Solutions

World–famous foundation devoted to the preservation of the lowland gorilla expands its FileMaker Pro database system throughout the organization.
The Gorilla Foundation uses FileMaker Pro 8.5 for storing the vast archive of data gathered through their research.

The Gorilla Foundation

She's about five feet tall, weighs about 300 pounds, is covered with thick black fur, loves to play with kittens and watch TV, and she's got a lot on her mind. She's Koko, the world–famous lowland gorilla, who communicates using American Sign Language, and she's the living symbol of the Gorilla Foundation's ongoing efforts to preserve her species. Based in Redwood City, California, the Foundation's small but dedicated research team breaks new ground in interspecies communication, great ape linguistic study, and the place of the great apes in the global conservation picture. And storing the vast archive of data gathered through this research, you'll find FileMaker Pro 8.5.

Overview

  • Non–profit organization devoted to education, research, and preservation efforts on behalf of the endangered lowland gorilla
  • Based in Redwood City, CA
  • Approximately 20 employees

Industry

  • Non–Profit

Solutions

  • FileMaker Pro 8.5 powers a top–down integrated database system used in every department of the organization, from business operations to ongoing research.
  • Ten files contain over a million individual records.

Benefits

  • FileMaker Pro 8.5 allows full integration of all necessary database functions while maintaining scalability and ensuring easy and efficient future development.
  • Web–like user interface allows rapid, simplified, fully–secured access to key data, both within the organization and for sharing with other interested organizations.
  • Multimedia storage capabilities allow rapid indexing of vital research photos and video clips.

FileMaker's dedication to significantly improving capabilities for users and developers and integrating with the web to multiply the power of their products makes FileMaker exactly the sort of partner we need.

— Gary Stanley, Director of Educational Technology, The Gorilla Foundation

Business Challenge

The Gorilla Foundation is no stranger to the power of FileMaker Pro. Back in 2000, the organization's Director of Educational Technology, Gary Stanley, oversaw the development of a specialized FileMaker database intended to power the Foundation's e–commerce operation — a system that provided steady, reliable service for more than five years. But when the time came for an upgrade, Gary and his team saw the opportunity to deploy an expanded, far more powerful FileMaker Pro 8.5 system throughout the organization. "We were just about to launch a major database development project that would involve much more collaboration," Gary recalls, "including web sharing by selected peer groups. Two of the most attractive features in FileMaker Pro 8.5 were the consolidation of multiple tables into a single file, since our file count was getting quite large, and the ability to have multiple windows open for the same user for data comparisons."

The migration to FileMaker Pro 8.5 was substantial — but not difficult. "Once we learned the key differences," explains Gary, "it became very easy to convert FileMaker 5.5 databases, files and tables to FileMaker Pro 8.5. However, in most cases we decided to take advantage of all the new features of FileMaker Pro 8.5 by redesign, re–creation, and importing the data via export/import."

Successful Solution

The result is a fully integrated FileMaker Pro 8.5 database system that powers vital data–management functions throughout the organization — and does so smoothly and efficiently. "Our integrated solution comprises fewer files," Gary notes, "a much cleaner user interface, and is much easier and more reliable to maintain than expected. The benefits of multiple tables in each file, multiple windows for single users, and the new account–based password/permission system in FileMaker Pro 8.5, coupled with the use of FileMaker Pro Server, have led to a system that's gradually surpassing our initial expectations.

"The new system comprises 10 files, covering functions ranging from day–to–day business necessities, to the processing and storage of irreplaceable research data. Two main workgroups, divided between the business and research staffs, use the system on a daily basis, with additional secure access offered to a range of outside organizations to facilitate collaboration on vital research projects. All told, the system contains well over a million individual records.

We're now able to maintain our complete library of Koko's signs and photos, importing about 300 new images into the database each week along with videos and text in a database that's shared by all staff. This makes it easier than ever to train them in sign language — and to share our multimedia educational assets selectively over the Internet."

— Gary Stanley, Director of Educational Technology, The Gorilla Foundation

Customer Benefits

For the first time, The Gorilla Foundation has a fully integrated database system — an integration made possible by the flexibility and ease of development of FileMaker Pro 8.5. "Reducing the number of files, by table integration, during a period of rapid growth has enabled us to develop an integrated database for the entire organization," emphasizes Gary. "It would have been too expensive to develop and maintain otherwise. We now have a system that we can share with select organizations, using a password protection system that gives them just the right amount of access to our collective data. And, we don't have to wonder where to look for specific organizational data — with our new FileMaker Pro 8.5 database, it's always just a few clicks away."That integration of data is vital to the Foundation's work. "One of the most important benefits of using FileMaker Pro 8.5 to develop a customized, integrated database for The Gorilla Foundation," Gary continues, "is that the database will serve as a "simulation testbed" for education and training. Students and new employees can experience what it's like to be a great ape researcher/conservationist by using the same tools we use and analyzing the same data. The FileMaker database represents a dynamically archived model of TGF that will allow people to build on our experience for generations to come. And we wouldn't have attempted this feat without the extreme ease of use and development offered by FileMaker Pro 8.5."

Powerful multimedia capabilities in FileMaker Pro 8.5 mean enhanced efficiencies in the storage of essential research data. "We're now able to maintain our complete library of Koko's signs and photos, importing about 300 new images into the database each week," Gary continues, "along with videos and text in a database that's shared by all staff. This makes it easier than ever to train them in sign language — and to share our multimedia educational assets selectively over the Internet."

With FileMaker Pro 8.5 come dramatic new plans to increase the Foundation's use of the web, plans which rank high on the priority list for 2007. Use of the FileMaker Pro 8.5 Web Viewer functionality figures prominently, with Gary anticipating it will permit much more rapid exchange and processing of research data. "I think the automatic/scripted data charting using Web Viewer will provide one of the most powerful features for our users," he predicts. "We'll have the ability to visualize data quickly, make comparisons, and do analyses — without having to post–process the data in Excel. This capability will be used both for our fundraising database applications and for our interdisciplinary research in gorilla communication, health, nutrition, and behavior."After five years of successful use of FileMaker Pro, The Gorilla Foundation looks enthusiastically toward future developments for their database system as well as their relationship with FileMaker, Inc. "FileMaker's dedication to significantly improving capabilities for users and developers and integrating with the web to multiply the power of their products makes FileMaker exactly the sort of partner we need," declares Gary. "It's been an especially fruitful relationship — and we expect it to grow!"

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com

For The Gorilla Foundation:

Gary Stanley
Director of Educational Technology
The Gorilla Foundation
1-800-ME-GO-APE
http://www.koko.org
gary.stanley@koko.org