The first step to organization is finding purpose

Every business needs to be organized. Though that sounds like a no-brainer, there are plenty of operations that are far from efficient and have done nothing about it.

While taking the time to actually get your business's data in order is important, it might suit you best to take the time to figure out the actual purpose of organizing your work, according to an article for INC.com by John Baldoni, president of executive coaching firm Baldoni Consulting.

Some business leaders can immediately explain the reasoning behind their organization, but he said that's because they have a clear vision, mission and value set.

Through his research, he found that it's those three elements that lead to effective business structure. In his piece, Baldoni laid out how management should go about reflecting on those three fundamentals before they come up with a final plan.

♦ In order to figure out what the business's vision should be, it's important to know exactly what it would like to see itself eventually become. "Vision emerges from the sense of purpose," he wrote. "It forms the why, but it also embraces the future as in 'to become' the best, the most noted, the highest quality, or the most trusted."

♦ The mission should be simple to figure out, since that's exactly the service a business is providing. Balboni said, for example, a hospital's mission is to care for and help ill patients.

♦ Values, however, are the backbone of the entire business. He wrote that the vision and mission couldn't be carried out if they aren't held together with a strong set of morals.

Once you've figured out these three rudiments, you can then figure out how to effectively organize your business. If your business's productivity was lagging because of old, hard-to-use databases, it would be smart to discuss your newly discovered purposes for organization with a FileMaker consultant. Based on your specific needs, a FileMaker developer may be able to build custom database software that's easy to access and update, and could streamline your operation.

New FileMaker Go extension set to make its mark on custom apps

FileMaker and FileMaker Go have become particularly popular thanks to the endless customization possibilities they provide. Businesses can host a server of databases on their main system that can be accessed by employees and update those databases using their iPhones or iPads. With a new extension for FileMaker Go, users can draw on any photo or image.

GoDraw 1.0 was announced today by geist interactive, a California-based software developing company, in a press release. The new add-on allows FileMaker Go app users to write with their finger or a stylus for carrying out tasks that involve quick note taking or picture markups. Considering the many different functions FileMaker Go can be optimized for, GoDraw only makes the already versatile app more valuable for certain operations.

For example, home inspectors that are examining properties equipped with an iPad and FileMaker Go can take pictures of specific problem areas within the house, and then draw on the photos with GoDraw to highlight the area of concern, according to the release. From there, they can save the photos as PDFs and email them to their clients. And, if there's no internet available, the functions of the add-on can still be utilized.

Last November, geist released a FileMaker Go extension that improved the app's capabilities to accept written signatures on mobile devices.

If you believe your business or organization could benefit from custom application development, but you don't currently have a database software solution in place, contact a FileMaker developer and explain your operation's needs. They can show you how others have streamlined their production with the help of custom software, and build a program specific to your establishment's needs.

FileMaker Go leads to Texas-sized ROI

Jeff Moore, the City of Austin database administrator, was responsible for maintaining information about more than 170 events at the Austin Convention Center with just a three-ring binder, according to the TabTimes, a website devoted to news about tablet computers. In a building that spans six city blocks, it was nearly impossible for Moore and his team to organize and manage an event when the only form of data storage was paper.

At the MacIT Conference in San Francisco on January 26, Moore made a presentation called "Quick iPad Apps Developed with Innovative Software Tools" that outlined how he was able to gain an estimated 200 percent return on investment after he switched to a custom database program optimized for iPads.

Using a main FileMaker database as a single point of access, Moore had four complementing FileMaker Go-based apps developed to keep track of event documents, utility workorders, technical workorders and floor audits, according to the website. 

"About 10 percent of all orders take place on the show floor, and we estimate saving $12,000 annually because we don't have to travel back to the service desk to fulfill them," Joe Gonzalez, IT Services Manager for the center told the FileMaker website. "We also save about five hours per event by having booth diagrams right on hand. That translates to another $10,000 in annual savings, conservatively."

Looking forward, TabTimes reports that Moore intends to equip 90 percent of the event staff with iPads by the fourth quarter of 2012, and develop four more apps customized for room configuration lists, security incident reports, purchase manager receiving and credit card transactions for on-the-spot orders.

Businesses that operate in a single office or countries worldwide alike can benefit from custom application development. Discuss your business's needs with a FileMaker developer who can build a program using database software that can save your company money and increase productivity.

Some simple tips to improve time management

The root of a business's productivity lies with its employees' ability to properly manage their time. That can be difficult at times with the many different tasks that need to be accomplished and the number of distractions in the office. Jason Womack, a professional workplace consultant, spoke with CIO.com and offered some tips to increase efficiency with time management.

♦ Break up the day. Womack said that you should break up the day into 15-minute intervals. By completing tasks 15 minutes at a time, he says you can complete an hour's worth of work in 45 minutes.

♦ Get rid of distractions. Sometimes this is hard to do, and since everyone knows that eliminating distractions will make them more productive, he has a few unique ideas. He told the website that if you have a manager that regularly interrupts you, ask if he or she needs anything before you start working. Additionally, when you have to ask co-workers something quick, do it just before the hour since they may have a meeting or something to do soon and won't be able to talk long.

♦ Know when to move on. When a project is completely finished, Womack said that continuing to pick at it is a significant time-waster.

♦ Take advantage of extra time. Womack said to not be disgruntled when your flight is delayed. Instead, take the time to get something else accomplished. There are always quick phone calls or emails that you've put off, and when you have to wait for a meeting because a client is running late, get those minor tasks out of the way.

If you're a business owner that wants to improve your staff's productivity, consider talking to FileMaker consultants. Working with cluttered spreadsheets or log books are huge time wasters. It's easy to streamline your operation by moving your information into custom database software built specifically for your business's needs.

How small businesses can rebound from a bad 2011

Some small businesses may have had a rough year in 2011, and with the new year still in its infancy, there's still time to plan for 2012. The SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard, results of a survey taken by 35,000 small businesses, showed that 63 percent of the respondents had positive outlooks on 2012.

Businesses that had an unsettling 2011 may first want to take a good look at their employees. Glen Blickenstaff, the CEO of The Iron Door company, wrote a piece for Inc.com with some suggestions to turn around a faltering business.

He wrote that "dead-weight employees" need to be weeded out. Blickenstaff proposed that business owners give employees a 24-hour window to submit a response about what they think about their job and what they believe the organization's main three objectives are. If they miss the deadline, Blickenstaff said they are expendable.

He went on to explain that the next move should be a thorough evaluation of the operation based on suggestions from employees. Blickenstaff wrote that management should set targets for their staff to meet based on the solutions eventually decided on. Positive reinforcement for meeting these goals is good, but it's crucial to demand that they continue to be met.

"You are pushing a rock uphill, as the momentum starts and everyone sees progress you need to double your efforts to keep it moving," he wrote. "If you stop you will lose precious time and momentum."

If your small business didn't exactly produce the results you were anticipating, another route to a more productive 2012 is rethinking operation processes and their efficiency. Sifting through unorganized and messy databases, for instance, can take a lot of unnecessary time if a business isn't using the right software. Software developing companies can actually build database software customized for specific purposes and operations. Consult a FileMaker developer if you think your business could benefit from custom software.

Business leaders beginning to shy away from spreadsheets

While software developing companies work tirelessly to build cleaner, more efficient solutions to database organization, most businesses still tend to rely on archaic spreadsheet software. But why?

The widespread availability of programs like Microsoft Excel and Apple's Numbers make them appear to be the default solution for data organization, but there are many other database software solutions, like FileMaker, that lend themselves to much more customization and specialized functions.

"Excel's great for checking scores in your bowling league, but it's a loser," Constellation Research principal analyst Barry Wilderman told CFO.com. "CFOs can use it for personal use, but that's it."

The WeiserMazars 2011 Insurance Finance Leadership Study revealed that while 87 percent of companies still rely on Excel in their planning, budgeting and other performance management processes, it's not necessarily the best tool for financial planners.

WeiserMazars warned that Excel may be a quick fix to recording the information, but can have "costly long-term deficiencies … [that] include: recurring manual efforts that balloon close cycle times, misstating financials due to multiple versions of the truth flowing across units, and allowing marginal resources to become critical ones because they own a particular model or workbook."

In conclusion, the research firm suggested that finance leaders should lessen their reliance on spreadsheets, and those who do will see "equivalent or greater gains in operational effectiveness."

Jim Burleigh, CEO of software sales forecasting and management provider Cloud9, told CFO.com, "[Excel is] not an enterprise tool. The error rates in spreadsheets are huge. Excel will dutifully average the wrong data right down the line. There's no protection around that."

Mistakes in any database can be detrimental, but flaws in financial records could literally be costly. Financial planners and investors that still use spreadsheets to track monetary data should consult a FileMaker developer that can create custom databases that make Excel seem like a big waste of time.

How to improve the sales team you already have

Anyone who's ever been in sales knows that a day of cold calling can make someone feel like Sisyphus, pushing an enormous boulder up an eternal hill. But, with some quick adjustments to your sales team's attitude, technique and organization, they'll be able to sell eggs to a chicken farmer.

Janine Popick, CEO of online marketing firm VerticalResponse, writes in an article on Inc.com that not listening to your client can be rather quixotic. She said that by letting them vent about their problems, you can take the time to develop a solution that can benefit the both of you. If you can't put your finger on a resolution right away, repeat their problem to them to grasp a better understanding of what they could benefit from.

Being organized is key for any business, and that can start from the top. If you're a business owner and your sales team doesn't have its act together, try streamlining productivity with customized database software. Whether you need to keep an up-to-the-second record of your inventory or need to transfer sales details on the road, having all of your databases organized specifically to fit your needs can make your business look better and run more efficiently.

Try soft selling your product, writes Popick. Her business gives clients a chance to try a full version of her product for free for a limited time. This lets customers get comfortable with your product in a low-pressure situation. They can compare your product to competitors, and if they decide yours is best, they can happily choose your service over another's.

Finally, keeping a positive, confident attitude around the office can build your sales team's trust in what they are selling and their ability to lock down a deal.

Five useful business apps for your iPad

♦ Dragon Dictation — Using Nuance voice recognition software, you can automatically transcribe notes and meetings. Dragon Dictation also allows you to email messages and even post updates to Facebook and Twitter. What's best about this app is that it's free, but in order to use it, you must have an active internet connection.

♦ FileMaker Go — If you use FileMaker Pro to organize your business's databases, you can access and edit them with FileMaker Go. You can manage projects and contacts, check inventory and add sales details right from your iPad. If you want to create a custom FileMaker database, consult a FileMaker developer that can build a specialized application for you.

♦ Genuis Scan – PDF Scanner — Simply put, this app allows you scan things like documents, whiteboards, receipts, notes, recipes and menus into PDF or JPEG files with your iPad. No scanner needed. You can email the PDFs and share them on Twitter with the free version of the app. For $2.99, you can upgrade to the ad-free Genius Scan+, which allows you to print files with AirPrint and upload the files to cloud-based services and Google Docs.

♦ iThoughtsHD — This app is a clean idea mapping app that allows you to do things like visual brainstorming, map concepts and take organized notes at meetings. You can share your maps through a handful of cloud services or send them to other applications like iBooks and your Camera Roll.

♦ Pages/CloudOn — Pages is Apple's answer to Microsoft Word. Apple optimized its word processor for the iPad, and you can even access your documents anywhere with an iCloud account. It'll cost you $9.99 though, and if you're more of a Word user, the free CloudOn might be a better option. In addition to Word, you can access Excel and Powerpoint with Microsoft's CloudOn through Dropbox, but in order to run the app, you have to be connected to the internet.

Mobile application developers focusing work on iOS

While the numbers show consumers are buying nearly four times more Android devices than iPhones, mobile application developers have been disregarding the trend, and are primarily focusing on creating apps for iOS.

The overwhelming popularity of Android devices may come as a surprise, considering the highly publicized success of the iPhone 4S. But in reality, Apple's market share saw a 16.6 percent drop in 2011 compared to the previous year. Android devices led the way with 53 percent of all smartphone shipments in the third quarter of 2011, while iOS devices represented just 15 percent, according to Gartner.

But despite the high demand for smartphones running Android in the third quarter, there was a significantly larger number of app publishers that focused on building for the iPhone. Of the 55,000 developers that are tracked by Flurry Analytics' platform, 73 percent opted to start projects optimized for iOS before Android in the last quarter of 2011.

The number of app downloads in each store trends more with the number of developers targeting iOS projects than the number of devices purchased. While the Android Marketplace just surpassed 10 billion downloads, the Apple Store has peaked 18 billion, according to Flurry. But developers' interest in primarily creating iOS apps are rooted first and foremost in revenue opportunities rather than popularity of the Apple Store.

U.S. investment banking firm Pipar Jaffray claims that Android developers earn only 7 percent of what iOS developers earn from the Apple Store. This is mostly because the Apple Store charges for 14 percent of its apps, compared to just 1 percent of apps in the Android Market.

Software development companies and organizations looking to invest in custom application development can both reap benefits from focusing their efforts on iOS apps. One way that a business can explore creating its own customized app to increase productivity or organize information is to discuss their specific needs with Filemaker consultants. Using Filemaker, a developer can create customized database software that can be accessed on an iPhone or iPad with Filemaker Go.

Popularity of custom mobile apps expected to reach biblical heights

Whether their business takes place in a boardroom or a cathedral, organizations looking to reach more people and increase productivity have explored custom application development for a variety of needs. The Wall Street Journal reported in late December 2011 that more than 150 American churches have had custom mobile and tablet applications developed to improve their connection to the congregation.

These religious apps are utilized to share audio and video, to send prayers and, believe it or not, to make confessions. An app developed for Redeemer Church in Utica, New York has been downloaded roughly 3,700 times, even though the average attendance at each weekend's services is about 1,700. The report states that app developers expect thousands of churches to follow the trend, thanks to the popularity of the holy apps in other communities.

Corporations and startups alike are also expected to consult software developing companies for their own custom apps. A Deloitte poll in 2011 showed that 42 percent of American households own a smartphone, so it's no surprise that 28 percent of developers expected their mobile business to grow more than 50 percent in the next three years, as shown in a recent Partnerpedia survey.

The number of applications in the Android Market has doubled in the past eight months, and with that, there are now nearly 1 million mobile apps between it and Apple's App Store. While there are plenty of useless games and utilities cluttering both app stores, the rise in the number of smartphone users brings with it many unique interests and needs. Developing a customized application for your business has more advantages than just following suit in a competitive industry. And you never know, it might even bring you a little bit closer to heaven.