keeping customer data clean.
  • Amplitude offers built-in data management capabilities.

Product Analytics Solutions

It’s not enough to store and process data—you need to put it to work. Product analytics solutions help companies use data from within their product to understand and optimize their customers’ experience. With product analytics, you can take customer behavior data and turn it into easy-to-understand insights to inform product roadmaps, marketing plans, and design changes.

This ability to improve the customer experience is so crucial that companies that use product analytics platforms are “5.5 times more likely to see >25% revenue growth year over year than those who don’t,” according to a 2020 survey of product leaders.

Product analytics solutions integrate right into the product itself along with other business software tools. They turn data generated in the product into actionable insights for teams, mainly product and marketing teams.

Amplitude is considered by many to be the best option for product analytics, recently being named the “best overall software pick across industries and teams” by G2.

Amplitude is a beloved product because we practice what we preach. Our team uses product analytics to create a platform that’s easy to use and collaborate with to ensure it’s comprehensive and constantly improving. If you’d like to see our product in action, you can explore Amplitude right now.

Business Intelligence Platforms

Business intelligence (BI) platforms help companies turn data in their database or data warehouse into reports and dashboards. Unlike product analytics tools, BI platforms focus on data in the data warehouse rather than the product, which means they can create reports about anything in the warehouse, from finances to recruiting data.

The flexibility of BI tools makes them valuable as they can put data of all kinds into the context of what’s happening around the company. They can show trends in ARR vs. customer acquisition over time, but unlike product analytics tools, they can’t easily show you how customers are behaving in your product today. The insight BI tools can provide is useful but not always very actionable.

BI tools sit atop the database or data warehouse and use SQL queries to pull the data that’s needed. Depending on how the database is set up, a SQL query from a BI tool can combine many different types of data—like behavioral cohorts from Amplitude and transaction data from Stripe—and put them together into one chart.

Provided you have deep knowledge of SQL, you can make BI tools do amazing things, but often the learning curve is too steep for the average business user. Given the technical requirements and the variety of data, BI tools are best suited for strategic insights over time rather than tactical, actionable insights you can use to improve your product.

Some popular BI tools include:

Customer Engagement Platforms

Customer engagement platforms facilitate communication between customers and your company. When they’re implemented well, these platforms help companies maintain positive relationships with users throughout the customer journey.

Customer engagement platforms offer live chat functionality, mobile push notifications, automated emails, and more to help businesses connect with customers. These platforms can integrate with tools like Amplitude to create what is effectively a real-time customer lifecycle management system, where analytics informs communication at all stages of the customer journey.

A few options for customer engagement platforms:

  • Braze is designed for cross-channel customer engagement.
  • Intercom is designed for live chat in and out of your product.
  • Airship focuses on deep personalization and automation.

Collaboration Tools

Collaboration is only becoming more important as working remotely turns from a necessity in COVID times to an ongoing norm. You need to facilitate both types of collaboration—synchronous and asynchronous—with collaboration tools. The trick to defining which tools you need starts with defining what tasks get completed via each type of collaboration. Put another way, “Should this meeting have been an email?“

A few great collaboration tools:

  • Productboard specializes in collaborative product management. It’s mostly asynchronous but can accommodate some synchronous collaboration.
  • Figma is great for synchronous collaborative design.
  • Slack channels are suitable for asynchronous communication.
  • Jira is excellent for collaborative asynchronous workflow management.

Start Building Your Business Software Stack

Investing in a business software stack is no small undertaking: There’s internal buy-in, budgeting, implementation, and much more to consider. Thankfully, you don’t need to figure it all out in one go. Most of the tools we’ve listed here have free trials, which effectively allow you to “window shop” for business software. Interested in trying out Amplitude? Start an Amplitude demo today.

About the Author
Image of Brandon Khoo
Brandon Khoo
Senior Product Manager, CDP, Amplitude
Brandon Khoo is a Senior Product Manager at Amplitude, leading the strategy and development of the Amplitude's insights-driven customer data platform. His role also involves defining the integration infrastructure for Amplitude’s partner ecosystem. Brandon is an alumnus of Uber and KPMG, and he holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Finance from the Queensland University of Technology.
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