Archive for June, 2012

Custom Database Software Development with FileMaker Pro

All of the posts on this website to date have been related to product design or development.  A recent project has highlighted a whole facet of our business that hasn’t been represented, custom database software development with FileMaker Pro.

A very Swell Idea, Inc. (AVSI) offers a unique perspective to the sale and development of custom software. Having designed software tools since 1997 for small businesses to manage their daily operations, AVSI has an excellent track record of making practical software tools that match and enhance existing business practices. Having designed custom machinery since 1991 across a wide range of industries, AVSI has an excellent track record of innovative problem solving and building mechanical systems that successfully serve their designed function. While typical software companies follow a standard business model of licensing software to the user that includes an initial per-seat cost and an annual license fee, AVSI approaches database software development with a custom machinery mindset; i.e., a fee is charged for the time and materials of the initial development, but no further fees are charged except for requested enhancements or unexpected issues. For this reason, we believe that our approach is a more desirable way to do business as it does not hold the owner hostage to a specific tool (charging fees for years to come) nor does it escalate fees for expansion of the user base. The only exception to this policy is that the core software tool, FileMaker Pro, is a traditional software tool that requires a per-seat license fee (approx $300) not paid to AVSI.

The primary benefit to commissioning a custom software tool, like when ordering a custom machine, is that the tool will be designed to behave exactly to your specifications. Any business that has been successful for several years will have inherent processes developed over time that greatly contribute to its success. Such processes usually contain checks-and-balances and other key features that have been developed by you, the owner(s), through trial-and-error, business training and industry research. By adopting an “off the shelf” software tool, the owner is essentially surrendering their tried-and-true operating processes in favor of another business’ processes. At times this may be advantageous, e.g. if the owner is planning to sell the company and wish to align their business processes with a potential buyer or if the owner’s business is not yet mature and they are looking for some best practices guidance. Adopting an “off the shelf” solution will be a learning experience, both in learning the software itself and in learning the business practices it promotes. It will require many hours of effort to become proficient at a tool which may or may not explicitly benefit the business in the long term. Some “off the shelf” tools can be manageable if they offer a sufficient level of personalization and customization, but this is rarely the case for small business software because the target market is too small to warrant such extensive up-front development. More often, there will be one or two key features that the owner (or state and local governments) deem necessary for doing business and the owner will accept to compromise their historical business knowledge in favor of the software developer’s offering.

At AVSI, we strive to capture the fundamental structure of your current processes and build them into a software tool that enhances your effectiveness. We tailor the design to your preferences, to your processes, to your existing tools and personnel. As much as you desire, we keep the paper processes intact, understanding that computers are not perfect and your existing processes are still valid. We work to understand what’s important to you and conform the tool’s features based upon that understanding. No extra, unused features will be included, so there will be no “work-around” steps necessary to make your tool work – it will be your tool. For these reasons, we believe that a custom software tool offers the best cost-to-benefit ratio both short and long term without compromising your business.

I encourage you to give us a call to discuss your custom software project and give us a chance to put our creative energy to work for you.

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Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 FileMaker, Swell Ideas Comments Off on Custom Database Software Development with FileMaker Pro