Monday.com Wants to Be Your Only Open Tab at Work

With its new app-builder feature, Monday.com is vying for an exclusive spot in the digital workspace.
Jeff Link
August 31, 2020
Updated: November 6, 2020
Jeff Link
August 31, 2020
Updated: November 6, 2020

Earlier this summer, Monday.com released a new kind of app-building experience on its platform. The core insight is relatively simple: If you don’t like your workflow, you can change it.

Though many workflow systems allow for user customization, few have achieved the level of configurability found in the Tel-Aviv-based company’s new release. In a way, the app framework brings the modularity and broad functionality of an iOS, Android or Windows operating system to a destination site for getting work done.

“The Monday system itself is built around the concept that, as a work operating system, you can choose and build the workflow that you like, like putting Lego bricks in place to build something majestic,” said Matt Burns, a startup ecosystem leader at the company.

One benefit of the new framework, according to Dipro Bhowmik, a technical success lead on the app framework, is a low-code environment that allows users with virtually no software experience to curate their workspaces.

“You can choose and build the workflow that you like, like putting Lego bricks in place to build something majestic.”

Prior to the release of the app framework, Bhowmik said, users could choose from a selection of pre-installed apps and integrations, including embedded Zoom calls, a whiteboard, a pivot table, an online document viewer and a working status feature — all released in March with the intention of creating a better experience for people working from home.

Now, Monday.com has gone one step further in its bid to be the workplace OS of choice, with building blocks for others to create apps hosted on its site.

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The App Framework allows user to build custom workplace apps hosted by Monday.com
Image: Monday.com

The App Framework: A Modular Collection of Lego-Like Building Blocks

For trained developers, the framework offers sophisticated app customization options — not only the APIs and tools to access Monday.com data on their platforms users, Bhowmik said, but the capability to upload their own code to Monday’s infrastructure, where it is hosted and maintained as part of a monthly service agreement. This allows companies to scratch-build customized board views, widgets and integrations that are presented to users as native features.

“So, tomorrow, if you wanted to build a new board view, youd be able to build a web application and upload your code to our servers,“ Bhowmik said. “We would serve it for you; you would use the software development kit to make your API calls. You wouldnt have to worry about any kind of authentication, because we handle that for you.”

The real power of the system, though, lies in its interoperability. Just as an iPhone allows a user to employ the phone’s ecosystem to run a Spotify app, Monday.com is positioning itself as an accessible host for a range of existing and yet-to-be-built external apps, including those of potential competitors, Burns explained.

“The folks who are building these apps could be anyone — from hobby developers who just have a cool idea and want to build something and show it off to the world, to folks who want to build an entire business.”

One look at the integrations on Monday.com’s website and you get a sense of the scope of its ambitions. The list includes Slack, Zendesk, Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, Jira, Asana, Trello, GitHub, Dropbox and several common G-Suite apps, among many others.

The software is written in JavaScript, but it is compatible with virtually all coding programs and languages. As of June, more than 100 apps had been built by external partners and customers, 20 by Monday.com itself, and the app framework was in use by 8,900 weekly active users.

“The folks who are building these apps could be anyone — from hobby developers who just have a cool idea and want to build something and show it off to the world, to folks who want to build entire businesses,” Bhowmik said.

 

The working status integration allows a team to monitor employee's progress.
Image: Monday.com

Companies Are Competing for the New Digital Workspace

As more companies move to remote work, the app framework can reasonably be seen as a strategic objective in a broader turf war between Monday.com and its near-market competitors to claim ownership of the digital workspace. The end game for Monday.com, as a recent press release indicates, is “a world where software serves as a central hub and OS for any kind of work.”

Or, as Burns puts it: “Whereas Windows is an operating system that works for your computer, we want to be the brain of the business, where we can collect, digest, translate and transparently show you all that information.”

It’s hardly any secret that companies like Slack and MURAL are vying for similar territory. As of May, Slack reported a record 12.5 million simultaneously connected users, including at least 65 of the Fortune 100 companies, with a total active use of more than one billion minutes each weekday. MURAL just raised $118 million in Series B funding, tripled annual revenue year over year and added more than a million monthly active users. IBM, Intuit, Atlassian and Autodesk “each have up to tens of thousands of MURAL members collaborating with the product each month,” the briefing reported.

Many of these platforms focus on integrating applications and visualization tools to recreate the meetings, sprints and strategy sessions that commonly took place — not so long ago — in the physical office.

“Whereas Windows is an operating system that works for your computer, we want to be the brain of the business.”

In that sense, Monday.com is no different. Valued at nearly $2 billion with $130 million in annual recurring revenue, the company works with 100,000 teams around the globe, from cattle ranchers to digital agencies to enterprise clients like Walmart, Adobe and General Electric. Where some other software workplace tools specialized, Burns told me — aiming to “be the best plumbing software for plumbers” — Monday widened its lens, adopting a more universal design vernacular.

When he was first introduced to CEO Roy Mann at the corporate headquarters in Tel Aviv in 2016, Burns said, Mann told him the widespread problem companies were facing was “the breakdown of team collaboration through silos” — a view Burns shared.

The solution offered by Mann, however, caught him off guard. It was not the traditional business school tract — to find a niche and own it — but, instead, to create a tool that could unify disparate teams, from employees at small- and medium-sized firms to enterprise teams that dont normally collaborate closely.

The market potential of that untapped space convinced Burns, a former independent marketing consultant for healthcare providers, that it was time to make the jump. One of his first clients, which he described as “a luxury hotel for breeding steers,” strengthened his conviction that the platform had far broader appeal than competing workplace tools.

“Each item in their board was a different cow they were tracking as [the cows] moved to different farms,” he said. His next thought was this: “‘Oh my God, this can be used for absolutely anything.’”

Now, Monday must prove its solution is the best one for the job.

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A pivot table allows product managers to run quick progress checks.
Image: Monday.com

Some Early Use Cases

Speed has been key to Monday’s development approach. The company devised plans for the app framework in early 2020, but when COVID-19 arrived unexpectedly, Monday accelerated the release cycle. What was supposed to happen during the course of several weeks happened in a two-day hackathon over Zoom that resulted in 20 new apps.

Eighteen invited clients and partners participated. One of them was KPMG, a global tax advisory and auditing company headquartered in the Netherlands.

KPMG developed an internal smart document reader that can scan and extract invoice numbers and other pertinent information from financial documents. But the company confronted a question faced by countless software firms: How could it make the tool more accessible for users in the context of their actual workflows?

During the hackathon, KPMG hit on a solution: an integration that allows a customer to upload a document directly into Monday.com, where it is securely processed through the embedded smart document reader and, within seconds, sent to a Monday.com board.

“This is really a new generation of tools that we're seeing, which are using a work operating system to empower what people are doing every day.”

To the end user, the value of the integration is convenience. “You dont have to go into another tool and upload that information. You dont have to be dealing with three or four different windows at once. Its all seamless,” Bhowmik said.

That’s an obvious advantage to companies like KPMG, who want to create a more frictionless experience for their customers. It’s also a strategic victory for Monday.com, which can keep people locked into its operating system.

“We want to make it so you can spend all your time in the Monday.com work OS,” Bhowmik said. “Do all your work, or as much as you can, there, and have that information either fed in from other tools that your team uses, or sent from Monday.com to those other tools, so the rest of your team has visibility.”

Companies in the United States and internationally are starting to experiment with the new app framework. The Paris-based open-source CRM and e-commerce company Synolia developed a visualization tool that monitors team members’ progress during a sprint, reporting results in a chart. The Dubai-based software consulting company Cloud Concept, meanwhile, built a document generator app that can take a basic invoicing template, populate it with a customer list harvested from Monday.com and produce invoices to distribute to customers.

It remains unclear what kind of workplace apps will emerge as more developers begin tinkering with the platform — and whether the app framework will make Monday.com the go-to command center in a growing market for digital workplace tools.

But Burns, at least, is openly bullish about the framework’s prospects: “It’s not like we’re replacing technology that people are using and seeing out there. We’re building something different.”

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