This association of law firms had been a loyal FileMaker customer for many years. As they grew, they found that their FileMaker solution no longer worked as well as it had previously. They undertook a major project to switch from FileMaker to an off-the-shelf association management software with some customizations. After investing months of implementation and thousands of dollars and in the new solution they came to the difficult conclusion that it wasn’t going to work out.
A consultant recommended LuminFire to take a look at their system and provide some recommendations through a solution checkup. After analysis of the existing FileMaker app, LuminFire concluded that the issue was not with FileMaker, but with the application itself.
The firm had run into the limit of the previous developer’s knowledge on how to make the solution better. Taking a FileMaker solution to the next level required engineering skills that the average FileMaker user doesn’t have. In today’s world with hundreds of web-based tools it’s true even more. The ability to make FileMaker play well and talk with other best of breed applications (integration) is critical to adding functionality to a FileMaker solution.
With the FileMaker platform, a developer can build software quickly to fulfill nearly any function required to run a business or make it more efficient. Similar to how you have to create custom spreadsheets to use Excel effectively, FileMaker is not a solution by itself. A developer needs to create a custom application or database using FileMaker as the platform. This is why FileMaker solutions can look very different. If you’ve seen FileMaker in action you’re actually looking at what a developer created with FileMaker…not FileMaker itself. Even though FileMaker is the most accessible and easiest to the use database platform in the world, it still requires solid technical knowledge to make a truly effective solution.
LuminFire was engaged to complete a full rewrite of the original solution. As the new solution would also be based on FileMaker, data migration was made easier. The new solution could also take full advantage of many improvements in the FileMaker platform that had gained over time.
LuminFire created the new FileMaker solution based on fmIgnite. Using fmIgnite provided a base framework CRM/ERP that made the implementation much faster, less costly, and included hundreds of well-tested features that wouldn’t have been possible if the project was started from scratch.
Besides maintaining law firm and lawyer contact information, the custom application tracks:
- Membership and retention concerns
- Member contact evaluation surveys
- Member referrals
- Event and meeting participation
- Firm and Lawyer practice areas
- Firm dues invoices and payments
- Lawyer roles within the firm
- Firm re-certification statuses
The database produces many useful custom reports at the click of a button. The flexibility of FileMaker makes it possible to create reports that would take much more time to create using other methods. Here is a sample report:
Integration is Key
FileMaker doesn’t have to do all the work. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. The solution makes use of several other web sites and services. In the software world these are called integrations. Many sync technology components were used to make the solution effective. Today, LuminFire’s data translation and sync engine called BrilliantSync aids in building software integrations effectively by enabling FileMaker talk to the world.
The primary FileMaker integration is with their Microsoft SQL Server-based web site. Alongside their marketing website is a client web portal, which participating law firms must log into regularly to update their list of active lawyers and services as well as receive and manage leads or referrals. These changes are synchronized daily with the FileMaker database to allow for reports to use the most current and up-to-date information on member firms, lawyers, referrals, payments, photos, and logos.
The sync is a two-way, both pulling data from the web site, and pushing data back to the web site. For example, invoices are pushed to the web site for payment. Invoice payments are processed by Stripe and synced back to FileMaker to update the balance on the invoice.
LuminFire’s expert technical advice makes companies more profitable. At one point in the development process, LuminFire identified the opportunity to save tens of thousands of dollars annually by making a change to the payment gateway and methods used for accepting dues! It was a change that only required minimal development but continues to provide major financial benefits that more than paid for the investment in building the new app.
In addition to integration with the web site, the fmIgnite FileMaker solution provides a number of other useful integrations. EventsAir is used for managing event registrations through a custom API. Contact records are pushed to EventsAir from FileMaker, then events and event registrations are synced to FileMaker from EventsAir allowing FileMaker to show a history of all events that firms and lawyers have attended. Previously, Cvent had been used for this purpose with a similar integration but when better pricing became available with EventsAir it made sense to change.
These integrations allow the entire solution to work together seamlessly for a unified, cohesive system.
The Right Choice
In the end, building a custom FileMaker solution was the right choice. Their attempt to move to off-the-shelf software was unfortunately a costly decision and diversion. Going back to FileMaker proved to provide exactly the solution they needed.
If your organization is considering getting rid of FileMaker…for whatever reason…you should strongly consider evaluating the particular application solution that you have built using FileMaker to see if it should be rebuilt for today. Consider bringing on the assistance of a developer with more experience across a wide variety of solutions as well as integrating with other technology products.
If so, you can save a lot of time and money by investing in your existing platform instead of making the mistake of throwing money at other solutions that will not work in the end.
If you do decide to move on to another technology solution we’ve often assisted with data migration as well as using FileMaker to fill in technology gaps often left open by off the shelf software.
Whatever technology you choose, LuminFire can take your solution to the next level. We’d love to have a conversation to see how we can help you.
Also published on Medium.