How to build internal tools and automate workflows (the best way)

How to build internal tools and automate workflows (the best way)

Many teams invest significant time and money in creating customized solutions. But is this the most effective path forward? In this blog post, we explore how you can quickly develop personalized internal tools at a fraction of the cost.

Running a business can often feel like you're juggling, keeping all the balls in the air—customers, employees, documents, approvals, inventory management, IT support ticketing, logistics, accounting, taxes, compliance, and more—which are shuffled simultaneously and checked on regularly.

The faster the business grows and the more complex these processes are, the more balls tend to drop. But what if these processes could be streamlined and automated?

Highly customized and tailored internal tools built for organizations do just that, ensuring all your data, apps, and processes are streamlined to keep your business running without hurdles.

What are internal tools?

Internal tools are custom-built applications that address an organization's specific business workflows, processes, and policies. These tools help employees complete tasks related to all internal operations.

Build vs. buy 

Often times it's good to scratch your own itch. Of-the-shelf software rarely checks all the boxes when it comes to your unique needs, and costs are often high. Instead of limiting your team to the features in an existing piece of software, you can build your own tool and tailor it to your business objectives. In short, make the tool work for your business, not vice versa.

The cost of efficiency

The journey towards effective processes and automation comes with a price—literally. The 2023 Goodfirms survey indicates that the average cost of developing an app is around $150,000. Here is the breakdown:

  • Around $130,000 for planning, designing, development, maintenance, testing, app infrastructure, and more

  • About three months of time

  • A product manager for planning, a designer, native app developers (web, mobile app development for iOS and Android) for a cross-platform application, and QA testers for each.

  • Plus around $21,000 annually for maintenance.

    breakdown of app development cost

The overall expense is influenced by a range of factors, including the developer's experience, skillset, and hourly rate based on their geographical location, the complexity of the project, its type, functionality, and the industry it pertains to.

In addition, hiring an Android, iOS, and web developer individually significantly increases the cost of a cross-platform tool, ranging from $90 to $120 per hour each.

According to Gartner, businesses spend $4.5 trillion on IT annually, with internal tools being an increasing chunk of that total. Across all company sizes surveyed by Retool (State of Internal Tools 2023), The majority of respondents (86%) think that the investment spent on internal tools will be just as much or would even increase more than last year.

From this, it's clear that there's a universal problem in most businesses, no matter the scale: They fail to securely and efficiently automate most manual processes and systems they have in place.

Internal tools 2.0 | The integrated, contextual, affordable and low-code way

Going the freelance way or hiring an agency to build your internal tool could be a huge drain of your finances. Luckily, this isn't the only route; you can achieve the same efficiency and gains in productivity by using a low-code builder to craft your internal tools in an affordable, fast, functional, scalable and secure manner.

general software architecture

You can custom-build and deploy cross-platform business applications and workflows with Zoho Cliq's developer platform. 

And the best part? All your internal tools are effortlessly integrated with your business communication tool. Whether it be discussions about a dashboard, a specific task, a customer, a ticket, or a deal's status, you can instantly access your team's chats, threads, or channels, eliminating the need to keep multiple tabs open and switch between different apps.

  1. Seamless integration: Tightly integrate the tool with your existing communication tool without requiring employees to install, adopt, and learn a separate piece of software. Reduce friction and context switching.

  1. Effortless access management: Fully own and manage user access, permissions, usage, and data storage without syncing with an external app's policies.

  1. Contextual features: Keep work and communication tightly integrated so discussions about tasks, projects, and customers can reference the data within the same tool. There is no context switching between separate apps and communication channels.

  1. No additional app installation: Deliver the tool within existing interfaces employees already use rather than requiring the adoption of yet another app.

  1. Break down data silos: Remove barriers to insights. Consolidate and connect disparate data sources across various apps into one unified interface.

  1. More responsive iteration: Quickly adapt the tool to changing business needs, new use cases, and direct employee feedback. Avoid long release cycles and waiting for new product features from other software.  

  1. Lower total cost: Keep your investment fixed and avoid per-user licensing, add-on fees, and professional services required for off-the-shelf solutions.

You can build low-code apps or extensions with minimal programming knowledge using Deluge (a scripting language) in Cliq.

zoho cliq architecture

Widgets allow you to build interactive modular interfaces directly within the Cliq app. They can display lists of data and images, enabling users to act on that data. Widgets can be pinned as primary modules on the Cliq mobile home screen. By building workflows into widgets, you can automate processes like shift and knowledge management, as well as cafeteria, parking, and visitor management for your users within Cliq.

Bots offer a conversational interface to address inquiries from your employees, clients, and field workers. They can also serve as an interface for receiving alerts and notifications from your tool.

You can quickly pull up some information or open a form using slash commands and make messages in any chat actionable using message actions powered by functions and connections that help your tool integrate with third party applications as well.

zoho cliq developer platform interfaces

Schedulers automate various daily tasks, including retrieving your to-do list from your note-taking app and sharing it in your bot, or fetching recent marketing campaign reports and posting them in the #marketing channel.

And to top it all off, your tools are powered by databases that securely store, update, and sync your data. 

There's so much more packed in the Cliq platform, helping teams move faster and operate more efficiently. We've also had some new updates in the developer platform in our Cliq 5.0 release , so make sure to try them out.

We're always listening and building features you want so email us at for any requirements you might have, or keep a watch in the community to join our developer circle and clarify any doubts.

Build your first app today with the Cliq Platform.


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