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  FileMaker Asia Pacific News
   
  Apr-Jun 2013  
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Building efficient workflows
Canterbury Track Cycling (CTC) in Christchurch, New Zealand holds twice-weekly race meets where between 50 and 100 riders hurtle round a 400-metre concrete velodrome.

Workflow and data go hand in hand. Throughout the workflow process, people will access, create or modify data, depending on the parameters that have been set. The next person in the flow will access the most recent instance of the data, and add to it according to the same parameters, and so the process will repeat itself until the desired outcome is achieved. Because a variation of the same data is being used in each step of the workflow, it is critical to collect and maintain good quality data in the system. Multiple processes and decisions rely on this data, and therefore poor data quality can have a big effect downstream in the workflow process.

One powerful way of enhancing data quality is to move the point of data entry as close to the origin as possible. This is one reason why mobility is so important. For instance, customers can type in their own address on an iPad when ordering a product.

With most off-the-shelf software, businesses will have to build their workflow processes around a generic system, specifically designed to hit as large a customer base as possible. Businesses can lose efficiency if they have to add or modify steps in their workflow to adapt to a set system.

FileMaker is a complete database platform–it provides all the products you need to create, deploy and use custom solutions. You can create custom solutions which fit the workflow of your business, which implement your business rules and give you efficiencies. With the FileMaker platform it is also easy to create and deploy mobile solutions so that data creation and use can happen as close to the origin as possible.

Workflow is easily built into a FileMaker solution using a number of development tools provided in FileMaker Pro. The first of these is layout design. In FileMaker solutions, a layout presents the user interface (UI) with which the user interacts. The UI includes the display of data and control of what can be done at each stage. For example, a workflow for the creation of an order for a new customer may require as a first step that customer details are entered and that certain basic data is provided. Once the customer details are entered, the user may then create an order for the customer. Layouts are used to present the interface for creating and completing a new customer record, and also for providing access to functions as required.

FileMaker scripting also assists in building workflows. Scripts are created in FileMaker Pro by selecting script steps and setting options. A script is a series of instructions that are executed to achieve a result. Script steps provide for standard programming structures such as conditional branching and looping. This allows the developer to construct a specific workflow that will follow the required process and also check steps along the way.

FileMaker solutions are often accessed via different clients such as FileMaker Pro on Windows and OS X desktops, FileMaker Go on iPad and iPhone devices, and through web browsers. The workflow presented through each client can be customised for optimum use in each different case

A further tool in the construction of workflow in a FileMaker solution is the use of script triggers. A developer can determine when a script will run by assigning it to a script trigger. Perhaps the most common way to activate a script is when the user clicks a button on a layout. However, scripts can also be activated when a user enters or exits a field, opens a new window or switches between layouts. This makes it very easy to make sure the right scripts run at the right time to ensure that processes are checked and followed.

The key to creating any workflow is knowing what you want done and when you want it to happen. Start your planning process with a pen and paper, writing down all the steps in the required order. Account for any branching decisions as you go. You may find it useful to use a flowchart structure to visualise and step through the workflow. When you are satisfied that the process is accurate and complete, translate it into the required layouts and scripts in FileMaker Pro to build the workflow. As a final step carefully test all options to ensure it works as expected.

  Willem Meyer (Innovation image)  
From the Asia Pacific Regional Manager...

Whether we realise it or not, we all use workflows in many parts of our lives. Think of the steps and processes involved in preparing a home-cooked meal. In the business world streamlining workflows can mean the difference between success and failure.

In this issue we have two inspiring examples of how FileMaker users with little formal training developed solutions which have brought immediate efficiencies to their enterprises through improved workflows. These were developed from start to finish without the need for anything more than the FileMaker platform.

 

The ability to use different data sources in FileMaker solutions made it possible either to simplify steps in existing workflows or to consolidate a number of separate steps into one. These clever solutions delivered tighter control over workflow processes by employing robust security features and by leveraging mobility to move data input closer to the source.

Willem Meyer

 
 
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  Subscribe to our newsletter   Apr-Jun 2013  
  pg 01 pg 02 pg 03 pg 04
 
 
     
 
 

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