REVIEWER: Luis Campuzano, Crabby Bill’s chief financial and technical officer.

BACKGROUND: Bill and Dolores Loder founded Crabby Bill’s more than 30 years ago, promising to serve customers great food at great prices and with great service. The family-owned chain of six restaurants may be called Crabby Bill’s, but the friendly service makes sure that “crabby” is only a name. Located on the coast of Florida in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, we employ 400 employees and serve fresh fish and local favorites.

PLATFORMS: Windows and Mac OS X.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our problem was simple: the data needed to run our business - everything from keeping track of the hundreds of thousands of meals served to the tons of fish and seafood cooked, and the millions of dollars in sales - was in two legacy SQL databases, and access to it was through slow custom scripts. When we had to transfer files over, it was more trouble than it was worth. Now we use FileMaker Pro 9 to access, manipulate and use this vital data. I can look at both SQL databases within FileMaker Pro 9 and see our combined accounting, inventory and sales data easily and quickly. More than 4 million records in hundreds of tables in the back-end databases are now easily accessible. We also can use current data from our other existing FileMaker databases seamlessly through the FileMaker Pro 9 interface.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: FileMaker Pro 9 is a full-featured relational database that can easily connect to other data sources. We use FileMaker Pro 9 to create custom reports such as sales and scheduling and do calculations. FileMaker Pro 9 can also support conditional formatting, which allows me to quickly visually identify something that needs attention - all using legacy data. I can readily develop solutions to virtually any business-specific issue that needs tending to, such as developing seating programs for our stores.

STRENGTHS: We use a mix of different computers and operating systems, some Apple computers in the restaurants, and a collection of Windows-based machines in the main office. The cross-platform compatibility of FileMaker Pro 9 made it an obvious choice for our environment, and it is one of FileMaker Pro 9’s biggest assets. For our application, the most important strength of FileMaker Pro 9 is its ability to provide access to much-needed legacy data.

WEAKNESSES: FileMaker Pro 9 has resolved most of the shortcomings of earlier versions. The performance, data capacity and connectivity to other data sources are outstanding improvements. In previous versions of FileMaker Pro, it was somewhat difficult to develop applications that would create useful visual information from legacy data. But with support for conditional formatting, this issue has largely been resolved.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Our selection criteria were a product that offered rapid development and was easy to use and to train users on. An open database connection to SQL was a major consideration. Licensing is a little more expensive than other products, but that is not enough to outweigh positives.

DELIVERABLES: FileMaker Pro 9 handles business functions that range from accounting and inventory to sales data. We created a seating program in an earlier version of FileMaker Pro, and with conditional formatting, it’s a lot easier to use. The most important aspects of our use of FileMaker Pro 9 are the rapidity with which our legacy data is now served up, the ease with which we can see that data and extrapolate the information we need from it, and the knowledge that it can all be used and manipulated in an interface with which we are familiar.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Customer support has always been excellent and responsive. We worked with PK Information Systems, LLC in Clearwater, Florida, to implement our FileMaker Pro 9 solution, and it also seems like FileMaker provides tremendous support to its developer community. Most people are very generous with their time and advice.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation for FileMaker Pro is excellent. There’s also a good online knowledge base for users. The online discussion groups are great. I have had many questions answered by joining a couple of the groups. Many FileMaker users are willing to share knowledge.

FileMaker Pro 9
FileMaker, Inc
5201 Patrick Henry Drive
Santa Clara, CA 95054
(408) 987-7000
http://www.filemaker.com/

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