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How Does FileMaker Solve the Biggest Problems for Creative Teams?

Internal creative teams face diverse challenges for project, product and asset management. The same app often needs to serve as a project tracker, as well as a database for thousands of proprietary products and their associated rich media files. Because creative teams are well aware of how that app should function, the shortcomings of off-the-shelf databases and cloud solutions are all too apparent.

This is why larger companies (and agencies) often turn to their IT teams to build a custom app for them, as most teams are at least aware of the solutions landscape, and many have their own developers to support teams internally.

However, working on (and supporting) the evolution of a custom app (as opposed to an off-the-shelf software product) is a very different animal. IT managers need to stay more focused on implementation and management than on internal custom app development. IT specialists may not have the time or the flexibility, let alone the skill, to satisfy the complex and tailored needs of a marketing and digital creative team.

Developing an app requires flexibility, agility, and customization. Claris FileMaker remains one of the most well-known custom app building platforms on the market. It addresses the needs of creative groups that require a secure, robust, and most importantly, responsive database.

What Do Creative Teams Need from an Asset Management Database?

Digital marketing and communication teams work with a wide range of partners and audiences both outside and within the company. Internally, that same team often serves crucial income-generating sales, product, and e-commerce teams…all of which are demanding quality assets on an ongoing basis.

During any given day, internal communications and marketing teams interact with:

  • Multiple audiences (B2B and B2C)
  • E-commerce/product databases
  • Creative agencies
  • Production companies
  • Printing companies/fulfillment houses
  • Internal product and sales teams

Keep in mind (though we hardly need to remind internal marcom folks) that internal departments do not necessarily share the same location. Designers and creative directors also interface frequently with outside agencies, with those agencies both receiving and generating massive image and video files. Retail partners often have final approval over floor displays and graphics.

The cloud isn’t always the best solution for transferring and sharing resource-demanding files like high-res images and videos. You have no way of controlling the bandwidth speeds of offsite third parties, and those large files can be time-consuming to download.

As the team delivers different revisions of images and video, keeping them in one location undercuts the headaches of verifying which versions have been approved. A unified, searchable repository custom-built specifically for your workflow refines the entire resource management process.

creative team maximizing productivity

Why FileMaker?

Designers and creative directors will often tell us that they need something more robust than a searchable database. They also need a project management tool to ensure that everyone involved in the process turns in deliverables on time.

Creative teams often try to solve the problem of product definition and asset management with spreadsheets. Shared sheets do pose as a temporary solution. In the long term, however, reliance on spreadsheets leads to lost data, confusion, time-consuming manual updates, and reduced productivity.

FileMaker is a custom app building platform with endless integration opportunities for your individual data environment. We recommend FileMaker for creative teams for a few key reasons:

  1. Ties into different project management tools
  2. Easy to use
  3. Keeps records easily identifiable and organized
  4. Fast and easy to customize for your internal processes
  5. Manages thousands of individual pieces of creative (images, photos, etc.)
  6. Creates a paper trail of the workflow of your internal creative team
  7. Tracks the process that gets creative to deliverable status
  8. Offers features like project request forms

Because it easily syncs and follows project management flows, it enables everyone to follow the same schedule. As a tool, it can be used within individual groups or company-wide, giving you an inherently future-proof data solution.

Why Localized FileMaker Hardware Instead of a Cloud Solution?

Storing items locally may sound counterintuitive in the age of the cloud. Even as memory gets increasingly cheaper, the cost of cloud storage can be unpredictable when you’re storing resource hogs like full-res graphics and photos.

There’s also an IP issue to consider with local storage: You own both the app and the data. You manage every single creative asset in a database that sits on hardware to which you control access.

With your own app, you’ve got utterly proprietary, private, and localized assets. As a department, you also control the fate of those assets. If, in the future, your IT management changes your cloud infrastructure, this saves you the headache of migrating those massive files from several different cloud-based directories to yet another cloud structure.

There’s also the issue of security. Creative images often feature products that haven’t yet been released, or are managed by strict NDAs. A local server gives project managers decisive control over embargoed materials. The cloud offers plenty of security, but a localized resource may provide even more oversight for pieces of creative that have a restricted “for your eyes only” audience.

Why Work with a Third Party Instead of Going it On Your Own?

Expertise is always going to cut down on development time and cost. A professional FileMaker developer like Skeleton Key evolves into an available partner utterly familiar with your business environment and your departmental needs.

A creative team can also have additional control when working directly with a development firm. As the primary user group for the app, your team knows what it needs, and it might be inefficient to try to communicate those needs through an internal IT manager. In other words: When you communicate your needs directly to a firm whose main mission is to deliver a custom app, nothing gets lost in translation.

Lastly, your needs will change. Tools—all tools—will depreciate over time. Maybe a UX will need a refresh. In the tech world, a year or two could represent a decade of evolution. Having a partner in place who already understands your departmental needs and culture makes those refreshes more cost-effective, faster, and well-informed. A reputable developer will help you take expedient advantage of new tools that come into the market over time.

work with a FileMaker Expert

Working with an expert provides:

  • Additional flexibility and resource/cost management
  • Improved collaboration across teams
  • Tried-and-tested efficient development process
  • Actions and customization based on your individual use cases

Creative Teams Drive Technical Innovation

Designers and digital marketing professionals need IT solutions that are sophisticated but simple to use. As a highly customizable solution, FileMaker is a well-resourced platform that functions as data repository, searchable library, and project management tool for your team, no matter your audience or your campaign.

We have extensive experience in customizing FileMaker apps for a wide range of creative leaders in companies that share a wholesale and retail audience. Use the contact form below if you want to find out more!

Gear and automation showing workflow with custom business applications

Custom Business Applications Can Help Your Workflow. Here’s How to Source Them.

What most small business owners eventually realize, typically after several years of clunky efforts at application development or managing their data manually, is that most off-the-shelf applications are simply not designed to match the flow or structure of their company’s workflow. Most businesses are one-of-a-kind, and so their internal business software needs to be, too.

Replacing old systems or adding and implementing new ones is time-consuming and requires both experience and expertise. If your organization lacks both…you’re hardly alone. Most entrepreneurs and small business leaders need guidance on how to integrate or develop custom business applications.

Eventually, those shared spreadsheets and project documents have a direct impact on productivity. The more you find yourself managing daily tasks with emails and Slack conversations, the more time you could be saving with automation and trusted data-based solutions. However, in nearly every business vertical, most small to medium-sized businesses have limited resources to develop, implement, scale and manage business software and custom business applications.

When that’s the case, one of three (3) things happen:

  1. The organization sticks with legacy systems. The issue? Legacy systems might feel familiar and easy to use but do not offer the flexibility and functionality they should.
  2. Management tries an off-the-shelf solution. This is the main reason so many businesses are turning to cloud solutions for things like sales management and CRM. Many of these are easy and cost-effective fixes. The issue? These solutions are hardly one-size-fits-all, and they rarely meet the specific requirements in industries such as education, healthcare, construction or creative services. Typically, a custom application built to spec is the preferred solution.
  3. The organization tries to develop something in-house. Building something in-house can give the organization the customization it needs. The issue? Most entrepreneurs and specialized organizations rarely have an internal point person or experience to develop that software, let alone import existing data, train staff and manage the platform effectively in the long-term.

Stated another way: Companies are understandably focused on their core competencies and rarely have the management resources to hire and maintain an in-house developer to oversee a single application, let alone develop a custom solution.

That doesn’t mean that a custom business application is not the way to go. In fact, it is often the best way forward. It just might be that the organization needs to take a different approach to developing one.

Why Build Custom Business Applications?

It wasn’t that long ago that the only data-related solutions for a company were a locally stored database that cost a fortune in time and resources to code, install, develop and update. Cloud solutions eventually came along and solved a lot of headaches for companies that couldn’t afford to support those internal efforts, but those solutions usually only came to market when there was a wider need for them. Thus, most of the available cloud solutions solve problems that are common (and easily solved) for a given industry, but they leave something to be desired when it comes to meeting the more local and specific problems for a given business.

Law firms and medical professionals, for example, need to follow strict privacy and security protocols while also tying into payment and billing systems. Researchers need to keep rigorous records of the specific data they collect in their studies. A construction management firm might need a platform that syncs projects with updated estimates and bids, supplier information, outstanding vendor information and more—keeping in mind that devices in the field might go “offline” at any time.

Most out-of-the-box software is designed to manage single business problems like accounting or linear customer records. One outcome of this design approach is that it often demands that you reroute your workflow to accommodate the software’s capabilities, which can waste time and “water down” what makes your business or service delivery unique in the marketplace. Another outcome is that it introduces problems when it comes to integration: If data ends up needing to be manually entered, even more time is wasted as your staff tracks down updates from different departments and manually inserts that data into different platforms. And that means less time your staff has to focus on the core business.

A custom business app can encompass the most important elements of your workflows, including syncing between back-end systems and customer-facing interfaces, to eliminate confusion and time-consuming, manual processes.

clipboard-checklist-for-custom-business-applications

Custom business applications can:

  • Increase productivity and reduce operational expenses
  • Scale with your business as it grows
  • Reduce overall stress for you, your team and your customers
  • Satisfy your company’s unique business protocols

Even if you have an internal IT manager, developing a custom business application may not fall into their skillset. Vendors, even with the best of intentions, often offer solutions that may not work for you. And even if those vendors offer a customized variation of their base product, between the licensing fees and customization fees, you could end up paying a lot more  out of pocket and still not come remotely close to the actual functionality that will address your individualized needs.

The entire point of automation is to reduce stress and take work off of everyone’s plate. An outside developer that specializes in developing custom business platforms that encompass your organization’s processes is typically the most cost-effective and stress-free solution.

Before You Start Sourcing Custom Business Applications:

If you’re not a product developer or a web developer, creating programs from the ground up may seem daunting. These guideposts can serve as an introduction to the entire process.

First: Identify Your Pain Points

Every solution starts with a problem. As businesses grow and client behavior and expectations evolve, your processes also need reevaluation. For example, in the past, the few dozen clients served by a small business could easily be satisfied receiving invoices and statements via postal mail. That same business today needs to serve hundreds of customers that expect the documents to be delivered instantly via email, or on-demand and accessible via a web portal.

Or maybe you have a not-for-profit and are used to relying on a literal “paper trail” to track your activity and report to donors. But, as a non-profit grows, it can find that the paperwork involved in tracking donations (or volunteer hours, or anything else) is incredibly cumbersome and does not scale.

Before you consider any application development, do this: List the primary data-related business problems you confront daily, weekly or quarterly. Think about how information helps you run your business, and all the times and places that it gets referenced, created, modified, archived, referenced or purged.

Other examples of day-to-day business problems that data automation and improved custom applications can solve:

  • Does your customer billing software need to integrate with your CRM?
  • What are the awkward and manual workarounds you’ve already made to implement an existing software tool?
  • Do existing (both free and paid) cloud document solutions fail to integrate with your other business software or workflow?
  • Have you already licensed a cloud-based ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) platform, only to discover that it simply won’t conform to the way your business actually works?

Second: Ask the Team

Introducing a custom business application will impact different aspects of your business. Bring the members of your teams together and spend time discussing where and how a data management system could, and should, unify the disparate elements of your workflow.

Without experienced project manager on staff, you will need a third party or a consultant to facilitate these meetings. An experienced consultant will also mine and document those conversations to develop your custom application’s key components.

Third: Put a Number on it

Every other aspect of your business likely has an ROI attached to it. Your custom business applications should, too. Here are some guidelines to help you shape the overall scope and cost related to ROI:

  • How much time and money do you hope to save with smart data automation and localization?
  • Could the right custom business application help you scale up, retain existing customers, eliminate paper and postage costs, or help you reduce or slow the costs related to future hiring?
  • What is your available budget for app development? How much do you hope to save annually by using a third party over sourcing and hiring permanent staff?

Fourth: Develop and Test

Very few business owners enter their fields with the intention of becoming CRM or CMS experts. Sure, an architect utilizes a CAD program and designers know Photoshop, but that’s usually where software interaction starts and ends.

Before you roll out a custom application in a real-time environment, it needs to be tested in incremental phases. Experienced project management delivers milestones on schedule, and potentially identifies and nominates processes and challenges you may have missed.

Why FileMaker is a Trusted Platform for Custom Business Applications

FileMaker (the flagship product of Claris, a subsidiary of Apple) remains one of the most popular custom software platforms, for good reason. It can be modified quickly and effectively for custom CRMs, ERPs and more. Coders gravitate to it because it’s easy-to-learn, stable, highly functional, and bugs introduced into the code are easy to identify and troubleshoot. It’s been around for decades and is still trusted by dozens of industry-leading companies (Gap, Kohl’s, American Express, United Airlines and many more).

FileMaker runs on all mobile and desktop operating systems, so it can conform to almost any business environment. Base packages start with five (5) seats, allowing you to add more if time or growth demands expansion.

The front end is extremely user-friendly, so you’ll enjoy faster orientation and onboarding for both existing and new staff. As a back end, it manages contacts and content, as well as inventory and other crucial records.

Interested in learning more about FileMaker? Ready to discover how we’ve developed innovative solutions for our clients?

Let’s have a discussion today so we can learn more about how to help your business.