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Why we decided to fix external tools : introducing Forest Admin for Partners

Forest Admin for Partners allows you to share selected subsets of your admin panel to suppliers, vendors, customers etc.

Why we decided to fix external tools : introducing Forest Admin for Partners

When we launched Forest Admin, we had one strong conviction.

All developers have to build a back office or admin panel for their apps at some point in time, regardless of their company's size, line of business, etc.
It is a tedious and time consuming job that often comes second to building the customer-facing application.
The end result is that the admin panel always becomes a poor product users dislike, with outdated and messy code that developers hate to maintain.

So we decided to fix it, and today, thousands of developers have used Forest Admin to ship great admin panels in record time.

A meme about building your own admin panel.
Woohoo ! Let's build custom tools for partners now!

Internal tools : greater when shared

The "admin panel" was just the starting point. Today our mission is to help developers build great, secure internal tools in no time from any data source and for all use cases.

Along the way, we realized something crucial : internal tools are greater when shared. Sharing a subset of your admin panel with external partners is often a great way to reach operational excellence.

Many internal tools can be even more powerful when they become external tools.

But for developers, it is the same story again : there is no easy way to open part of an internal tool to partners.

So we decided to fix it.

The endless potential of an "open admin panel"

Our team works every day building top-notch tools for hundreds of great companies with best-in-class operations. Over the last 5 years, I have heard the same sentence countless times, both from startups with 2 employees and from Forbes 500 firms.

"My Forest Admin is great thanks. Now I need to open part of it to external partners."

The use cases are endless :

  • "My suppliers should have access in real time to my stock levels and proactively suggest orders I can validate in one click."
  • "My clients should have access to real time dashboards for their marketing campaigns and not ask me for a new screenshot every half hour."
  • "My resellers should have access to my Ops tools to create batch orders and update them at will instead of wasting hours on the phone with us."
  • "The shipping company should be able to trigger an update on my customer interface without my teams having to do it manually."
  • "My franchisees basically need the same admin panel as the one I have, but they should only access their data and specific actions."

What struck me was that none of the customers that asked me to open their Forest Admin to third parties had built a real product for their partners in the first place :

  • some spent hours with manual repetitive processes, mails and phone calls with their partners
  • some actually developed small unsecured tools that some partner used for very specific use cases. But they all lacked the resources to scale these tools across a variety of partners and use cases. And they often were frustrated because they felt they were duplicating some features of their internal tools.

However, the second these same customers were given access to a powerful internal admin panel, they thought « hey, this part should be open to my contractor’s customer service team. And this dashboard should be visible to my suppliers. etc"

The open admin panel your team and partners deserve

We knew enabling our customers to open subsets of their admin panel to external partners would be challenging. But we are convinced that B2B relationships are on a path to change forever, and that tomorrow's market leaders will all have layers of operational data between them and their partners, vendors, suppliers or even customers.

So we cut the big challenge into little ones, and solved them one by one.

Data privacy and scopes
Our first challenge was putting data privacy on steroids.

On Forest Admin you could already build teams with different access rights to :

  • actions : an intern can read and create but not delete without approval
  • tables and dashboards : the CS team sees useful customer info but not the office manager
  • environments : the dev team can play with the data on staging, not on production

Opening part of your Forest Admin to partners meant being able to pre-filter all incoming data within a collection. For example, your franchisee in Florida will only see the bookings in his area. Each supplier will only see his orders. Each customer will only see his campaign analytics.

We released scopes to do exactly that.

White labelling
Most companies do not need an admin panel with a custom url, logo and colors.

That changes when a subset of this admin panel is shared with customers or partners.

So we released a way for our users to get rid of all mentions of Forest Admin, use their style guide, upload their company logo and have their admin panel on a custom domain.

Easy management of large amounts of users
Opening a subset of your admin panel to partners means you have to invite hundreds of users and manage dozens of teams permission.

So we totally revamped our invitation, roles and permissions system to hide all that complexity and make this part of the administrator's job super quick and intuitive.

In a next article I will walk you through concrete examples of how our customers leverage Forest Admin Partners.

We adapt our pricing plan to the value your partners get from Forest Admin. Contact us to discuss your use case.