RoR tools for internal operations

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Mark Florian

Apr 6, 2020, 7:28:59 PM4/6/20
to SD Ruby
Hey Ruby pros!

I met a lot of you during the March meet-up. I'm new to both San Diego and Ruby and I'm excited to get to know some of you better and strengthen my Ruby skills. I come from a strong Python/Django and .NET background and have dabbled quite a bit with React on the frontend.

I've been helping a local company (RoR stack) build towards their product vision and I'm anticipating a lot of work will be in helping them automate some of the internal operations. We are currently using Active Admin to provide CRUD operations to everything with a little customization here and there (think links that modify bits of data). This is a marketplace company and there is a lot of operational work which requires the internal team to be able to look up information about clients to get a big picture and also take some action on client data - such things as approving a client, pause their subscription, view their historic billing, reset their password, the list goes on. Active Admin has worked but there is a lot of internal frustration using it as an operations tool. It's hard for me to imagine that we'll be able to sustain the operational growth using it as a tool but it's possible that I'm not using it to it's capacity.

I'm wondering if any of you out there know of other, more flexible tools for running operations. As I see it, our options at this point are:
- Stick with ActiveAdmin and double-down on customization
- Find an alternative tool that has more flexibility
- Build something from scratch

These 3 paths all have their pros and cons but wanted to get some other opinion and thoughts about it.

Appreciate any thoughts that you have!

Kevin English

Apr 6, 2020, 7:46:06 PM4/6/20
I haven't used it for a while but IMO ActiveAdmin is best used for simple admin tasks like "Add User", "change user's permissions". Once you go beyond, you get into all kinds of customization and it almost becomes its own framework. I'm sure there's some people on this mailing list that ActiveAdmin PTSD.

If you already have a good foundation of models in the codebase, you could try to evolve away from Active Admin by building out basic Rails controller/views. 

Hope that helps.

Best Regards,
Kevin English


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John Lynch

Apr 6, 2020, 9:27:20 PM4/6/20
Hi Mark,

I too have lived the pain of extending RailsAdmin way beyond its humble beginnings. The main issue we always ran into is "the cobbler's shoes", where internal tools get short shrift and execs are loathe to spend eng resources on it.

Of course this is such a common problem there are now many start-ups tackling the issue. I have been doing some research lately so I'll share some links. Some of these hook directly up to your DB, others may require some integration to work. Some are more like workflow engines. But in general it seems like a good thing to outsource, if use use one of these SaaS apps to build your tools, what you are buying is an entire eng team dedicated to improving your internal tools platform! (Provided they are successful in the market of course)

Anyway, I havent jumped in the water yet but its looking pretty warm and inviting...  Anyone else tried any of these? - My top pick so far, use your own DB and gives you lots of tools/widgets/building blocks to build your own tools. - Looks like it just lets you edit your own DB tables via a nice web UI. - Must use their DB, but maybe allows integration with existing DB? - Must use their DB to build your app. Good for greenfield projects?

Workflow-type things:

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John Lynch   
Tioga Ventures

On Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 4:29 PM Mark Florian <> wrote:

Bill Vieux

Apr 6, 2020, 11:01:33 PM4/6/20
to SD Ruby
For internal ops tools, I’ve used to quickly build out apps on top of APIs and DBs. Worked well for me. 

Patrick Crowley

Apr 7, 2020, 10:30:34 AM4/7/20
> there is a lot of operational work

Hey, Mark.

I recommend building your own dashboard.

Most of the other tools are great for browsing a tabular view of your data and making minor edits. They work really well for new apps or apps with basic editing features.

But if you really need lots of custom workflows and actions (and it sounds like you do), a custom dashboard is the way to because you can really deliver the actual features your company needs — instead of trying to hack them into an existing tool.

And, hey, I know this option often scares people away, but it shouldn’t. Your dashboard is just another controller and a set of views. Start with a basic Rails scaffold and then build things up from there.

You’ll make quick progress and pretty soon you’ll have a dashboard that meets your exact needs! :)


Mark Florian

Apr 9, 2020, 1:11:36 PM4/9/20
to SD Ruby
Thanks for all the feedback! Retool seems pretty powerful, I'm going to dig in a bit deeper and see if it could get us most of the way there without much dev cost. The last thing I'd want, though, would be invest in a tool that might not be future-proof with the wavering requirements that come with start-ups.

Thanks again, much appreciated!

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