Why FileMaker is a better option than Excel

When most people think about core business software solutions, one of the key systems that comes to mind is Microsoft Excel. This popular spreadsheet software has been in existence since 1982 and has become synonymous with business reporting since 1988. If you were to walk into nearly any company and ask to see a sales report, there is a good chance that it will be handed to you in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

While this seems to make the case that every business should be working hard with Excel, there are actually other systems that should be deployed that can make running a business much simpler. One of the most common is FileMaker.

A recent article from the Santa Fe New Mexican features an interview with David Jondreau, a FileMaker developer who previously helped organizations run through Excel. Because of the number of issues that companies were having trying to use basic spreadsheets as a core business system, Jondreau searched for a new manner of doing business and found it in the form of customer FileMaker development. This was a way to cut through the headaches and alleviate some of the struggle that companies face when using just spreadsheets.

"FileMaker is more than a glorified Excel program," Jondreau said. "FileMaker can produce more specific reports, such as a list of which customers frequent a business and what they buy. It's possible to generate such a report via Excel but it's challenging and requires a greater time investment."

He added that FileMaker can seem like it is nothing more than a lengthy list of unrelated items, but to an expert like Jondreau, it represents distinct graphics and rows, tables and categories that are easy to manage and do not overload users.

Small businesses are perfect for FileMaker

When it comes time to upgrade to a new software solution, many smaller organizations may be hesitant to make the the jump. Because they have limited resources, justifying any kind of investment is difficult. This especially true when words like "custom database" are thrown around. Company decision makers hear it and immediately start to hear a cash register ringing which causes them to hold the wallet tight.

However, FileMaker is a perfect solution for small businesses. It is an easy investment for a system that is user friendly and provides immediate benefits.

Jondreau said that his ideal client to work for is a smaller, local businesses. In just a few weeks and with a moderate investment, he is able to create a database from the ground up that meets the specific needs of a company and helps push operations to a new level.

Making this decision to invest in FileMaker can be easier said than done. However, there are quality software development firms out there that make the process easier. These organizations audit the existing solutions and business needs, before laying out a plan that specifically addresses these areas, while also adding benefits to other processes that were not expected at the beginning.

FileMaker helps businesses cuts costs by $40,000

The idea of going mobile with your business is something every company considers. While some may believe that only organizations comfortable with technology can truly take advantage of these solutions. Nothing can be further from the the truth. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a business that creates and hangs signs, operations can be improved with the use of mobile technology.

A recent article from Small Biz Technology features an interview with Dean Stallone, the CEO of PMD Promotions. The purpose of the conversation was how the company was able to use FileMaker Pro and Go to create a new database solution that helped the company save $40,000 by digitizing several previously manual processes.

The company has been creating and hanging promotional material for 125 contractors in 22 cities. Their work has been placed in more than 50,000 independent storefronts nationwide. A large chunk of this business happens on the road as technicians move between clients and businesses to display new content.

"Although our business is highly mobile, our business processes weren't – until fairly recently," Stallone said. "By replacing paper-bound and manual processes with a simple, custom-developed application that runs on the iPod touch or iPhone, and our back-end operations system, we cut $40,000 a year in administrative overhead and created more productive, motivated field personnel."

He went on to discuss exactly how this was able to happen. The company has display contractors that work as the organization's representative on the ground. These individuals must work within several standards to ensure posters are removed when a campaign is over and coordinate all activity within venue partners where they are displayed. Traditionally, they carried clipboards, paper documentation and a digital camera to snap pictures and create reports.

That means that individuals need to carry a substantial amount of  physical items when making their rounds. On top of that, transferring the photos needed to happen through emails and fax. This requires office staff on the other end to retype all of this information into the existing reports. All of this is labor intensive, requires multiple steps and is open to potential errors.

However, with the new system that is powered by FileMaker, a custom database was created which can be accessed from a desktop or Apple mobile devices.

How it works

Now, the entire workday is handled through the new mobile application. Contractors download the day's schedule over the Wi-Fi in the office before leaving for the day. This includes instructions for each job, maps and tips. During each visit, they are able to take notes about the job directly into the app and can also take photos that can also be uploaded directly through the app.

This information is also updated in real-time, meaning that immediately after completing a job where all the information has been entered into the database through the mobile device, a worker in the office can pull up the same data. In all, it cut report generation time by 80 percent and nearly eliminated errors.

This is just one example of how FileMaker can help businesses dramatically improve operations and cut costs. With the help of a FileMaker support service, any organization can start down this path.

FileMaker Developers Conference kicks off in San Antonio, Texas

At the end of the week, someone will be rewarded with the championship belt and be called the best. This isn't some wrestling super show, but rather one of the many things currently happening in San Antonio, Texas, as the annual FileMaker Developments Conference has just started. The belt is one of the many events that are happening over the next four days and is awarded to the 2014 winner of the DevCon Developer Cup.

This year's event is using the theme "Business Without Boundaries" and features over 1,200 FileMaker developers gathering in one place to talk shop, view new products, learn about better ways of doing business and get technical questions and problems addressed.

Seminars and entertainment gatherings are scheduled all throughout the week. This includes looking at features of FileMaker, how certain industries like education and the medical field can benefit from using the solution, FileMaker Go and Weddirect.

The conference has been growing over the years and is attended by an ever-growing number of core companies.

"We look forward every year to meeting up at DevCon with our peers in the FileMaker Developer community," Julian Nadel, president and founder of Beezwax, a company that will be represented at the conference said in a press release. "This is our chance to share development technologies that we use, and learn about the techniques that other developers have successfully adopted."

Be sure to check back with this blog over the following week as we recap all of the major news that comes out of the conference.

Why the iPad is on top of the tablet marketplace

Few enterprise solutions have had as big of an impact as tablets. Since the market was kicked started in 2010 when Apple introduced the iPad, tablets have exploded and have become a secondary tool in many industries, while also being able to handle nearly any task that employees need to accomplish on a daily basis.

A recent article from ComputerWeekly examined the different reasons why the iPad has become one of the biggest IT innovations of the last decade. The article also mentions that the best way to take advantage of these devices is to use Apple.

While it is clear that the tech giant has been at the head of the tablet push, it has also continued to innovate in such a way that the experience for consumers and businesses alike has improved. The iOS sandbox is constantly adding new apps and is often the first platform release choice of developers. Businesses have also experienced specific benefits in these upgrades including improved mobile device management systems and specific software like FileMaker.

"Apple-owned FileMaker provides a platform for developing applications, and an ecosystem of hosting service providers has sprung up to project FileMaker applications from the cloud," the article reads.

The tablet's impact on business is easy to see, but it can take a complex solution to incorporate these devices in a manner that is best for improving the specific operations of a given company. The right FileMaker developer, for example, can help any organization create a custom solution.

Many businesses still rely on spreadsheets

When it comes to business intelligence software solutions, there is a growing list of potential options on the marketplace. Despite this, there are still a high number of company decision makers that rely on traditional solutions, like Microsoft Excel, as a key business tool.

According to a recent article from ITWeb, spreadsheets are used by a majority of senior executives to manage projects. The site conducted a survey over the course of 14 days in May and June of this year. It found that 76 percent of top executives in the United States are using spreadsheets internally. This is the same in markets outside the U.S. as well, as 75 percent of decision makers in South Africa rely primarily on spreadsheets.

While spreadsheets do have a place, some experts believe that it has become an outdated technology. Diederik Jordaan, an MD at Gen2 Enterprise Software, a company that helped with the report, said that 57.1 percent of the companies relying on spreadsheets have more than 500 employees.

"Given the size of these organizations, this can easily lead to project management or project portfolio management, data integrity issues and agonizingly inefficient feedback loops," the article reads. "Today's organizations need the agility to see and trust information as it develops, to make informed decisions and maintain a competitive edge."

With the help of a custom web application development firm that specializes in more complex systems like FileMaker, any company can start taking deploying more current solutions. This provides a simple way to step out of the comfort zone and implement something new.

German youth program uses FileMaker to run systems

In many cases, sports can be the great equalizer that brings unlikely groups together for something bigger than themselves. We saw this over the last month as nations across the world came together to watch and celebrate the World Cup soccer tournament. Even Pope Francis tweeted about how sports can promote culture.

For this to happen, organizations need to be ready to help promote sports with the youth in their respective countries. In Germany, while residents are celebrating its World Cup victory, 3,000 schools in the country are using FileMaker to help promote sports and run events through the Federal Youth Games.

A recent article from Bildungs Klick recapped the FileMaker sponsored school sports days that are held in Germany. These have been run for the last decade as a way to promote healthy living, team building and friendly competition, while also evaluating potential talent that can be nurtured for bigger things.

According to Alfred Bonk, a senior teacher at the Elly-Heuss-Schule in Wiesbaden — a University Sports Center and partner school of competitive sports and elite school of football — by using FileMaker, teachers are able to quickly record all necessary data in real-time. This allows the games to be handled quickly as they are easy to prepare and evaluate.

"We will continue to use the software because we have had only positive experiences and we can carry out the Federal Youth Games so fast, easy and safe," Bonk told the news source.

FileMaker consultants can help any group create a similar program that helps organizations keep track of programs and improve overall operations.

Your company should not be afraid to deploy a database

When a business decision maker hears the word "database," it can bring to mind a complex solution that requires special software and a dedicated server to crunch massive amounts of data. While that is what a traditional database may require, the system has evolved to turn this into an outdated version of what a database actually is.

A recent article from Macworld examined the current state of database software and why businesses should not be afraid of these systems. In many cases, databases are nothing more than a list of information. While an Excel spreadsheet can suffice in most instances, there is so much more than can be done.

This is where a system like FileMaker can be used to create a more complex solution, without much hassle. It is loaded with pre-configured databases that can easily be plugged in and started or slightly modified to better meet the needs of a business.

"Some applications, such as FileMaker Pro, have an iOS version (they call it FileMaker Go) so you can remotely access your data on a mobile device," the article reads. "Like many other database programs, you can also securely publish your data to the web so it can be accessed from any computer."

Businesses do not need to be afraid of the database anymore. With the help of a FileMaker developer, any business will be able to embrace the idea of a database and create a custom piece of software. Organizations will also be able to maintain the system and make tweaks as they become more comfortable with it.

More small businesses adopting software solutions

Many small businesses are increasing their use of business intelligence software solutions. The impact of technology has organizations looking for different ways to embrace the latest solutions that can help optimize systems.

A recent article from the New York Times features comments from several small business owners that are using solutions like FileMaker to improve their overall operations. A study from IDC shows that in 2010, just 1.7 percent of small businesses were using these kinds of solutions. That number is now up to 9.2 percent.

One of them was Brian Janezic, who owns two self-service car washes. He realized that there had to be a way to improve inventory, and after some searching he decided on FileMaker Pro. The biggest draw to the system is FileMaker Go, which allows these systems to be accessed on an iPad. This means that him and his three remote employees can monitor inventory levels from anywhere. Also, the employees of six other car washes that are owned by Janezic's parents can also access the information.

Sensors were added that link to FileMaker to each location's eight drums of car wash chemicals, including waxes, tire wash and glass cleaners. Previously, the contents of these drums were measured with a yard stick on a weekly basis. Now, everything is monitored continuously at every location. This means better data collection and immediate alerts through text or email.

According to Ramon Ray, the co-creator and host of the annual Small Business Summit, more companies are starting to look into adopting business intelligence solutions because they are easier to use than ever before. Many of these systems, including FileMaker, do not require a degree or manual to learn the basics. Now you can drag and drop spreadsheets or upload a file from a mobile device.

"If you have fleets of vehicles, you run those vehicles better; you can staff better, because you know where your employees should be, and when," Ray said. "The new tools provide better customer insights, so you know better what to sell them or what not to sell them; you can see which of your products has the best profit margin. You don't have to do things on gut check anymore."

Just because business intelligence systems are easier to use does not mean that companies will be able to master them right out of the gate. A FileMaker developer can help any organization deploy these systems in an effective way.

Using FileMaker to win baseball games

Earlier this month, this blog covered the growing use of data analytics in the world of sports. MIT's Sloan Conference shows the impact that data and analytics have in the current athletic landscape. While this area has always been numbers driven, the analytics side is still fairly new and organizations are just starting to figure out how to optimize these systems.

A recent article from Fanside featured an interview with Oakland Athletics first base coach Tye Waller. The team has been on the cutting edge of this trend and the movie "Moneyball" showed a bit of what the organization was thinking at the beginning of the 2000s.

Now, the team is going even further and Waller spoke about how he used data and analytics through the use of a database he created with FileMaker that is able to be used on an iPad.

According to Waller, his database is used as part of the team's scouting. Back in the day, this was handled through conversations of guys you had seen play and those you hadn't. It was common for reports to be written on the same player multiple times over the course of a season. If that person had a long career, you could write near 100 reports, that contained similar data.

When he went into the front office of the San Diego Padres, he noticed the computer systems that were being used to compare players' strengths and weaknesses. When he went back to the field as a coach, he took the system with him through a FileMaker Go database. Over nearly a decade, he has compiled a list of roughly 5,000 players that includes their histories, statistics and notes about strengths and weakness.

"Now all I gotta do is make an adjustment on the players we play against," Waller said. "You can move the players around within the program so that the information follows them for whatever team they play on. I know that at least I've got a foundation about that player. All I have to do is look at a little video and see what I can notice about what has changed about him from a hitting standpoint, defensive standpoint or statistical standpoint and we're up-to-date."

The Athletics are currently one of the best teams in the league, so clearly something is working. This is just one way that a FileMaker database can be used to improve data gathering and analytics. With the help of the right FileMaker developer, any company can find the best way to improve overall operations.

Tablets can transform businesses

One of the hallmarks of modern business is mobility. To compete in this landscape, companies have to be agile, which often means go-friendly devices like tablets. 

For good reason, Apple's iPad remains the gold standard in the tablet world. Not only does it combine an ease of functionality with an ability to sync seamlessly with other devices, it also is one of the first platforms to receive many important updates. Developers often target iOS as an operating system to build on, secure in the knowledge that it will lead to widespread deployment and (usually) earlier release dates. 

Especially helpful for enterprise use are database solutions. FileMaker developers can help transform the analytics for a small company: by making such a powerful program fit in with a moderate budget, these professionals can give every company the opportunity to use data in an efficient manner. 

An article in Computer Weekly detailed the value of this process. 

"Apple-owned FileMaker provides a platform for developing applications, and an ecosystem of hosting service providers has sprung up to project FileMaker applications from the cloud. In addition, vertical industries are adapting iPads to their own use. Each enterprise vertical tailors the iPad to its own needs. For example, in healthcare, providers have developed services for discharging patients and moving them to outpatient care on the iPad platform. As enterprises devote developer talent to proprietary iOS applications, vertical adaption will become even more widespread," explains the source. 

For any company looking to improve operations and the bottom line, tablets and FileMaker could be a worthwhile start.