Managing a business with custom WordPress

We’re building systems on top of WordPress to manage every part of our business at Rocket Lift.

The WordPress platform essentially manages content and authentication for us, gives us frameworks to build custom UI and our own functionality, and offers extra features in the form of plugins developed by a large community. It gives us everything we need to rapidly build our own custom tools that fit our own process, style, and needs.

We’re tackling the low-hanging fruit first: We’re customizing P2 to make our internal discussions less reliant on third party limitations, and we’re building a Parking Lot for action-oriented discussions we’ve identified to iterate on the way we work (We treat our Parking Lot as a sacred commitment that we need to have a conversation soon, even if we don’t have time for it right now. WordPress will help us keep these top-of-mind with simple widgets and other other UI elements to display posts of our custom post type).

We’re also dogfooding tools to tame the content management gremlins that plague our client projects. I believe I speak for all of us when I say we are so excited about these tools, and can’t wait to share then when they are ready. Soon!

And then there’s our roadmap. Which is, you know, only kind of insanely ambitious.

  • A project management calendar, building on the awesome The Events Calendar to add some features we have never seen, desperately want, and believe that you, dear reader, will find killer.
  • Internalize our task management… Basically, we want a place to store “everything I don’t need to focus on right now”, something like Asana but with a saner awareness of task relationships.
  • Dashboards to pull in data from third party services for display in custom at-a-glance views. Individuals will be empowered to build their own dashboards with custom UI building blocks we create, combined with pipes to data from awesome API-backed sources like Pipedrive, Harvest, Github, and &! plus our own WordPress-based data.
  • If Intuit continues to refuse us easy access to our data, then maybe some day in the far future we’ll ditch QuickBooks. And won’t that be satisfying.

This is a lot to tackle, even without that last whale of a wish list item. This approach violates common wisdom in lean startups that says “Don’t build what you don’t have to”. I’m the one driving this; I’m probably crazy.

Yes okay, but we’re taking this one small piece at a time. This roadmap may span years. More importantly, we do custom work with WordPress every day, and have seen its potential as an application framework grow dramatically even in the past year, thanks to the addition of fundamental tools like wp-cli and the positive trend of plugins being architected (in some cases re-architected) for extensibility and interactivity by embracing core APIs and the hooks and filters pattern. WordPress has ripened.

We’re scratching our own itch here, and we’re doing what we can with what we have, where we are. Fresh off the the high of last weekend’s WordCamp Portland, we’re emboldened to push forward with these ideas.

Right now this is just words. Stay tuned to see what we can deliver.

5 thoughts on “Managing a business with custom WordPress”

  1. This is so awesome to read! My co. is also working towards some similar things, built off of the “WordPress as App” projects we’re doing for clients. For certain kinds of small business, WordPress can easily be the tool for engaging clients, working with them, billing, and follow-on support.

    QuickBooks is also the part of the process for us that needs to be streamlined or replaced. As a tool, I found it super-flexible at setting up a business that does more than any of the popular online time-tracking/invoicing apps to. I look at QB and think about the good things that can be done with a flexible platform, but also as a warning about how platforms can become obsolete or less useful as their developers focus on their own business objectives.

    Anyway, good luck with your project! I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. Your presentation has a nice run-down of methods. I’ve never seen theme file routing overridden like that. Good stuff!

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