2 Replies Latest reply on Jun 14, 2010 10:32 AM by FentonJones

    Newbie - is FM useful for making a debt processing register? Looking for advice! :-)

    MikeAitkin

      Title

      Newbie - is FM useful for making a debt processing register? Looking for advice! :-)

      Post

      Hi there!


      I have a problem and I trust this is the right place to ask! I hope some kind (and expert) forum member can advise me if filemaker is appropriate!


      Situation
      I am a paralegal at a little legal office. We have nearly a dozen staff, and we all use networked computers (PC), working off Word and Excel documents saved on a server. None of us are particularly knowledable about computers. I know a bit about excel. Anyhow, since we are smaller firm, we don't have client management software, so we don't log our client interactions in one place, the client file only contains correspondence and documents. We don't have a register for centralised file notes, any member of the staff may, and often has phone contact with a client. Some of us are part-time university students and share desks, and all of us work parts of all the matters - so it's hard to see and be aware of the current big picture as to what is the status of a client matter.


      Problem
      The problem is that when the part-time paralegals are assigned a client matter, and often it's a debt matter where we are chasing up money owed, it's hard to know what is going on with the client, often the partner has made several phone calls, and the discussions are not logged in a central place. And often the office manager knows other recent information, that has not yet been logged. It's all over the place. So, we often duplicate calls, and work, and waste time going around the office asking what's the status!


      This is particularly a problem with regards to debt processing "Delinquent Clients" ...(what a terrible name) i.e. knowing the status as to money owed and invoicing and reminder calls etc.


      Solution?
      I think a centralised register for updating the status of debts that we are tracking is the right way to fix this. Some sort of central register/database that people fill in so we know the status.



      Present Solution ...? using a central Excel file ... typing text in cells
      ==============================================================
      I have prepared an excel spreadsheet on the central server, I am going to propose to the guys - that anyone who deals with delinquent clients actually reads and updates from this 'central register' saved on the server.


      A super basic database! :smileyvery-happy:

      Information is like this, with simple calculations, and lots of narrative text sorted by date too! For example;

      Client / owes $3,234.00 / days since last contact X, Lawyer: Matt: 11/1/2010, I called, no reply, talked to sam, asked bruce for information / Recommended Next Action: 11/2/2010: Matt: Ask Bruce for a revised invoice and contact details ##this narrative style of text can run for many many paragraphs!##/ Days since last activity/



      My Query - advice from filemaker pro experts wanted!
      ============================
      I take it that Filemaker Pro can make a much more professional solution...the templates certainly look pretty ...

       

      my questions are ...

      Q1. Is this Excel spreadsheet I am using much more easier than building a filemaker database? Excel isn't exactly appropriate for storing large amounts of narrative text!

      Q2.
      I can make spreadsheets and do formulas etc, is Filemaker Pro hard to learn to use so I can make this debtor register spreadsheet as a database?

      Q3.
      When finished, can Filemaker Pro share this database across a network for our staff to use to input and save data?

      Q3A.
      How would it do that conceptually? I hope I don't have to buy filemaker pro then install it on every computer on our network?

      Q3B.
      Is it possible to easily share the database with staff as a tiny software file they can open on the network which refers to a central saved database? I.e. they don't need to install anything, they just use it?

       

       

      ----------------------------------------------------

      hmmmmm I am good with excel but I am scared of any complex computer solutions, especially involving computer languages and real databases (MSQL - what is that hahaha!) - If anyone can share some helpful answers I would be very grateful!

       

      I am hoping this advice shows that FM is the right solution!

       

      And I would drink a beer to you all the way from Australia for any advice given!

      Thanks a lot in advance mateys!

      Matt :smileyvery-happy:



















        • 1. Re: Newbie - is FM useful for making a debt processing register? Looking for advice! :-)
          fitch

          Q1. Is this Excel spreadsheet I am using much more easier than building a filemaker database? Excel isn't exactly appropriate for storing large amounts of narrative text! 

           

          Once you've built the solution in FileMaker, I would think it would be easier to use, and it could be much more useful to you.

           

          Q2. I can make spreadsheets and do formulas etc, is Filemaker Pro hard to learn to use so I can make this debtor register spreadsheet as a database?

           

          You should expect to spend a little time learning the basic concepts of relational database design, if you want to do a good job. It's not rocket surgery.

           

          Q3. When finished, can Filemaker Pro share this database across a network for our staff to use to input and save data?  

           

          Yep.

           

          Q3A.How would it do that conceptually? I hope I don't have to buy filemaker pro then install it on every computer on our network?

           

          In that case you'd share using Instant Web Publishing (IWP), but one problem with that is that it limits the number of concurrent users to 5 unless you host it with FileMaker Server Advanced (FMSA). For what that costs you could probably purchase FileMaker Server and FileMaker Pro licenses for the whole office.

           

          Q3B. Is it possible to easily share the database with staff as a tiny software file they can open on the network which refers to a central saved database? I.e. they don't need to install anything, they just use it?

           

          Everyone would share the same file, that's the whole point. However, see previous answer.

          • 2. Re: Newbie - is FM useful for making a debt processing register? Looking for advice! :-)
            FentonJones

            Basically, Excel and Word are lousy for this. FileMaker is good at it. It will take you less than half as much time to find or enter information. In my opinion, it is a false economy to use inefficient business methods because you're worried so much about what the software is going to cost. Unless of course you have no money at all.

             

            For most clients, when I have been brought in on a job which is about keeping track of money (most), I discover hundreds to thousands of dollars simply falling thru the cracks, because it is too hard to follow. Not to mention that it makes the company look unprofessional when communicating with clients, when you cannot quickly tell them what is going on with their account, which has got to hurt referrals. 

             

            In other words, the time and money you're losing is likely more than the cost of the software and its development costs.

             

            I would recommend FileMaker Server, on a dedicated machine, and a copy of FileMaker Pro on each machine. You may get a discount with 5 copies. IWP would work for some data entry, but is clunky and requires FileMaker Server Advanced, which costs a lot more. If someone knows some PHP and web design, you can create PHP Custom Web Publishing pages served via FileMaker Server; but that's a lot more work.

             

            FileMaker calculations are similar to Excel calculations. You can use the Trace tools in Excel to get some idea of how to create more complex linked calculations to produce the same result in FileMaker.

             

            But the way you enter them is different. Spreadsheets are basically "location or position" based, rows and cells at a particular place.* Databases are logical structure based. It requires a little more thinking and analysis to set up, to understand the business objects you're dealing with, and how they interact. But that's generally a good thing anyway. Being free of "location" based data means you can have thousands (to millions) of entries, yet quickly find and organize them.

             

            * Though an Excel expert could create linked groups of cells, multiple worksheets, etc.. In which case they'd have something like a database, though more fragile, and still kind of a PITA. On the other hand, Excel can do some intense calculations for complex analysis which FileMaker would have trouble with. But few of us are needing that.