In the world of SaaS (Software as a Service), companies often find themselves faced with a common dilemma: should they build their internal tools or buy ready-made solutions?
Having the right internal tools in place can make a significant difference in your team's productivity and overall success. If you're a developer looking to build internal tools from scratch or a non-technical user seeking an efficient tool builder, you have come to the right place. Let's dive in and explore the world of internal tools!
What Are Internal Tools?
Internal tools are essential applications or programs designed to enhance the efficiency and productivity of IT departments, developers, and other internal business users.
These tools are specifically created to simplify various tasks, such as:
- Accessing databases
- Customer relationship management
- Content management
- Employee onboarding and HR management
- Project and task management
- Inventory and asset tracking
- Data analytics and reporting
By utilizing internal tools, businesses can streamline their operations, automate repetitive tasks, and gain valuable insights into their performance.
Importance of Internal Tools
Did you know developers spend more than 30% of their time building internal applications?
Internal tools have become increasingly popular in the business world due to their ability to save time and improve productivity. With these tools, employees no longer have to spend hours manually updating spreadsheets, managing help desks, monitoring websites, or handling other repetitive tasks. Instead, they can rely on internal tools to automate these processes, freeing up their time to focus on more critical work-related issues. Here are several reasons why businesses should consider using internal tools:
- Better data management: Internal tools facilitate the organization and management of data, ensuring that businesses have access to accurate and up-to-date information. This enables employees to make informed decisions and drives better business outcomes.
- Improved collaboration: Many internal tools offer collaboration features that allow team members to work together seamlessly. These tools promote communication, knowledge sharing, and collaboration across departments, leading to enhanced teamwork and productivity.
- Enhanced insights: Internal tools often provide advanced analytics and reporting capabilities, allowing businesses to gain valuable insights into their operations. By analyzing data and metrics, organizations can make data-driven decisions, identify areas for improvement, and optimize their processes.
- Customizability: Internal tools can be tailored to meet the specific needs of businesses. Whether it's a CRM system, help desk software, or project management tool, businesses can customize these tools to align with their unique workflows and requirements.
- Cost-effectiveness: While some internal tools may require an initial investment, they can ultimately result in cost savings. By automating tasks, reducing manual errors, and enhancing processes, businesses can minimize expenses and increase their overall efficiency.
Examples of Internal Tools
In this section, we'll explore real-world examples of internal tools that have revolutionized the way businesses operate. These tools span across various domains, from communication and project management to security and analytics, showcasing the incredible versatility of internal tool solutions.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools help businesses manage their interactions with customers and prospects. These tools provide functionalities for contact management, lead tracking, sales forecasting, and customer support. Examples of CRM tools include Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho CRM.
Customer Success Tools
These tools are meticulously crafted to aid organizations in comprehending, engaging, and retaining their customers with precision. Take, for instance, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software giants like Salesforce and HubSpot. They provide an array of capabilities for managing customer interactions, tracking sales processes, and delivering impeccable support.
Live chat platforms such as Intercom, help desk solutions like Zendesk, and knowledge base systems empower businesses to offer immediate assistance and self-help resources. And let's not forget the innovative AI chatbots, powered by industry leaders like Drift and Intercom's Resolution Bot, which elevate customer service with instant responses and round-the-clock availability. These tools collectively enable businesses to forge enduring relationships, enhance customer satisfaction, and ultimately, propel growth through personalized and precisely targeted interactions.
Content Management System (CMS) tools are used to create, manage, and publish digital content, such as blog posts, website pages, and multimedia assets. CMS tools provide a user-friendly interface for content creation and editing, as well as features for content organization and publishing. Examples of CMS tools include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
Analytics tools help businesses track and analyze website and app performance, user behavior, and marketing campaigns. These tools provide valuable insights through data visualization, reporting, and audience segmentation. Examples of analytics tools include Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Adobe Analytics.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools assist businesses in planning, organizing, and tracking projects and tasks. These tools provide features for task assignment, progress tracking, collaboration, and resource management. Examples of project management tools include Trello, Asana, and Monday.com.
Automation tools enable businesses to automate repetitive tasks and workflows. These tools utilize workflows, triggers, and actions to streamline processes and reduce manual effort. Examples of automation tools include Zapier, Integromat, and Microsoft Power Automate.
Communication tools facilitate internal and external communication within businesses. These tools provide features for instant messaging, video conferencing, file sharing, and team collaboration. Examples of communication tools include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom.
Development tools are used by software developers to write, test, and deploy code. These tools provide integrated development environments (IDEs), version control systems, debugging tools, and code editors. Examples of development tools include GitHub, Visual Studio Code, and GitLab.
Security tools help businesses protect their data, networks, and systems from cybersecurity threats. These tools provide features for vulnerability scanning, threat detection, firewall management, and access control. Examples of security tools include antivirus software, firewall solutions, and identity and access management (IAM) systems.
These examples represent just a fraction of the numerous internal tools available across different industries and business functions. The choice of internal tools depends on the specific needs and requirements of each business.
Types of Internal Tools
Though we’ve seen different examples of internal tools, did you know they can be further classified? All these tools can be categorized into two main types: out-of-the-box SaaS products and custom-built solutions. Each type has its own advantages and considerations, and businesses need to carefully evaluate their options before making a decision.
Out-of-the-Box SaaS Products
Out-of-the-box SaaS products are pre-built software solutions designed to address common business needs. These products are often developed by specialized vendors like RingCentral and Veeva, and offer a range of functionalities to support various operations, such as communication, project management, CRM, and analytics.
The main advantage of using out-of-the-box SaaS products is:
- Convenience and ease of implementation.
- Ready to use, requiring minimal setup and configuration.
- Quick onboarding and adoption rate
However, out-of-the-box SaaS products may have limitations. Not all solutions can be customized and scaled as per your needs. Businesses need to carefully assess whether the functionalities provided by these products align with their specific requirements. Additionally, businesses should consider the long-term costs and potential vendor lock-in associated with using these products.
Custom-built solutions refer to internal tools that are developed specifically for a business's unique needs and workflows. These solutions are typically built in-house or by hiring external developers and can be tailored to meet specific requirements. In fact, according to a study by Grand View Research, the demand for custom software is projected to surge at an impressive CAGR of 8.2% to 22.3% from 2022 to 2030.
One major advantage of custom-built solutions is:
- Their high level of customization.
- Businesses have full control over the features, functionalities, and user experience of these tools.
- Custom-built solutions can be designed to seamlessly integrate with existing systems and processes, providing a cohesive and efficient workflow.
- The tools are highly scalable.
However, custom-built solutions often require a significant investment of time, resources, and expertise. Developing internal tools from scratch or using low/no-code platforms may involve a steep learning curve and ongoing maintenance. Businesses need to carefully consider the costs, technical capabilities, and long-term scalability of custom-built solutions before pursuing this option.
How to Choose the Right Internal Tool?
Now that you know the difference between OOTB software and custom-built solutions, here comes the choice. Choosing the right internal tool for your business involves assessing your specific needs, evaluating available options, and considering factors such as cost, scalability, and customization. The decision-making process often revolves around the "build vs buy" dilemma.
Build vs Buy
The choice between building a custom internal tool or purchasing an existing solution depends on various factors. Here are some considerations to help guide your decision:
- Specific requirements: Evaluate whether existing out-of-the-box solutions meet your unique requirements such as updating legacy systems, or increasing user count. If a suitable product is available and fulfills your needs, it may be more cost-effective and time-efficient to purchase and customize that solution.
- Budget and resources: Consider your budget and available resources. Building a custom internal tool requires significant investment in terms of time, money, and technical expertise. Assess whether your business can afford the development and maintenance costs associated with a custom solution.
- Scalability: Evaluate the scalability of both options. Will the chosen tool be able to accommodate your future growth and evolving needs? Consider the long-term scalability of the tool and whether it can adapt to changes in your business.
- Integration: Consider how the internal tool will integrate with your existing systems and workflows. Evaluate whether the chosen tool can seamlessly integrate with your current infrastructure and whether it requires additional integration efforts.
- Support and Maintenance: Evaluate the support and maintenance provided by the tool's vendor or developer. Consider the availability of technical support, updates, and security patches. Assess whether you have the necessary resources to maintain and support a custom-built solution.
By carefully evaluating these factors, businesses can make an informed decision about whether to build a custom internal tool or purchase an existing solution. It's important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option and choose the one that best aligns with your specific needs and long-term goals.
When to Buy: When SaaS Products Are the Best Fit
SaaS products have become vital in many industries, offering expert solutions for common use cases and specific departments. While the decision between building and buying is often subjective, there are certain scenarios where purchasing a SaaS product is the best choice. Let's explore when buying makes sense:
- Limited Budget: If your budget is limited, many SaaS products offer affordable or even free tiers that can provide a quicker and cheaper solution compared to building from scratch. Starting with a ready-made product allows you to test the waters before investing in a custom-built tool.
- Learning from Competitors: Out-of-the-box SaaS products can be a great way to gain insights into how your competitors operate. These products are often built based on extensive research and experience, making them valuable as a minimum viable product (MVP) for testing potential options and understanding what your own system should look like.
- Uncertainty in Need: Sometimes, ideas for internal tools may sound promising but fail to meet expectations once built. If you're unsure about the viability or necessity of a tool, starting with a SaaS product as an MVP can help you validate its usefulness before committing to a custom build.
- Limited Technical Resources: For startups or companies with limited technical resources, it may be wise to focus development efforts on the core product rather than investing heavily in internal tooling. SaaS products can provide a temporary solution until your core product is more established.
When to Build: The Advantages of Custom Development
Building your own internal tools allows for greater control, customization, and scalability. Here are some scenarios where building might be the best choice:
- Outgrowing SaaS Tools: If you have already reached the limits of existing SaaS tools and find yourself restricted by their functionality, it may be time to consider building your own solution. Working with a SaaS product can help you understand your requirements and guide the development of a custom tool.
- Anticipating Future Growth: If you foresee the need for advanced features or significant changes in the near future, building a custom tool from the start can save time and effort. By bypassing the onboarding process of a SaaS product, you can avoid the hassle of migrating to a custom solution later on.
- Testing an MVP: If you have tested a minimum viable product and confirmed its value to your company, building your own internal tool can be a logical next step. By calculating the return on investment and assessing the benefits, you can make an informed decision about investing in a custom-built solution.
- Technical Expertise: If you have a technical team or access to technical resources, building a custom tool can be a worthwhile investment. Having dedicated engineers allows for greater customization, control, and maintenance of the tool.
Rapid Internal Tool Development with ToolJet
Building internal tools with ToolJet is a rapid and efficient process. The low-code platform eliminates the need for extensive manual coding, resulting in faster development time and accelerated project timelines. This cost-effective solution minimizes the reliance on specialized developers and reduces maintenance costs. ToolJet seamlessly integrates with existing tools, simplifying processes and enabling teams to work efficiently.
Internal tools are integral to streamlining business processes, improving efficiency, and driving success. By leveraging the right internal tools, businesses can automate repetitive tasks, enhance collaboration, and gain valuable insights into their operations.
The choice between out-of-the-box solutions and custom-built tools depends on factors such as specific requirements, budget, scalability, customization needs, and integration capabilities. Ultimately, businesses need to carefully evaluate their options and choose the solution that best aligns with their unique needs and long-term goals. Whether building or buying, internal tools have the potential to transform the way businesses operate and empower employees to work more efficiently and effectively.