There are some common kinds of business applications that almost everyone uses: Invoicing and billing software of some sort, customer databases/CRMs, project management software, just to name a few. But what’s an organization to do if they have needs that go beyond these “typical” applications?
The truth is that just about every business has some unique workflows that make it different from all the other businesses out there. Those are often best addressed by creating custom business applications uniquely tailored to the business’ requirements.
Over the years, we’ve created a wide range of these custom business applications for clients using the Claris FileMaker platform. We’ve found that it’s perfect for businesses that occupy an unusual niche or that have very specific needs. And by using Claris FileMaker, we often can develop those applications in less time, and at a lower cost, than other development firms out there.
Here, then, are some great examples of our doing just that:
#1: A Custom Parts and Ordering System
Some products are complex, containing many parts that have to be assembled in a precise way. Add to that options and customizations, and you have a data challenge on your hands: How do you keep track of all the parts that are needed for each order while also ensuring you have the inventory for all incoming orders over a period of time?
We used Claris FileMaker to build a parts and ordering system for one of our clients, Vistabule, a company in St. Paul, Minnesota, that designs and manufactures made-to-order teardrop trailers. This solution integrated with their existing systems to track orders and invoicing, as well as the status of specific parts and demand forecasts. This not only made customer communications and factory workflow more efficient, it also helped ensure that needed parts would always be ordered and on hand. (You can read the entire Vistabule case study here.)
Claris FileMaker can make an estimating/parts database for just about any complex product, from a pocket watch to a power plant, helping ensure that your team can account for every part, no matter how big or small.
#2: A Creative Assets Database
Designers and creative directors will often mention that they need “something more robust” than a searchable database when it comes to organizing their creative assets (i.e., think catalog images, video, product descriptions, advertising photos and so on). They often need a tool that can also help manage access and rights, track versions, and even facilitate project management.
They often want to store those assets locally, too. Storing items locally might sound counterintuitive in the age of the cloud, but it makes sense when storing large files that need to be accessed routinely. Local storage is also cleaner when it comes to intellectual property (IP), because the team itself can own the data and the app and better control and monitor permissions and usage rights.
We used Claris FileMaker to make such an asset database for the Creative Department at Bass Pro Shops, which designs and curates all online content for the brand. The solution we created not only provided a database for images and content but also helped them to track projects, manage vendor samples and generate critical reports. (You can read the entire Bass Pro case study here.)
#3: A Database for City Occupancy Permits
Though not a business per se, a city government can provide a great example of the efficiency any organization can achieve with Claris FileMaker. City governments oversee a wide range of assets, including land, buildings, personnel, vehicles, electronic devices and more. They also have to contend with legacy systems and processes. Slow updates, redundant data and error-riddled processes are common—so much so that most residents expect some level of “government bureaucracy” in their daily lives.
It does not have to be that way, however: Claris FileMaker has the power to make data collection more intuitive, automate data processes, and virtually eliminate human error. Best of all, it can integrate with other existing database sources, including MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, amongst others
A great example is the database that we built for the city of Florissant, Missouri, to track occupancy permits, property inspections and other critical infrastructure regulations. Their manual methods for issuing permits and scheduling inspections had led to a mountain of redundant data and stalled processes; with Claris FileMaker, that data is now continuously consolidated, cutting down on the time and administrative costs involved. (You can read the entire City of Florissant case study here.)
#4: A System for Tracking Employee Hours in the Field
Getting data from multiple people, in multiple locations, is difficult enough. When they provide that data in different ways—email attachment, text, fax—it can create a paperwork nightmare. This is often the case when companies have to track the hours of employees who are out in the field, a situation common in construction, HVAC, energy, utilities and similar businesses.
We used Claris Filemaker to help one of our clients, Helmkamp Construction, with just this issue. Helmkamp is a full-service general contractor headquartered in the St. Louis and Metro East region that has performed work in over 25 states across the country. On any given day, this company can have several dozen superintendents in the field, all of whom need to accurately enter hours for their workers each day.
The solution we built allowed these superintendents to enter time data on iPads protected by rugged cases and connected by Wi-Fi or mobile hotspots. The interface was intuitive and required little training to use. Once entered, the data is then automatically converted into a format that can be efficiently leveraged by the company’s payroll team. (You can read the entire Helmkamp case study here.)
This is an area where Claris FileMaker shines because what is required goes beyond merely storing and accessing data. The employee hours application needed a well-designed, intuitive interface, reliable mobile access and seamless integration with existing payroll systems. Claris FileMaker makes all of this easy.
#5: A Home Energy Audit Application
Imagine a utility company that will help you save money on your heating and cooling bills by coming to your home and running an energy audit. That audit goes so far as to take a thermographic picture of your home, showing you where the building is leaking air and thus losing heating.
This is exactly what an energy co-op in the midwest was offering to its customers, with Skeleton Key’s help. We helped this utility company develop a custom application that could process and store the data related to their in-home energy audits, giving them a quick and easy way to complete them. That functionality simply didn’t exist with any off-the-shelf software available to the client.
The beauty of using Claris FileMaker to build these kinds of applications is that it can handle all manner of data. It does not matter what format, or how big each file is, or how it needs to be accessed.
#6: Data Dashboards
Though not a single solution, data dashboards are routinely a part of many custom business applications. Every business has its own signals that it looks for in its data. Those signals might prompt the purchase of new inventory, the start of a new project, a re-assessment of a current strategy, or any number of business activities.
Claris FileMaker can help teams visualize and access their data in ways that are helpful on a day-to-day basis. This can be done through dashboards with features such as:
- Key Performance Indicators
- Calendars and Deadlines
- Task Lists
- Thresholds or Warning Indicators
These dashboards can include data from other systems as needed and can be made to update in real time without the need to refresh a page (via live charting). Skeleton Key has created several such dashboards for customers, and we even use them in managing our own business!
Many industries have workflows that are odd, or produce data that needs to be transformed, stored and accessed in many different ways. This does not mean precision and efficiency go out the window; and yet, that is what many organizations sacrifice when they try to execute those workflows manually, or use off-the-shelf solutions that don’t…quite…fit.
Claris FileMaker provides a flexible, non-fragile platform for quickly developing custom business applications to meet those needs. If your organization has some unique needs that aren’t met by existing software, contact us for a free consultation and together we can discover what’s possible.