This video course discusses the use of the FileMaker Platform... to create a resellable vertical app... or for building internal support systems for your business. The course was created by the award winning team at RC Consulting and 25 year veteran, Richard Carlton.
Learn about decision making needed to determine if FileMaker is right for you and your business / Startup. Before launching into a project, you need to understand:
Introduction to the FileMaker for Startups and Entrepreneurs Video Training Series
• The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Berber, could save your startup or small business.
* 3 Personas Make up a Small Business
* #1 is the "Entrepreneur": Sees what could be in the future
* #2 is the "Technician": Technically proficient, but they are so busy, that they don't have time to think about fluffy stuff...like the future.
* #3 is the "Manager": This is the process...and procedure documenter ... and organizer.
* Technicans cannot transfer to the job of manager well...and this can cause a business to fail.
* New Hires doing receive documented training. Their training is handled verbally... via tribal knowledge.
* Tribal knowledge results in poor dispersal of knowledge and procedures.
* The business needs a documented, repeatable, and reliable process to follow.
* This course picks up where the book leave off....as we have the magic tool for creating an backend operational system.
* This tool, called FileMaker...can also be used to build vertical market applications.
* FM Starting Point is a great FREE tool to use with FileMaker... to create a documented operations management system.
* "FileMaker" is a software platform... which is composed of numerous specific products.
* "FileMaker Inc" is the company that makes the product.
* FileMaker has been around for 30 years... and the terminology has evolved.
* Interchangeable terms: "Solution" "App" "Template" "Solution" "Database" are interchangeable terms in the FileMaker platform.
* This course is for building a vertical market app or for building internal systems for your organization.
* FileMaker Platform has been around for 30 year.
* FileMaker's Elevator Pitch...30 to 120 second.
* You will need a elevator pitch for your vertical market app.
* Use Compelling factor to get people's interest so they come back to you later.
* This is FileMaker's Zero to Sixty Demo... and it's great for blowing a lot of people's minds.
* You can use this to build a mobile app... but it works great on Desktop too.
* FileMaker is 30 years old.
* 20 Millions copies have been installed in 15 languages.
* 1.5 Millions copies have been installed on iOS devices.
* Many businesses have application islands... where data is not shared.
* Managers spend up to 4 weeks per year tracking down missing data and documents.
* This can be because of inefficient or Ad-hoc processes. 67% of missing data is due to staff blunders... which is worse than viruses.
* FileMaker is a balance between shrink wrap apps... and traditional programming.
* Lets build FileMaker mobile app...and share it worldwide.
* Drag and dropping a Excel doc into FileMaker to create a NEW file.
* FileMaker Server is important for hosting important customer solutions.
* Sorting in FileMaker... does not scramble the data... like what will happen in Excel.
* Layouts are "screens" created in FileMaker to display data in different ways.
* Multiple clients can give changes to the same layout in REAL TIME.
* Demo is using "peer to peer sharing."
* FileMaker Go support all sorts of cool mobile iOS features, like photo capture, video capture, barcode scanning, and signature capture.
* Data changes on one client... leads to instant updates on other clients.
* Record Locking prevents 2 users from changing the same record... at the same time.
* FileMaker has built in Templates for for iPhone and iPad screens, which speeds development.
* iPad screen can be accessed by different clients...and are designed and setup using FileMaker Pro on Mac or Windows.
* FileMaker supports different types of fields to handle the different kinds of data you might want input into it. Container fields are for images, movies or any other document.
• Users who use the database do not need to know how to build or customize the solution.
* Contracts and signatures can be added
* Pop up Calendars on iOS are different than desktop.
* Interface elements behave different... on different platforms.
* The customer can import Excel files into EXISTING FileMaker files. They can import into existing tables... or have FileMaker create a new table.
*Relationships can be created between contacts and work orders.
Things to consider when you "have a great idea!"
* What are the Market Conditions?
* What kind of competitors will you have?
* Do you have "Natural In" into the vertical market?
* Access to mailing lists/Access to Relevant Conferences/Seen as a "Thought Leader" in that Area
* A great App requires good marketing
* If you build it... will they come?
* Do you have the funding for a runway?
What does FileMaker bring to the table?
*Subsidiary of Apple, Inc... very established company
*Great for sharing between users with FileMaker Server
*Compatible with ALL platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android)
*Starter solutions are available in FileMaker Pro to draw inspiration from
* Uploading files to the server is simple
* Access to the file via Web Browser
* Make layout changes in FileMaker Pro, see in browser or another client instantly.
3 Main Components of FileMaker
* Database Back-end - Storage of information (like excel)
* Graphical User Interface (GUI) - makes the storage of the information "pretty"
* Business Logic - How the database is run (workflow)
Example: FileMaker = The Home Depot
- You can find all the tools you need to build an app within FileMaker
- There is a massive ecosystem, including Plugin Developers who can assist in giving your FileMaker App more capabilities... like processing Credit Cards.
* FM Starting Point is a FREE FileMaker Starter Solution.
* Not specific to any vertical market
*Contains prebuilt layouts for desktop, iPad, iPhone, Desktop Web Browser, and Web Browser access on Android Phones
* FileMaker also publishes its own limited starter solutions. They are included with EACH install of FM Pro.
* These solutions are "technology demonstrator." There is some more complex capabilities... with some more complex setup and programming in FMI's starter solutions.
* FM Starting Point is designed to be understood by less experienced users and developers.
* FMI Starter solutions generally have a single focus and are NOT relationally connected... like FM Starting Point.
FileMaker Client Software Breakdown
*FileMaker Pro - Desktop/laptop access on mac and Windows
*FileMaker Pro Advanced - Same as FileMaker Pro, but with more tools for developers
* FileMaker Go - For access on iPad and iPhones. Gives "Premium Access" for mobile devices (Built-in Barcode reading, photos, and signature capture)
*FileMaker WebDirect - for access via a web browser (on desktop or Android devices). Somewhat limited features for mobile access
*Sketch the deisgn of your application
* Balsamiq Mockups - great tool for building wireframes on computer instead of physically sketching it
* Things to consider
- How will the user navigate the application?
- How will the user login to the application?
* The point of sketching is so you can unkink issues on paper so you don't have to build the app twice when you find out something does not work
User Interface vs. User experience
* User Interface + does the App look pretty? Is it well-designed?
* User Experience + Was the app easy to use? Did it meet their expectations/needs?
* 80/20 rule - 80% of users will only use 20% of the application
* Beta testing - great way to get feedback on UI and UX
• Simplest Solution: to Build an app where there is a single solution hosted "Live" on a server
• You might need each person to have their "own" copy of the app... locally on their device because they have little or no internet access.
• You might need Syncing for off-line users
• You could also sell individual copies of solution... that require NO internet access... as a "stand-alone app"
• Basic Licensing costs is about $8 to $9 per month... which is paid to FMI on an annual subscription.
• Ine final option is to deploy as a Browser Only Solution.
PHP Coded Solutions... versus WebDirect.
• If your app is PHP Only and you don't need any FileMaker Interface... then maybe using FileMaker on the back end doesn't make sense
• Concurrent... means "at the same time"
• Heavy Duty solutions... with a 1000 simultaneous to a single App... is more than FileMaker can handle.
• You can sell 1000 copies of the app... and then distribute the users onto multiple FileMaker Servers... so the load is distributed
• A good virtual server on the cloud can be rented for $100 a month or less these day.
• Selling copies of the solution to each company of less than 100 users is the most common scenario for most businesses.
* Making a scalable database in the FileMaker platform means that will operate "well" for larger group of people.
* Making the database scalable should be something you strive towards... early in the development process.
* 100's of simultaneous users on a single file on a single FileMaker Server... requires... crafting the database to be scalable.
* Watch our Pro 14 Video Course... to learn details of building a solutions for scalability
* Best performance config: Robust FileMaker Server
* Takes some skills and practice to get accurate estimates.
* You need documentation BEFORE you can create an itemized check list. The check list of items... is what you use to get the detailed quote.
* Wire frames are needed as well as a documented deliverables list.
* Professional, seasoned developers do not want to volunteer their time to document your software project.
* You need to pay for developers time if you want them to do the initial documentation. You can do the documentation yourself, but someone has to do it if you want a good accurate quote.
* Development methodology is either "Waterfall" or "Spiral."
* Developers cannot do detailed bug testing themselves. They begin to see what they want to see.
* Some projects do not need a "tight" fixed cost quote.
* Fixed Cost Quote cannot be provided based upon hand waving.
Development methodology is either "Waterfall" or "Spiral."
* Some customers do not want to provide tight set of deliverables in advance. There are actually good reasons to do this... but finance/budget people hate it.
* Waterfall development doesn't allow for easy design and feature changing as the project progresses. Waterfall development means tightly spec'd and budgeted project... largely without room to change or fix issues which are discovered later. Changes to Waterfall projects result in "Change Orders."
* Waterfall is not flexible. Not ideal to organically build and test the best product possible.
* Spiral development does not allow a true fixed budget to be known at the beginning.
* Constant feedback back and forth between the developers and end customer... is called an Agile Development Methodology.
* With Agile, the developers will send "builds" of your project to you periodically... maybe every 3 days or weekly.
* Customers can provide timely feedback that allows the developers to change course and make the app "better" in the middle of the project.
* Every product manager and customer PREFERS a spiral/agile development methodology until they run out of money!
* Spiral/Agile tends to make a much better product... and more expensive...as opposed to Waterfall.
* Negative of Spiral... less budget control. Spiral gives you better product quality control...and awesomeness.
* Waterfall... is great for budget... but a less quality in the app.
* Mixing methods might be the best. Get an approximate potential cost...and then build the solution with Spiral and Agile development methodologies.
* Quoting sections of work...or modules of work... keeps things small and manageable... which is awesome for spiral and agile.
* Does the App actually work?
* Bug Testing is fundamentally part of the software development process.
* Some bug reports might not be bugs... but more of a UX problem.
* You should expect to spend the same amount of time it took to build the app on chasing down and fixing bugs
• Have testers ready to test bugs prior to completing the app
• You cannot just take a app you use internally... and just magically sell it to other companies.
• An app that is "good enough" for your internal use is most likely not good enough for commercial use.
• People will use tribal knowledge... to training various workers... how to work around a solution that is "good enough" ... to get the job done.
• Getting an app ready to be sold commercially may take up to 3 times the amount of time it took to build the initial app.
• With commercial sales... there is no tribal knowledge transfer between the internal users of the solution, and the people who bought the App.
Things you'll need to budget for:
- Planning the app
- Building the app
- Bug Testing
- Maintenance of the app (10% of development time)
- Marketing the app
- Internal database (CRM) for managing your customers
- Your website
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Tips for Producing Videos
* Producing videos takes a lot of time and money
* Good video content will include
- "talking head"
- Screen capture
* Post production takes more time than that actual shooting of the video
* Always have an outline of your major talking points
* You must be an expert on the content if you are going to make a video on it
* This video course has an "industrial or corporate" level of quality...and not TV broadcast quality.
* We product at 720P... 1280 x 720. 1080 not necessary yet.
* Our video production team...uses Apple Macs.
* Camtesia for video editting...cross platform. Good support.
* I don't use for recording... but you could.
* Recording mobile device screens wirelessly...is painful...and quality is lower.
* On Mac, use Quick time in 10.10.5 to capture iOS devices... via USB cord.
* Use Mobius on Mac... to record Android devices... with USB cable.
* We have used final cut for masking and extra special effects.
* Planetronics Gamecom 780 headset
* Microphone is nice... but limits flexibility.
* Acoustic Tiles minimize sound reflection...
* Acoustic Tiles do NOT provide sound proofing from other rooms.
* Sound is cleaned up with Adobe Audition. We use this to minimize pops, etc, and to ALSO normalize the volume between the videos.
* TO much sound pop filtering will cause weird audio volume changes.... like a sound wave.
* Diffuse lighting..and backlights... for the backgrounds... to provide even lighting.
* How to sell your app... work out your product delivery mechanism.
* Annual renewals make revenue predictable.
* Sell individual copies of your app... to each customer. Not a single copy shared between 2 different businesses.
* If you find a bug... then you might have to fix the bug manually in each customer's copy of the app.
* Perpetual License... means you buy or sell it ONCE.
* Quoting your product pricing... consider providing a "monthly cost" to allow for easy comparison between other competing products.
Creating a FileMaker Runtime might not be the best idea...
FileMaker Inc. has a SBA program that lets you bundle your app with a copy of FileMaker.
* Always get opinions from multiple experts.
* Pay for people's time as you interview them.
* Interview several different candidates... with certifications. Lack of certification indicates developers who do not take their job seriously.
* Don't waste your time with developers who are not using the latest version of FileMaker.
* Look for people with a good rounded set of experience.
* 7-8 years make a senior staff.
* Work with a developers.... where you actually talk to the developer doing the coding.
* Take a developer for a "test drive"... have them build out a module or a small section of your project.
* Mutual respect is needed.
* The relationship needs to be a win/win for both parties. Trying to "nickel and dime:" the best deal possible... may be off-putting to the developer if your primary focus is development cost.
* Developer must communicate well. Does the developer send frequent and timely updates via email or by phone?
* Interview with Jeff Hough, lots of out sourcing experience... overseas to India
* Why you might want to outsource: You currently don't have the capacity to build a project. You currently don't have the knowledge or skillset to build the app.
* Jeff works with 50 or 60 outsourced staff... not all of which are building in FileMaker.
* Make sure to quiz the outsourced team as to Exactly what kind of App they are building... in terms of the "Platform Used."
* External recourses in India typically need a VERY HIGH degree of documentation....wireframes...with exact details. Some senior programers in the US do not require this.
* When talking with the remote staff... frequently they won't understand what you asking... when trying to have a collaborative conversation. NOT a language barrier.
* Cultural differences will cause junior staff or "Freshers" to not want to quiz "Senior" staff if they do not understand something.
* You could hear it in their voices and statements... when they do not understand. This is not unique to out sourced developers. But it seemed that out sourced developers need to be tightly managed.
* Cass system can create a hostile work environment.
* Plan on having a daily management meet between yourself and remote out sourced staff.
* "Freshers" are someone who is just out of college. College degrees are not strictly equivalent to US level colleges.
* Freshers have a hard time directly engaging with seniors when they are confused on need guidance.
* Watch for interactions in meetings that tell you the remote developer "doesn't get it."
* Press the remote developers to make sure they "get it."
* When interviewing remote staff make sure the engineers doing the work have the actual skill and that your project doesn't get handed off to a more junior staff.
* Limited US capacity really lead to outsourcing to india.
* Our Projects are running behind.
* Consulting Firms in India... might charge $20/hr... the individual developer... doesn't make $20/hr.
* Is the low hourly rate make up for the issues. The decision depends upon how much you want to manage.
* If you a daily hands on person... then out sourcing to india will occur.
* If your a hi-strung person... who get excited easily...then this might not be for you.
Note from RC: Jeff is a very mellow... even keel... type guy. He is not easily excited.
* How to stay organized?
* Pre build FileMaker solution for organizing bugs or issues to fix.
* Free Gift
* Minimum: Requires FileMaker 13 or 14.
* Can be shared with Team after hosting on FileMaker Server
* 2 Different Vertical market Apps... one for animals (Vets)... and one for humans (Doctors)
• The staff from InfoMatrix have previously used Oracle, and C++, "Big Iron", etc. They have made apps for many thousands of people at the same time. They have hundreds of developers because of the size and complexity of Oracle and C++.
* Using FileMaker since Version 5.5. Their first serious vertical App... was written in FileMaker 7.
* They have huge productivity gains (productivity, development, testing, reliability, etc.) in using FileMaker over using Oracle and C++.
* New versions of FileMaker continue to expands the scale for which it can be deployed. More and More simultaneous users.
* Early iPads sucked... but the iPad Air 2... is 80x faster. iPad Air 2 is great.
* Printopia... which turns a Mac into AirPrint Server is fantastic.
* Feature creep with our vertical market apps is problematic.
* FileMaker doesn't provide help to developers. FMI is not equipped to help. InfoMatrix monitors 5 different online forums... where other developers can talk about these issues.
* Same code base between desktop and iPad App.
* FileMaker Go cannot use Plugins.
* Clairvoyance ...i.e. Type-a-head ...i.e. Auto-Complete... doesn't work in Go.
* InfoMatrix loves Video training produced by www.learningfilemaker.com
* Where did the ideas for their vertical App come from: Well they met someone and ended up jumping into the veterinary business.
* Advice* Have customers lined up before you go crazy with developing an app. Just hoping for customers doesn't work.
* Take long-term view of the plan. Don't discount. Don't devalue your own work. It hard to back out of the Freemium model.
* InfoMatrix's apps have mandatory annual support that the customers pay for both our product... and also the a FileMaker license. If not... the customers are voided and terminated.
* This is so customers cannot complain that their software doesn't work... when they're using 7 year old software that doesn't work. If the customer had up-to-date software... their software would work great!
* Vertical Market companies need to set the expectation that annual support is required... UP FRONT.
* VetFM's main competitor... an industry leader was getting beat up online because people were using OLD versions of the software... and not upgrading.
* InfoMatrix requires customer stay up to date... or they are tossed.
* Annual subscription ... providing ongoing support and maintenance funding to run the company.
* InfoMatrix sells the FileMaker licenses... by buying FileMaker software at a volume discount... through FileMaker's "Solution Bundle Agreement" (SBA) Program.
* Competitors may use Free Open source tools,and their cost of getting that technology is low or zero. But we have huge productivity gains because of using FileMaker... so we're money ahead. SBA program allows us to get copies of FileMaker Pro HIGHLY discounted... but we have to buy in block of 50 copies at a time.
* Development is done to a Database Server in the cloud.
* Customers are deployed to a server in the Cloud.
* InfoMatrix developers are Mac people... but they support customers who are on PC's IF they are switching to Mac within 2 years. (Note from RC... this is an interesting plan.).
* InfoMatrix is Mac only... because the Macs are 1/2 the cost to support, easy of use, and little to no viruses, etc.
* Customers love their Macs.
* They only run their solutions in a SHARED SOLUTION, hosted on a FileMaker Server. So each customer gets their own copy of our software/App ... and it is shared with their employees.
* VetFM file is a single file, not multiple files.
* The separation model is not used. Separation Model was use in Oracle and C++, etc. Yuk.
* Most VetFM customers who use Macs... do NOT have IT staff.
* We do not use Remote Containers. (Editors Note, I have concerns about this. - RC).
* SSD drives are required... since it radically helps solutions run MUCH faster... especially the FileMaker Server.
* Recovering a crashed database from an SSD... can be 20x faster.
* Some of the main 3rd Party plugins that InfoMatrix uses: Inspecor by Beezwax, 2empower, Troi File
* They use to use a lot more plugins... but we tried to get this list as small as possible and only list the main ones.
* They also FileMaker Runtime to build installers. Why learn another installer language? (Editors note, I am not clear on how they do this. -RC )
* FileMaker Runtime is a copy of Pro...than runs a single LOCAL solution that is not shared. Once you create a runtime... you can give it away for free... forever.
* FileMaker Runtime... is not a revenue generator for FileMaker Inc. FileMaker is talking about killing this feature since it costs money to maintain, but FMI doesn't make money.
* Using Runtime for Pro... is a bad idea because FileMaker is thinking about killing this feature. If you build a business plan on FileMaker's runtime... your asking for trouble.
* You must keep re-investiing in your product and continually improving.
* If FileMaker right for you???
* FileMaker provides a front end and a "tightly coupled" database engine.
* LiveCode (RCC has used this). No database engine, but it allows for apps to be put up in the Apple and Google App stores. This usually takes much longer to build in than FileMaker.
* Servoy... a tool with a loosely coupled database engine. Some people report 10x development time over FileMaker.
* Xojo, is essentially "Real Basic"... but it is not tightly connected to database engine.
* Omni - 4D - They don't stay up to date. They lag behind operating system release. So you have to use old operating systems to run the software.... which means buying old computers on eBay.
* Swift - Hardcore programming language... that takes way more time to develop a vertical market app.
* Training the customer is important. InfoMatrix doesnt have the time to do customer training... so there is video training embedded in the App.
* Videos stream down from the internet.
* They like to use Pet Pictures... because our customer want photos and maps too.
* Make good use of Icons for buttons.
* Check Box functions... will input data into a text field in the order the check boxes are clicked.
* Each record is tracked how it is created, date and time, plus the same info is tracked when someone edits the record.
* Reflector is wireless iPad screen display... but it act flakey sometimes. RC recommends using QuickTime and a USB cord.
* Apps running on at least the iPad Air 2... is fast.
It up to you to take the next step to fix your organizational problems.
CEO & Senior Engineer
Richard Carlton Consulting Inc
Senior Trainer and Platform Advocate
Richard Carlton is the CEO, and a Senior Engineer at Richard Carlton Consulting Inc. and its subsidiaries.
Richard has been involved with the FileMaker platform since 1990 and has grown RCC into one of the largest top tier FileMaker consultancies worldwide. Richard works closely with RCC's staff: a team of 28 FileMaker developers and supporting web designers. He has offices in California, Nevada, and Texas. Richard is a frequent speaker at the FileMaker Developers Conference on a variety of topics involving mobile application development, and client server integration.
Richard is the Product Manager for FM Starting Point, the popular and most downloaded free FileMaker CRM Starter Solution.
Richard has previously worked with VTC as a Video Training Author, and then later, started a new video publishing company, dedicated to the needs of the FileMaker community. LearningFileMaker is a new startup, and is dedicated to the FileMaker Platform, with hundreds of videos and upwards of 50 hours of recorded content available for free.
Richard won 2015 Excellence Award from FileMaker Inc (Apple Inc) for outstanding video and product creation, leading to enhanced business development.
RCC and LearningFileMaker are headquartered in Santa Clara, CA.