Successful businesses are always searching for different ways to optimise and streamline their internal processes in order to improve efficiency. And ideally reducing the cost incurred to run such processes. The tech industry is no exception, there is even such a thing as 'tech debt', referring to the implied cost of additional re-work. This is often due to businesses choosing an easy solution for the short term versus investing time and resources to develop a long-term solution to scale as they increase in size. If tech debt is not repaid, "interest" is accumulated, making the implementation of a solution harder in the future.
The decision is not always that simple, and other factors play into this - but here's a solution we found for a client that made their life go from 'hard' to 'easy' by developing a long-term solution.
A recent client came to us for help in streamlining their process for setting up demo information in their database for presentations, as well as updating records with default data. Their current method involved their sales and ops teams asking the development team to make these changes. Meaning they were manually interacting with their database via SQL commands every time they wished to create demo data or update existing records with default information, taking days to weeks when it could be a simple change made in under 10 minutes. This is a great example of tech debt, imagining how much time this client could have saved if they didn't have to go through this entire process every time they wished to conduct these actions.
Our client wanted a quick and easy way of uploading data to their database to present to customers. To do this, we implemented a powerful admin tool called Forest Admin, allowing users to directly interact and visualise data without writing any long and complex SQL commands. Displaying user information in a clean, intuitive and easy-to-use user interface. The great thing about Forest Admin is they have built-in functionality which they call actions, allowing users to execute server-side logic through an API call at the press of a button. Additionally, their smart actions feature allows users to create actions with custom functionality depending on their business needs. We were able to develop several smart actions for this client to solve two particular pain points:
1. Adding default types to a customer's record.
To remedy the first pain point, we were able to develop three different smart actions which would update a customers record with default relationship, submission and issue types at a click of a button. These actions would only execute if a customer did not have any existing record of these types in the database to avoid duplications cluttering up the database. Previously, the client would have to enter the database, check if a customer had any pre-existing record of these types. If not, they would have to then add them via a long SQL command to include over 20 data entries, and repeat this for each customer which didn't have a record of these types.Now, with these three smart actions that task can be executed in only a few clicks, drastically reducing the amount of tech debt incurred.
Here, we can see a smart action exhibiting similar functionality as the previously described via a database of Pokemon. If a Pokemon doesn't have any assigned elemental stats, they can easily be applied with a few clicks. However, if a Pokemon already has these particular stats assigned to their record, the smart action will not update any of the existing values.
2. Uploading demonstration stories to present to customers.
In order to solve the second pain point, we created a smart action to allow our client to easily assign preloaded demo stories to a customer record for presentations. This action would give the client an array of different topics to choose from as well as subcategories within those topics to demonstrate the various pathways a customer can navigate through their product. Previously, our client would have to develop each report from scratch and then manually upload the information to the database via SQL commands. Once this had been done, they could not reuse the report as they would have to begin the entire process again! This was incurring a huge amount of tech debt. This smart action will now allow them to assign many different reports and choose which records they will update in seconds. Additionally, they can add as many demonstration reports as they'd like after the action has been created, giving them a wider range of options to carry forward when demonstrating their product to potential clients.
The above gif demonstrates a simplified solution to the previously described customer issue. Implementing a smart action form, we have allowed the admin user to easily inject preset values into their records, unlike the previous action, this action allows for a degree of customisation. Instead of simply applying a single value across the board, the user can now choose a range of values to easily load to their records with a few clicks. All the parameters included can be modified and extra values can be added to tailer this solution to your needs!
It was amazing to see how excited the client was when we demonstrated these smart actions and their response really showed me the huge amount of tech debt they're going to be relieved from in the future. Spending time today to develop a solution which will save you exponentially more time in the future is something I would really recommend for anyone trying to improve their business. Forest Admin's smart action feature has really demonstrated itself as one tool to help you mitigate tech debt in a variety of ways.If you're reading this and thinking "That would change my life at work!" Get in touch and see how we could implement this for your business.