The Support Group Blog

"Why should a human do this when a computer can do it?”

Early in my FileMaker career, perhaps back in the first version of FileMaker, we were hired by a company selling and leasing commercial real estate.  The company’s database contained information on properties for sale and lease, completed transactions, and a variety of reports summarizing data by office, district, region, sales person, month and quarter.

This company had a person who generated these reports by hand.  At the end of each month she would spend almost two weeks carefully crafting and crosschecking these reports in Excel for distribution to their entire management team.  Should an error be found it could take days to locate and update all relevant data.

After this system was in place they were able to enter all transaction information by hand and generate reports within hours.  Should an error be found in a report, they’d trace the error back, edit the proper records and run the reports again.  As simple as this system was, it was incredibly productive for them.

At a later follow-up visit, the CEO of this business said something interesting:

“Why should a human do this when a computer can do it?”

And that is the point…

Earlier today I participated in a conference call with a new client to discuss their needs.  They have a very specialized FileMaker system that runs their business. But they’re finding a need to enter data multiple times in disparate systems that collect course registrations on the web and produce course catalogs.  I was reminded of that old piece of wisdom “Why should a human do this when a computer can do it?”

There are certain tasks that computers and FileMaker database systems do very well.  They’ve always allowed us to find and sort records quickly, calculate accurately and at lightning speed, and produce complex reports in the blink of an eye.

FileMaker has come a very long way since those early versions, and can make us productive in so many more ways.  There are many tasks previously requiring human intervention that now can be automated.  These include:

  • Sending and receiving emails
  • Creating PDF documents
  • Interacting with web services
  • Updating and retrieving data from SQL database systems
  • Communicating with disparate systems via XML
  • Client interfaces for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches
  • Creating native Word and Excel documents
  • Creating web interfaces to FileMaker database systems

I recently ran into the gentleman who made that profound statement years ago. He has long since retired and sold his business.  But he was back here taking our Introduction to FileMaker course to sharpen his skills.  You see, in retirement he’s helping a number of non-profit organizations with the business side of their operations, and he’s still looking for places where computers and database software can help.

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