Creating your own custom business app

Creating your own custom business app

By James Chiswell Jones

It’s surprising (to me at least) how many small and medium sized businesses are running entirely on spreadsheets and other off-the-shelf software, often using tools that were not designed for the purpose. For instance, many businesses use Excel as their CRM or To Do list. On the other hand, custom software can bring many benefits to businesses including;
  • Saving time
  • Improved efficiency
  • Simplified workflows
  • Automation of repetitive tasks
  • Consistent output of client facing material (reports, estimates etc)
  • Reduction of errors from transcribing data from one system to another
  • Ability to have access to critical information remotely via mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads
  • Integration with existing standalone systems such as accounting software and websites

Most importantly, a custom app can be created to reflect your unique business model and processes; something off-the-shelf software cannot do. Additionally, investing in your own software gives you a saleable asset if you come to sell your business. Given all these benefits, why don’t more small businesses take the plunge? I think the main reasons are cost and trust. Many people assume (incorrectly) that custom software is solely the domain of large corporations and government bodies and that it costs hundreds of thousands (or millions!) of pounds and this really isn’t the case at all. Furthermore, they worry that it will take too long or be too complex.

The solution to these concerns is to find the right tool and the right people to do the work. I believe the right solution is FileMaker (a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple) – an industry leading platform that can create software that runs on Windows PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones and the web. When you couple this with a skilled and experienced developer, your bespoke solution can be created cost effectively and quickly.
FileMaker is a great platform for SMEs because you can adapt it to any situation and your system can evolve with your business, so you can start small and build on it as your business grows.

Here are my top tips for creating your own software;
  • Ask about FileMaker developers and get recommendations.
  • When you’ve located a potential developer ask them for references (and speak to their referees!).
  • Find out about their previous relevant experience.
  • Ask to see examples of their work.
  • Make sure you’re really clear about what you want to achieve, your budget and your timeframe for achieving it. Complex projects will need to be split into phases with agreed deliverables for each phase.
  • Don’t pay for anything up front and make sure there’s a way of checking work in progress before you have to pay for it.
  • Get your staff involved in testing and make sure your App does what it’s meant to do before you start using it.

For further information visit;

Blog entry is closed for new comments.