Santa Clara, Calif.-based Filemaker, Inc., an Apple Inc. subsidiary, is releasing a series of free guides for companies interested in using its software to develop their own in-house apps.

The first, Plan, which the company said will be followed by two future publications, was released as a downloadable eBook today.

With companies relying on an expanding number of devices, including tablets, laptops, smartphones, and desktop computers, to conduct business, in-house custom apps are an increasingly valuable tool that can be used to keep track of spreadsheets, media files, documents, reports, and custom information.

To help them, Filemaker is dividing its guides based on what it calls the “three steps” to building a successful in-house app: plan, create, deploy.

The 37-page Plan divides the first step into five stages:

  1. Evaluate goals – your team’s, your users’, your organization’s, and your own;
  2. Write user scenarios and define your app’s requirements;
  3. Consider your app’s security, integration with your company’s data systems, and eventual deployment;
  4. Develop and test a prototype;
  5. Get support building a custom app.

The full guide, which breaks each stage down into a series of easy-to-digest infographics and bullet points and could easily be used as the basis of a presentation, provides a series of guidelines to follow and questions that would-be developers should ask themselves, such as who will be using the app, where they will be using it, and what they need it to do (the journalistic “five W’s and H” provide a useful framework in general, the guide notes).

When it comes to goals and app requirements, Filemaker recommends focusing on user needs rather than features or organizational goals, as the former will naturally lead to the latter:

FileMaker Plan diagram 1

FileMaker Plan diagram 2

With security and integration, Filemaker recommends that development teams consider the sensitivity of data being processed, and whether the data sources used are owned and controlled by the company developing the custom app, or provided by a third party, as the latter will necessarily increase the app’s complexity.

Readers can download the full Plan eBook here.

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