ChatGPT has dominated the news cycle recently, with articles appearing in just about every media outlet. For those who haven’t heard about it, ChatGPT is a chatbot driven by artificial intelligence (AI) software. OpenAI developed the service and released a beta version of it at the end of 2022. It can generate a chat – an online conversation – in a natural, almost conversational way. It has been “trained” on a large dataset of information – basically, much of the Internet as it existed in 2021. As such, it can respond to questions on a wide variety of subjects in a knowledgeable way. It is surprisingly robust and has already shown the ability to write articles, research papers, and software code, among other things, quite accurately.
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Claris released a new version of FileMaker, and it’s pretty exciting. Of course, the usual list of bug fixes and minor enhancements to the platform accompanied the update. Nonetheless, there's at least one outstanding new feature: Transactions.
In the database world, a transaction is any operation on an entity. In FileMaker world, it represents any change made to a record. Previously, we made most of our changes to our records, one record and one field at a time. And, when we clicked out of the field in FileMaker, it committed the record, thereby completing an operation for that entity - in other words, performing a transaction. This function helps keep all our data in sync with other users who concurrently access the database. But it can impede the performance of our system, especially in a wide area network (WAN) environment with poor network speed or high latency.
ChatGPT is dominating online and offline conversations these days. ChatGPT is a chatbot created by a company called OpenAI. But saying it is a chatbot is like saying a Porsche is a car. This particular chatbot has performance and features unlike any other chatbot or AI tool available to the public. As a result, it has generated vast amounts of press, with articles in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and many others.
One way leaders can spend more time working on their business rather than in their business is by automating repetitive tasks. Manual work negatively impacts productivity and frequently leads to errors. Technology can easily automate mundane tasks, freeing time to focus on product/service enhancements, customer engagement, resource optimization, etc.
Implementing software to automate operational workflows no longer has to be a bureaucratic and expensive undertaking. In addition, graphical user interfaces, cloud capabilities, and multiple platform compatibilities make business applications more accessible and comfortable for users.
There's virtually an app that will accomplish just about any task we can imagine these days. And, if an app only partially fulfills our requirements, other options exist.
In our previous blog posts, we reviewed the following:
- What a CRM is
- The requirements for a basic CRM
- How to create an entity relationship diagram (ERD) for that CRM
- How to create a CRM database in FileMaker
In this final post, we will review how to design a FileMaker CRM to finish up the system.
So, after creating the tables, fields, and relationships, the only thing left is to design the user interface (UI). Again, aiming for the most straightforward route here, our first inclination is to create a master-detail layout for each module – Contacts, Companies, and Interactions. But as we think about it, interactions are always related to a contact record; therefore, those details will live within the Contacts screen.
In our previous blog post, we reviewed what a customer relationship management (CRM) system is and put together the requirements for a basic CRM. Yet, we’re not quite ready to start writing code. Next, we need to draw up an entity relationship diagram - ERD for short. In database land, this is a map of all the buckets of information that we will track and the connected data among them. As part of this process, we will look for places to normalize the data. Normalizing means we will look for instances where we can avoid entering the same data in two different areas.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is essential for any business. A CRM helps us communicate with clients, automates processes, and provides analytical tools to help us understand our operations and customers. That said, there are different kinds of CRMs. Some are as simple as the contacts app on our phones, while others can be full-fledged online applications like Salesforce or HubSpot.
While many off-the-shelf CRM software solutions are currently on the market, every business is unique. Therefore, invariably the need arises to customize or create a CRM system tailored to a specific workflow or value proposition.
Some of us lack patience when it comes to improving our workflows. That's why low-code development tools are a God send for citizen developers. They usually understand the true nature of their work and what it takes to improve their workflows. And when process experts directly or indirectly contribute to custom software development, the results are usually effective and fast.
Nonetheless, it's not all roses and sunshine with citizen development. Citizen developers understand the tasks and processes needed for specific operations but may not understand the risk technology introduces to an organization, particularly when integrations are involved.
Fortunately, a solid low-code development tool will provide security features to protect organizational data. Let's review some of the low-code development safeguards to consider.
TL;DR: Use the import function instead of a loop to create many records simultaneously.
In FileMaker Land, it happens that, on occasion, we have to create many records in one fell swoop. For example, when a new cohort of students enrolls at a school, we have to make a bunch of records in a student database. Or, a retailer would need to add new seasonal stock items to its inventory database over the course of the year.
FileMaker developers are in high demand. As businesses realized the importance of technology during the pandemic, digitizing workflows immediately became a priority. As a result, developers were needed to build custom software that would allow both internal and external users to function as usual regardless of the COVID requirements. Despite the craziness, the pandemic presented an opportunity for us all to examine and improve our workflows.
Every FileMaker developer's path is unique. We all have different strengths, skills, and interests. However, there are certain steps to take to make the professional development road more smooth and more direct. So, let's review some of the roles and responsibilities of a FileMaker developer.