If you really want order reigning supreme, FileMaker is the way to go!

by Andrea de Fraga - Business Analyst

I finally got to see Problemista, and the movie is honestly too good for me to have beef with Julio Torres. If you haven’t seen it, let this IGN review convince you. But don’t click on that link just yet!  Allow me to explain why trying to run a company on spreadsheets alone is unsustainable for so many businesses. I promise I’ll put the link at the end too.

FileMaker: A Solution for Business Management

Don’t get me wrong, I do think there is a place and time for using spreadsheets, and I use them often myself. Getting a data dump (very technical term) in Excel and analyzing it with wizardry like pivot tables is 50% of my day job. However, I never recommend that our clients collect, track, and communicate valuable information through spreadsheets alone.

Most companies start using spreadsheets because they have information that needs to be tracked. That information is often something that is very important to know to run your business successfully! A spreadsheet is quick and easy to get started, but it can quickly become unwieldy and ultimately unhelpful.

Benefits of FileMaker Integration

Let’s start with a simple enough story. An events company wants to keep track of the events they put on. A super go getter intern starts a spreadsheet where she lists all those invited for an event on one tab, how much money you spent with all the vendors on another tab, and the schedule of the event on yet another tab. It’s a great spreadsheet, very organized, and you can easily see all the work that went in to planning the event.

The spreadsheet is so great you make a template and give it to the staff to start using on all their events. You might even hire that super go getter intern for this stroke of genius. Pretty soon you have all these nice spreadsheets for each of the events you have put on for the last two years.

Transitioning from Spreadsheets to FileMaker: A Smooth Process

These spreadsheets are great when you have questions about individual events. You just open one up and get your answer. But what if you want to know how much you spent on cupcakes for all your events that happened in the afternoon?

Now what?!

Some poor soul has to open up all the spreadsheets. Figure out if they were afternoon events and then look to see if you had a cupcake vendor on the event. And then compile all of that information into yet another spreadsheet just to answer a simple question.

Expert Assistance with FileMaker Implementation

This is not order reigning supreme, it is an overwhelming amount of work just keeping track of what spreadsheets you looked at. And it’ll probably take forever!

If perhaps, someone at the organization had seen that a database would have been an even better way of tracking event information, all you would have to do is:

  • Open 1 file
  • Make an inquiry: show me all the events in the afternoon with cupcakes
  • Print (or more likely run and email the report)

It took me longer to type that than to actually do the process in a database (that incidentally one of my brilliant coworkers built for a client)!

All those separate lists in the spreadsheets were turned into relational tables of information that became quick and easy to enter, query, and report on (did I mention I work at Codence!).

Even in the movie, a list is represented by a hot mess of scary chaos. Craigslist is personified by the most brilliant visual metaphor of recent cinematic history! And, you should take it as a warning, lists will eventually take you down a scary path of opening one thousand spreadsheets to answer a simple question.

Igniting Efficiency with FileMaker: A Case Study

If you have seen the movie, you’ll know that Ale’s boss was trying to track the whereabouts of paintings created by her cryogenically frozen husband. They’re paintings of eggs that are very precious to her. And while she could have listed information in Google Sheets, she wanted a more robust way of looking at her data. As unhinged as her character may have been, she knew that would never suffice for managing her beloved husband’s art.

Here’s one more fun example. isn’t Internet Movie List, because that would be crazy. It’s a database!

The reason IMDb works so well is it is a relational database that connects all the people who work on movies with all of the movies and tv shows they work on. So, think of it as two main lists, the people and the shows. IMDb makes it easy for you to jump from a person to a show to another person on the show because in the middle of those two main lists, there are connectors that link it all together.

I’m sure IMDb is built on a super fancy platform; it allows millions of users to access the information constantly.  But I’m also sure they spent millions of dollars to build it. They probably also make millions of dollars from it because everyone knows IMDb, seriously who was the guy who played Craigslist in the movie, I still need to look him up!

FileMaker: The Budget-Friendly Solution

For most businesses, they don’t have that kind of budget, and this is where FileMaker can be so helpful! FileMaker as a tool is quick and easy to implement to solve simple business problems. It can even import data from all those spreadsheets if you happened to make the misguided decision to store your company information there.  It also allows you to connect to other kinds of databases (SQL, ODBC) and plug in to dynamic data sources using APIs. I’m not gonna lie, this can get tricky, and you might need some help, but there are people who love helping businesses harness their data and they sure as shit know a thing or two about FileMaker Pro (last shameless plug for Codence!). It also won’t cost anywhere near what it cost to build

Like any tool, in the hands of a novice, you will get something a little clumsy and maybe a little crude. But if you put that same tool in the hands of a master, you get something as great as Problemista!  

Getting your key business information out of spreadsheets and into a relational database can improve the operations of almost any company. And this, my friends, is how you get order reigning supreme–at last! Oh, and as promised, that link to IGN’s review. Seriously, if you can, see the movie!

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