Regardless of the market, goals, or product, having a well-oiled system of internal operations can make or break a business’ success. Keeping track of your inventory, handling customer requests or support tickets, or even exporting data can be crucial to your everyday work — which is why it’s important to have the right tools for it.
Whether it’s a simple dashboard, an admin panel, or a CRM, internal tools are made for one specific purpose: to make internal operations more efficient. But what factors should you consider, exactly, when looking to invest into internal tools for your business? In this article, we’ll take a look at the main points, and help you choose the solution for your needs.
What is it exactly that you need your internal tool for?
Before you invest into a solution, it’s always important to ask yourself what it’s going to do for you and your business. With internal tools, your main pain points are going to be enhancing your organization’s growth, making work easier for your employees, alleviating workload from your developers, and integrating with other tools or solutions you’re using.
Let’s take a look at how some of the most common types of internal tools do these things for your business.
Customer Relationship Management tools
Customer Relationship Management tools, or CRMs help your teams handle their clients and interact with them, whether that’s a first contact or everyday lead nurturing. Most organizations with substantial sales teams tend to invest into CRMs as their process usually relies on them being able to be in constant contact with their customers, and to be able to reach potential ones as well.
A CRM can be one of the most straightforward internal tools you can get started with, as all businesses rely on clients — even if your sales activities are just starting out, being organized and being able to act instantly are worth the effort and finances you can put into a tool like this.
Project Management tools
Project Management (PM) tools are the bread and butter of not only project managers, but businesses in general. Keeping a track of all the projects and tasks you and your teams need to take care of can do wonders to productivity, and can give you the structure you need to increase your internal operations' efficiency.
With PM tools, you get access to features like scheduling, collaboration, documentation, and evaluation, which is why they tend to be one of the first tools growing businesses invest in.
Dashboards / data analytics
We’re living in a data-driven world, and that’s true for businesses as well. With most of them conducting their activities online, data analytics and interpretation can be one of the most crucial things when it comes to their internal operations — especially if it’s all distributed across multiple data platforms.
Integrating a simple graphical dashboard with a graphical user interface can help you make sense of all your data, and even present it in a nice way — put some analytics behind it, and it becomes a powerhouse. One important thing to keep in mind is that these solutions themselves aren’t necessarily ones to handle complex data manipulation: most of the time, they are there to analyze and visualize it for you.
Inventory management apps
While dashboards provide a graphical interface that is aimed at visualizing data, sometimes, that’s not all what you need. Inventory apps allow businesses to have a streamlined interface that can integrate with robust databases, with automations to help with processes involving said inventory, whether it’s new orders, cancellations, or deliveries.
Managing your business’ inventory can be one of the most time consuming and crucial internal activities, hence why many companies opt to start out with an internal tool already in place for it. If you know your business will have to handle a lot of commerce, make sure you take a good look at inventory management tools.
Approval / workflow automation apps
There comes a point in every business’ life when approval processes and workflow automation become necessary to be able to function properly. Regardless of when that happens, the management of your internal operations — whether we’re talking sales processes, product decisions, or anything else — is key to sustain a well-functioning, structured company.
Approval and workflow apps can help with streamlining these processes, giving you a platform to integrate into your activities, and use it with a healthy dose of convenient automation. This can range from anything to product approvals to multi-level business decisions that require managerial oversight.
IT support ticketing tools
Just like sales teams have CRMs to help make their work as efficient as possible, IT support also has something: ticketing systems.
With these solutions, support specialists can manage incoming requests from people inside and outside the company. Support departments usually have plenty to deal with, which is why the scheduling and structuring capabilities of tools like these can be extremely helpful for them and their employees.
The jack of all trades when it comes to internal tools, admin panels combine multiple tools in our list to create a comprehensive solution. These ones can be used not only to handle data from all your data sources, combine them, and display and handle them in one place, but also to handle inventory, shipment, include approval processes, collaboration tools like tickets, and even manage your customers.
If you've found yourself wanting multiple of the tools in the above list, but don't want to invest in a lot of different solutions at the same time, we recommend you check out admin panels to start with — they might be the right choice for your business, and they usually offer free tiers for when you're still starting out.
Looking for a great admin panel that fits all your business needs? Check out Forest Admin!
Now that we've taken a look at the most popular types of internal tools you can get started with, let’s take a look at some other factors you should consider once you already know what kind of solution you want to use.
Will it also make sense in the long-term?
Realizing what you need internal tools for is only part of the equation: you should also be mindful of how adopting such a tool is going to fit into your business in the long run. Ask yourself these following questions:
- Does adopting this tool make sense for my current business goals and processes?
- Will it be able to scale with us as our business grows, and do the same for us later down the line?
- Does it cover all the use cases we’re planning for in the future?
- If it doesn’t support all the things I need, are my developers going to be able to easily customize it to our liking?
If the answer to those questions is yes, chances are, you’re looking at a tool that makes sense for your business needs. Bear in mind that low-code solutions often provide you with a better array of possibilities since they’re aimed at uses that are non-reliant on engineering support, as well as specialized ones that are. Check out our article on why low-code is the way to go for internal tools.
Does the pricing make sense for your business?
Let’s not beat around the bush: money is always going to be one of the decisive factors for getting started with a new tool. Whether you’re management who has to approve it, or you’re the end-user who has to convince management to do so, this is always going to be one of the pain points, so it should be something that you evaluate before you begin.
Just like in our previous point about scaling, we advise you to look at what you have right now, and where your business is headed. Try to look into tools that make sense financially for the size of your business, but also give you the opportunity to scale up in a non-obstructive way.
Many internal tools offer free tiers of their products, which can be great to get started with, and see how much they can really do for you — after all, if they really do bring value to your business, you won’t mind paying for their features down the road so much.
Does it meet your security needs?
Since internal tools are, by definition, tools that interact with your internal processes, security is always a main pain point for them. There can be no doubt that without the proper security measures, your data privacy and protection can be at risk, exposing your and your clients’ data to a third party.
You should always take a look at the security features an internal tool offers, and evaluate whether they’re good enough for your business’ activities. Things that you should be looking for include:
- Data ownership retention (your data being invisible to the third party)
- Security certifications like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, AICPA SOC2, ISO 27001
- Absolutely no tracking in or around the app
- Advanced features like two-factor authentication (2FA), IP whitelisting
- Security infrastructure support (DMZ, VPN, etc.)
We hope this guide gave you some assistance in deciding what internal tools you should be looking at for your business, and how they would be able to help you. If you're interested in what Forest Admin could do to make your internal operations more effective, take a look at our site, and get started for free today!