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Scaling SaaS: 5 Factors to Help Decide When it's Time to Pivot Your Tech Stack

VI #008: Scaling SaaS: 5 Factors to Help Decide When it's Time to Pivot Your Tech Stack

Read time: 5.5 minutes


Many SaaS companies struggle with deciding whether or not to pivot their tech stack, even when it becomes apparent that their current technology is not meeting the needs of their business.

Some reasons why founders or CTOs don't pivot their tech stack include being too attached to their existing code, avoiding disrupting current processes or investing time and resources in new technology, or not knowing how to assess whether a pivot is needed. Conversely, some people misguidedly pivot their tech stack for reasons including:

  • Lack of research or understanding of the new tech
  • Over-reliance on hype of the new tech
  • Failure to address underlying issues of the existing stack
  • Misaligned incentives such as personal preferences, Resume Driven Development, or pressure from key stakeholders

My teams and I have experienced many (successful and unsuccessful) tech pivots on various projects including Backbone to React, C# to Scala, Node.js to Python, On-premise computing to Cloud (AWS), web to mobile, a variety of data store pivots across different database technologies, and more.

In this article, I attempt to distill lessons from these experiences and guide you through five factors you should consider when deciding whether to pivot your tech stack.


1. Alignment with business goals and strategy

If your current technology is not meeting the needs of your business, it may be time to consider a change. When considering such a change, some factors to consider include:

  1. Market positioning: Will the new tech stack help you better position your product in the market and attract the right customers?
  2. Scalability: Will the new tech stack better support the growth trajectory of your business and enable you to scale efficiently?
  3. Competitive advantage: Will the new tech stack give you a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry?
  4. Cost-effectiveness: Will the benefits of the new tech stack justify the cost of implementing it and any potential disruption it may cause?
  5. Time-to-market: Will the new tech stack help you get to market faster or stay ahead of competitors in a rapidly changing market?


2. User feedback and demand

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is ignoring user feedback and demand. Factors to consider include:

  1. User satisfaction: Are users satisfied with your product's current functionality, or are they requesting new features or improvements that would require a different tech stack?
  2. Market demand: Is there a growing demand for features that your current tech stack cannot easily support? Are competitors gaining market share by offering these features?
  3. Scalability: Can your current tech stack scale to meet the demands of your growing user base, or will a pivot be necessary to meet future growth goals?
  4. Technical feasibility: Is it feasible to make the necessary changes to your tech stack without causing significant disruptions to your current user base or development team?


3. Payment of technical debt

Technical debt can be a major burden on your development team and your business.

If there is significant technical debt in the existing code base, it may be more cost-effective to pivot and start fresh rather than continue to maintain the existing code. You should consider factors such as:

  1. The extent of the technical debt: Evaluate the severity of the technical debt in your current tech stack, including the amount of code that needs to be refactored or rewritten
  2. The impact on future development: Determine how technical debt will affect your ability to add new features or functionality in the future, and whether it will slow down development
  3. The cost of maintaining the current tech stack: Calculate the cost of maintaining the current tech stack versus the cost of pivoting to a new one, including both the direct costs and opportunity costs of technical debt
  4. The potential benefits of pivoting: Consider the potential benefits of pivoting to a new tech stack, including improved performance, better scalability, and increased productivity of your development team


4. Development team skill set

When considering your development team's skill set, you should consider the current level of expertise and experience of your team members, as well as their ability and willingness to learn new technologies. If your team lacks expertise in the current tech stack or if there are new technologies that could improve development efficiency, it may be time to pivot. You should also consider the availability of resources, including training, documentation, and support, to help the team learn and implement new technologies.

Additionally, it’s important to assess the potential impact on team morale and productivity, and evaluate the costs and risks associated with the transition to a new tech stack.


5. Keeping up-to-date with market trends and innovations

If there are new technologies that could provide a significant competitive advantage or improve user experience, it may be worth considering a pivot. Some factors to think about before deciding such a pivot include:

  1. Analyze your competitors' tech stack and see if they are using any new technologies that could give them a competitive advantage
  2. Keep track of emerging technologies that could disrupt your industry and evaluate if integrating them into your tech stack could enhance your product offering
  3. Stay up to date with the latest user behavior trends, identify any shift in user expectations, and determine if any new technologies could help meet those expectations better
  4. Consider the scalability and longevity of the technology you are considering to integrate and determine if it aligns with your long-term business strategy


Some suggestions

Finally, if you do decide to pivot your tech stack, here are some tips:

  • Consider a phased approach with sustained investment, such as building new features in the new tech stack and migrating legacy functionality to the new stack over time
  • Avoid adopting bleeding edge tech and consider your organization's risk appetite and agility
  • Involve the engineering team in decision-making and capture all edge cases through design, testing, and expert review
  • Ensure there is a sound automated regression test suite and rollback strategy
  • Consider having a separate team familiar with the chosen new technology do the new implementation, in consultation with experts in the original code base
  • Recognize that the process will quite possibly take longer than expected, ensure there is a highly compelling justification given a large number of tech pivots fail, and manage project scope tightly to avoid scope creep
  • Implement the new stack in a way that makes sense for that language/stack to unlock its associated benefits


That’s it for today.



When deciding whether to pivot the tech stack for your SaaS application, consider:

  • Alignment with business goals and strategy
  • User feedback and demand
  • Payment of technical debt
  • Development team skill set
  • Keeping up-to-date with market trends and innovations

By weighing these factors, you can make an informed decision that will benefit your company and users in the long run.


I hope this helps. See you next Sunday.



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