Before Getting Started On A FileMaker Project

From Dwayne Wright PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
Certified FileMaker Developer

TWITTER: dwaynewright
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I’ve met dozens if not hundreds of FileMaker developers in all types, shapes and sizes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one that became a FileMaker developer by choice, they all seem to have stumbled into it. It was a chance happening with a great product and they loved it enough to learn it, endure it and eventually master it enough to fill gaps within an organization.

I would say that at least 30% of new FileMaker developers start creating their FileMaker solutions the same way. They briefly look over the manual and go through the included tutorial files. They immediately see this is an easy to use database program and begin to feel confident that it will meet their needs. They find an example template that came installed along with the FileMaker program CD that is somewhat similar to their needs. They begin to customize the template, opening up the manual as needed.

I would say that another 30% or so FileMaker solutions get started with a boss walking up to a persons desk. The boss says something such as ... "We need to organize this part of our business. Currently it’s being accomplished by paper forms, excel spreadsheets and email. Here is a database program we bought called FileMaker. It’s supposed to be pretty good. " So this lucky soul doesn't really know much more about “real” database design before they started. They begin to experiment with FileMaker and realize that they have a tool that can fill immediate needs.

The user then starts to show the database off and excitement grows within the organization. Before long, the database is a very active part of the business. Then gaps in how the database does things begin to appear and the new FileMaker developer starts looking elsewhere for resources. This is because FileMaker doesn't not ship with a lot of documentation. I mean to say that is ships with the standard documentation but it doesn’t explore the craftsmanship that can come with time, effort and experience. It is more of a "just the facts and only the facts" type of documentation. Some of the online help documentation is cryptic and contains lingo that is unfamiliar to them. However, they are too deep now to quit, so they press on.

Over time the database does good deeds, and in some cases, great deeds. However, the inexperience of the original FileMaker developer begins to show. There are workarounds for inexperience, there are workarounds due to odd business practices and there are workarounds that nobody really knows why they are there anymore.

A developer or two is brought in to help ... and ... sometimes they do. Sometimes, the “professional” developer (even though he/she may be a member or one or more FileMaker development groups) makes matters worse. This can happen because they don't fully understand FileMaker, the needs of the users, the business the user is in or a combination thereof.

The remainder 40% of the time, the database is done (or redone as the case might be) by a professional FileMaker developer. They have established ways of doing things that help keep all the above problems at bay. You know why they are different? It's because they are not different. They simply have endured the above experience, survived it and are better for it. They understand that learning and mastering FileMaker isn’t something that can be accomplished and the learning process ends.

Professional FileMaker design and development is more of a craft than a nice item to include on a resume. Exploring deeper and deeper into the key areas of relationships, calculations and scripting pays great dividends. Experience in how to blend the separate knowledge from these three areas are another powerful thing to learn. Then we can always flavor that knowledge with other key elements likes UI design, security, web implementation, project management, documentation and more!

So I welcome you to these small pieces of knowledge that is my privilege to share and best wishes in your ongoing FileMaker craftsmanship expertise!
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© 2007 - Dwayne Wright -

The material on this document is offered AS IS. There is NO REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY, expressed or implied, nor does any other contributor to this document. WARRANTIES OF MERCHANT ABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. Consequential and incidental damages are expressly excluded. FileMaker Pro is the registered trademark of FileMaker Inc.