iPad optimize

FileMaker Go for iPad empowers mobile SMB field staff

Erik Eckel takes a look at FileMaker Go for iPad, a free app that extends FileMaker's software simplicity and functionality.

Organizations frequently struggle to extend client information to mobile users, empower remote sales force administration for field workers, and support off-site access and updates to project management systems. Sure, large enterprises often implement Intranet- and cloud-based platforms that securely extend corporate data to mobile staff and interoperate with portable devices. But what about smaller organizations, those particularly hard-pressed to maximize minimal technology investments, leverage mobile platforms to aid competitiveness within their industry, and make mobile employees more productive?

The problem with many effective databases, project management tools, CRM and ERP platforms, and inventory management systems is that they are difficult to design, require potent back-end servers to power, and can be tough to integrate for mobile users. Also, they're often hard to learn.

FileMaker Go: Databases made easier

FileMaker strives to provide easily deployed and maintained databases, and FileMaker Go for iPad extends the software's simplicity and functionality. The free app enables smaller organizations with limited resources the opportunity to leverage FileMaker-created databases, inventories, project management systems, sales and customer information, and more using iPads.

FileMaker's approach reminds me of the popular 37 signals web-based tools many use to manage projects and customer relationships. Both teams made the same discovery: customers prefer simple systems that don't possess so many features as to prove confusing, unwieldy, and cumbersome. There are several basic functions clients need in a solution, and you need to get those right and leave it at that. In their best-selling book ReWork, 37 signals' co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier attest some of their success is due to the fact that they learned how to tell customers "no" and leave out unnecessary features to preserve simplicity and approachability, even when some customers requested additional functionality.

Ryan Rosenberg, FileMaker's VP of marketing and services, even noted in a spring news release that "databases only boost productivity if people genuinely enjoy using them." And that's where FileMaker Go for iPad has an advantage. The application leverages the tablet's popular touch-screen interface, making it easy for field workers to intuitively update projects, close sales, add information to customer and client files, review and update schedules, track progress, and more via a Wi-Fi network or even a cellular-based Internet connection.

How, specifically, does FileMaker Go for iPad enable field staff to interact with back-end FileMaker databases? Mobile iPad users, properly connected to an organization's existing FileMaker database or willing to email FileMaker files or synchronize via iTunes, can print reports and forms using AirPrint, add photos, videos and audio to the FileMaker database, capture signatures, convert data, import FileMaker Pro records, execute numerous compatible scripts, and more.

Why is such functionality important? For starters, iPad users can leverage the familiar multi-touch gestures to interact with the database. Further, tablet users can use the iPad's integrated camera to take pictures of events, document damage or accident scenes, and capture photos for marketing purposes (such as is frequently done by realtors, auctioneers, adjustors, painters, valuators, inspectors, and others).

Affordable empowerment

The beauty of FileMaker's database platform is in the elegance of its simplicity. FileMaker Go offers an incredibly powerful application -- the Austin Convention Center eliminated paper-based work orders to achieve a 200% return on its investment, vascular specialists Lee Medical improved patient outcomes while reducing healthcare costs, and pet products manufacturer West Paw Design developed a custom automation solution to save hundreds of thousands annually and encourage 10 percent annual growth -- that even the smallest organizations can afford to buy and customize, thanks to prepackaged templates and good design.

Those are excellent results, especially for the price. The iPad app is free. FileMaker Server costs $999, while FileMaker Pro runs $299. Compare those costs to a traditional sales force automation, CRM, or similar tool or proprietary application, and you'll likely agree the platform is priced very competitively.

Does your organization use FileMaker Go for iPad? Please share your experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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