So, how do you define them?
Think of it like the cockpit of a plane, or the driver’s seat in a car. It is both a place where you watch a dashboard to see how fast you are travelling, how much gas you have left, what directions you should be following AND a place where you take actions to steer your vehicle by turning the steering wheel, adjusting the throttle, turning on the wipers, etc.
How does that translate for companies?
In business terms, it is where you visualise your company’s key performance indicators, where notifications alert you when payments fail and inventories are low for instance, but equally, and perhaps more importantly, it is where you confirm client bookings, manage your fleet of electric vehicles, process customer claims, issue invoices or credits, moderate user opinions on your website, run new client KYC processes in regulated businesses, collaborate internally to provide a response to a customer, etc.
In short, Internal Tools are where businesses run their operations.
Great but how do you categorise them?
Over the past decade, more and more tasks that were frequently performed in internal tools have been standardised, and have been rebuilt as native SaaS applications. Today, there are SaaS tools for most standard business processes: CRMs, Invoicing tools, Market-place platforms, Ticketing software, BI tools, and much more.
We are as armed as ever to face any operational challenge and yet there are still a bunch of operations that resist standardisation as they are highly specific to each company. Just think about all the spreadsheets you rely upon in your day to day job or the custom-built admin panel your company hosts on https://admin.mycompany.com! GAFAs — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon — even have Internal Applications Teams with hundreds of developers, product managers, designers, data engineers, sysadmins, … tasked with building software that efficiently supports their business' operations.
And this later space is where companies like Forest Admin and others are looking to bring value with a new generation of internal tools!
What is the challenge with building a good internal tool?
Based on our learnings over the past years at Forest Admin and confirmed by the great article “The state of internal tools in 2020”, time and resources are the biggest problem when building internal tools. The maintenance of those tools has always had a lower priority than the improvement of the customer-facing applications, as there is no perceived value for the customer
Ok, but what happens if I don’t want to invest?
Loss of internal productivity, scaling pains when transactional intensity increase, demotivation of teams…which can all end up being disruptive for your client facing business!
This article from Monese, a series B company that has raised 80+$m to build a mobile app alternative to the banks’, perfectly illustrates this pain.
So ask yourself this, are you ready to invest in the state-of-the-art internal tool that your employees deserve?