Clients are often surprised when we tell them about the work Cimbura.com Inc. did for Target Corporation with FileMaker. “They use FileMaker at a huge company like Target?” The simple answer is “Yes”.

FileMaker is a workgroup database. It’s focus is for groups of less than 250 users (though properly managed databases can handle many more users). So for a large retailer like Target, this means FileMaker wouldn’t be used as a backend system to run all their cash registers across the nation or to generate paychecks for their 355,000 employees…but it can be used at a departmental basis to track projects, processes, inventory, and many other things. In the work we did for Target we managed over 600 FileMaker clients across Mac OS and Windows systems and 3 dedicated FileMaker servers. When the task is a good fit for FileMaker, it can provide a cost effective and versatile solution in big business. For smaller businesses FileMaker can run their entire operations. Here are some examples of how we used FileMaker for Target:

Support for Target.com Copy Writers and Photo Studio
Target.com is one of the top 20 web sites of ANY kind on the internet and one of the fastest growing as well. We built a database that tracked and managed EVERY item that appeared on Target.com while it was in the stages of production including writing copy describing the item and taking multiple photos of the items, adjusting pricing, etc. We also created a web interface that allowed for proofing of photos and auto resizing and creation of thumbnail images through integration with Photoshop. At the time, Amazon.com was hosting the Target.com web site and so we wrote custom application code that integrated Amazon’s back-end servers with Target’s product information and transferred this information to them through regular timed processes. FileMaker is a great tool for integrating multiple systems so they can talk to each other. Through ESS (External SQL Sources) FileMaker can talk to Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft SQL database systems. We used some of these ideas we pioneered at Target to build similar code into fmIgnite that will automatically look up product information via Amazon.com to make it easier to compare or track pricing and product information in your business.

 

Target Video Wall Scheduling
In another project we looked at many high-end systems that could scheduled video programs similar to applications commonly used in television stations to schedule commercials and programming. These systems were quite expensive and required monthly subscriptions to maintain them. We spent about 240 hours over a 2 month period to build a custom FileMaker database that schedules all Target in-store video programming for “Channel RED” in-store digital signage. Besides ideally fitting the task at hand, this saved Target more than $50,000 annually and $180,000 in the first year alone. The project required ensuring that various commercials and video segments were correctly scheduled according to contracts established with those vendors. Clients raved about the results: “You totally won us over. It goes to prove that bigger (read more expensive) isn’t always better. We are extremely pleased and impressed by the FileMaker tool.”

“Big Ideas”
Another database project we completed for Target was the management of the “Big Idea” contest. Each month employees could submit a process improvement idea through a web interface that fed into a FileMaker database that allowed a team to sort through the hundreds of entries, prioritize them, and vote on the best ones that led to cash bonuses. We also submitted ideas through the system that were twice chosen as winners including a design for overhauling the way the Target Wedding/Gift Registry worked.

Other Applications
FileMaker also provided the main project management/workflow/time tracking solution for all marketing jobs and projects. In other areas we developed databases that used barcodes to check out of libraries of props, marketing books, etc. as well as a database that tracks the inventory of all the Target art and historical items across the company.

So, yes, FileMaker has made its mark on major retailers in many ways. It is also in use at JCPenny, Macy’s, Bath & Body Works, Whole Foods as well as many other retailers where it create signs, manages projects, and many other things. In all cases, it is unparalleled at its ability to adjust quickly to changing business conditions and requirements.