When it comes to building custom apps, Slingshot Data Labs has a unique vision. The Company believes that small and large businesses teams should have the same powerful software as enterprises do — at a fraction of the cost, and with a lot more flexibility and customization.
When they decided to create a mobile app to market to the vast and varied world of real estate professionals, they knew that their app would be on par with enterprise-grade software. The app would also need to support customizable job functions, companies, terminologies, and even individual users. Knowing this, Slingshot turned to the FileMaker Platform to build the app that would form the flagship of their SaaS development business.
Custom app with integrated functionality
Activity lists are aggregated from data in multiple projects across the system and dynamically sorted into daily work plans for each user allowing the project manager to focus on each project while Vincent coordinates the team.
After Slingshot’s development team had considered several options, the FileMaker Platform proved to be the perfect foundation for building Vincent, an all-in-one custom app for the real estate industry. They named the app Vincent after the company’s founder, but also because they wanted users to think of the app as a personal assistant. “We wanted users to imagine telling co-workers that they would send a contract to “Vincent,” asking “Vincent” to send a client an email, and referring to the app as “he” instead of “it.” Says Matthew Muelver, Slingshot’s Marketing Director.
Real estate made easy
In reality, Vincent is a multi-faceted, highly integrated mobile app that is customizable to many jobs within the real estate industry. Investment firms use Vincent to manage business workflows, organize schedules, delegate activities to other staff members, and keep track of mobile teams. Vincent gathers all of the contacts, documents, notes, and activities for a single opportunity or deal in one place. Then organizes them into a daily work plan for each user. Real estate companies can also tailor the app to match each business’ unique process and terminology.
“Vincent brings all of these things together in a single custom app the way some enterprise applications do, but without the development overhead expense, because we’re using the FileMaker Platform,” says Muelver.
With the FileMaker Platform as a rapid custom app development tool on our side, anything is possible — and it’s affordable to mere mortals, not just big enterprises. All you need is great idea.
Matthew Muelver, Marketing Director, Slingshot Data Labs
New features in less time thanks to rapid app development
Warehouse workers review inventory requests from Home Staging Designers so they can pull and deliver the perfect piece of furniture needed to successfully stage each home.
Slingshot works with customers to gather feedback and update its custom app based on their needs. For example, the company recently shipped a new feature that allows property managers to conduct inspections from within the app. A feature requested by users. Inspectors open the activity list on their mobile tablet or other device. The list is pre-sorted and prioritized for the day’s work, complete with map previews of the property locations and driving directions. The app also dynamically generates a list of template inspections to accelerate the process. Then, Vincent captures ratings, notes and photos of the inspection for reporting or later review As the inspector goes through the building. in other words, the app does not just recorded evidence of work that has been done. It is the tool that is used to do the work itself. This means that after-the-fact data entry is becoming a thing of the past. Features like this on other platforms would have taken a development team months to design, test, build and deploy. At Slingshot, it took a single developer just a couple weeks start to finish and they were able to deploy it in near real time.
Matt Pokorny, owner, Personal Touch Homes, LLC and a user of the Vincent mobile custom app adds, "We had been looking for an app for our house renovation and home staging business for a while, and we’ve tried several, with mixed results. The one thing most of them are missing is a good way to use it on our mobile devices, which the FileMaker app can do. Vincent also integrates with our existing website, so our vendors can work with our punch lists and other data onsite, just like we do. We especially appreciate that Slingshot Data Labs is willing to take our feedback and continually enhance the app. As new ideas and business opportunities require custom features, we can request them without having to pay for additional development."
Vincent relies on both FileMaker WebDirect and FileMaker Go, components of the FileMaker Platform that enable all the mobility features real estate professionals need. FileMaker WebDirect is technology that enables FileMaker apps to run directly in a web browser, and FileMaker Go brings FileMaker apps right to users’ iPad and iPhone devices. Without WebDirect a new customer could be slowed down if their device isn’t ready to add new software. By making the web part of the welcome and setup process a real estate professional can now seamlessly purchase the Vincent app from the Slingshot website and set it up online themselves. From making payment for the app to configuring it, all the way to creating the first record, FileMaker WebDirect handles every process. Slingshot has found that that this rapid ramp up is key to facilitate user adoption and customer retention. Slingshot hosts the Vincent software on its servers, so customers avoid the hassle and expense of maintaining servers in-house as well. Most customers have users accessing the app from 15 to 20 devices, including iPad, iPhone, and on the web.
“The performance of FileMaker WebDirect in FileMaker Server 14 is phenomenal. Many of our customers use it exclusively to access Vincent and by making it our primary technology for setting up new customers we’ve been able to shorten deployment time from a day or two down to about 10 minutes start to finish, most of which is just the user’ entering their profile data” says Muelver. “As a bonus, we no longer have to resolve the customer’s device issues first, such as out-of-date versions of iOS or lack of available storage needed to install FileMaker Go.”
The FileMaker Platform helps Vincent get even smarter
For Slingshot, mobile support as well as the massive performance boost in FileMaker WebDirect in the latest version is vital. The new Script Workspace is intuitive and fast. Slingshot's development team can now just start typing the names of the most commonly used script steps and the steps simply appear.
The integrated button icons also have been a huge help. Developers at Slingshot rarely need to use their external library of icons anymore, but when they do, they can add one right to the FileMaker WebDirect menu for quick access. The developers have also been enthusiastic about the new placeholder text feature which dramatically reduces the number of objects and calculations that need to be built for a given layout.
For Slingshot, Vincent is just beginning to evolve, and Muelver’s enthusiasm for its use in real estate shows. “Vincent is never done,” he says. “We are working on some features for home stagers right now that will blow people’s socks off. Imagine an entire house decor logistics plan based on current inventory, right down to the rugs and lamps and accessories — complete with automated price quotes and packing lists. Then, home stagers can simply sign the on-screen contract with their client. That level of logistic work takes 3 to 4 days for home stagers right now if they have time to do it at all. Most just fly by the seat of their pants and hope it all works out in the end. We’ll be able to generate all that from a five-question survey and go from first walk through to itemized quote complete with client deliverables in just seconds and do it with incredible precision. This capability is just one of the things we have cooking. With the FileMaker Platform as a rapid custom app development tool on our side, anything is possible — and it’s affordable to mere mortals, not just big enterprises. All you need is a great idea.”