iPads and Apps Create Immediate ROI

By Stephanie Blanchard, Assistant Editor — May 08, 2013

A popular form factor with “road warriors” and C-suite executives alike, tablets are effectively being used across all verticals. The Austin Convention Center (ACC), home of the South by Southwest Festival (SxSW), is using iPads and FileMaker Go to automate work orders and reduce costs in the process.

The ACC, which received an honorable mention in Mobile Enterprise’s Mobilizer Awards in 2012, spans six city blocks and routinely hosts large scale events. In addition to ensuring adequate wireless and cellular coverage in the facility, ACC’s other priority is streamlining the convention show process.

“Imagine a huge exhibit hall,” Moore said. Hundreds of participants will have changes to their booths all the way up to the day of move in, from telephony and Internet to power and lighting, and in some cases, drainage and natural gas when it’s a home and garden show.

Manual Steps
Previously, when an exhibitor required a change, he or she would have to visit a service booth at the end of the hall where work orders were kept in large three-ring binders. Then, the request would be called in to a maintenance crew member who would walk over to the area and retrieve the paperwork before completing the order.

That process resulted in a significant amount of downtime. Now, all of this is routed on the iPad. Using FileMaker Go, employees have instant access to work orders and booth diagrams. Not only is information current, but diagrams can be enlarged on screen, which helps prevent installation errors.

Multiple Use Cases
The Utility Services Manager app is currently used by exhibitor services, event coordinators, maintenance and IT, with separate views for each group. A maintenance worker, for example, will see only pending orders for power, while the IT team will see Internet and telephony orders, and exhibitor service members will see all details for their floor audit.

In-house developers optimized the work order forms for the iPad, including larger buttons and text fields designed for touch screens. As a result, employees have provided positive feedback. “It is much easier to address discrepancies when exhibitors have concerns over existing work orders,” Moore said of the solution.

Since FileMaker integrates with Active Directory, users are authenticated with a single-source sign on. In addition, “one of the great things about FileMaker is its ability to integrate with enterprise solutions like SQL and Oracle,” Moore said. Sales and marketing, for example, use a separate application — Breeze — for booking events, with data stored in Microsoft SQL and tables viewed in the FileMaker app. The new solution is also synchronized with the billing system, so there's less manual entry when invoicing exhibitors.

Return on Investment
Deploying the solution on corporate-owned iPads was an “easy decision” to make because the center had been utilizing FileMaker for years. Once an “all Mac shop,” ACC employees were already used to the platform. Now, there are more than 25 distinct apps created using FileMaker.

To complete the deployment, the ACC purchased about a dozen iPads along with volume license agreement (including maintenance) with 130 seats for FileMaker. (Employees are allowed to use their smartphones and tablets to connect to email and calendar, but BYOD has not yet been adopted for applications.)

The cost of hardware was $5,500 with additional resources required for internal development of the application. The ACC estimates the FileMaker Go iPad solution saves 40 hours of manpower per event, and about $24,000 in annual savings. In effect, the ACC has achieved 200% ROI within their first year of deployment.

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