Struggling to mobilize your small business? FileMaker, the custom app specialist (and Apple subsidiary), recently released a new toolkit and a software-and-services bundle to help entrepreneurs kick start their own mobile business app initiatives.
As the old saying goes, home is where the heart is. In business these days, the office is where the iPhone is. Smartphones and tablets help workers close deals, balance the books, along with countless other task that once required a desktop PC or a laptop to accomplish.
[Read more about custom apps: Custom Apps Boost Small Business Productivity]
Today's startups and small companies can choose from a wealth of mobile-enabled software solutions and cloud services at their disposal. Sign up online, download an app, and get work done wherever you can grab a Wi-Fi or cellular signal. Or so that's the plan.
Mobile App Challenges
The trouble that many small business owners encounter, according to Dara Treseder, global manager of Demand Generation at FileMaker, involves juggling multiple mobile apps and adapting them to their organizations' unique work styles and business processes without duplicating work or a fair bit of handholding—to the extent that a person can hold hands with an app.
"We found that owners of small- and medium-sized businesses want to harness the power of mobility," Treseder told Small Business Computing. "They want to go digital and automate their workflows, but they struggle with how to do it."
Their struggles led FileMaker to tackle the biggest and most intimidating part of embarking on a custom app project: getting started.
Of course, FileMaker is no stranger to the custom app scene. "We provide a platform that allows a citizen developer to go in and build a custom app that's tailored to the specific needs of the business," Treseder reminded.
With that expertise in hand, the company recently launched two new solutions that help pave the way to bespoke business apps for practically every type of company—and for service businesses in particular.
A Free Toolkit for Service Businesses
The FileMaker Service Business Toolkit includes a new ebook, How to Transform Your Service Business, that focuses on the process of creating custom apps to enhance customer experiences and improve efficiency.
Readers will find that the ebook is more than just a set of FileMaker-approved guidelines and recommendations, assured Treseder. It draws on the "the expertise of customers that walked that path before them," she said. The ebook—which Treseder described as a "customer success guide"—packages insights drawn from the experiences of real-world companies and how they tackle the challenges faced by their workers.
Topics include eliminating paper processes, schedule management, and empowering field teams to get the job done right. The book also offers concrete examples along with guidance on how to map out a project so that small businesses can begin to plan and deploy their own custom apps.
The free toolkit also includes a webinar video along with the Service Business Starter App from Richard Carlton Consulting (a FileMaker Business Alliance Platinum partner). It addresses many of the common pain points of service organizations, including resource scheduling, inventory management, and invoice generation.
Following FileMaker tradition, businesses can modify and customize the app, said Treseder. "It's a great way for service businesses to get started on the FileMaker platform." Service Business Starter App works with FileMaker 15, and it supports iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Windows.
The Idea-to-iPad Bundle
FileMaker also launched a new solution that turns back-of-the napkin app ideas into reality. Available from Apple Retail, the Idea to iPad Bundle includes annual licenses of FileMaker Pro Advanced and FileMaker Server.
Software aside, the bundle includes support and consulting services that help newly-minted citizen developers create a "minimal viable product" (MVP), said Treseder. The bundle includes a 10-hour consultation with FileMaker Business Alliance professional developer who offers advice on building a custom app along with hands-on help.
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A FileMaker customer success manager also lends a hand—working to ensure that the 10 hours' of both the developer's and the business owner's valuable time stays laser focused on creating a working mobile app.
The FileMaker's Idea to iPad Bundle is available now and costs $1,999 in the U.S.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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