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From Startup to Scaleup: What IT Needs to Know

From Startup to Scaleup What IT Needs to Know

From Startup to Scaleup What IT Needs to Know

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Seriesa collection of contributed articles written by our enterprise tech thought leader community—Nishant Patel, Founder and CTO of Contentstack, outlines some critical things IT teams need to know throughout the startup, scaleup, and other phases their business may go through.

Startups and established companies often have very different mindsets and challenges. As a result, the focus of IT teams must also change as a company grows and proves itself. Developing a startup into an established company involves transitions in at least a few significant areas: process, security, and risk. Here is how to walk through these changes.

Document Everything

Keeping your IT team on the same page is easy as a startup. You can jot down some bullet points about your product plans, and everyone understands what they need to do. Team members can pivot quickly because they do everything themselves. Think of a startup as a road with no traffic. There are fewer cars on the road, so there is less chance that they will bump into each other and crash or devise inventive ways to drive off the road. As traffic increases, you add more lanes. Just like as you scale, teams become more siloed, and documentation will be crucial in helping people understand their roles.

When your company grows, you must create processes with clearly defined outcomes to manage risk while keeping everyone moving quickly. When these processes become bottlenecks, reevaluate them. Proper documentation functions as a “lane” and will play a huge role in healthy organizational maintenance as you grow, whether it comes to people, processes, technology, or all of the above.

One of the most important documents my team uses is our product requirement document (PRD). Whenever we have a feature request or a new product idea, the PRD gets filled out, which makes all the essential details clear. The PRD then goes to our engineering team, who uses it to create a technical specification document detailing the product’s features and how we will build them. The documentation keeps everyone’s efforts aimed at the end goal: improving our product.

Prioritize Process Optimization, Even As You Scale

As you move from a startup to a scaleup, it’s easy for IT to overlook the importance of consistently evaluating and streamlining the organization’s processes. It makes sense—a bigger organization means more employees and customers for IT to troubleshoot, simplify workflows, and acquire equipment. That means there’s less time for brainstorming and collaborating on bigger-picture items.

One of these often-forgotten processes is lead-quote-cash, which is important for any business. It crosses the invisible boundaries between business units like sales, IT, marketing, and finance. As a startup, you’re often a team of five people navigating this, and it’s easier to communicate and optimize it as the company slowly grows. But as a scaleup, there is more to handle in this process. It’s IT’s job to make sure every business unit is aligned, bottlenecks are removed, and overall complexity is simplified. Part of this means IT must transcend the siloed nature of these units and ensure things are moving forward at the right speed.

For example, you might have to add a CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) system in this process to streamline quote generation. When you do this, you must ensure the entire process continues to run smoothly. You might hire talent who can support CPQ and unblock any issues. IT often serves as the quality and speed control of the organization, and that role becomes even more critical in the scaleup stage.

Level Up Your Security, Especially with Customer Data

As a startup, you don’t think much about security unless your product is in the security space. Security is not irrelevant, but it is just not as high a priority when you have very little, if any, customer data to protect. The main thing is that you keep building your team and chasing that product-market fit. Once you become a scaleup, you have more customers, especially large customers. Shift toward better protection of data. For example, you might move from standard account credentials to single-sign-on so that IT can see who is accessing what.

But it’s also important to strike a balance between security and innovation. Keep experimenting with new tools—just be more cautious with your data than you used to be. While tools may speed up development, they could pose a risk until you can verify the system’s security. Put guardrails in place to ensure new tools meet your complex security criteria, and you don’t have to start over every time. My team and I test out a lot of apps, especially AI-based tools now. Our number one rule: do not test with any employee and customer data.

Get Pickier About How You Reduce Risk

In startup mode, you choose tools and subscriptions based on what will get your product across the finish line to market. You will probably see the amount of apps the company uses start growing out of control as you become established. Shadow IT—services and devices used outside of IT’s approval—also becomes more of a concern. Gartner found that 41 percent of employees used shadow IT in 2022. By 2027, that number could increase to 75 percent.

Security and compliance become more important as you scale, so you must cut apps and curb shadow IT. Picking what to keep is a balancing act. I explain more here, but the basic idea is that as you grow, your team becomes more siloed, so prioritize communication channels first. You will have core apps you can’t drop, like e-mail and others you need to evaluate.

When Contentstack was a startup, we found that we used more than 300 apps. That might sound absurd, but Productiv found that the average enterprise uses 364. We talked to employees to see what they were using and why and then scored our tools on security, compliance, and business impact to determine what to keep. Treat your app scores as guides, not hard rules. Some tools may score lower but still be worthwhile, so ensure you work with your people rather than just looking at the scores alone.

Treat your app scores as guides, not hard rules. Some tools may score lower but still be worthwhile, so make sure that you are working with your people rather than just looking at the scores by themselves. Pulling off the transition from startup to scaleup may be difficult, but it will be rewarding for your company. You will be able to reduce the burden on your IT teams and help them better support both the organization and the product. If you are already scaling, start working on these areas now. If you are still in the early startup stage, add these to your long-term plans. They will help you build success for years to come.

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