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Andrew Pallant

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Importance of Building Internal Tools

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I recently sat through a few meetings where we described doing the same thing many times and in the same way. I was seeing a pattern that could be automated. Since seeing a pattern, I began to think about tools I could build that would replace these repetitive multiple step processes.

We are often focused on customers, revenue generation and advancing the product as a technical solution, which is all great. We waste so much time internally that we forget about that cost. The cost of doing complicated things ( or even the simple ) many times over is more costly. If we could eliminate the repetitive tasks, we would have more time to focus on technology, customers and revenue generation. This is a hard sell because revenue generation and customers are as important as being the leader of your domain ( i.e., product ).

How do we do this?

We do this by listening and watching for the repetitive things we keep repeating. Can we save time if something takes hours a day, week or month? If you cannot establish the time savings immediately, write it in a chart to see the tasks, steps and hours taken.

Now, can you automate this?

An example is creating a project in Jira, with the same settings, the same board and column layout with the same starter tasks. If you are doing this ten times a week manually, you are probably wasting 2 to 3 hours for each project setup. This example equates to 20 to 30 hours of wasted time. No, Jira has excellent APIs. Can we use them to do this? The answer is yes. The Jira APIs could be used and synchronized to do these tasks with just a few questions answered and a single button click.

Now, the savings ( the importance of building internal tools )

We spend 20 to 30 hours building a tool that saves 20 to 30 hours weekly of repetitive steps and processes. The development of the internal tool saves us a boatload of time. It frees up to do more important things like working with customers, innovating on your product, and generating revenue.

Hidden Benefit

A hidden benefit is job satisfaction. No one likes doing the same task repeatedly, day after day, for the rest of their career. They are more likely to stay with a team or company if they can see that they help make a difference.

Cost of Building Internal Tools

I acknowledge that the cost of building internal tools may sometimes outweigh the savings generated, but there is a way to offset expenses through events. Developers like challenges, and challenges are sometimes what a developer needs. You can create a bounty bonus to have cost-saving internal tools built. You can also do a hackathon where developers work in teams to develop internal tools. Hackathons can be fun, team building and good public exposure to the eternal community. In short, there are ways to save money by building these internal tools. You have to be creative.

  1. How can we identify repetitive tasks within our organization? Recognizing repetitive tasks is crucial for optimizing efficiency. To identify them, consider the following steps:
    • Process Mapping: Map out existing workflows to visualize each step. Look for patterns where similar actions occur frequently.
    • Employee Feedback: Engage with employees who perform daily tasks. They often have insights into repetitive processes.
    • Data Analysis: Analyze data logs, time-tracking records, and performance metrics. Redundant actions may emerge.
    • Observation: Observe work in progress. Repetition becomes evident when you witness the same actions repeatedly.
  2. What are some examples of successful internal tools built by other companies? While the article doesn’t provide specific examples, real-world success stories abound:
    • Automated Reporting Tools: Companies create custom tools to generate reports automatically, saving hours of manual work.
    • Task Management Systems: Streamlined tools for task assignment, progress tracking, and collaboration.
    • Inventory Management Software: Efficiently managing stock levels and reordering processes.
    • Custom CRM Systems: Tailored customer relationship management tools that enhance client interactions.
  3. How do we balance the cost of building internal tools with the potential time savings? Achieving the right balance involves several considerations:
    • ROI Assessment: Evaluate the expected time savings against the cost of development. Consider factors like employee productivity gains and error reduction.
    • Long-Term Impact: Internal tools often yield long-term benefits. Weigh upfront costs against sustained efficiency improvements.
    • Prioritization: Focus on tools that address critical pain points. Not every process needs automation.
    • Iterative Development: Start small and iterate. Gradually build tools as needed, avoiding excessive upfront investment.

Remember, internal tools empower organizations to work smarter, enhance collaboration, and drive productivity.

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