REVIEWER: Bruce Knight, director of IT, David Nygaard Fine Jewelers.

BACKGROUND: David Nygaard Fine Jewelers designs and creates fine jewelry that is sold through its six-store network in the Tidewater area of Virginia. The company prides itself on the elegance and quality of its original designs, quality diamonds and  customer service. In 2005, the firm was named "Virginia Small Business of the Year."

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Windows Terminal Services, Windows 2003 Server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We use FileMaker Pro to run nearly every part of our business, so we can't afford downtime when we add new features or enhance existing functions. This is an area where FileMaker excels - rapid prototyping and development. On some of our apps, we've reduced the time to deployment by as much as two months. FileMaker Pro 8.5 has also given us a big boost in performance and increased application intuitiveness. Most importantly, it has allowed our sales staff to spend more quality time with our customers.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: FileMaker Pro 8.5 is a full-featured relational database that can easily connect to other data sources. It can even drive Web site content. But for our business, we are looking to make FileMaker's Web Viewer an especially strategic sales tool. Customers will be able to view the available inventory and establish their own personalized wish lists for future purchases or gift ideas. Our repeat business is up 65 percent. This self-shopping feature, on its own, offers great potential for marketing.

STRENGTHS: Compared to any database I've used, FileMaker Pro 8.5 has many assets, from ease of development and ease of use to the ability to customize and grow with an organization. During the last eight years, we've expanded from one store to six, from four employees to 32. Throughout this growth period, FileMaker has not only grown with us; it's been a key factor in supporting our growth. FileMaker has been an important component; we have plans to market our database solutions to other luxury/high-end retail stores.

WEAKNESSES: FileMaker Pro 8.5 has resolved most of the shortcomings of earlier versions. The Web functionality, Web publishing, performance, data capacity and connectivity to other data sources are outstanding improvements. In future versions, I'd like to see the automatic resizing of layout objects with the ability to turn this feature off or on, as well as improved integration and the ability to read and write directly to SQL (ODBC) data sources. Things such as conditional formatting for data based on information entered and multilevel undos would greatly enhance FileMaker.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Before we moved to FileMaker, we were using the old pen-and-paper method to create receipts; we then transferred client data to a simple spreadsheet. In an effort to provide improved customer service while reducing the amount of time required to manage the business, we looked into several off-the-shelf solutions. With no adequate turnkey solution available, we started looking into various database products - especially databases where the learning curve would not consume all our time.

DELIVERABLES: FileMaker handles business functions that range from a core customer relationship management and point-of-sale system to our jewelry repair functions, asset management and IT support requests. We've even created a whole HR module in the database. With FileMaker Pro 8.5's enhanced security features, individual store managers have access to certain functions within the solution. The bottom line: our FileMaker Pro 8.5 solution is the most effective business tool we have.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Customer support has always been excellent and responsive. I'm even more impressed with the support of the developer community. Most people are very generous with their time and advice.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation for FileMaker Pro is good. There's also a good online knowledgebase for users. Plus, as a member of the FileMaker Technical Network, I have access to a whole range of member services and support services that are just not available with other products.

FileMaker Pro 8.5
FileMaker, Inc.
5201 Patrick Henry Drive
Santa Clara, CA 95054
(408) 987-2747

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