Using data analytics to accelerate business growth

Entrepreneur magazine has published columns by the CEOs of two startups this week that emphasize the importance of applying data analytics to marketing strategies. Comprehensive data, they argue, is essential for companies to understand their target audience and adjust their services accordingly, ensuring their sustained growth. From the articles, it is possible to glean three simple but essential tips to best apply data gathering to marketing:

  • Methodical planning: It is important for business owners to understand that data analysis is an ongoing process, and one that requires care and continued work in order to produce results. While an effective use of analytics can pay immediate dividends, it is in a company's best interest to ensure that benefits are sustained over time.
  • Analyze past trends to foresee coming ones: Data can reveal a lot of information about past consumer trends but, more critically, it can also help predict emerging and even future trends, giving the savvy business manager a significant advantage to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Personalized service: With so much information at their fingertips, business owners can market their products to a target audience as broad or as narrow as they want, based on their size and production capabilities. Other customized data that can be accounted for includes information on competitors' strengths and weaknesses.

FileMaker is a customizable database tool that can help companies achieve all of these goals. Certified FileMaker developers can create databases specific to each client, allowing businesses to collate and analyze all the information they need to ensure that they understand their market and are able to provide excellent service. Moreover, training services are also available, and licensed providers of such services can help businesses by teaching their employees how to use FileMaker, so that they may modify and update their own databases as needed, ensuring that no market trend takes them unawares.

Big data use expanding in sales departments

Big data has steadily been taking over as one of the most important workplace tools for businesses in a variety of traditionally tech-related sectors such as analytics, servers and storage. That trend is not limited to large enterprises, as the International Data Group's extensive yearly survey revealed that 56 percent of small and medium-sized businesses had implemented, or were planning to implement, big data projects in 2014.

That survey showed technology as the main recipient of investment, but in recent times the use of big data has expanded to departments beyond the direct purview of IT specialists, including sales. A report by investment firm TrueBridge Capital Partners on the online edition of Forbes details some of the ways that venture capital is now finding its way into business solutions firms that did not traditionally attract this type of investment.

The main result of this influx of funding is a new wave of development for data-driven business solutions, which are already changing the way many companies do work. With proper data analysis, businesses can not just track existing sales trends, but extrapolate that information to predict upcoming tendencies and identify effective sales and marketing strategies.

Manufacturers and retailers looking to capitalize on this emerging and very promising strategic shift have a powerful tool in relational database software FileMaker, an effective data compiler and analyzer that can help them keep track of existing and emerging trends. Certified FileMaker developers are ideally suited to create databases that business managers can use to boost their sales results. Managers can also choose to have their staff undergo training in the software's finer points, taking instruction from licensed teachers on how to use FileMaker to its maximum potential, resulting in improved numbers.

Custom business software a growing sector

Recent events in the custom software development sector show a notable growth of this resource as a business solution. As more companies work to stay up to date with the latest technological trends and technology becomes more accessible and user-friendly, many businesses are realizing the benefits of custom application development in getting ahead of the competition.

Tailor-made software can become a big part of an enterprise's management and operations, and the advantages over more generally-available software are many. These include:

  • A customized piece of software can address no more and no less than the issues that face each particular client. This way, companies can avoid adopting technologies that offer additional features that may never be used to their full advantage, as well as the more obvious issue of using technology that doesn't help to solve an enterprise's specific problems.
  • Working with a custom developer comes with the added benefit of receiving access to personalized support services, with a provider that is more likely to know what the potential issues are and how to tackle them.
  • Installation of custom software does not require a complete overhaul of a company's systems, as these apps are designed to integrate with widely used platforms and operating systems.

In particular, one business solution that many small and medium-sized companies can benefit from is custom database development to easily organize and break down the information they need for their operations. FileMaker is a database software solution that allows for numerous customization choices, tailoring it to the needs of each enterprise. A certified FileMaker developer can create and work on databases for its clients, ensuring that they receive the service and support they require. Another option is FileMaker training, which will teach a company's IT workers to independently modify their own databases to their preferred specifications.

BYOD trend increases use of analytics among software developers

An article by the vice president of system integration company NTT DATA, Raj Rao, on highlights the challenges that software developers face in the age of "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD). With the proliferation of different devices, they can no longer get away with designing their software for a single browser or platform. This extends to business software solutions and the field of custom application development, as the BYOD attitude is increasingly ingrained in companies who allow or even encourage employees to access company information from their preferred devices.

This means that developers are forced by the market to ensure that their products are available on several operating systems and platforms, mobile or otherwise, or risk losing out to competitors who do a better job of working on cross-platform convenience. Rao notes that analytics have become a widely used resource among both developers and testers to detect their software's usage trends and reach conclusions about which areas to emphasize.

But the author also points out that just reading and drawing conclusions from existing data is not enough in the tech world, which is constantly in flux, with device and OS makers updating their products all the time and consumer preferences changing just as often. Future tendencies are notoriously hard to predict, and it is dangerous for a developer to try to guess how the market will respond to the release of a new smartphone, tablet or OS.

Small and medium-sized software companies need a powerful database tool to adequately process abundant information and detect emerging trends. A certified FileMaker developer can help businesses do just that by introducing them to software that works across a variety of platforms, allowing users to transition seamlessly from one to the other, whether they are at the office or working remotely. FileMaker training is also available for companies to learn how to expand their databases and never lag behind the competition.

Experts highlight the ways big data can help small businesses

The online edition of Entrepreneur magazine has featured two articles this month by industry insiders about the ways that small businesses could be in an ideal position to make the most of big data. Joanna Schloss, a business intelligence and analytics expert at Dell, and Dan Yoo, COO of personal finance website, not only provide tips on how to use big data to maximum effect, but suggest that small companies may even have the advantage over larger enterprises in this department.

Here are some of the specific ways big data can help SMBs thrive:

  • Track not just a website's visitors but how long they stay on each page and how they move between pages, thus gaining valuable insight into which services are most appealing and where cross-promotional opportunities could be beneficial.
  • Track social media interaction and consumer trends, and cross-reference that information, using the conclusions to be at the vanguard of sale and service opportunities as they emerge.
  • Use data as a tool to inform management decisions — Yoo notes that SMB owners "often run by intuition", and that doesn't have to change, but data can undoubtedly help make wiser choices.

The experts also point out how a custom database development company is ideally suited to provide big data solutions to SMBs:

  • Database consultants that are used to working with small companies know how to tailor their services to their clients' needs, whereas similar services for large enterprises are, as Schloss points out, "typically an all-or-nothing proposition," requiring an overhaul of existing systems that SMBs often simply can't afford, financially or logistically. An SMB-specific provider can modify as much or as little of the client's operations as is necessary.
  • Because of the customized nature of the service, rapid application development is possible for SMBs, resulting in immediate benefits to the bottom line.
  • Personalization also has the benefit of reducing costs, and adjusting them to the possibilities of each client.

Connecticut small businesses thriving thanks to state program

Connecticut's Small Business Express Program has helped create nearly 4,200 jobs in the last two and a half years, according to data from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which has run the program since its inception in January 2012. Small Business Express was designed to make up for a decrease in bank loans during the financial crisis.

Small and medium-sized businesses of no more than 100 employees can apply for a loan of up to $300,000, but DECD head Catherine Smith says the average loan is closer to $175,000. In exchange, beneficiaries are required to maintain their current workforce as well as any new jobs they may add for a year after receiving the aid, or else face financial penalties.

The program aims to increase hiring by requiring that, in order to become eligible, companies promise to use the money to either take on new staff or invest in equipment. The results certainly suggest that it's working, with 4,171 new hires statewide coming as a direct result of the program's loans. With Connecticut's SMBs not only finding stability but expanding, demand will increase for custom database software among the state's companies, as more employees mean more complex management practices, and a greater need for business software solutions.

A certified Connecticut FileMaker developer can help companies throughout the state and in any branch of business by creating custom databases to improve the way they operate. They can also provide useful training in how to use FileMaker to their full advantage. Any small business that's looking to grow can use all the help it can get, and a tool like FileMaker can help an SMB not just survive but thrive in the competitive business world.

Apple’s HealthKit to encourage healthier lifestyles, new custom apps

Along with the upcoming iOS 8, which is expected to be launched publicly in conjunction with the iPhone 6 this fall, Apple will be releasing HealthKit, an application programming interface (API) that will allow application development companies to work on health care-related apps which will tie in with the HealthKit framework. Among the new benefits of such a platform, according to Bloomberg, will be the chance for businesses of all sizes to reward healthy lifestyles among their employees. The Affordable Care Act has detailed by law what bonuses companies can give to workers who adhere to healthy practices, which opens up an array of new technological possibilities.

While a lot of the HealthKit reporting has revolved around speculation that Apple could be close to revealing its long-rumored iWatch, which would monitor the wearer's vital signs and habits, the API should also encourage companies that deal in mobile software development to take advantage of an unprecedented level of integration with iOS 8. With the Mayo Clinic and Nike already contributing to HealthKit, Apple is now in talks with major health care providers Humana and UnitedHealth, and their inclusion would further increase the platform's appeal to businesses and developers alike.

Indeed, one of Apple's goals in introducing HealthKit and HomeKit, a similar platform for controlling devices in one's home, is to encourage custom application development. HealthKit, in particular, should prove especially attractive to small and medium-sized businesses on both ends of the app development process. For developers, it's an opportunity to work on new apps directly within the Apple framework, and for all others it could usher in a brand new age of healthy living for employees who could see both health and monetary rewards for their efforts.

Data management on the path to consolidation, says Gartner

The 2014 edition of IT research company Gartner's hype cycle, published this week, shows an overwhelmingly positive outlook for custom database development, database management, data science and big data over the next decade. The cycle is a graphic representation of where emerging technologies stand in terms of industry perception and their permeation with their potential audience, and it also predicts when said technologies will have reached enough exposure to no longer be considered emerging.

Big data, which last year was classified as the most hyped technology, has now moved past the "Peak of Inflated Expectations". According to the cycle's progression, the next step will be supplier consolidation, followed by a second and third wave of venture capital influx, which will set big data well on the path to the so-called "Plateau of Productivity", the final stage, which it will reach, according to Gartner, within the next five to 10 years.

By that time, data science will already be a productive technology — in fact, it is projected to be the fastest mover in the coming months and years. Now only at the beginning of the mass media hype stage, Gartner nevertheless predicts that data science will quickly proceed on to the subsequent waves of investment that eventually lead to consolidation. Also plateauing in less than five years will in-memory database management systems.

Given this positive outlook, it's clear that data management, already an important part of any business, is only going to become more relevant with time. Business managers would be wise to engage the services of database consultants, who can provide custom database software which will not only assist in the running of the business's operations but also help them keep up with the current trend.

iPhone 6 will bring new challenges, opportunities to developers and businesses

Next month is expected to bring the long-awaited official announcement by Apple of a release date for the iPhone 6, which will come equipped with the company’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8. While consumers are eager to know when they will be able to line up for the new iPhone, behind the scenes developers are working hard to create apps that will attract user interest, all with the added challenge of not yet knowing the new phone’s specifications.

An all-new smartphone and OS bring fresh opportunities for software development companies to stand out with new products across all categories, from games and other entertainment to apps geared toward more practical areas such as finance and health care. Business software solutions are now easily accessible on mobile devices and can become a key part of operations for corporations of any size.

The iOS version of custom database software FileMaker, known as FileMaker Go, has been available since last year, helping businesses manage their day-to-day operations with such features as signing contracts or recording research. Certified FileMaker developers can provide business software solutions as well as hands-on training to ensure that clients take full advantage of the software’s possibilities and keep up with updates. A new OS can be a hassle for some users, but with proper guidance any consumer can learn to maximize the potential of newly implemented features, turning a potentially difficult situation into an edge over the competition.

iOS 8 is also going to allow developers to work with app extensions on platforms other than the iPhone which, while challenging, is yet another opportunity to stand out. The goal is to bring Apple closer to the “Internet of Things”, a path which FileMaker, with its versions for iOS, OS X and Windows, is already on.

New apps can help small businesses manage health care options

Companies that deal in custom application development are now helping small businesses navigate the often murky waters of health care selection and enrollment, a complex area where the choices are many and the readily available information is not always reliable. With custom database software, developers can create apps that simplify operations for SMBs by helping them choose the best health care options for their employees.

Earlier this month, the District of Columbia's health insurance marketplace, DC Health Link, launched an app designed specifically to help local small businesses manage every step of their health care coverage, from browsing different options to exploring enrollment alternatives for their employees. Per the official press release on the launch, the new small business app, called D.C. Small Biz Market, will allow users to browse health plans, determine their eligibility for special programs and locate brokers via GPS.

The app is the first of its kind introduced by an Affordable Care Act marketplace, but as the dust settles on the implementation of the ACA, it is not unreasonable to imagine that more like it could be developed in other states in the not-too-distant future. In fact, if this D.C. app proves successful, other software developing companies, not necessarily affiliated with the ACA, could be motivated to work on dependable small business apps of their own.

Certified FileMaker developers have the tools to build custom database software which, tailored to a specific geographic region, could become an essential tool for SMBs as they work to adapt to the changing health care landscape. A custom database of all available brokers and health care providers would go a long way toward making life much easier for managers and employees alike.