Mac, PC, Web or Mobile…Are Cross-platform Solutions the Answer?
Why Businesses Need Cross-platform Solutions
If there is a hallmark of the progress technology has made in the past few decades, it’s the abundance of devices found in the average workplace. Not only does every office and cubicle have a computer, but they are all connected to each other, and to the cloud. Teams in the field have laptops and tablets for doing work remotely. Every employee has their own mobile device, too. In each of these cases, there are multiple choices when it comes to operating systems and software, e.g., macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, iPhone. Important business tools thus need to work cross-platform.
This is easier said than done. The abundance of choices used to be the bane of IT departments, which thrive on uniformity and standards. Try as they might, uniformity never happens. For example, IT settles on being a “PC-based” office, but the design team insists that the software they need to do their jobs is native to a Mac environment. Or the sales team insists on being able to leverage their own devices while in the field. Or HR needs to keep a legacy application with a database living on a server in a closet somewhere. The list goes on.
It used to be the case that these scenarios created all kinds of problems, not only for the IT department, but for workflows in general. Compromises had to be made in order to give every department the software they needed, but still keep them connected to the rest of the organization. The difficulty was that few software solutions could truly work “cross-platform” (i.e., work within multiple operating systems), and almost none were “platform agnostic” (i.e. being able to work with any operating system and processor.)
But what if that didn’t have to be the norm? What if compromises didn’t have to be made, because critical software applications could be created that truly were operating-system agnostic?
Wait, Aren’t There Cross-platform Applications Out There Already?
Given the challenge of supporting multiple platforms, many companies opt for solutions that have native versions built for the platforms they use most. Take Microsoft Word, for example. It runs on PCs, Macs, iPhones, and Android devices alike, as well as in almost any modern web browser. This appears to solve the problem, and you might even get away with a more straightforward billing scheme, as you pay for the seats you need and can then permit your employees to use the program on whatever device they choose, or need.
However, some costs don’t appear on the balance sheet. Take, for example, the role of the IT department. Nominally, they’re just supporting “Word,” but they’re doing it on four or five different platforms, each with its own localized version. These versions may have different layouts and even different features, which means your IT department needs to be able to support all of them or risk leaving some of your employees unsupported. And while that cost may not be measurable, the lost productivity is real.
Creating Custom Applications that Work Anywhere
All that said, focusing on the operating systems or devices themselves can detract from the software and what it needs to do. Purchasing “almost right” software that lacks one critical feature your business needs can leave a lot of money on the table. Maybe it’s a feature that would save your team hundreds of hours each week, or give your sales team an edge over the competition. The difference between the “almost-right” and the “exactly-right” solution can impact the bottom line.
This is a general issue with off-the-shelf software, too. Many organizations have to develop workarounds and inefficient processes to shoehorn their workflows into what the software can do. Such workarounds are a clear sign that a custom application would be well worth it’s weight in gold.
This is where having the right platform for creating custom software is critical. The development platform should work seamlessly to create cross-platform solutions easily, giving organizations the best of both worlds: Flexibility and functionality.
One such platform is Claris FileMaker, a low-code platform that can create custom applications and interfaces that can work across devices and operating systems. Claris FileMaker Pro works natively on PCs and Macs and can freely share files between the two systems, a functionality supported since the mid-90s. (Though a lot has been added since then, of course.) Or, if you’re feeling more cutting edge, you can deliver a web app with FileMaker WebDirect. And leveraging smartphones has never been easier than with FileMaker Go.
With the Claris platform, you can have all the features you need on all the devices you want to support. Or, you can customize the experience on each device to maximize what your employees can do. Need a mobile app for a team that does service calls? Does it need to work seamlessly with the dispatching and accounting functions you use at the main office? The Claris platform can do this and so much more.
But What About Existing Applications?
The beauty of a custom application is that it doesn’t have to do everything—you can define what it needs to do.
Suppose, for example, that your design team is keen on keeping the graphics applications that they’ve always used on their Macs. But those design files also need to be shared with other teams, such as sales, marketing, and legal. You could have a developer create an application with FileMaker that acts as a central repository for design assets made with those Mac-native apps. Additional interfaces would allow the sales, marketing, and legal teams to do what they need to do with those assets without having to give them full access to the entire suite of design tools. The FileMaker-made application would be the bridge, so to speak, between different applications on different platforms.
How Skeleton Key Can Help You Build Something ‘Exactly Right’
Although Claris FileMaker is a “low-code” solution, it still takes experience to create the right kind of applications to match your workflow—and to get the most out of Claris FileMaker’s features.
Skeleton Key has that experience in spades. We’ve been helping clients using this platform since 2002, and have seen it grow and evolve for two decades. We know how to maximize the value of the Claris platform and help our clients choose the features and workflows that will most benefit their company. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for your organization.