Why Use FileMaker® To Build Your Custom Business Solution
A Comprehensive Guide to FileMaker Pro: Who It’s For, What It Does, and Why Your Business Should Be Using This Flexible Tool
Enterprise software is notoriously time-consuming and costly to develop. Businesses that need a custom solution that functions in specific ways often don’t have the luxury of large budgets or years of development time. They need to fix clunky processes and improve profitability quickly. FileMaker is an ideal platform for these companies to build a custom business solution on, because it forms a flexible foundation that’s both secure and completely customizable.
In this guide, we’ll cover who can benefit from using FileMaker, what you can do with FileMaker, features you’ll find useful, integrations that will make automation simpler, why FileMaker is perfect for building CRMs and ERPs, how templates speed along development, and what you need to know about licensing and hosting to make the right decisions for your business.
Table of Contents
- Types of Businesses Using FileMaker & How They’re Benefitting
- What You Can Use FileMaker For
- FileMaker Features That Developers Love (and Your Business Will Too)
- FileMaker Integrations that Make Your Business More Efficient
- FileMaker for Building Customized CRMs
- FileMaker as an ERP
- How FileMaker Templates Speed Up Development
- What You Need to Know About FileMaker Licensing and Hosting
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Types of Businesses Using FileMaker & How They’re Benefitting
Nearly every type of business in a variety of industries has used FileMaker to create robust software solutions quickly and cost-effectively, including:
- Real Estate
- Service Industries
Here are just a few ways organizations are benefiting from using FileMaker:
Developmental Disabilities Resources
Using FileMaker for Electronic Record Keeping
Developmental Disabilities Resources provides an array of long- and short-term services for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization is required to maintain electronic records to connect with the federal Health Information Exchange and also ensure privacy compliance.
DDR was using mostly-manual processes based on a system which didn’t accommodate electronic record-keeping. To automate as much of the data entry as possible, DDR used FileMaker 16 to build precisely what they needed, quickly and cost-effectively. Now, 48% of all the data created by the DDR team is automatically entered into the new system, eliminating the manual process entirely for that data. The remaining data entry has been sped up thanks to improved processes.
Georgia Department of Agriculture: Food Safety Division
Using FileMaker to Track Training Data
The Food Safety Division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture has a robust training program to ensure their 90 inspectors are fully equipped to comply with FDA standards. Because they receive federal funding, they’re required to maintain their training programs and track training data for each of their inspectors.
To find data and run reports, the Food Safety Division team originally had to manually search thousands upon thousands of documents in 90 folders on a Cloud-based drive and then extract the data into spreadsheets. They were spending almost 40 hours a week on records maintenance.
The organization created a solution with FileMaker that would automate much of the process and enable the team to easily find information and quickly run reports. With the new system, the team experienced a 90% reduction in time spent finding information and creating reports. Not only that, but inspectors are more committed to working with the records team.
Stuckey and Company
Using a FileMaker Solution to Streamline the Organization
Stuckey & Company is a 27-year-old insurance provider emphasizing hard-to-get specialty insurance programs. Partnering with insurance companies such as The Hartford, Travelers, CNA, and Safeco, and serving over 9,732 insurance agencies and 16,000 independent agents, Stuckey & Company has a large and complex system of processes to handle. They manage the paperwork and requirements of their partner companies, those of their insurance agencies and their accounts, and every contact that’s a part of those accounts.
The company needed an automated system that could tackle multiple tasks, including quoting, invoicing, managing carrier relationships and products, reporting, compliance, and agent licensing. Stuckey and Company used FileMaker 16 to build a system that automated many processes and handled a variety of tasks. For one process alone, the company is saving about 200 hours of employee time each month.
These are just a few examples. FileMaker can be used to streamline many different business processes, for a variety of organization types.
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What You Can Use FileMaker For
You can use FileMaker to build just about anything, including databases, CRMs, and ERPs, both quickly and cost-effectively. The platform is extremely flexible, allowing you to create custom applications, both for desktops and for mobile, as well as databases.
Why is it so efficient to use FileMaker? FileMaker is a Workplace Innovation Platform — “low-code/no-code” platform that allows developers to create software with minimal programming (or even none at all). The low-code/no-code movement has been skyrocketing in popularity for a couple of reasons:
- Affordability — Companies don’t want to hire software developers in-house or pay the high cost of from-scratch development.
- Time — Building software from the ground up takes considerable amounts of time (typically multiple years). Low-code/no-code platforms allow developers to build software rapidly so that solutions can deploy quickly.
Companies have problems they need to solve, and they often don’t want to spend time and money unnecessarily. Low-code/no-code platforms like FileMaker give organizations a fast track to custom business solutions. FileMaker takes low-code/no-code further with its easy-to-use starter apps that can serve as a base and then be enhanced through connected add-on tables.
While you can purchase a license that allows you to host FileMaker and the applications you build with it on your own server, FileMaker is also offered in a PaaS (platform as a service) model — meaning that both the hardware and software tools that you need for development are delivered as a package via the Internet. With this model, you don’t have to deal with setting up the infrastructure you need, since it’s done for you. This model makes RAD (rapid application development) possible.
For these reasons, FileMaker is an ideal platform for building a custom CRM (customer relationship management) software (like Salesforce) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems (like SAP), as well as combinations of the two that function as one piece of software (like NetSuite). We’ll dig into the details a little later in this guide, but for now, just know that the functionality you can achieve with FileMaker’s low-code/no-code platform is truly unmatched.
FileMaker Features That Developers Love (and Your Business Will Too)
FileMaker (an independent company owned by Apple) has always had a close relationship with its tribe of users, who continue to engage with the company and with one another through user groups and the company’s annual developer conference (a truly unique experience). As the platform has developed, FileMaker has continued to listen to its customers, many of whom are using it to build enterprise-level solutions. The result is a platform that’s incredibly easy to use, with a feature set that’s ideal for building custom applications for businesses of all sizes and types.
While there are numerous fantastic features that developers are using in creative ways, here are a few of the most popular Filemaker features.
Signature Capture and Printing Solution — Automate signature capture for contracts, and easily generate invoices and receipts.
Geofencing and iBeacon — Build apps that actively listen for beacons and set up geofences. Send local alerts based on information accessed from your device (like meeting reminders).
cUrl — Developers can access nearly any RESTful API using cUrl.
Data API — The Data API exposes data from FileMaker apps in the standard JSON format, and a data connector offers integration with Tableau.
Support for OAuth 2.0 — Developers can integrate third-party authentication systems.
Starter Apps — Speed up development of custom solutions by quickly and easily combining predefined apps with additional tables for additional functionality.
Sensor Support — Automatically collect data in the field (such as air pressure, location, barometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, and battery level) on iPads and iPhones with sensor support.
Fast Data Import — Use a command-line tool to import large data sets within minutes.
iOS App SDK — Create iOS apps that connect to iOS technologies like push notifications, HealthKit, HomeKit, Apple Pay, and more.
Enjoy all of these features with a user-friendly Server Admin Console that has a dashboard to easily monitor custom apps, connected clients, and system stats. And notifications give you helpful details about handling error messages.
Many of these features are new to FileMaker 17, which was released in May of 2018. Because FileMaker has made it a priority to continue improving the platform and adding new features, they offer an Annual subscription that allows you to always have the latest version at no extra charge. It’s worth subscribing to an Annual license, rather than buying a Perpetual license, because you’ll not only have access to the latest functionality as technology develops, you’ll also keep your applications secure with the latest security features.
FileMaker Integrations that Make Your Business More Efficient
One of the most attractive characteristics of FileMaker is its flexibility. With a variety of plugins and integrations already available, combined with how easy it is to connect to external SQL data and integrate with other popular apps and web services through powerful APIs, you can connect your application built with FileMaker to nearly any database or other software. You can accomplish everything from generating barcodes, to sending and receiving emails within the application, to connecting QuickBooks to eliminate the need for double data entry.
To give you an idea of what you can do with plugins and integrations, here are a few of the most popular FileMaker integrations that developers are using today:
FileMaker + Adobe PDF
Import data from PDFs and automatically generate PDFs from data in your FileMaker application.
FileMaker + Amazon
Streamline selling on Amazon by integrating your FileMaker application with Amazon Marketplace Web Service.
FileMaker + BaseCamp
Import data from BaseCamp into your FileMaker application, and vice versa.
FileMaker + HelloSign
Use HelloSign to provide an easy e-signature option for documents generated through your FileMaker application.
FileMaker + HubSpot
Eliminate the need to enter information separately into both your FileMaker application and HubSpot.
FileMaker + MailChimp
Exchange subscriber and CRM data between your FileMaker application and MailChimp.
FileMaker + MySQL
Import and export data from your MySQL databases into and out of your FileMaker application.
FileMaker + Office 365
Access all your Office 365 data in your FileMaker application, and send email directly from your FileMaker application.
FileMaker + Oracle
Connect your FileMaker application to your SAP system and other systems that use Oracle databases.
FileMaker + QuickBooks
Generate invoices and quotes via QuickBooks from your FileMaker application.
FileMaker + WordPress
Import form submission data and other data from WordPress into your FileMaker application.
There are literally hundreds of integrations that you can connect with FileMaker. Also worthy to note:
- QR Codes
FileMaker for Building Customized CRMs
Because it’s so flexible, FileMaker is an ideal platform for creating a customized CRM. You can build a solution specifically designed to facilitate your individual business processes quickly and efficiently. And it’s significantly more cost-effective than SaaS offerings with similar customization capabilities.
FileMaker-based CRM vs. Salesforce
Unless you have thousands of users who need to access your CRM, FileMaker beats Salesforce in nearly every arena. The notable exception is if you need to develop a mobile application for the Android platform. Here’s what to consider when you’re evaluating using a FileMaker-based solution vs. Salesforce.
- Salesforce is difficult and expensive to customize. If you need a lot of customization, even as a larger company, the ROI on a Salesforce customization is typically quite low.
- FileMaker applications can be modified easily during RAD (rapid application development), even while users are actively accessing the database. This is extremely difficult to achieve using Salesforce.
- The cost of using FileMaker is next to nothing compared with Salesforce. If your company is seeking to increase profitability in operations, FileMaker is an excellent choice.
FileMaker-based CRM vs. HubSpot CRM
The HubSpot CRM is beautifully-designed, and basic functionality is free. The Starter solution is affordably-priced, which gives users the ability to create templates, automate email sequences, and gain insight from robust reporting. If you need lead scoring, customized send items, and other functionality, the price goes up. Here’s what you need to know when comparing FileMaker with HubSpot.
- HubSpot’s isn’t customizable. It’s a set SaaS offering that allows you to create custom deal stages and contact properties, but doesn’t offer a way to implement additional functionality of any kind.
- If you need features not included in the Starter package, you’ll be paying more, which can add up quickly if you have a larger team.
FileMaker-based CRM vs. Insightly CRM
Insightly is known for its extremely simple user interface. Even those who are technophobic are usually comfortable using Insightly. Pricing for the Professional option is similar to HubSpot’s Starter offering, and workflow automation is included in that price. As with the Hubspot CRM, functionality is limited, however, and customers report spotty support. Here’s what you need to know.
- Similar to HubSpot, Insightly is not customizable beyond pipeline stages, reporting, and basic task management.
- If you want the ability to send more than 5,000 emails per month, or if you need dynamic screen layouts, you’ll be paying double the Professional price per user per month.
FileMaker-based CRM vs. Microsoft Access
Access comes with Microsoft’s bundle of office management software, making it extremely affordable. The cost is its primary advantage. Access runs on Windows only, so if you have Mac or iOS users, Access isn’t going to be a good option for you. Here’s what to consider when evaluating the two options.
- While both platforms offer customization capability, FileMaker alone offers a framework that can be improved and extended with already-built plug-ins. And FileMaker’s easy-to-use API makes it extremely simple to integrate with nearly any other software or database.
- Access can be faster to set up if you’re creating databases that don’t need much customization. Their templates are sufficient for many uses. On the other hand, FileMaker has a better template offering.
- FileMaker can be used to create beautiful interfaces that offer an exceptional user experience, while Access is extremely limited in this area.
FileMaker-based Jarvis CRM
If you’re looking for a fully-customizable already-built solution that’s ready to go out of the box, you may want to consider the FileMaker-based Jarvis CRM. Jarvis is a full-featured business solution for desktop, mobile and web that runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and in a web browser.
Jarvis includes common elements that all businesses need, and is easily customizable to meet very specific uses. Jarvis has several features that make it ideal for companies who need a customized CRM, or even a combination CRM/ERP solution, since it’s both flexible and easy to modify:
- Beautiful Interface
- Customizable to your business
- Can integrate with nearly any other systems
- Fully unlocked
FileMaker as an ERP
Enterprise ERP systems such as SAP and PeopleSoft are both expensive and complex, making them undesirable for small or mid-sized operations. Thanks to FileMaker’s flexibility and the ease of integration using APIs, it’s well-suited for building custom ERP systems for these organizations. You can cost-effectively create ERP systems that are specifically designed for your individual businesses processes and operations.
Companies in a variety of industries are using FileMaker-based ERP systems, including manufacturing, retail, and real estate management. Because FileMaker is so flexible, you can build systems that include precise functionality for multi-platform environments. Integrations allow you to process payroll and accounting, track inventory, production, orders, customers, and prospects, and do estimates and invoicing, among many other tasks.
How FileMaker Templates Speed Up Development
Myriad templates, or starter solutions, are available for FileMaker. Rather than starting from scratch, you can use these templates as a beginning point and easily add fields and modify layouts to customize them. Think of templates and starter solutions as pre-built frameworks that you can use to create exactly what you desire. You can find templates for CRMs, inventory systems, and more, which can be fully customized to create stunning interfaces with the functionality you need.
A good example is the Jarvis CRM, mentioned earlier in this guide. Jarvis is a starter solution that has all key CRM features built in, so all the developer needs to do is tweak it for the company’s individual needs.
What You Need to Know About FileMaker Licensing and Hosting
FileMaker has a variety of licensing and hosting options available, with flexibility to meet the needs of just about any team.
FileMaker For Individuals
Individuals can purchase a single-user license for FileMaker Pro Advanced at a one-time charge. You can purchase up to five individual licenses this way. If you already own FileMaker Pro 16, FileMaker Pro 16 Advanced, FileMaker Pro 15, FileMaker Pro 15 Advanced, FileMaker Pro 14, or FileMaker Pro 14 Advanced, you can take advantage of upgrade pricing that’s discounted. Individual licenses don’t expire, and you’re free to use the software as much as you like.
FileMaker for Teams
If you have a team, you have a several options available, depending on whether you want to host the software and the applications you create on your own server or whether you want to use FileMaker in the Cloud and host your applications on FileMaker’s Cloud servers. All team versions include FileMaker Pro Advanced, FileMaker Server, FileMaker Go, and FileMaker WebDirect.
If you want to keep FileMaker on your own server (with a license, you’re allowed to store the software on up to three servers) you can choose between Annual or Perpetual pricing. With Annual pricing, you’ll pay once a year and enjoy access to the latest version at no extra charge. With Perpetual pricing, you pay once (at a cost triple that of Annual pricing), and you’ll be charged for upgrades when you want to use a new version of the software. Because FileMaker releases significantly-improved versions each year with new features, most teams find that Annual pricing is significantly more cost-effective. Pricing is based on number of users.
FileMaker uses Amazon Web Services for their Cloud hosting, an extremely reliable and secure platform used by many top companies, including 3M, Atlassian, Citrix, Comcast, GE, IMDb, Intuit, and the National Bank of Canada (just to name a few). If you already have a FileMaker on-premise license, you can convert it to a Cloud license. Otherwise, you can purchase a Cloud license on a yearly basis. You’ll always have access to the latest version. As with on-premise licenses, pricing is based on number of users.
Purchasing from FileMaker vs. Purchasing from a FileMaker Business Alliance Partner
Important to note is that if you purchase a license through a FileMaker Business Alliance Partner, you’ll enjoy discounted pricing. FileMaker makes a strong effort to encourage customers to take advantage of the support that FileMaker Business Alliance Partners provide, so they offer discounted pricing that these developers pass on to their clients. It will be worth your time to find a partner with experience in your industry, not only to help you with your project, but also to take advantage of better pricing.
FileMaker: An Ultra-Customizable Platform That’s Both Affordable and Fast
Thanks to FileMaker’s low-code/no-code ability to be used with RAD (rapid application development) strategies, it’s an ideal platform for companies who either need to build a custom business solution quickly or for those who want a cost-effective way to improve profitability.
If you’re interested in exploring the possibility of using FileMaker to create your custom software solution, see what The Scarpetta Group has to offer as a Platinum member of the FileMaker Business Alliance. We not only offer the best pricing on FileMaker licensing, we also have extensive experience developing custom software solutions in a variety of industries.
Our clients enjoy working with us because, in addition to our development expertise, we provide insights from our experience with improving and streamlining business processes. We help our clients evaluate how their current processes could be automated and simplified, freeing their staff to spend time on other valuable tasks.