F22 Labs saves $1,200 a month by developing custom extensions to their project management platform in Appsmith
The costs of F22 Labs' critical project management software was getting out of hand. They found significant savings by moving to an open-source platform, and extending it with custom analytics dashboards built in Appsmith.
- 10 hours
per week saved for F22 Labs' project managers
monthly savings in software costs
- 1 day
To build out a project management dashboard
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Specific software platforms are critical to the business success, and for services businesses the most important platform is often their project management software. Effective project management tools help companies manage resources and project delivery, track team bandwidth and capacity, improve estimations, and bill accurately.
As with any truly mission-critical software, businesses are uncompromising in their expectations, and wary of costs — these tools get used very heavily within organizations. This was definitely the case with F22 Labs, a product design and development studio based in Chennai. We recently sat down with Founder and Partner, Murtuza Kutub to discuss their journey finding and ultimately building the project management platform for their business.
Like a lot of companies they started with commercial off-the-shelf software as a service (SaaS), and explored the large array of solutions in the space. But they ultimately found that the right balance of cost and functionality came through the adoption of open-source, and the development of custom dashboards and interfaces.
F22 Labs helps startups get off the ground
isn’t a normal web and mobile app development company. They’re a team of design-focused, highly-creative builders that help startups and enterprises turn their digital dreams into reality. Working entirely in-house, F22 consults with companies ranging from idea / early / growth stage startups to Fortune 500s to help them design and develop technology solutions.
The growing costs of project management software
With 60+ developers and designers working across multiple projects, the team at F22 Labs relies on robust project management software to keep track of in-flight work and individual team member bandwidth. The project management segment is well-served with many commercial products, but the team at F22 Labs struggled to find one that was a great fit for their business. “There are all kinds of tools in the market, and we’ve tried over half a dozen of them,” said Murtuza, “but we had three consistent challenges. They were way too expensive as the team grew, they didn’t have great a user experience, or they didn’t have the kind of detailed reporting and dashboards that we needed.”
Believing they had no choice but to compromise, the team settled with ClickUp, a solution that paired the core backend features they needed with a good user experience. However, as their usage grew, the costs became unsustainable. “In terms of look and feel it was great,” said Murtuza, “but the challenge was to get the detailed analytics we needed would have forced us to go to a much more expensive tier.”
The project managers at F22 Labs oversee multiple, simultaneous projects, and a shared pool of development and design resources that work across them. To do their jobs effectively, they need visibility into tasks at an individual level across multiple projects. While ClickUp, Asana, and other commercial project management solutions provide this type of reporting, those features typically live in higher, enterprise-focused pricing tiers. “When you’re paying per seat, per month it gets really restrictive. Once you’re talking about 50 - 60 seats that’s nearly $2,000 per month for a project management tool. For us that just isn’t sustainable.”
Moving beyond packaged software
The team at F22 Labs ultimately realized that in order to get the right balance of features and cost in a product management solution, they would have to look beyond commercial software products. Using a combination of open-source and custom software, they were able to build a solution that was perfectly tailored to their business.
For core project management functionality, the team selected , an open-source project management platform. “Plane does the basics really well,” said Murtuza, “It gives us projects, tasks, sub-tasks, and assignees — the fundamentals of what any project management tool should have.”
What Plane didn’t have was the advanced cross-project visibility that had proved to be so expensive in commercial tools. To create this the F22 team turned to Appsmith. “We were familiar with Appsmith from a previous project. We had used it to build a customer success dashboard for an eCommerce SaaS product.” The team found that it was easy to use Appsmith to bring together customer usage data and onboarding status into a centralized dashboard that enabled customer success teams to wow customers. With this experience, they were confident that Appsmith would allow them to build the custom analytics they wanted on top of their project management platform.
Because F22 was hosting Plane on their own servers, they had direct access to the underlying database, and were able to connect to and use that data in their custom interface. “Appsmith is simple and straightforward to build with,” said Murtuza, “Within a day we were able to build out the entire dashboard we needed.”
Custom dashboards developed in Appsmith allow F22 Labs to track development and design resources across multiple projects
The Appsmith dashboard gives F22 Labs’ product managers a comprehensive view across multiple projects. It allows them to quickly look across projects to see which team members are occupied and who has time left, what tasks are in-flight, how they’re estimating hours, and the actual hours that are being consumed. “We’ve been able to do all of this with Appsmith. It provides a quick view for the project management team to look at, and assign tasks when something comes up.”
Custom project management software saves F22 Labs significant time and money
Prior to having comprehensive visibility across projects, it was time-consuming and tedious for product managers to keep up with resources and bandwidth. They had to individually dive into each project to track tasks, and maintain heavy, sometimes disruptive, conversations with team members. Murturza recalls, “We tried a lot of things like creating a Slack channel for team members to post their availability, and then added a daily stand-up to share status. Everything was time consuming. Developers hated it because they were wasting up to an hour a day, and it forced project managers to keep too much information in their heads. This wasn’t a system we could rely on as we grow.”
With the cross-project visibility they developed using Appsmith, Murtuza estimates that they are saving their project managers 5 - 10 hours per week in time they would have spent in meetings or hunting information in individual projects. The company is also using the centralized data to improve their sales process. “Now we have all this centralized data, which we’re able to track over time. When we quote a new customer we’re working off an estimate provided by our team, but we weren’t able to go back to these estimates and track how those hours were actually consumed. With all of that data in front of us, we can make better decisions about how we’re pricing projects.”
The new project management system provided all of these capabilities at a much lower cost than commercial software. Self-hosting an open-source platform, and developing a custom UI (even using a low-code platform) adds additional overhead. However, Muturza estimates that the new setup is saving F22 Labs nearly $1,200 a month in software costs.
“Beyond just the hours and the cost savings, Appsmith has really helped us remove a level of friction,” said Muturza, “We’re giving dashboard access to teams for the projects they’re part of. Everyone has visibility in terms of the total allocated hours for a particular project, and can see how they’re tracking. This creates a sense of responsibility in the team in terms of where the project is, how they can deliver it on time, and what they can do to improve it.”
Save money and extend the functionality of your business software
Cost is always a consideration when it comes to business software, and companies often have to trade-off the value of expanding access to valuable systems with the significant incremental costs of seat licenses. The team at F22 Labs realized significant savings by building the custom dashboards and interfaces their team needed in Appsmith.
With the ability to integrate with many popular SaaS platforms (and any REST or GraphQL API), Appsmith offers a powerful alternative to buying additional SaaS seat licenses. You can easily build custom extensions that share relevant information, provide the ability to update records, and add functionality to existing applications - all with predictable .