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 consultant/coach 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 FileMaker programmers work 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 consultant 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. A FileMaker Pro 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.