When you’re looking to increase the effectiveness, productivity, and profitability of your business, investing in the right technology can be one key way to make that happen. A custom application (database) built with FileMaker Pro can contribute significantly to your success strategy. To remain competitive you need to invest to ensure long term growth and profits.

A custom application solution can help you do more with less staff and provide productivity gains in places you didn’t think of before. It can be your competitive advantage.

It’s important to establish some criteria to help determine if a developer will be the right fit for your organization. Here are some questions you need to answer to guide you to a great decision.

DATABASE ADVANTAGES
A database can be built with many different tools. For example, it could be Microsoft Access, MySQL, Oracle, or FileMaker. These questions get at some key considerations you should look at.

1. Does the database tool utilized by your developer have a consistent past and a bright future? Is the company investing heavily in R&D to improve and provide best of breed capabilities?

2. Does the database solution work well across platforms including Mac OS, Windows , iOS, and web systems? Does your developer have the experience to develop and test on all platforms?

3. Can you scale solutions built with the database tool from one user to hundreds quickly?

4. Does the database tool used support rapid development?

REPUTATION AND EXPERIENCE
5. Does the developer have a proven track record of success with many companies and businesses?

6. Will the solutions provided by the developer make your business more profitable? Is there a proven ROI?

7. Is the developer part of an association where they can network with other developers and that indicates they are a leader in their field? Are they a Platinum member of the FileMaker Business Alliance (FBA)?

8. Does your developer have a recognized certification that indicates they are an expert? Are they a FileMaker Certified Developer?

9. Does the developer invest regularly in their education? Do they attend the FileMaker DevCon (developer conference) on an annual basis? This is important in the case that they need to draw on the expertise of a specialist or someone that works directly at the company that provides the database tool. Solid personal relationships can help get things done quickly and efficiently. In addition, valuable knowledge (sometimes under non-disclosure) is gained at conferences that can save your business time and aid in determining intelligent future development direction.

10. Can you talk to one or two of the developer’s past clients and get some real-world recommendations of their work quality and level of service?

11. Can the developer understand your business? Have they already created solutions in your industry?

12. Does the developer’s pricing structure reflect their experience? Some people may have lower hourly rates…and they may also take three times as long to complete a task. You may end up paying more in the end.

13. Is the developer a recognized expert in their field? Have they published papers, written articles, or spoken in public about FileMaker and development techniques? Do they provide on-going information and assistance in the form of blogs or newsletters?

QUALITIES AND SERVICES
14. Does the developer have a product or framework like fmIgnite that can be used as a foundation to build your solution? Starting with a pre-built solution can save you a ton of money and time while also ensuring your solution is well-tested in all the basic functions.

15. Are solutions created by this developer easy-to-use? For example, can you get to nearly any information with only two clicks. Is the database navigation consistent and predictable?

16. Does the developer provide a good balance between maintainability and graphic design of the user interface? This directly translates to cost for you. For example, if the database designer needs to open Photoshop to rebuild buttons any time there is a change, you will be charged more to maintain the aesthetic appearance of the database rather than the functionality.

17. Will the developer work with you to train you, provide mentoring, or coaching so that you can utilize, maintain or enhance the system yourself?

18. Does the developer have reliable backup procedures for your database itself and support of the database? For example, there should be more than one talented developer on staff. Are they taking precautions to safeguard your critical data?

19. Does the developer have integrity? Can you trust them? Will the developer look out for your best interests and provide solutions that are the right fit for the job?

20. Does the support model of the developer allow you to get your questions answered clearly and quickly?

ADVANCED CAPABILITIES
21. Can the developer integrate your new database with existing systems utilizing technologies such as APIs, JavaScript, JSON, ODBC, ESS (External SQL Sources), etc.?

22. Does the developer understand and have experience using plug-ins and add-ons for FileMaker such as fmFlare, BrilliantSync, Outlook/QuickBooks integration, Calendar, etc.?

23. Can the developer bring your solution to places like the iPad, iPhone, the web, etc.?, You may want to access your product information on a mobile device or the internet. You want a developer with the full skill set to make this happen.

24. Can your developer provide proper support and options for hosting the database on an internal company server (Windows or Macintosh) or externally (cloud-based) through the internet?

WORK PROCESS
25. Does the developers process and project management leave you in control to decide how your budget, features, and timeline gets played out in the project?

26. Does your developer have good communication skills? Projects have failed because the developer was not willing to listen to the business expert and simply decided to build the solution their way.

27. Is your developer likeable and fun?
You’re going to spend a lot of time together during development collaborating. It should be an enjoyable time and not something you dread.

28. Does the developer have a support team of full-time employees that are committed and available to maintaining your solution for the long term?

If you can answer in the affirmative to most or all these questions, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a great partnership that can catapult your business forward.

Tim Cimbura is CEO at Cimbura.com, Inc. He uses his expertise to help businesses become more effective, productive, and profitable through the use of FileMaker databases, iPhone/iPad, and WordPress web site consulting and development. http://www.cimburatech.com