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eXcelisys

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About eXcelisys

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    eXcelisys
  • Birthday 09/01/2001

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    Founder/President
  • Industry
    Custom Database/Web Application Development
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    Not Telling
  • Location
    IN

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    http://www.excelisys.com

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    Expert
  • FM Application
    16 Advanced

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    Mac
  • OS Version
    High Sierra

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    16
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  1. FileMaker Pro Brings Light to the End of Repair Shop’s Dark Data Tunnel Solution Optimizes Workflow & Allows ERS to Analyze Data to Reduce Customers’ Repair Costs When an endoscope fails or performs poorly, it’s a big, costly deal. Broken scopes lead to downtime and downtime costs money. So how do hospitals, surgery centers and clinics keep their endoscopy suites in full working order? They rely on businesses like Endoscopy Repair Specialist Inc. (ERS) to provide preventive maintenance, loaners and quick-turn repairs on their ailing scopes. Founded in 2006, ERS fixes and refurbishes flexible and rigid endoscopes, video cameras, light cables, hand pieces and other surgical equipment. The company is based in Hastings, Michigan. And to be able to do all of that, ERS relies on FileMaker Pro. Before launching ERS, founding partners Robert Fisher and Bob Hile worked together as endoscope repair techs. Prior to that, Fisher honed his mechanical skills as a helicopter tech in the U.S. Navy. Recently, ERS sought a better way to manage its business-critical data. Previously, ERS had used a primitive FileMaker Pro database developed years ago by one of the owners back when ERS was a three-person shop. But now, ERS has grown. Desiring better employee access and state-of-the-art app efficiency, ERS turned to eXcelisys. In Fall 2017, eXcelisys delivered ERS’s new repair-shop tracker app. As an all-in-one business management system, the new FileMaker Pro solution gives ERS one platform to conduct all business affairs. The app does standard stuff, like generating invoices, bar codes and work orders, but it also coordinates workflow. To keep scopes churning through the repair pipeline, workflow is integrated into the app, which automatically walks employees through each process to ensure scopes move from receiving to repair to shipping with no interruptions. The FileMaker Pro solution also tracks endoscope repair history and location — as in where is the scope in the repair process? Is the endoscope waiting for a part, being fixed by a tech, or sitting in shipping? The app also helps ERS administer its loaner scope program. Another new feature includes the ability for techs to add photos and notes about the repairs that are needed so customers can understand the problem. “There’s no way to compare this system to the old one,” said CFO Denise Fisher, wife of ERS co-founder Robert Fisher. Denise says the new software solution has improved the efficiency with which ERS can access data. Retrieving critical data is certainly easier, thanks to the app’s all-inclusive “home screen” layout that offers search tabs and task tabs, making it easy to launch a task or filter for essential information. “I like to bring things up to the surface level,” said eXcelisys developer Duane Weller. “A lot of times with big databases, data tends to get buried.” As Weller worked on the new FileMaker Pro solution, he stayed mindful of ERS’s acute, day-to-day business needs. “They shouldn’t have to dive into the data to find the status of a scope,” said Weller, noting that in the old system, ERS employees had to go to a table and run a search to find simple information. Now, ERS can filter for any status right from the home screen. This is imperative because customers want to know what’s going on. ERS has about 150 scopes a month coming in and going out. Some stay a day, while others require several days for repair. The new app makes tracking a cinch with a status screen that tells ERS eXactly where each scope is. A flexible endoscope is basically a thin, bendy telescope made to snake through narrow passages, enabling physicians to eXamine and treat hard-to-reach areas of the human body. How Does FileMaker Pro Help Endoscopy Repair Specialist Inc. Manage Operations? Assists with Intake Evaluations/Repair Documentation After arriving at ERS, each piece of equipment undergoes a 31-step quality control inspection. During the inspection, techs diagnose the issue identified by the customer. Techs also look for signs of wear and tear and make recommendations for preventative maintenance. The app walks the techs through the inspection process, ensuring no component is missed. Inspection details are recorded on the app and archived (along with photos), allowing ERS to keep a historical record on the condition of each endoscope it repairs. Supports Data-Driven Customer Service “The new software is great for us internally, but to have it impact our customers as well is incredible,” said Customer Service Rep Shannah Zoller. Zoller uses the new app to compile monthly reports for customers showing the average cost of each repair, turn time and probable causes for the repairs being made. Because ERS keeps a history on each scope, ERS can identify when the same repair is being repeated. This helps clients spot repair trends so internal issues can be identified and staff training can be implemented to reduce repair costs. ERS provides customers with detailed repair logs to help them identify problematic handling and usage procedures that may be leading to repairs. This proactive customer-service approach helps ERS’s clients with repair-reduction efforts. Before the new software solution, customers would ask if it seemed like the same repair was being made over and over, but ERS had no hard data to prove it. Now, the information is readily available. “This data is invaluable in this industry,” said Zoller. “We are a small business that’s able to provide this huge service to our customers. We’re in constant communication.” Speeds Employee Training Zoller said the new FileMaker Pro system has made ERS “more efficient as a company” and has helped the medical-device repair shop “eXpand quicker than we eXpected” because of the increased efficiency with which employees can be trained. Before, ERS had to guide new employees through each process step, but now, the app automatically prompts for the next step, helping new hires get up to speed quicker. Manages Data, Ensuring Repair Efficiency The repair-tracking app also ensures that the techs know what is wrong with a scope when it arrives in the repair lab. Techs never have to waste time asking around to find out what’s wrong with a scope. “We now have procedures in place to make sure our techs are being efficient with repairs,” said Denise Fisher. “Everything is written down and documented — it’s not verbally stated or scratched down on a piece of paper.” When ERS had fewer techs, they could communicate verbally about repairs, but that’s no longer an effective way to handle operations. Tracks Loaner Inventory Before the new software solution, ERS had no system for tracking its 52 loaners. Now, the app tracks if a loaner is out at a customer site, is in process onsite, or is available for use. Previously, an ERS employee had to walk to the lab to see how many loaners were in stock. In addition, workflow for the loaners is built into the app so the minute a loaner arrives back at ERS, the employee who checks it in is prompted to send it on for inspection so it can be placed back in rotation. Scoping out the Future ERS is pleased with the work of Duane Weller, the developer, and eXcelisys project manager Greg Furry. “From the beginning, the eXperience was nothing but positive,” said Denise Fisher. “Yes, there were panic moments when something wasn’t working quite like we wanted, but Duane would call us immediately and fix the issue. Duane is fantastic. He’s very good at his job.” In recent months, Zoller has been trying her hand at development, making small tweaks as ERS discovers more ways to harness the power of FileMaker Pro. “If I can do some minor things, that’s great for us as a company,” said Zoller, noting it cuts down on development costs. Zoller said Weller is always willing to provide FMP coaching/consulting by reviewing her code. As the daughter of ERS co-founder Robert Fisher and CFO Denise Fisher, Zoller takes pride in helping move the business forward. “I am pretty proud of my parents,” she said. To read more about eXcelisys’ software design, development and consulting services, click here. The post FileMaker Pro Brings Light to the End of Repair Shop’s Dark Data Tunnel appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  2. Part 5: Rassling with the R’s — Roles and Responsibilities in Software Development Knowing the Software Development Roles… It’s important to get the right people in the right place at the right time. Once the development project launches, everyone involved will have an opinion, eXpertise and investment in the outcome. To get the best results, it’s important to use each person in the right way. Quality in, quality out. In this installment, we’ll walk you through client and developer duties so you’ll know who should be doing what. For a development project to succeed, it must be properly managed by both the client and the developer. Each side comes to the project with a somewhat different mind-set, but ultimately, they are working toward the same shared goal of successfully deploying a well-functioning, transformative solution that improves the efficiency of the business. Though each side seeks the same end result, the responsibilities for keeping the project on track and running smoothly are a little different. Client Side Point Person/Project Lead: This is the go-to person who serves as the authority for all client activity and decision-making. If this person is an end user, they can provide information and feedback directly to the developer. If not, the project lead will coordinate with end users who can provide detailed requirements and ongoing feedback as the project unfolds. The project lead is responsible for managing the scope of the project and determining development priorities. End users typically want more features than the budget allows, so it will be up to the client’s point person to make decisions about what gets included and what waits. Sometimes, the budget must be increased to accommodate the changes; other times, the features have to be prioritized to reduce the scope. As the scope of the project evolves, the client’s point person must communicate the changes and priorities to the development team. The client’s point person must also stay mindful of budget requirements and relay this information to the developer, both initially and as development progresses. The point person gives approval for changes in scope that will affect the overall development timeline. This has to be communicated with the developer’s project manager (PM) so there is no ambiguity about how much budget is available (on the client side) and how much time is required (on the developer side). The PM and client project lead must get their heads together to make sure eXpectations match reality. Sometimes, the client eXpects the project to be completed in the original time frame estimated by the developer even though more features have been added through ongoing development discussions. If things have changed, as they always do, the budget and time eXpectation must be reset. End Users: These are the guys in the trenches. They are the ones who are doing the work that will be managed by the new application. They know their workflow, can identify current inefficiencies and eXplain any workarounds they have created. They are the ones best able to provide the information that will define the scope of the project. They are also the ones who should be the testers of the solution while it is in development so they can give feedback along the way about its effectiveness. Developer Side Project Manager: The project manager (PM) makes sure the development process stays on track. Sometimes the developer fills this role, while other times there is a separate person who takes on management duties. It is important to have someone who has oversight of the progress and development of the project. This is often best accomplished by someone other than the developer to maintain objectivity. The PM makes sure the developer has all of the information necessary to keep the development moving forward. At times, they will prompt the client’s point person to provide more information or feedback so the developer can continue working. The PM keeps an eye on the developer’s time to make sure that the work provided by the developer is in line with the stated requirements and approved budget. The PM may periodically ask the developer for updated estimates to make sure the time eXpectations are accurate and alert the client if estimates change. The PM is the one who asks for additional funding, if necessary. They are the liaison between what the client eXpects and what the developer can produce within the allotted budget and time frame. Sometimes, that means asking for more money. Other times, it means reducing the number of features than can be included. Developer: The developer is the one with the technological wizardry who translates the client vision into a working product. These hands produce the seeming magic. The developer has to have a clear understanding of how the software will be used in order to replicate the workflow electronically. This requires a lot of detail. Don’t be surprised if your thoughts about each task evolve as you try to eXplain how it is supposed to work. Also, don’t be surprised if you have to eXplain things multiple times. Every time you repeat your eXplanation, the features become more clear to the developer. Take the time now to help them understand it clearly before they spend time creating something they will have to amend later. Even at that, eXpect that many things will be reworked after you review the development progress and give feedback. eXecution It is easy for a custom development project to get off-track if it isn’t properly managed. To successfully complete a project, the focus of the work must be controlled. The best way to ensure that the development makes it to the finish line is to have each person with direct responsibility for the project participate, appropriately, according to their role. Successful projects of any kind require proper planning and eXecution. For software development, planning and communication are critical. It’s an eXpensive proposition that can be very frustrating if it is unclear what should be happening along the way. With clear decision-making and all of the players in the right roles, the unexpected won’t derail the project. It’s important to keep the end goal in mind and the mission-critical features at the top of the priority list. The end result of working through the creative process to produce a finished product is a satisfying accomplishment in addition to the major impact it has on your business. Coming soon, Part 6 — Champagne App on a Beer Budget: Discovery Decisions On Features & Functions. If you missed the previous installments, find them here: Part 1: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Part 2: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing & Billing Models Part 4: Making the Plan for Planning Your Plan of the Project Plan — What Do We Need to Get This Development Party Started! To read more about eXcelisys’ software design, development and consulting services, click here. The post Survival Guide (Part 5 of 7): Find, Hire and Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  3. FileMaker Pro Audit Trail “Revisited” By Doug West Nearly four years have passed since our last Easy-Bake FileMaker Pro Audit Trail made its Internet debut. The same principles are still going strong, and now we’ve added some bells and whistles based on user feedback. The steps to implement this revised FileMaker Pro audit trail technique in your own solution is as easy as: Copy the four custom functions from this demo file and paste them into each file of your app. Copy the _audit field and paste into each table of your app. (Optional) Add excluded field names in a script that runs when the first window opens. Our primary goals in revisiting this technique were to: Remove the need for the New Record script included in the prior tip file Audit all repetitions of repeating fields Capture changes made through the use of the Replace Field Contents command The first of these goals provides two benefits. Besides the direct effects of the simplification and reduced effort to implement, we also gained support for auditing changes in portal rows without scripting. Performance is always a concern when it comes to background processing and we’ve done what we could to minimize the overhead. The impact may not be noticed when editing a single record. However, when using the Replace Field Contents command, the performance impact can quickly become apparent with even relatively small found sets. The Get(ModifiedFields) function, unfortunately, doesn’t report the field modified with a Replace. Instead, we’re forced to evaluate every field on the record and compare the current field contents to the latest corresponding value in the audit history. If a future version of FileMaker Pro provides us with this useful detail, performance will improve automatically without modifying these custom functions. Of course, this type of audit log stores the history on the same record as the current values. So what happens to the history when you delete the record? The history gets deleted along with it. A variety of solutions have been proposed to address this situation. If you’re concerned about this dilemma, why not simply capture the history to a background table through a scripted process before deleting the record? The _audit field in this technique is also no longer dependent on a modification timestamp field in each table. If you know of an easier way to add an audit log to a FileMaker solution, we’d love to hear about it. Enjoy using this revised version of the FileMaker Pro audit trail technique! •• Download AuditTrailRevisited.zip •• **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. The post [FMP Tip-n-Trick] FileMaker Pro Audit Trail “Revisited” appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  4. Part 4: Making the Plan for Planning Your Plan of the Project Plan – What Do We Need to Get This Software Development Party Started! You’ve decided that custom app development is for you. You’ve vetted software firms, sorted out your contract and hired a developer. You’re ready to start creating the ideal solution for your business. Now what? As you start a custom software development project, it is important to gather as much of the necessary information up front as you can to be certain that you account for everything you know. Then you can better define the details of your business requirements and workflow for the developer. Define the Project Important elements of any software development project need to be clearly defined. Where are you starting and where do you want to end up? It helps to know what you are using now, but it’s equally important to understand how it falls short of your needs. Are you updating an eXisting solution or do you want to replace it? Will it, could it, should it integrate with other systems you use? What business processes do you wish you could tie together? Anything you do on paper or in spreadsheets is a candidate for being built into a software solution. Anything you wish you could automate could be included. Bring all of these parts into the conversation with your developer because the developer can determine what can be automated and integrated. Don’t presuppose that something can’t be done because more than likely, there is a way. After discussing all of the possibilities you get to decide what features will give you the most bang for your buck based on your budget and time. The following questions can help you define the project: Which Technology Is Right for You? Many people come into a development project with a preconceived idea about what should be used to create their application. That might come from a recommendation from a friend or another business owner, or it might come from research or personal eXperience. It’s helpful to eXplore the range of options enough to get an idea of what is available to help facilitate conversations with your developer, but ultimately your developer is a technology eXpert and should be able to make recommendations about the best development methods, programming languages and tools for your needs. That said, there are a couple of considerations for determining the right technology. The first is what you are currently using. The second is what is most appropriate for your needs. If these are the same, that simplifies the process. The new solution can be created in the technology you currently use. This is common — and more often than not, the best-case scenario — but it isn’t always the best answer to take your business to the next level. To figure that out takes some input from both you and your developer. Remember, you are the content eXpert and the developer is the technology eXpert. You should feel comfortable relying on your developer’s eXpertise to make technology recommendations based on the scope of your needs. Don’t be married to something that isn’t the right fit. You may regret it later. This is where conversations with multiple development firms can help so you can be confident you have made a good decision in the end to get the right type of solution built by the right company. Input Even if the developer is familiar with your industry that doesn’t mean the developer is familiar with your particular business model. You will need to eXplain it in detail, maybe multiple times, before they understand it well enough to translate it into a software solution. Whatever concrete elements you can provide will help draw the picture of what you are trying to do. Old reports, data input forms, spreadsheets, diagrams, needs analysis and a list of requirements all help the developer understand what you are trying to achieve. The earlier those things can be gathered, the better the planning process will be. However, don’t eXpect that those resources can stand alone without any eXplanation of how they fit into your workflow. The developer will not know the nuance of how they are used in your business. You will need to eXplain that. Working through the resources with your developer will help you be more clear in your eXplanations about how things should work and will bring into focus the overall scope of the project. As you begin to eXplain how each element fits into your workflow, you may recognize inefficiencies that you want to change during the course of development. Being patient with this part of the process will improve the final solution and likely your business processes overall. Timeline Everyone wants it yesterday because it’s a huge issue today. But what is a realistic eXpectation based on the size of the project and its complexity? Your developer can help you work out a timeline once the project has been well-defined. Development always takes longer than eXpected, so build in a time cushion if there is a rigid deadline for getting your app deployed. Once all of the information has been gathered and a realistic timeline has been set, it is time to put the project in the hands of those who will be responsible for making it a success. In the next installment, we will define the necessary roles to complete your project efficiently. Coming soon, Part 5 —Rassling with the R’s — Roles and Responsibilities If you missed the previous installments, find them here: Part 1: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Part 2: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing & Billing Models To read more about eXcelisys’ software design, development and consulting services, click here. The post Survival Guide: Find, Hire and Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! (Part 4 of 7) appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  5. Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing & Billing Models Creating the perfect vision of your business and even how a software solution enhances that vision is the fun part of dreaming about growing a business. Brainstorming ideas and building a mental picture of how business could be done more efficiently, or eXpanded, really gets the juices flowing. Creativity is unleashed. Evaluating the costs associated with business development, however, tends to kill the creativity. This is particularly true of software development because it often feels like a luxury item rather than an integral part of the dream, even though it is one of the elements of success. Money is such a stressor that it often keeps a business owner from jumping into the deep end of the pool to reach the potential that the business could become. Software development is even worse. It’s hard to evaluate something you don’t understand and even harder to know if you’re getting a good deal or hiring the right developer. The first question is whether custom development and the associated costs are worth it. Without understanding the time and effort required to build an application, custom development prices may seem high compared to commercial application options. And frankly, they are. An off-the-shelf application has been developed with a general business model in mind so it doesn’t fit anyone eXactly, but is close enough for many. The creators of the application make back their investment through repeat sales so the cost per sale can potentially be fairly low. Customization may or may not be an option after the sale, so eXpect to adapt at least some business processes to match the features and workflow of a commercial application. That is the trade-off for a lower price tag. Custom software is designed specifically for your business model and workflow. You are the only one with that product and all of the time and effort spent to create it is done on your behalf. The value of custom is that it handles all of the work requirements you decide should be included and is designed to make your business much more efficient. As the business grows, the custom app can be tweaked to accommodate that growth. That means less time doing manual procedures or using workarounds to meet your work requirements for years. The trade-off here is that it costs more up front to build the perfect app and it will take more time to get it up and running. The return on investment, however, can potentially be huge in reducing operating costs while allowing for business eXpansion as employees refocus their efforts in more productive directions. Because any licensing costs are usually dramatically less than with most commercial solutions, surprisingly, it can often be less eXpensive than a commercial option in just a few years. Pricing Before deciding which is the right direction for you, it is helpful to understand the pricing structures developers use and how they use them to try to charge a fair price for their services. Hopefully, by gaining a little insight about the different billing models the evaluation process will become clearer. Most developers use one of three pricing scenarios — a fixed bid (quote), a fixed bid with change orders, or an estimate. All of these methods are based on developer estimates. None of them can guarantee how long the actual work will take and no developer can calculate the eXact amount of time a project will require. Therefore, all methods are formulated from a “best estimate” based on the known elements of the project. A note about developer accuracy in estimating. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. A novice developer will generally underestimate the amount of time needed to complete the project and will offer an estimate or quote based on the eXact amount of work that’s projected to be done (with no allowances for the unknowns). A seasoned developer will do a better job of estimating the necessary time, both in hours and in calendar days. Their estimate may be higher but that’s because their eXperience allows them to anticipate, and account for, roadblocks that could pop up and cause additional development time and money. Once the project is under way, the developer who underestimates the required time may walk away when they get to the point of diminishing returns — especially if they hit a development snag and realize they can’t turn a profit finishing the project with all of the requirements. That usually translates to cutting corners and omitting things that would make the finished product perfect. Some will stand by their word and take a financial hit to finish the work. The eXperienced developer, however, knows that a successful project always takes a bit longer than anticipated and has considered this when compiling the estimate. Quotes, Bids and Estimates Quote: A quote is usually a fixed price that the developer gives to the client after going through a discovery phase to determine as many of the details of the project as possible. Generally, this employs a very rigid requirements document and a well-defined scope of work. Whether the development time required is more or less than the amount of time that price represents, it is what the client pays. Period. Developers who use quotes without change orders have to make a best guess about how much additional time will be required for the unknowns and inevitable changes and add that to the quote. You pay for that time, whether it is actually used or not. Fixed bid with change orders: Most often a quote comes with allowances for “change orders.” In this model, the same process is used to arrive at the initial bid as with a quote. However, if the project scope changes and new functionality is added after the scope document is approved by the client, the developer adds an up-charge for each change. In this model, it is possible for the initial quoted project price to be reasonably low and the final price to be many times higher. Keep in mind it is rare for a project scope to remain the same from start to finish so cost eXpectations should be adjusted accordingly. The changes and additions are commonly called “feature creep.” They happen because in the process of reviewing your workflow to create an app that accurately reflects it, you will re-evaluate and modify some processes along the way and you’ll want the completed application to incorporate these changes. Estimates: With this model, the developer and client go through a reasonable amount of discovery, which may be a little or a lot depending on the complexity of the project and the amount of known information. Based on the scope of the project determined in the discovery phase, the developer or project manager makes an accounting of the number and complexity of the features and gives a range of the eXpected hours it will take to build. This is not a hard and fast price but a best guess based on eXperience. The client is then billed for the actual amount of work time required. Many people are uncomfortable with what they view as an open-ended price, but they are generally presupposing that the project will go beyond the high end of the estimate. This is not necessarily the case, especially in the hands of a seasoned developer. With an estimate, the client pays for the actual amount of development time. The final cost may actually come in lower than the estimate. Feature Creep The danger in all billing methods is the previously mentioned feature creep. One of the great advantages of custom software development is that you often recognize potential improvements to your workflow as a result of defining it in detail for the developer. Being able to modify the application while it is in development can improve your overall business efficiency. You want to take advantage of that as long as the feature creep doesn’t overwhelm the development process. If left unchecked, it can easily cause the project scope to get out of control and/or eXceed the budget. This is why an “open-ended” estimate feels like a black hole and a quote feels like a tidy box. Time management all depends on how modifications are handled. A strategy for dealing with modifications should be determined at the outset so that it is a benefit and not a hindrance. Feature creep can be easily controlled by focusing on the priorities first and saving bonus items for later in the development process. A good developer will help you identify and manage feature creep, ensuring that core priorities don’t fall to the wayside in favor of more eXciting new features. Your developer should categorize features in terms of needs vs. wants and tackle the needs right out of the gate to ensure they get done. Rates Two concepts are worth mentioning here. The first is the rates developers charge. Software development may feel like the Wild West but developers by and large tend to charge what they feel their skill is worth. Low-priced developers are often young (in the sense of time in developing their skill), inexperienced (with the technologies) or slow (haven’t mastered the techniques efficiently). The price seems right, but the work may be subpar or a lot of hours end up being billed because of slow development. More eXperienced and skilled developers are more thorough, quick to resolve development challenges and faster to produce the final product. They charge more per hour but bill fewer hours. The overall cost often works out about the same but can come with a noticeable difference in quality. The second concept is the three intertwined factors of any service: good, fast and cheap. The rule of thumb is that you can choose two of the three, but you can’t have all three. If the product is good and done fast it will be eXpensive. If it’s done fast and cheap it will not meet eXpectations. If it is good and cheap the developer has to spend time on other paying work to afford the time to make it good at a low price, which requires eXtra calendar time. You choose which two are the most important factors. Billing Fixed: The quote proposal defines both the scope of work and the final price, as well as the billing increments. Commonly, the agreement will be for some form of half down and half on delivery or payment in thirds with 100% paid before the finished app is delivered. Payment before delivery protects the developer from disgruntled clients refusing to pay for time and effort on their behalf. Hourly: This usually means some method of hourly pricing based on the actual hours worked. This could be billed at a straight hourly rate or even by the day, week or month. It can be handled as a pre-pay retainer or invoiced at regular intervals during development. In this scenario, the developer may deliver several intermediate builds and a finished product when the work is complete. Because this is a pay-as-you-go arrangement, developers tend to feel more free to share the work as it unfolds because they have been compensated for their time along the way. Now that we’ve established how to approach the prospect of custom software development with the right mind-set and eXpectations, it’s time to dig into proper planning. In the next installment, we will discuss the planning and organization of development, including how to define the scope of the project, gather the necessary information for your developer, and delegate responsibilities. If you missed Part 2, find it here: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Read Part 4 of 7: Coming soon — Making the Plan for Planning Your Plan of the Project Plan To read more about eXcelisys’ software design, development and consulting services, click here. The post Survival Guide: Find, Hire and Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! (Part 3 of 7) appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  6. Part 2: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Figuring out how to choose a great developer can be bewildering without some insight about what to look for. In this segment of our seven-part series on choosing and working with a custom app developer, we will eXplore some tips on how to vet developer candidates. Hiring a developer is about creating a working relationship. You want someone who gets your business and gets you. Having a good working relationship often determines the success or failure of a development project. Hire someone you are comfortable with who also has the skills necessary to make your project successful. Beyond the quality of the working relationship, there are several questions to ask that will help you determine if you have chosen the right developer. The Interview Developers Is the company an individual developer or is there a team of developers? If it’s an individual, do they have a backup plan if they get hit by the proverbial bus? Individuals can be great developers, but it’s good to have a plan B. If there is a team, are the developers dedicated to that company or is there third-party outsourcing? Dedicated developers, whether employees or dedicated subcontractors, have a track record with the company and presumably work well within the framework of that company’s development services. They are bound by the service model of the company you hire and should represent the values and ethics of that company well. Outsourcing refers to services that are rendered outside of the company hired to do the work. Outsourcing can be used to bring in someone with specialized technical eXpertise in an area the company lacks, or to provide staffing they don’t have. This is not necessarily bad and, when used well, can benefit the client, but understand that it can complicate a project depending on the lines of communication and availability. Some companies manage these arrangements well, while others feel a little hodge-podge. Bringing in an outside developer for technical eXpertise can improve the final product by getting the right technology or eXtended services for a solution rather than the hired developer providing a subpar workaround. Some eXamples of technical outsourcing include branding/logo design, server configuration or even eXtension/plug-in development. The most common image of outsourced development is offshore developers halfway around the world who work on the cheap, have limited availability during regular business hours and often suffer from a language and/or cultural barrier. That may be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are many sources for outsourcing to provide development staff. An outsourced developer could be an independent contractor, a discount developer (like through eLance or Upwork), offshore or a partner development company. Outsourcing to provide development staff tends to be hit-or-miss, depending on how the developers are chosen and how incentivized they are to prioritize you as their client. The worst scenario is discovering after the fact that the development company does not actually have their own developers and operates simply as a middle-man. In this case, the client may be at a serious disadvantage especially if there isn’t direct access or communication with the developer(s). It is good to know the arrangement ahead of time so informed decisions can be made. The important idea here is, Is the assigned developer(s) skilled in all of the required technologies for the project or is there a provision for what they may lack? It isn’t always possible to know all of the moving parts or required technologies of a larger development project, but what is known should be accounted for. Communication The lines of communication are fundamentally important to the success of any development project. Developers use different models, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into. As a client, you may have direct access to your developer, communicate through a project manager, or via a ticket system. Direct Access: With direct access you communicate directly with your developer(s) to collaborate on your project. There isn’t a middle-man who acts as a go-between, so delays in getting information back and forth should be minimized and understanding should be maximized. Project Manager: Many projects involve a project manager. Often, this person acts as an intermediary for all or most communication; however, this leaves open the opportunity for misunderstandings. When there is a project manager overseeing progress, you probably still want to have direct access to your developer so you can eXplain your vision directly and the developer can ask questions as necessary for clarification. Ticket System: Perhaps the least efficient method of communication is a ticket system. This is where the client enters all requests and questions through electronic messages in a formal structure. You have to be clear in your description of your request and hope the developer interprets it correctly because there generally won’t be much, if any, direct communication. It’s like playing the grade school game of telephone and hoping the message loops through intact. This is often used in larger development firms, companies who employ offshore developers and companies who don’t assign a specific developer to a project, but who assign tasks to developers on a first-come, first-served basis. eXperience How much eXperience does the developer have? Many people want the developer to have eXperience or background in their specific industry. In development terms that can be helpful, but is not a requirement. The developer will have to be educated in your specific business flow regardless of their familiarity with your industry, so this is usually a minor factor. Often, as you provide a broad summary of your goals and work flow, the developer may connect the concept to other projects that use similar processes even in completely different industries. From the developer perspective, the process is more important than the industry. The important question you want answered is how eXperienced are they in the processes and appropriate technologies for your project. Certification Is the developer certified and does that matter? Software development still has a little bit of a “Wild West” feel and many developers are self-taught. Certification lets you know they know their technology, but it doesn’t indicate their level of mastery or application of the technology. Certification may be a good first step in vetting a potential developer, but it is not the only consideration. References There are many people who market their ability as a developer, but it’s hard to tell if they are good at what they do. Beyond eXperience and certification, how do they perform as a developer? You are hiring someone and making a fair investment in them over time so consider it like hiring an employee and check their references. How were previous working relationships? Did they understand the business need? Did they deliver a quality product? Did they set appropriate time and budget eXpectations and revisit them as requirements evolved through the development cycle? Were they good communicators? All of these help you build a picture of the developer you are hiring. Ownership One thing people don’t often stop to consider is ownership of custom software. Who maintains ownership during the development process and who owns it (and has access to it) when it’s finished? In a work-for-hire arrangement, the client may or may not own the product during the development process and have full access to the guts of it when the project is finished. If it is a quoted contract, the developer usually owns the product until the last farthing is paid according to the contract. This means that if things go south during the development process and the relationship ends, the client has nothing to show for their investment. Other times, the developer may maintain developer access even after the project is finished, which means you can access it as a user, but you cannot get into the guts if you want to make changes yourself or hire someone else to make modifications in the future. This is where a contract or service agreement is infinitely helpful in spelling out the details and removing any points of contention. The caution here is to know what you’re getting and when. In addition to the agreement between the developer and client, there are other factors that may affect ownership depending on the technologies used to develop your app. These include, but are not limited to, the following: U.S. Copyright law State Work-For-Hire laws Intellectual property rights Licensed software End User License Agreement (EULA) Open source technologies licensing agreements (EULA, creative-commons [CC], general public license [GPL]) You will want to be fully informed about how these might affect your freedom to use and distribute your app in the future. Having this discussion on the front end will help alleviate any frustrations or disappointments on the back end related to the ownership of the solution you have paid for. The discussion on ownership and when ownership transfers from the developer to the client leads to the all important question about pricing. Since this tends to be the central focus of who to hire and is often the primary consideration, it warrants a more in-depth discussion in order to provide some transparency about how different pricing models work and how to evaluate them. That will be covered in depth in Part 3. If you missed Part 1, you can access it here: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Read Part 3 of 7: Coming soon — Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My!  —  Understanding Pricing & Billing Models To read more about eXcelisys’ software design, development and consulting services, click here. The post Survival Guide: Find, Hire and Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! (Part 2 of 7) appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  7. eXcelisys

    [FMP Tip-n-Trick] Hierarchical JSON Viewer / Editor

    Thank you for the kind words and feedback!
  8. Part 1: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Software development isn’t magic. There isn’t a black box where you can throw a bunch of ideas and requirements and out pops a smoothly working app that perfectly meets all of your business needs. Once you see that in print, it seems perfectly logical, but because the process is often hard to understand it feels like there is at least a little magic involved. In this seven-part series, we’ll pull back the covers and eXpose what you should know when you start the hunt for a professional developer for that custom, fix, or upgrade software project. We’ll offer tips to help you select the right developer, discuss pricing models, things to consider when signing an engagement contract, and walk you through the development process from idea to deployment. In this introduction, we offer a brief fundamental overview of what you should understand before you dive into any software development project engagement. Collaboration Development is a partnership between the client and the developer. You bring the knowledge of your business, your workflow and your needs. The developer brings the technical knowledge and software eXpertise. Both are equally necessary for development success. The developer should have a breadth of eXperience with various processes and technologies that will give you options to make your solution function smoothly within your workflow. But until you eXplain your business, your developer won’t know the intricacies of what you need. Even if you have an eXisting system, your developer still needs to know how you currently use it and how you wish you could use it. Knowledge From the developer’s perspective, it takes more than just a pile of papers, eXcel spreadsheets or a database to look at to understand your business flow. You are intimately familiar with how you do your job, often to the point where you could do it in your sleep. How things should work seems obvious to you. Rarely, if ever, will your developer be able to intuit the things you do by nature. You will have to eXplain it in great detail to make it clearly understood. This means that some things will need to be eXplained multiple times before the picture becomes clear. One strategy is to treat your developer like a new employee and teach your workflow step-by-step. You don’t have to teach all of the details of your entire business (unless the new application will manage the whole thing), but view the app like a job description and teach that job to your developer. That will make the functionality of the solution clear enough to represent the way you actually do business. It will also give your developer a foundation for making suggestions for improvement Perspective When building a full database solution you will end up looking at your business processes with a fresh eye as they go under the microscope while trying to properly eXplain them to someone new. Using development as a springboard, it is common to find things you want to change as you go through your business details. Software solutions reflect the business processes they represent. If those processes are inefficient, simply moving them from a paper representation to a digital representation will not make the underlying processes more streamlined or efficient. A custom app can make a process easier to manage, but will not fundamentally change it. Knowing this can put into perspective the effect the new software will have. Taking time to analyze eXisting processes with a focus on ways to improve them is a very important part of the development process. As part of that process your developer can make suggestions for improvements in the efficiency of managing data based on their previous eXperience with data systems. It’s up to you to decide whether the suggestions that come from your collaboration make sense to incorporate. eXpectations Once the development process starts the eXpectations on the developer can be a bit high. There is somewhat of an art to software development. Commonly when a feature is described to a developer it seems straightforward and sounds conceptually easy. Then when the developer begins to create that feature within the framework of the application there are often nuances to the feature or its integration into the eXisting database structure that weren’t anticipated. In this case the development time can be longer than eXpected because implementation of the feature ends up being different and often more complex than planned. This can create frustration for the client because the feature seems so simple to eXplain or straightforward when done manually. You might say, “We always … ” but the truth is, there’s probably at least one eXception to your rule. The eXceptions are easy to handle on paper or verbally, but every eXception has to be coded into the final working product. eXceptions are generally complex because they branch away from the established flow. Translating a manual process into an automated electronic process is most often like a duck on water. There is a lot of work and complexity under the surface to make the feature effortless to use. That takes time to figure out and then create. The duck on water is the magic. Read Part 2 of 7: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? The post Survival Guide: Find, Hire and Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! (Part 1 of 7) appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  9. Hierarchical JSON Viewer / Editor By Andy Persons & Doug West One of the standout new features of FileMaker Pro 16 is native support for the JSON data-interchange format. In addition to providing easy integration with a host of online services, it also provides developers with the tools to create robust hierarchical structures for use entirely within FileMaker. This hierarchical JSON viewer / editor file provides some tools for visualizing, manipulating, and leveraging JSON text. Features Automatically creates a representation of any JSON text as a hierarchical portal of records, where individual elements can be expanded and collapsed Dynamically replicates changes to the hierarchical records in the JSON text, including add, edit, and delete actions Highlights the corresponding JSON element when a record is selected Applications Easily visualize large JSON text, collapsing nodes to focus on just the relevant sections. Manipulate JSON without needing to worry about the correct syntax Convert JSON returned from a web service directly into usable Filemaker records, customizing it to your needs Create and store hierarchical structures entirely in text (such as global variables), and display it as hierarchical records on the fly How it Works When JSON text is initially entered, the “JSON – Create Children” script retrieves the root keys using JSONListKeys(), loops through the result, and creates the root records. When an element is eXpanded, the same script creates its child records if they don’t eXist and eXpands the hierarchy. When eXpand All is clicked, a similar script “JSON – Create All Descendants” loops through every element recursively and creates all descendants. Values for each record are retrieved and set using JSONGetElement(). To keep things streamlined, JSON key paths are used for the parent-child keys. Records are marked as arrays based on the presence of a left bracket (“[“) and formatted accordingly. Since JSONFormatElements() imposes a standard format, elements have a predictable number of leading and trailing lines. These are recorded in lines_leading and lines_trailing, respectively. They are then used in the Highlight Element script to calculate which part of the JSON text should be highlighted when an element record is clicked. Enjoy! •• Download - JSONViewer.fmp12 •• **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
  10. Hierarchical JSON Viewer / Editor By Andy Persons & Doug West One of the standout new features of FileMaker Pro 16 is native support for the JSON data-interchange format. In addition to providing easy integration with a host of online services, it also provides developers with the tools to create robust hierarchical structures for use entirely within FileMaker. This hierarchical JSON viewer / editor file provides some tools for visualizing, manipulating, and leveraging JSON text. Features Automatically creates a representation of any JSON text as a hierarchical portal of records, where individual elements can be expanded and collapsed Dynamically replicates changes to the hierarchical records in the JSON text, including add, edit, and delete actions Highlights the corresponding JSON element when a record is selected Applications Easily visualize large JSON text, collapsing nodes to focus on just the relevant sections. Manipulate JSON without needing to worry about the correct syntax Convert JSON returned from a web service directly into usable Filemaker records, customizing it to your needs Create and store hierarchical structures entirely in text (such as global variables), and display it as hierarchical records on the fly How it Works When JSON text is initially entered, the “JSON – Create Children” script retrieves the root keys using JSONListKeys(), loops through the result, and creates the root records. When an element is eXpanded, the same script creates its child records if they don’t eXist and eXpands the hierarchy. When eXpand All is clicked, a similar script “JSON – Create All Descendants” loops through every element recursively and creates all descendants. Values for each record are retrieved and set using JSONGetElement(). To keep things streamlined, JSON key paths are used for the parent-child keys. Records are marked as arrays based on the presence of a left bracket (“[“) and formatted accordingly. Since JSONFormatElements() imposes a standard format, elements have a predictable number of leading and trailing lines. These are recorded in lines_leading and lines_trailing, respectively. They are then used in the Highlight Element script to calculate which part of the JSON text should be highlighted when an element record is clicked. Enjoy! •• Download JSONViewer.fmp12 •• **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. The post [FMP Tip-n-Trick] Hierarchical JSON Viewer / Editor appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  11. eXcelisys

    FileMaker Developers Wanted

    : FileMaker Developers Wanted : We’re Looking For a Few Good FileMaker Developers eXcelisys is eXpanding! Demand has grown for our FileMaker Pro development and consulting services. FT, PT, subcontractor positions available. We are seeking motivated self–starters to join our expanding team of professional FileMaker Pro Developers If you like setting your own hours, working from a hammock on the beach, or from a cabin overlooking a snow–capped mountain, or whatever idealistic work–from–home scenario you currently envision, eXcelisys might be the perfect fit for you. In addition to retaining your independence and your right to work in shorts from your living room couch, you will become part of something bigger than yourself: a collective of like–minded, talented programmers, developers, project managers and business process gurus. You’ll find that, despite our autonomy and our unique individual talents, abilities and personality quirks, we share a common goal: to foster long–term technology partnerships with our clientele, and to provide a creative and positive environment for our team members that empowers each with the confidence to thrive and do his or her best. We are looking for talented, experienced, charming, cunning, take–no–prisoners FileMaker Pro application developers and designers who can hit the ground running; who can take a project from concept to deployment; who can please every client with solutions that blow minds, win hearts and exceed expectations. To find out more, check out the FileMaker Developers listing on the opportunities page on our website. The post FileMaker Developers Wanted appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  12. Government Approves Bio-Engineered Mosquitoes to Combat Disease Roses are red. Violets are blue. Mosquitoes suck blood. From me and from you. There’s a groovy new way to bid them adieu. eXcelisys would like to offer a huge “Hip, Hip, Hurrah!” to our client MosquitoMate for passing the EPA hurdle of approval. A few days ago, the U.S. government approved MosquitoMate’s ZAP Males® for use in 20 states. New Assassin Mosquitoes EPA approves method designed by MosquitoMate to combat disease Read Article eXcelisys Assists with Developing FileMaker Pro Mosquito Tracker eXcelisys began working with the Lexington, Kentucky-based MosquitoMate ( http://mosquitomate.com/ ) in September. The biotech startup uses the FileMaker Platform to track mosquito “drops” and larvae collection traps. During the past two months, eXcelisys has helped MosquitoMate streamline the user interface for its iPad system using FileMaker Go, which is used in the field. eXcelisys has also been working to help automate data analysis. MosquitoMate technology involves no genetic modifications. To create the ZAP Males®, MosquitoMate breeds male mosquitoes (who don’t bite) and infects them with a naturally occurring insect bacterium called Wolbachia. Each mosquito species carries its own strain of Wolbachia. When the lab-reared ZAP Males® mate with wild females who carry a different strain of Wolbachia, the eggs don’t hatch and the population dwindles. ZAP Males® can be used to reduce local populations of the Asian Tiger Mosquito—a significant pest that spreads deadly diseases like the Zika virus and Dengue fever. MosquitoMate’s “weaponized” mosquitoes have been tested in California, Kentucky and New York, where they reduced the biting mosquito populations by more than 80 percent. eXcelisys VP and Project Manager Doug West was thrilled to see his client in the national news. As MosquitoMate continues to work toward taking a bite out of the mosquito population, eXcelisys will be there providing a software development salve. “We’re happy to be partnering with them in preparing for their growth after this milestone. Congrats.” The post eXcelisys Congratulates MosquitoMate on EPA Approval! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  13. FileMaker Pro Coaching / Consulting … Because 2 Heads Are Better Than 1 Citizen developers and seasoned developers alike can benefit from a little technical & tactical FileMaker Pro advice to keep them moving in the right direction Coaching. We all know what that is. Flip on a college or pro football game any weekend and you’ll see the coach pacing the sideline, barking instructions and yelping words of encouragement. When we hear “coach” we think sports, but the word’s origin points to a deeper meaning. In the 16th century, the word “coach” referred to a horse-drawn carriage that transported people from where they were to where they needed to go. The job of a coach, essentially, is to transport someone from where they are to where they need to go. Hiring a FileMaker Pro coach/consultant can help move you—and your business—from where it is to where you need to go. Whether it’s developing a custom app on the FileMaker Platform or adding new features and functionality to an eXisting one, signing a software coach can be a cost-effective way to keep FileMaker Pro in your playbook and enabling you to score on your business goals. Who can benefit from having someone coach them through new skills on the FileMaker Platform (FMP)? Anyone who wants to improve their FMP skills—especially in-house developers who need an outside resource from time to time. “We can help the citizen developer expedite their progress,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. eXcelisys has several clients on its coaching roster. Besides novices, eXcelisys works with seasoned FMP developers who sometimes need a second set of eyes to smooth out the rough edges or talk them through the utilization of new FMP feature enhancements. “We can connect through screen sharing, talk through the problem, identify a solution and discuss how to fix it,” said West. FMP Coaching / Consulting for the Novice Texas native Michelle Boatman has been using databases for three decades to track people, inventory and products. In the early 2010s, she decided her company needed a new database platform — one better suited for a multi-user environment. “I chose FileMaker Pro and got into a predicament,” said Boatman, who got in over her head as she sought to develop an FMP app to meet her company’s needs. Boatman did some research, found eXcelisys and connected with West. “I told him, ‘I want to be able to understand how to understand FileMaker Pro.’ ” Boatman started watching FMP webinars and YouTube tutorials. She made progress, but faced many challenges as a rookie, in-house developer. Through screen sharing and remote access, you and your FileMaker Pro coach can connect to sort through issues quickly and efficiently. If you need to learn a new skill, your coach can teach you in a one-on-one session. “Doug is so patient,” said Boatman. “Every time I ran into trouble he would use remote access to get into my computer and explain what was going on. I felt like I was in kindergarten. I needed the ABC’s … as in ‘A is apple.’ That’s where I started. Even though he was way out there with his knowledge-base, he was patient. I started realizing what FileMaker Pro could do for us, and I’d say, ‘Can we do this?’ He’d come up with a solution and say, ‘Let me show you how.’ ” West also worked with one of Boatman’s co-workers to teach her to run reports. “It’s amazing,” said Boatman, reflecting on the FMP system she brought to life. “It helped the business tremendously and saved us time.” Last April, Boatman began working at T&L Lease Service in Alvin, Texas, in a job that requires her to track pipeline maintenance, safety records and Department of Transportation data. At a moment’s notice, she must pull records for auditors. When Boatman took the job, T&L had a paper-based records system. “But I was hooked on FileMaker Pro,” said Boatman. “I told my new boss, ‘This is what I do. This is what I like to do. This is how I like to keep records.’ ” Boatman persuaded her new boss to let her develop a custom app on the FileMaker Platform. Once again, she worked under West’s guidance. This time around, the process was smoother. “We’re a-movin’ and a-groovin’,” said Boatman. “We have a full-blown, awesome system up and running.” Having West as a mentor, Boatman feels empowered to tackle new enhancements in FileMaker Pro. She knows that if she messes something up, West can fix it. Sometimes, when adding advanced features with scripting components, she lets eXcelisys take over and complete the development. Co-development is sometimes quicker and easier and Boatman knows she doesn’t need to learn everything about FMP. “FileMaker is not what I do, but it helps me do my job so it needs to be in place.” FMP Consulting for the Seasoned Developer Greg Mainis develops apps for the ag industry using the FileMaker Platform. Greg Mainis is a developer/owner of Simplified Software. The Santa Cruz, California, company specializes in FileMaker-based software solutions for the ag industry, serving produce brokers, shippers, distributors and transportation companies. In the past 25 years, Mainis has built hundreds of custom apps on the FileMaker Platform that integrate purchasing, order management and invoicing. A FileMaker innovator, Mainis has developed several notable FMP software products for the ag market, including “Broker Advantage,” which is used by Whole Foods. In 2013, Mainis found himself grinding away to solve a problem with some SQL queries within FileMaker Pro. Tired of waiting for his genius moment to occur to solve the issue, he called upon eXcelisys and spoke to Doug West. Talking through the problem with an “outsider,” a solution quickly surfaced. “Doug has a phenomenal expertise at using FileMaker,” said Mainis. “I call him Yoda. He’s really got it dialed in.” Mainis likes having eXcelisys as a resource he can call on from time to time when he hits a brain block. As a solo developer working alone, Mainis lacks a team of peers to provide insight or that extra set of eyes to help him refocus a problem and see it through a different lens. “It’s wonderful working with Doug,” said Mainis. “You know, time is money, and he picks it up really quick. In about three seconds. Some people, it might take half an hour to explain the problem, but he gets it right off and comes up with an answer.” West said it’s not uncommon for seasoned developers to need a little support now and again to hasten their “a-ha” moments, especially when it comes to accessing and integrating information that’s stored outside of FileMaker Pro. “You could develop in FileMaker your entire career, but then something different comes along — like integrating a shopping cart on a website — and it’s a new skill.” FMP Consulting / Consulting for the Budget-Minded Business Owner In 2015, Matthew Turner turned to eXcelisys for help with building a custom app on the FileMaker Platform to run his business, Sitka Community Schools, LLC. Based in Sitka, Alaska, Turner’s company has a contract through the local school district to provide affordable recreation opportunities and classes for the community, as well as overseeing the public use of school buildings (such as gym and classroom rental). As a freelance business consultant, Turner had used FileMaker Pro and knew it was the perfect tool for the job. He needed to track data—registrations, team rosters, jersey sizes, emergency contact information for players and certifications for instructors. There was also gym space to manage. Turner felt proficient with FileMaker Pro, but integrating the online registration system was something new. As Turner started development, he realized he needed some advanced features, so he consulted with eXcelisys. “I figured that once I got what I needed built, I would be able to continue to modify it to my needs, but creating the initial database and all of the functionality I required called for professional help.” Turner said eXcelisys understood his needs and helped him build a suitable solution. “It was a shoestring budget situation,” said West. “Out of necessity, he built what he needed. When he got stuck, he would call eXcelisys.” Turner still calls on eXcelisys for troubleshooting assistance. Sometimes, West noodles around in the database to fix the problem. Other times, West identifies a solution and coaches Turner to a resolution. FMP Coaching / Consulting for the In-House, Citizen Developer Sometimes, in-house citizen developers need a little over-the-shoulder support to fully flex their FMP muscle. “We can help them expand their skill set,” said eXcelisys’ Founder/President Christo. “Or maybe they’ve reached their maximum wattage with development. We can talk them through the tough spots and get them moving in the right direction.” Collaborating with an outside eXpert may be all that’s needed to move a project forward. An FMP consultant looking in from outside the bubble of your business can offer a fresh and full perspective on applying FMP to its maximum potential. FMP coaches from larger development firms have tons of projects under their belts, giving them a base of eXperience to draw on. Much like a quarterback, an FMP consultant can help drive your game plan, making your FMP offense shine. Whether it’s providing guidance for overall solution architecture or step-by-step instruction for using new features, a coach can improve the FileMaker Pro depth chart at any business. Citizen developers who work alone or who inherit systems they did not build may especially benefit from coaching and consulting. Just as a sports coach identifies problems with an athlete’s mechanics, eXcelisys can identify issues with an app’s mechanics. For databases that aren’t functioning smoothly, eXcelisys will make a copy of the file and conduct an offline analysis. West says he’s seen cases where a FileMaker Pro app has worked just fine but gets progressively sluggish as more data is entered. In such cases, he’s found problems with the initial build, with the data not being structured correctly. After identifying the issues, eXcelisys can help the in-house, citizen developer rebuild the problem spots and improve the mechanics of the system. FMP Coaching for Those Who Prefer One-on-One Tutoring One on one coaching and/or consulting provides an efficient means to teach new developers the ins and outs of development on the FileMaker Platform. While eXcelisys acknowledges that many companies offer FMP training workshops, a lot of efficiency is lost in that model of go sit in a classroom or in front of a computer and soak up everything you can. Most people only absorb a small portion of the material, so once they begin to put it to use, they may feel lost. With one-on-one coaching or consulting with the use of screen sharing or being onsite, training is optimized. Unlike large-scale workshop training, one-on-one can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the user with their current programming requirements and offer “just-in-time” training to help the client tackle the development that is right in front of them. Let’s face it. In every arena where high performance is valued, people turn to coaches for help. Running your business is no different. Hire an FMP coach today. For more information about FileMaker coaching & consulting through eXcelisys, click here. The post FileMaker Pro Coaching / Consulting … Because 2 Heads Are Better Than 1 appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
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    Reviews Display

    Google Rating:5 out 5 based on 37 reviews FaceBook Rating:5 out 5 based on 23 reviews BBB Rating:A+ based on 38 reviews eXcelisys Survey:5 out 5 based on 92 reviews The post Reviews Display appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  15. Oyster Farm Nets Hefty Harvest by Linking FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks FMP/QB Integration Spawns a Sea Change of Efficiency Located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Hama Hama is a fifth-generation timber and oyster farm (photo courtesy of Hama Hama). Just as the soils of Napa Valley bestow the ideal wine-making grapes, the waters of Washington’s glacier-carved Hood Canal are idyllic for oyster farming. Here, the Hama Hama Co. raises its famous beach-cultured Hama Hama oysters and tumble-farmed Blue Pool oysters. These briny bivalve mollusks are enjoyed locally but also find their way to chefs in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Hama Hama also offers doorstep delivery to households across the U.S. To ensure its perishable product moves promptly from harvest to table, Hama Hama relies on FileMaker Pro for inventory and sales tracking. While this app efficiently manages the comings and goings of the oysters, it’s been a hassle on the accounting end. For years, the orders have been entered into FileMaker Pro by the sales team, then re-entered into QuickBooks by the accounting team. Fed up with the process, Hama Hama asked eXcelisys to integrate the two. “We’re a very small company so the duplication of effort is rough on us,” said Hama Hama Finance and Sustainability Director Tiffany Waters. Waters reports that the integration is nearly complete. Hama Hama can now push “invoice data” from FileMaker Pro to QuickBooks, though there’s still some fine-tuning going on. “It’s a lot of work on the front end, but this will save us a ridiculous amount of time. The accounting clerk was spending one to two hours a day, three days a week, entering invoices.” When the integration project reaches completion Waters estimates that invoicing will take only a few minutes each day. Family Business Thrives on Timberlands, Tide Flats Before FileMaker Pro, QuickBooks and website ordering, Hama Hama had a humble beginning. “We’re a fifth-generation timber and oyster farm,” said Waters, noting the business set down roots in the late 1800s, then incorporated as the Hama Hama Logging Company in 1922. In the mid-1950s, the harvest lineup expanded to include oysters and clams from the Hood Canal. Hama Hama is a small, family-owned business run by about 30 people. With such a small staff, it is imperative for Hama Hama to utilize efficiencies both on the oyster farm and in the office. To streamline operations, Hama Hama recently hired eXcelisys to intregrate its FileMaker Pro database with QuickBooks (photo courtesy of Hama Hama).The company takes its name from the Hamma Hamma River, a name derived from the Twana language and rumored to translate roughly to “stinky stinky” (think salmon runs). Rising near Mount Washington, the Hamma Hamma glides down the mossy, eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains. Reaching the base, the river dumps its gravelly, glacial-fed waters into the Hood Canal, creating a tidal flat that serves as the perfect coldwater incubator for oysters. As for taste, the canal delivers. Like fine wine, oysters are geographic. As filter feeders, they eat by straining food particles from the water around them. Local aquatic conditions — like salinity, tidal flow and phytoplankton species — give oysters their own regional flavor idiosyncrasies. Hama Hama, therefore, works hard to protect its turf. “We are unique as a company in that we have a lot of influence over our local environment,” said Waters, noting Hama Hama strives to strike a balance between its forestry and aquaculture ventures. “Everything we do in the uplands affects downriver. We log in sustainable ways. We don’t want to put in too much sediment and affect water quality because the oysters are actively feeding off the materials in the river.” Waters says the family jokes that their oysters are “fed by firs.” FileMaker Pro / QuickBooks Linkup Delivers Integration Emancipation In addition to focusing on environmental stewardship with its land and water, Hama Hama must also concentrate its efforts indoors on its business management system. To keep the operation flowing, Hama Hama uses QuickBooks — for accounting — and FileMaker Pro — for inventory/sales and to track the chain of custody for its shellfish. To meet regulations, Hama Hama must document data such as the location of origin, the water temperature where the shellfish are harvested, and so forth. But the FileMaker/QuickBooks arrangement required duplicate data entry with order information added to each system separately. Seeking to streamline the process, Hama Hama sought integration eXpertise from eXcelisys. Simply put, Hama Hama needed both systems to talk to each other so the order information could be entered (once!) in FileMaker Pro and pushed to QuickBooks for invoicing. FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks IntegrationeXcelisys Senior FileMaker Developer Ken Moorhead spearheaded the project, which involved laying a pathway for moving data between the two apps. Moorhead said the first task was to build out the customer list. To do this, he needed to synchronize the systems so when an order was entered into FileMaker and sent to QuickBooks, QuickBooks would know which customer FileMaker Pro was talking about. QuickBooks gives each customer its own ID. To complete the process, Moorhead had to find each unique QuickBooks customer ID and link it to that customer in FileMaker Pro. But that was only the start of the process. The integration involved linking up lots of fragile text strings so FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks could communicate. Consider an order for 3 dozen “trucker” sized Hama Hama oysters. The order is entered into the FileMaker Pro database, then pushed to QuickBooks. To build the invoice appropriately, QuickBooks needs to recognize the data from FileMaker Pro — the specific item purchased, the quantity, the size, and so forth. With all of the products, sizes and packing options, there were a lot of text strings (data) to match between the two apps. In addition, Hama Hama rolls shipping prices into the cost per dozen, so QuickBooks needed to find the appropriate price list for each customer based on its location. “It is amazing,” said Waters, “the amount of detail that goes into this in making sure things are accurate — to ensure that when we enter something into the FileMaker Pro database it will get into QuickBooks.” For Moorhead, the hunt-and-peck process seemed routine. “Once you get the data points lined up to the customer’s workflow, it’s actually relatively easy. But integration is never cookie cutter. Every customer — every accountant on the planet — has a slightly different way of doing things. It’s always a slow process; there’s a lot of data to pick through.” ~ eXcelisys developer Ken Moorhead Hidden Pearls Over the course of the integration project, Waters has been pleased with eXcelisys. “Ken [Moorhead] is really great to work with,” said Waters, noting he responds quickly to queries and is always willing to get on the phone to clear up an issue efficiently instead of sending endless emails back and forth to pin down the specifics of a problem. “It’s great to work with a company that recognizes, ‘Hey, we’ve hit our limit with email. Let’s talk.’” While anyone can enjoy Hama Hama oysters through overnight delivery, Waters urges people to visit the Olympic Peninsula and enjoy them freshly shucked at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon at the company headquarters in Lilliwaup, Washington. “We are two hours from Seattle,” she said, noting the peninsula has plenty of hikes and rivers to explore. “There are a lot of amazing, beautiful things to see out here.” Top: The Hama Hama Oyster Saloon offers an oyster-heavy menu, allowing visitors to enjoy oysters just a few hundred yards from where they are harvested. Above: Hama Hama runs a farm store, which sells fresh oysters and clams and other local products like ice cream, cheese, grass-fed beef and chocolate (photos courtesy of Hama Hama).To read about another eXcelisys solution benefitting food producers, click here. The post Oyster Farm Nets Hefty Harvest by Linking FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
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