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These Business Intelligence Tools Didn’t Exist – So We Made Them

At Quick Left, we’re firm believers in building internal tools to boost productivity and GSD. We’re a custom dev shop, meaning we have the resources and skills to create unique software solutions specific to our company needs. On top of that, we know that if we can build a tool that will make our teams’ lives easier, regardless of department, it’s worth the time and resources. 

Quick Left has created a handful of business intelligence tools for lead gen purposes, team communication, and project organization – and I’m going to open the hood. In this blog post, I’ll highlight some of Quick Left’s most effective internal products in the hopes that you too will see how BI software tools can help your organization. Who knows… we may open source some of them or turn them into products down the road with more dedicated internal resources. 

1. HeartBeat

HeartBeat is used to manage client projects. We haven’t found account management software solutions that suit our needs so we created this one over time. Team members can see active and past clients where QL’s Account Managers and Project Leads manage projects at a quick glance. With HeartBeat teams can see how things are going with any given project, both at high-level and drilled down views.

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As consultants, we do everything we can to ensure that our projects are running smoothly and that our clients are satisfied with our work. To help us do this, we created Heartbeat. Every Monday, the project lead for each project updates Heartbeat with detailed information about the project’s status and budget, and raises any concerns or things that need other people’s help. We then use an “EKG” view to discuss each project as a group. We even use the Keen.io API to track and visualize changes in developer and client happiness over time. Each bar represents a client and the color of each bar changes between red, yellow and green depending on satisfaction. Red being poor, yellow ok and green good. It’s a great tool to catch problems before they get out of control and to make sure that achievements are celebrated. Rumor also has it that a former QLer built this application in 1 day.  

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Built With: Ruby on Rails, jQuery, Keen.io API

2. Rabbit Hole

Building great web and mobile applications involves a variety of skills and toolsets. Every developer has their strengths, limitations, and interests. To help us make the best use of our developers, while putting them on rewarding and interesting projects, we created Rabbit Hole. Each developer rates themselves in their experience and interest in quite a few skills (e.g., Ruby on Rails, Backbone.js, Client Communications). When we’re choosing who will work on a particular project, we can use Rabbit Hole to pick folks who are skilled at AND interested in working on the challenges presented by the project. This keeps our developers learning and engaged in their work, and ensures our clients get a great team! We dubbed it “Rabbit Hole” on account of it being our first big app using ES6 AND Flux architecture when we started (we’ve now got a couple of these apps!).

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By compiling the data into visual representations, such as the Skill Matrix below, Rabbit Hole provides management with a quick and easy way to come to a consensus on the most practical ways to pair up devs and designers quickly and reliably. 

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Built With: Google Authentication, ES6 JavaScript, React, Flux architecture

3. TrufflePig

Perhaps my favorite tool (happens to have been built for the marketing department) is TrufflePig. We use TrufflePig as our central lead intelligence engine to coordinate with prospects and offer up helpful information regarding everything Quick Left. TrufflePig allows us to organize contact information of our prospects, clients and company evangelists in our industry so we can get updates at the touch of a button with the companies who fit our target market qualifications. Yes, there are too many lead companies out there to count but they all still require some form of “human” intervention. Our platform does not. 

TufflePig Quick Left business intelligence tool

TrufflePig shows the marketing team which skills are trending for companies most likely to work with Quick Left. In addition, marketing is able to see how effective they are in gaining new business from digital marketing efforts. We won’t give all our secret sauce away with our most sacred tool, but it’s by far the most successful one at streamlining processes and helping us experience company growth. 

Built With: Standard Ruby/Rails environment, PostgreSQL, Redis, Graphiz brew install graphviz (only for creating/updating documentation)

The Benefits

The benefits are numerous having internal tools:  cost, efficiency, scalability, unique competitiveness in a crowded market, and positioning us as a thought leader. Quick Left is able to scale back on the costs associated with expensive outside tools that aren’t specifically customized to Quick Left’s organizational structure and processes and paradoxically are nimble enough that anyone in the company can make a contribution if a feature is needed or a bug is found. Because the tools are custom, we’re able to build upon the products by iterating on the bare-bones functionality and streamlining tools together. No unnecessary features, no waste, and no gratuitously distracting data so we can keep an eye on the metrics that matter most to the success of our company and satisfaction of our clients. Perhaps my favorite part about building an internal tool is that we’re dogfooding our own processes that we provide to clients. This has allowed us to gain valuable knowledge on some of the most challenging processes involved in custom software development, especially for our unique and ever-changing dev shop.

Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have a talented team in place to turn our ideas into fully functioning software. It’s without a doubt stretched my mind to make me think differently around the processes that I’ve traditionally always done manually. I can’t go back.