FileMakers Features

Give me Simple Solutions to Big Problems

People sometimes allow things to become more complex than they ought to be. It can happen by design, or through a lack of attention to the mess we’re creating. It’s all too like a Rube Goldberg machine (pictured); wildly over complicated and over-the-top just to complete the simplest of tasks.

This certainly applies in the world of work, where over-complicating business processes or relying on legacy systems can not only cost you time, but more importantly, cost you money. However, history has shown that sometimes simple solutions can have a fundamental impact on the way we do things…

Mirror, mirror

Let’s take some inspiration from everyday life. The Italian mountain settlement of Viganella, with barely 130 people living there, used to suffer 84 consecutive days every winter during which absolutely no sunlight would each the village. Clearly this made the winter a pretty miserable time for residents.

What could be done to solve this? Moving an entire village up a mountain side is hardly a simple approach. Instead, they looked at how to get the thing they wanted to the place they wanted. The answer was simple really – you can reflect the sun with a mirror.

And so they did. They constructed a large mirror on the hillside to reflect sunlight into the valley. Controlled by a system that shifts the mirror’s position, it’s a remarkably straightforward solution to what could have seemed an unsolvable problem.

Keeping business simple

The business world has become really quite complex. From virtualised infrastructures in the IT domain to extensive legislative environments that surround, well, pretty much everyone, business has many pitfalls. Which is why the simplest solutions really stand out.

Many of the best approaches in business today are built around simplicity, whether it’s operating systems that allow users to touch and interact with their applications or allowing people to work from home to streamline their lives (and keep down office costs). Look at all the applications designed for the workplace that are making note taking, data management and productivity easier than ever.

These are converging tasks that would otherwise be complex and unwieldy when reliant on reams of papers. Instead they can all be managed through a device such as an iPad. Simplification, without a compromise in performance, is starting to permeate the corporate culture.

Big Business Problem + Technology + Simple Idea = Simple Solution

Equations such as this are becoming more and more common in the 21st century world of work. Indeed, here at FileMaker we pretty much live by this approach, and we’re always looking to work with people who can identify simple solutions to big problems. FileMaker tools have been designed to allow exactly this sort of highly accessible innovation and customisation.

For the next generation of up-and-coming business leaders, not using technology to solve a problem would seem like an alien concept. The trend towards very direct connections between the end user and the technology will only continue, and we expect to see more and more people designing and building their own business solutions.

Whether it’s a new database, or a corporate policy to move entirely from paper to iPad, change is in the air. So if you’re looking at your business and thinking “I’m sure there must be a simple solution to this problem” – there probably is! You never know, maybe FileMaker can help you create it…



Are you a ‘techie’ or a ‘businessperson?’ (Answer: You need to be a Citizen Developer)

People might consider my job to be about technology because we develop ‘technical solutions’ – from databases to apps that allow a business to function on the go. And of course it’s true that technology is at the core of what we do. Our specialist skills, on paper at least, lie in the technology domain.

But the reality today is that technology defines business and how it’s done. It’s true for the majority of information workers, relying not only on a PC but also a host productivity applications, through to those on the manufacturing production line whose every action is influenced by the technology around them.

Business is technology

What this means is that unless you’ve developed a very niche specialism, as a technology specialist you’re also a business specialist. When we develop solutions, we’re developing solutions to business challenges. These allow an entire workforce to concentrate on being productive and profitable, not on worrying about the systems they’re using. Tech for tech’s sake will never deliver the ROI that a smart business solution can.

Personally I don’t see tech know-how and business acumen as mutually exclusive. If you’re not thinking about how the end user can benefit and what change it can facilitate, the technology you’re developing will probably not add the value it could. In my world this commerciality is absolutely key to the people I hire. If someone can thrive in complex coding projects they’re hugely useful in a project. If they can create a simple and effective solution to a real problem that’s facing a customer, they’re invaluable.

Hands-on with tech

Because of this ethos, FileMaker developers have become a key part of the work we do. FileMaker creates huge opportunities for business-minded people to forge a successful and impactful career as a solution finder. They become that person who can solve a frustrating problem…or perhaps even double profitability. As a result the lines between ‘techies’ and ‘business people’ are really going to start to blur.

If you want to run an innovative company today, it’s not about focussing on building a hierarchy below you. It’s about finding ways to do things better or to create things that really capture people’s imaginations. And 99% of the time that’s built on technology. I believe we’re increasingly going to see a real competitive advantage for those ‘business people’ who are also hands-on technology people. So for those of us in technology, if we’re going to keep pace as expert problem solvers, we need to make sure that we’re always keeping commerciality front of mind.


by Paul de Hallé, CEO of Linear Blue


Going into business means going into technology

Once upon a time, in the days before smartphones and tablets ruled, the business world was defined by two types of employee: the ‘knowledge worker’ who used the technology given to them as a means to understand the information that surrounded them; and the IT people who sat in the basement, who never spoke to anyone until a device broke down or connectivity dropped. Nobody in the business really thought much about them until something went wrong.

This segregation of technology and business just wasn’t healthy.

The tech revolution

In a short period of time, something changed. Suddenly sexy tech, like the iPhone and iPad, made people start to care about the cloud, about the way they interacted with information and about the applications they had available. Suddenly a far greater number of people were using their own devices and tech solutions to solve their problems. This ‘bring your own device’ generation was starting to get embedded in the workplace; tech-interested, tech-smart and tech-minded in the way they solve problems, they became an established force.


But the evolution of the knowledge work didn’t stop there. Some pushed deeper into the technology, learning to develop their own apps and business solutions. They were the best of strategist and geek. Using a term coined by leading IT analyst firm Gartner, we can summarise them as Citizen Developers. Creativity, technology and commerciality all converge in these people. They build their own solutions to real business problems, using accessible development platforms to affect change almost immediately. It’s a new era in business.

Business 2.0, 3.0, 4.0?

Now I admit, this wave of change is still in progress, however its impact is already being felt across the business landscape. For instance, at FileMaker we’re seeing a real shift in what it means when people use the word ‘developer.’ The individuals using FileMaker on behalf of our partners and customers often don’t fit the conventional definition. They don’t code complex applications using an obscure language. They just create brilliant solutions that make the business run more effectively.

It’s an important shift in both mindset and skillset. Of course, there remains an important role for the super-coders who deliver highly complex and intricate applications. However today we’re not good at waiting for things – either in our personal lives or at work. It’s unsurprising that the commercial world is increasingly seeking software that does what you need it to, and that you can create yourself in a matter of hours.

The next generation

The very society we live in reflects this wave of change: coding is entering the UK curriculum; apps have been firmly established as cool; and a generation of Raspberry Pi users is starting to mature into the workforce. When you add it all up, we believe that the creative use of tech will become the norm for ‘business people.’

This is what we do at FileMaker, and this is what we see an increasing number of business people (not trained coders) doing – across the globe. Check out how Healing Honey and Framestore  have used FileMaker to solve a business problem.


Variety is the Spice of a FileMaker Life

Rob Speakman: FileMaker Grows the Big City Dream

My career started off in IT when I was working for Audi in the South West, but I wanted to make the move to London, so took a job as a Junior FileMaker Developer to facilitate my transition to the big smoke. This was an unusual decision for me at the time, as database design was actually my least favourite subject in my degree! My reservations were soon extinguished however, and I found that working with the FileMaker Platform swiftly got me ‘on side’ due to its rapid (and easy) development model.

FileMaker allowed me to concentrate on my favourite part of the development process – the problem solving. In my role we used to visit a huge variety of companies each week, and I soon learnt that I had a real passion for solving everyday business problems with technology.

Developing for Businesses Great and Small

Today I run We Know Data, where our whole raison d’etre is to use technology solutions to improve people’s businesses.

It is by no means an overstatement that in the present day there are two types of industry: those who have been reshaped by digital technology, and those that soon will be. The variety of firms we get to work with is genuinely surprising. I’ve been helping ‘one man bands’ that are out there in the field, right through to helping streamline bigger multi-million pound businesses.

Revolutionising and digitising business process is often a painful, multi-year marathon, however it doesn’t have to be that way. We make changes that are rapid, positive, and transformative by combining FileMaker with an agile approach to software development. The below are prime examples of this…

Mini Case Study 1: In the boiler room

One of our clients is a boiler repair company with around 80 engineers in the field. As they’ve grown, the paperwork associated with invoicing and the scale of their backend systems have grown substantially. Working with national chains as well as private individuals, they wanted to up their game – so we developed workflow and worksheet management tools which could be completed on site by repair engineers.

Alongside their toolbag, each engineer has an iPad – this shiny tablet is now as important as a wrench or spanner in getting the job done. They can complete and submit invoices using the device – online and offline, with an auto sync back to the office. Suddenly, with FileMaker, we’ve helped make this into a tech-savvy 21st Century business.

Mini Case Study 2: Textile design studio (Whiston & Wright)

As a complete contrast to the above, we worked with a textile design studio, developing an app which allows them to efficiently catalogue their dresses via a database, with relevant photographs and tags to help identify all the different garments. Unlike the previous approach, this allows on-site and off-site designers to upload their designs, all at the same time.

There are two reasons we’re such big fans of FileMaker. The first is the flexibility it offers; we can solve problems with virtually any company. It’s just great for our business. The second is the speed at which we can develop those solutions. Due to our client base, some of the web development we do is off-FileMaker, but we’ll test and develop on-FileMaker as we can build more quickly and efficiently. We then just copy the build onto another platform.

There is also another aspect of my job, one I feel extremely passionate about, and that is finding and working with the next generation of developers. With coding recently introduced in schools, there is a real opportunity to get some enthusiasm behind this career path. Coding is no longer about geeks in their bedroom, the technology industry has changed, and it has become a huge business enabler.

Being a developer is incredibly diverse, it’s the beauty of the profession, and also where (I think) the future lies for the tech industry. Developing is now about being a problem solver in a business environment, whether that will be for a boiler repair company, a leading fashion designer or anyone in between.



Coding in schools: theory vs practice

Youth unemployment has been described as one of the great problems of our time. But what can be done about it? Is it time to bring back National Service, which formally ended in 1960, as has been asked by some commentators? Others wonder why the school system isn’t better-capturing the hearts and minds of our young people. Bigger problems perhaps than we have space for here.

Line Of Children In School Computer Class

Cracking the educational code

It may sound odd coming from a company with developers at its heart, but here at FileMaker, it’s not a new generation of coders coming through the school system that’s got us excited, but rather a new generation of problem solvers and team workers.  That’s the really exciting part of this change in technology education.

To think that this huge initiative to introduce coding into schools will simply help reinforce the UK’s tech pedigree is to miss half the benefit. Yes – of course there’s a huge advantage in having a nation of tech-literate, coding-friendly young people ready to enter the workforce. The need for applications, that can solve the most significant business challenges, is increasing at an exponential rate. So there are clear economic opportunities associated with the world of coding.

However at FileMaker we get even more excited when we come across people with an aptitude for creating tangible solutions to real problems. Some of the most promising developers we know have ended up developing not because they had a love of computing or code, but because they wanted to solve an issue, to make something in their world better. Indeed, several of our recent blogs have shown the fascinating avenues that have brought people into the developer community.

Give me solutions not problems

We know that you can teach someone the processes and languages needed to be a developer, but trying to instil curiosity or develop a logical approach takes far, far longer. The intrigue of a challenge that needs solving, the pleasure of working with a team to identify the solution and the delight at realising you’ve found the best answer – these are all experiences that engage and motivate students.

Taking the skills that coding gives you into life beyond the classroom can only be a good thing. At a time when youth employment consistently skirts 1 million people, these sorts of skills will help entrepreneurial thinkers set up successful businesses. “Even if you’re not planning a career as a web developer, a basic knowledge of code can be helpful to students going down a variety of different career paths,” says Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of business and technology education organisation General Assembly.

FileMaker Developers

A challenge and an opportunity

Whereas some see the introduction of coding as forward thinking, we see it as a necessity which we just have to get right.  “Coding is the language of our future,” says Lucie Sarif, associate director of Little Miss Geek, a social enterprise that aims to encourage young women to get involved in technology. “If we don’t learn to code, we’ll be left out of the technological revolution.”

Furthermore, there is also the chance of the UK raising its status on the world stage. The Guardian recently reported that the likes of Japan and South Korea are watching the changes in England carefully with a view to following in our footsteps if we do well.

The future of the UK economy

If the UK gets this coding initiative right, it will be a smart investment in the future of our economy. These kids can certainly have the digital world at their feet, with an unprecedented choice in how they live their lives and develop their careers. But even if they have no interest in a technology career at all, they’ll be part of a whole new wave of talented problem solvers entering the workforce.

And that’s a win-win as far as we’re concerned.


Every Day is a Developer School Day

Vicky Nesbitt

Vicky Nesbitt: From the Sales Floor to FileMaker

Everyone attends the ‘University of Life’, and it’s where we learn the most valuable lessons. However I also tried going down the more institutional university route first off. I soon realised I was more interested in living life to the full than I was in academics… which produced the unexpected result of my getting a job on the sales team at Carphone Warehouse. Not the outcome I’d planned for, but perhaps everything happens for a reason.

Developing my Own Path

Thanks to my ‘extroverted’ style on the sales floor, I managed to secure some new job opportunities, which by a serendipitous turn saw me working for a small software company that specialised in software for PR and marketing agencies. Initially the role, despite the ‘sales executive’ title, largely involved trips to the post office and making tea. Thrilling as that may sound, eventually the appeal ran out. So I started peering over the developers’ shoulder (I’m nosey like that).

The company was using FileMaker to develop software for reporting and workload management at these media agencies, which seemed surprisingly interesting to me. So having continued to push my nose in where it wasn’t wanted, I was eventually given a FileMaker training course, which in turn led to me having a developer role. (I just can’t help myself when I see the chance to get involved with something exciting and new).

The Lone Developer

Quite unexpectedly I ended up in a remarkable sink or swim situation. It was me, my limited developer skills and our full client portfolio against the world. That lasted for a while, but let’s be honest – these sorts of situations only have a limited shelf life. So eventually I moved on to RecruitmentForce, where we have two products for managing candidates based on FileMaker.

It’s here that I’ve realised the real fun that can be had in creating your own business solutions – and where all the lessons I learnt along the way have started paying dividends. I’m currently involved in interacting FileMaker with APIs such as a cloud-based calling systems, MailChimp, Xero Accounting and so on. It’s a chance to make two pieces of a puzzle come together, with the result being a real change for the way someone does their job.

Developing in the Real World

Having had some pretty ‘dry’ jobs in my time, I really love seeing how we can make someone’s day that bit better, and their business more profitable. One area in which we’re seeing huge opportunities to do this is mobile. Our FileMaker products have an iPad app, allowing people to access all the great resources on the go. It’s how people want to work today, and so we feel that the solutions we’re building are really relevant.

It’s important to learn the skills you need to do your job well, but I’d add it’s almost as important to make mistakes along the way. Hint – make them as early as possible so you don’t have to when you’re starting to do the really fun stuff.


The Sweet Sound of Success

Oli Sussat: Developing is Music to my Ears

For many developers, their professional life (and freetime hobbyist work) is a creative expression. It’s where they can realise the ideas in their heads.

Striking the Right Chord

I’ve been lucky enough to have two other fields of expression, both tied to a single industry – music. Clearly I have a passion for music itself, however I also get a huge buzz from exploring different ways to actually manage the creative process and the business that surrounds it.

Developing is an incredible combination of ideas -  of a vision for something new and more interesting -  with the hands on ability to turn that into a working reality.I work at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM), an institution with a population of around 1,000 students based in Guildford. In addition to the academy itself, we have Europe’s largest recording facility – the Metropolis Studios. Here we’ve welcomed talented artists such as Ed Sheeran and Newton Faulkner, both of whom were ACM students, and internationally renowned acts such as Jessie J, Public Enemy and David Guetta.

Getting Creative in the Music Business

The last handful of years have seen some fantastic changes within the ACM, and now the same is happening in Metropolis. The quality of our staff and facilities speaks for itself, but inevitably they sometimes need a helping hand to head in the right direction. We’ve had to come up with some creative solutions to help our business move forward in a way that’s resource efficient, but also sensitive to the nature of the industry.

As a business we found ourselves using enterprise solutions like SAP, which on the surface answered some questions, but didn’t really do everything we needed. I quickly realised that creating our own solutions would be a far more natural approach and so trained as FileMaker developer. I don’t think I realised at the time how important a skill it would prove to be in helping design the future of ACM and Metropolis. In fact I’d say FileMaker is at the heart of our growth because it’s allowed us to improve almost every facet of the business.

Developing your team

When it came to recruiting developers to help grow our business, I didn’t want to be too prescriptive. In fact the opposite has been true. We challenged them by giving them a long leash. Rather than set people specific tasks to complete, we wanted to harness the creativity that developers inherently seem to possess. Developing is an incredible combination of ideas – of a vision for something new and more interesting – with the hands on ability to turn that into a working reality. It’s not too dissimilar to writing and performing music in that sense.

The ideas my developers came back with really blew me away, and they’ve been implemented to real effect at ACM and increasingly Metropolis. It really is like being in a recording studio and seeing an artist pull their vision together into that perfect sound. It’s pretty exciting to help an organisation like this evolve, and in many ways I think the problem solving we do as business managers is more creative than making music!

I could go on all day about the solutions we’ve developed, but a simple example is student attendance. All our staff use iPads, and the applications we’ve developed provide immediate access to information on student attendance. Integration with Clickatell means lecturers can receive live notifications from students via text if they’re running late, and we’ve got a contactless registration process which keeps this data current, thanks to some crafty projects with Arduino boards. This all helps with efficient management of the business, and allows lecturers to deliver a tailored approach for each student.

As someone used to being on the creative side of things, I instinctively always want to work with the flexibility to explore new ideas. For our business, FileMaker has really given us that.


I’m a Geek and a Whole Lot More


Jordan Watson: Forget the New Football Season – Start Developing

Most people would imagine professional footballers have more clout than us humble developers. But I disagree.

The Hard Knocks of Professional Football

My path into the developer community wasn’t exactly conventional.  At the tender age of eight I became involved in the Manchester Utd football set up and spent the next six years there, eventually continuing my professional career at Preston North End. I earned league and FA Cups Squad shirts. Football has its glamour, but it’s a harsh business. At the end of my contract, aged 18, I was looking for a new opportunity.

Out of the blue a university in the US offered me a four year football (soccer!) contract. However there was a catch; I had to take a gap year and had no idea what to do with myself. Other than lots of running, I was left trying to fill my time.

I became fidgety and needed something to occupy my time, so went to work with my friend who owned a sports event company in the North of England – running coaching sessions and fundraising programmes. It was literally a life changing experience, in a way that surpassed even the Manchester Utd academy. How?!

Another Beautiful Game

The long and short of it is that working at the sports events company made me realise I could help change a business – even as an inexperienced 18 year old. Initially there were easy wins. For example, I was no computer whizz but I realised that using a calculator to complete sums and manually enter them into Excel wasn’t the best use of the technology at their fingertips!

It struck me I could really do something at this firm, helping the business work far more efficiently by finding real solutions to real problems. One such area was bringing their disparate teams into the 21st Century with a shared database. I set about finding them the right tool, and it was really clear that there were two options available to me – one of which was FileMaker.

The FileMaker starter solution seemed far more usable than the alternative, and the firm took a punt on me, giving me the six week summer holiday to produce something workable for the business. I didn’t know how to code anything, and this was my first foray into the development of business solutions, but I could see elements of FileMaker that were immediately changeable and manageable. What I produced after six weeks wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Most importantly, the company’s turnover doubled in six months.

Going for Growth

During that six months I continued to update their solution – it evolved as my knowledge evolved – to the point that I felt confident enough to approach a new employer. My new target was the North West’s largest building firm, whose managing director received a promise from a bold 18 year old claiming he could increase the business’ turnover. For some reason he believed me, and I promptly spent 12 months building a more complex business management system. In hindsight it wasn’t the best. But they’d never had anything like this before, and again, it worked.

Buoyed by my success, I went back and rebuilt it using FileMaker 13 – in just 4 weeks. I take pride in the fact that the updated solution is still in use today, and they run pretty much every element of their business through it, around £10m in annual spending is processed by the system, supported by sales managers with iPads who can feed into the database and make decisions based on its insights. It just works for their business, and the ROI was ridiculously high.

Do I wish I was still playing football? Yes and no. However the world of professional sport would never have given me that creative freedom to make a massive difference to real people’s lives. I’m a developer, a problem solver, and that’s where I get my kicks today.


How do you develop a developer?


“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”


Steve Jobs got one or two things right in life, and his approach to working life was as inspirational as his redefinition of the technology market. So ask yourself – when you walk away from your desk this evening, are you going to be buzzing about what you did today?


Sure – a good job can be hard to come by. It’s a competitive marketplace out there and no more so than within the IT space. But those really making their mark are the ones using technology to add value and have a positive impact on the bottom line of the business. Just ‘keeping the lights on’ isn’t the career option it once was. Now is the time to do great things.



Developing the developer

So how do you stand out from the crowd and make sure the grass is greener in your next career move? Whether you’re an IT professional, an employed developer or a hobbyist developer looking to take that next move and convert your skills into a full time job and career, it’s worth thinking carefully about what you really want from each day.


Laying cards on the table, most developers will want to achieve some or all of the following:

  • Making yourself sought after by top companies
  • Increase your earning power
  • Having your pick and choice of companies to work for
  • Gaining the opportunity to work globally


This is all easier said than done, surely? Yes and no.


Clearly it takes a commitment to gain the skills and experience required to complete big projects and change the way a business works. But this skill and experience is all attainable. There are also some simple steps to changing the way you work that can reposition you as a true asset to the business:

  • Be more than just a doer. Become a business problem solver by using technology to get to a new way of working, not just to a tech solution for a tech problem
  • Gain visibility with senior decision makers by proactively suggesting how these solutions can make a change for the better
  • Work towards the certifications that really show your capabilities



How can we help you?

If you’re thinking “how do I get more from the skills I have?” you’re not alone. There’s a vibrant community already reaping the benefits of a smarter way to develop, by working on FileMaker.

FileMaker 13 Certification is the official credential offered by FileMaker, and as a certified developer, you can expect the red carpet treatment. Well, OK it doesn’t exactly make you a rock star, but in developer terms it’s pretty close. It will show clients, peers and management that you’ve got the potential to help drive the business forward using FileMaker solutions, many of our developers show this on an ongoing basis.


Event: Your future with FileMaker

Whether you’re new to us, or have already earned your FileMaker stripes as a certified developer but are yet to take full advantage of what could come your way, we’ve got an event coming up that you might want to drop into…


What:               FileMaker Developer Event:

Where:            Apple’s Regent Street store

When:              Tuesday 5th August at 6pm


We’re delighted that former-CIO Matt Ballantine will be hosting a session on the opportunities that becoming a certified FileMaker developer can bring. You’ll also hear from other developers from all walks of life, including an ex-Manchester United football player and from an in-house developer at the ultra-cool rock school, ACM.


Whatever stage you are in your developer journey, you can find out more about FileMaker developers’ work with companies of all shapes and sizes from Framestore who worked on Oscar-winning film Gravity, to the NHS. Not to mention McLaren, Virgin and Warner Bros.


What do I do next?

Whichever path you choose, with FileMaker on your side, you can expect bigger and better things and it will help you climb to the top of your career charts as a developer. If you can’t make the event, get in touch to find out more.

Please help us make this event as great as possible – come along to the event and share the love on your social channels with #FileMakerlife.

Or if you simply want to find out more, then please visit



Well at least you’ve got your health…or have you?

Most of us will put our health above all else in our daily lives and it’s often what we hang on to when the finer things in life evade us. So, it makes perfect sense, that we rate the NHS as such a crucial pillar of our society. With the service being critical to each and every one of us the key question is how we ensure that we make the most out of its capabilities. A recent report published by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation shines a light on one of the key challenges that the NHS faces, the limitations of the data available.

So, with the reams of data at its disposal, how can we make it start to work for the NHS and improve this vital government service. After all, if you don’t have your health, what do you have?

Demystifying the data

It’s all well and good saying that the NHS needs more investment, but if we don’t know which areas to focus on we could be throwing good money after bad. According to Gwyn Bevan, one of the authors of the aforementioned report, the lack of data at our disposal, and its consistency, means that we cannot compare performance effectively across the four nations of the UK and assess which is offering the UK taxpayer best value for money.

Well at least you’ve got your health…or have you?

The primary reason for this is that data gleaned from the NHS is not granular enough. The report goes on to state that data across the UK does not show how expenditure is channelled to fund frontline services. So, it got me thinking, surely this is not helping us pinpoint where the problems are within the system. It seems that the sheer volume of data collected by our hospitals is enough to deter a true analysis of performance with the data currently being largely unstructured. In any other business we would be looking at how to use the data at our disposal for competitive advantage, so why not in the NHS? Once we can give the data structure and manage it, then we can apply it to create a more effective NHS which will be an increasingly data smart business.

Applying the right medicine

This is where a customised database solution can come into its own. If data is amenable and people are encouraged to use it, the NHS and businesses of all sectors will benefit.

We’ve already seen, through our work with various clients, evidence of companies working with data within the healthcare sector and using it to improve patient care exponentially. The Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project, which is actually a result of a Department of Health initiative to improve the NHS through the use of technology, is a good place to start. The team has been using FileMaker to build its own database solution that allows it to speed up the reporting of cancer diagnoses and reduce the element of human error for diagnostic pathologists. As a result, the lab can now report 85 percent of specimens within seven days as opposed to the 40 percent prior to adopting a FileMaker solution.

The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) is another great example. It has found that automating the collection and scoring of data can play a big role in improving customer care. By shifting something as simple as a patient questionnaire from paper to iPad, using the FileMaker Platform, the hospital is now able to use its data with ease and measure patient progress over time, improving patient care thanks to less time spent processing data.

Healing Honey is another case in point. The company developed an antimicrobial honey that can be used in cases of resistance to, or unavailability of, antibiotics. Using FileMaker it has been able to bring the solution to hospitals in record time and at a fraction of the cost of using paper-based systems.

So, steps are being taken across the sector to improve management and application of data, but a more consistent approach is required to make an impact in all corners of the UK. As things stand, our national treasure is struggling under the weight of the data millstone hanging around its neck. It’s now time for the NHS to focus its attention to shifting its data online, analysing it and using it to improve the service that citizens of the UK receive.