FileMakers Features

Technology + creativity = the future of business

FileMaker Q&A with Sarah Sigfrinius at Linear Blue

Sarah Sigfrinius

 

How would you describe your job?

My role as a Junior FileMaker Developer is a mixture between problem solving and connecting clients’ information. I spend a lot of time planning and processing information from our clients to solve their real world business issues. It’s just like completing a puzzle and it’s my job to match every piece to its specifically designed place.

 

Coming from an educational background more focused around English, philosophy and history, how did you end up in what would traditionally be seen as a technology-heavy career?

Like most people my education started down one avenue and my career changed over the years. When faced with problems at work I became increasingly interested in programming solutions to solve them.  I decided to take things to the next level, and began to self-study FileMaker.

What I enjoyed straight away was how FileMaker allowed me to combine and stretch my creative and problem solving skills, and just how easy it is to learn. The more you learn, the more you can do!  You’re very much in control of how much you can grow and build your skill levels, and it’s that sort of flexibility that inspired me into developing full-time.

 

Which of your skills made a career developing with FileMaker possible?

My communication and networking skills certainly helped a great deal. And just the ability to listen to my peers and clients has allowed me to learn a huge amount in just three months of working at Linear Blue. Creativity and problem solving are really important traits to have when developing with FileMaker too. It’s all well and good if you’re proficient with computers – but you need to understand the business reasons behind why you’re building the solution to keep the bigger picture clear at all times.

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You use technology to solve problems in your role. Is this something you saw your peers at school / uni / first jobs doing too?

I grew up around technology, however it didn’t play a leading role throughout my university life. If anything, my peers at school, and early colleagues, actually seemed fairly nervous about using technology for more challenging issues! I believe this was down to how fast technology changes; a lot of times people simply had a hard time remaining current. In complete contrast, I think this instilled a curiosity in me that eventually resulted in me being where I am today.

 

What is it that you most enjoy about consulting to businesses and using tech to solve their problems?

The part of my job I enjoy the most is the ability to make a difference in helping a client to solve a specific problem and to work more efficiently. The speed of development in relation to the scale of the client’s problem, and how easy it is for me to resolve those issues is great feeling.

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Which technologies that you were exposed to growing up were important, and do any still resonate with you today?

I was quite lucky in that I always had the latest technology around during my upbringing. My mother worked with computers, so she always had the latest and greatest machines at the house.  My first exposure to real technology was when I got my first PalmPilot; my digital life in my pocket!

Having always been a fan of Apple and its products, I have always been a part of the Apple revolution in breaking down perceived norms. It resonated with me the idea of the fight against the big guys and as a female programmer has pushed me even more to break down those barriers.

 

What type of business challenge would you most like to take on with your FileMaker skills?

Data is moving from the desktop. Everyone used to be office based, now it’s all about being mobile and this has created a whole new set of business challenges within developing. Whether you’re on the road, working from home, or doing business from a coffee shop – your location is now your office; your office is no longer your location.  Understanding mobile data consumption is not the same as working from a desktop as it requires a complete redesign and rethink in regards to usability, design and functionality – it’s an exciting time to be a developer!

 

Finally, do you have any advice for young people wanting to get into the world of business and tech?

My advice would be that technology and business are now one, so try not to think of them as different things. Never be scared of using technology to solve your problems – but instead embrace it and then you’ll start to realise the potential it can bring. Also, because many young people have grown up in the midst of the booming ‘technology age’, companies of all shapes and sizes are now appreciating the insight that the next generation can bring to the world of work. Don’t be daunted as you raise questions that people have yet to, you are unknowingly challenging the status quo and reshaping the norm. Just throw yourself in head first, after all, with the rate that technology is continuing to evolve it’s a future-proof career!

 

South Korea bans ‘selfie stick’ sales; A lesson for developers

In a remarkably humorous piece of tech news, it recently emerged that South Korea has banned the sale of unregistered ‘selfie sticks’ – the poles used to take ‘selfie’ photos of oneself which are seemingly prolific in the country.

Aside from a little mirth at this apparently ridiculous story, we’ve actually taken an important lesson from this. As the BBC identifies: “The law applies to sticks using Bluetooth to remotely trigger a phone to take a picture…unregistered sticks might interfere with other devices using the same radio frequencies.” What’s particularly interesting here is that two entirely unconnected pieces of technology could potentially have a dramatic impact on one another, completely unbeknown to their owners. As a principle, it encourages a wider sense of reflection: if I dive headlong into one activity, what effect could it have elsewhere?

Integration into the business

Regular readers of The FileMakers will have noticed that we’re exploring the theme of ‘basement to boardroom’ – the story of how developers could (and should) be positioning themselves as key drivers within the business. Our hope is that developers could achieve the sort of elevation that accountants, marketers, and even some technologists, have enjoyed in business.

So why the selfie sticks?

What struck us about this story was a simple reflection of life in business. People so often pursue a vision with commitment and energy, without entirely understanding how it can impact someone or something elsewhere in that ‘ecosystem.’ As business solution developers, we could easily become guilty of the same focus. Many developers spend their careers constantly introducing new applications into their working environment, usually at the instruction of someone in their change of command. Perhaps we need to take greater ownership of our tech creativity, and think more deeply about our relationships in these spaces.

Developers as networkers

One thing developed are not always considered to be is great networkers. At events like our FileMaker community sessions we see brilliant interactions between people from all different contexts. But what we’re trying to encourage here is a new level of contribution within a business environment.

Read what Oli has achieved at the Academy of Contemporary Music, and you come to realise that really understanding all facets of a business allows you to develop truly transformational solutions. You just can’t achieve this without speaking to different stakeholders, walking the floors into different departments and really visualising how a solution will play out within an organisation. These aren’t behaviours for which developers are known, but there’s no reason we can’t make a change. Apps run so much of what is done in business today, so why wouldn’t we become more commercially minded?

So, as we make the call to arms for developers to aim for the top of the business world, we’re going to plead that you learn from the selfie stick. Look carefully into the environment around you. Consider carefully how you might have a knock-on impact elsewhere and work closely with all your key stakeholders. You may find that your app, database or even a humble form can have a positive effect far wider than you initially thought.

 

How to be a Technology ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’

FileMaker Q&A with Lewis Stairs at MaJic Solutions

Lewis Stairs

How would you describe your job role at MaJic?

My job role involves a huge variety of things; software development, business analytics and solutions development. Fundamentally, my role is to help my clients by building the business fixes they need with FileMaker. I also spend a lot of time looking at my clients’ existing systems and processes, and coming up with ways we can make them better. I’m lucky, as I get a lot of hands-on time with lots of different projects, so no two days are the same.

 

What sort of skills do you think you’ve gained in your apprenticeship (and now employment) with MaJic?

Well I have always been quite computer-literate, and because of this I studied IT at A-level. My apprenticeship took this further and was initially loosely based around Java, HTML and SQL programming. It certainly helped to have some understanding of databases when I started at MaJic full-time, and took full advantage of the FileMaker Platform. MaJic has been great throughout, teaching me a lot about the fundamentals of business – which in turn has encouraged me to think ‘outside the box’ when I’m developing. I’ve certainly embraced the importance of creative thinking in my time here.

 

As a relative newcomer to FileMaker, what’s been your high point in using the platform so far?

It’s been great to see how quickly the solutions I’ve been building on FileMaker go straight into use. I have a real sense of achievement when something I’ve created really helps people. I recently created a FileMaker solution for a property development company, and almost overnight it had been implemented on the company’s Rightmove page, with end-users taking full advantage of it. That’s the thing about FileMaker, it’s incredibly quick to learn, and to develop with.

 

What type of business challenge would you most like to take on with your FileMaker skills?

As I mentioned before, I get to work on lots of different projects day-in-day-out, so I’m quite lucky to have worked with a diverse range of different businesses. That in itself is a challenge each time! Ultimately, I’d like to go into working with multi-national, multi-channel businesses which would allow me to really stretch my developing skills.

 

What’s exciting you in the tech world at the moment, and does it cross into your day job?

I’m a bit gadget obsessed, especially in regards to tablets and phones. This absolutely translates into my work life, as at MaJic I get to develop applications for iPad and iPhone with FileMaker Go. It’s really exciting just how fast mobile devices are evolving from both a hardware and software perspective. If you think about the fact an ‘app’ as we know it today didn’t really exist less than ten years ago, imagine what the next ten years of mobile will bring!

 

What sort of skills do you think it’s important to have when embarking on a career in development?

Asides from needing to be very computer literate, communication skills are definitely key. I have to talk to my clients on a daily basis about how we’re progressing with projects, not to mention getting insight from them on what’s working and what isn’t. There’s a lot of two-way dialogue in my job, so it’s important to be comfortable with people. As I mentioned before, creativity and lateral thinking is also really important, and being able to keep the overall business goal in the front of your mind.

 

Finally, do you have any advice for other young people wanting to get involved in the business / tech world?

Definitely seek out an apprenticeship if it’s of interest to you. There are loads of apprentice events going on all the time so get yourself along to one. Work placements can be useful too and can usually be organised easily through a college or university. Even sending out speculative emails to companies you’d like to work for can sometimes yield results (and is how I managed to get MaJic as my apprenticeship host). Enthusiasm and proactivity are key when doing things like this, you never know who you might end up impressing!

 

 

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.

Mobile-Developer

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.

#FileMakerLife

 

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.