American City Business Journals
ACBJ is the parent company for The Philadelphia Business Journal, and similar city-based Business Journals around the country. They had been using a FileMaker 6 solution to build their Book of Lists. DSS and a team of developers specific to this project, spent two years working closely with the in-house developer, building a FileMaker/MySQL centralized solution to replace the old FileMaker 6 single-user solution.
There were several challenges associated with this project:
- Foremost was the need to win over the 42+ researchers who had their own template, but independent solution, to the new centralized application.
- We needed to provide a means for using stored raw data and allowing it to be formatted and combined in ways that could easily produce the printed Book of Lists.
- A survey component for the Web needed to be secure and robust. Surveys had to be created in FileMaker and served from the MySQL database. Questions creation needed to have complex validity checks.
- Invitations had to be able to be sent via fax and email, with the ability for a person to securely login, but not have to use a password or username to do so.
- Survey answers needed various forms of validation, and clients needed to be able to mark their completed surveys as validated.
The researchers had to be able to edit the question, but keep the original answers for reference.
- There were some functions that were best handled by MySQL, others could only be done effectively with FileMaker.
- Finally, the solution had to be flexible enough to expand, and clearly documented so an in-house developer could take over when DSS finished the project.
“Digital Software Solutions delivered virtual round the clock support. Dan and his team treated our money as if it were his own, often finding better and more efficient way of cost savings that were invaluable in getting us to achieve the multiple goals while staying within our budget.
American City Business Journal’s papers are in a deadline-oriented business. We had to deploy while in operation, adding considerable challenge to the tasks. Digital Software Solutions met and surpassed those challenges.” David Fink, Director of Research Services.
Vision Video sells faith-based videos via inside sales people and through the Web. When we contracted with this client, they were using a FileMaker 6 solution and a separate Web solution that was not directly tied to their FileMaker.
After several extensive planning meetings and watching their staff work through orders, we began crafting a solution. Due to the volume of transactions and the complexity of their searches, we decided to mirror their data in MSQL. Because we built this solution before FileMaker natively supported SQL table, we used scripting to keep the two databases in sync.
We were able to create a robust shopping solution on the Web, complete with promotions, that markedly increased Web-based sales.
On the back-end, we used FileMaker to move orders through complex internal processes with validity checks along the way. FileMaker provided exports and automatically sent them to an FTP site for the fulfillment house. It was also able to process shipment confirmations back from the fulfillment house with minimal effort on the part of the staff. FileMaker handles shipping confirmations and internal order tracking.
An interesting added complication was the need to allow orders to be processed so that they shipped from the main office when it was advantageous to do so. The database provides the needed information to make intelligent choices about this decision, and prevents orders from being assigned to the main office for shipping if the products are not available there.
Unique to this type of business is a complex royalty system that has to handle calculation of royalties based on a percent of the sale, but often with minimums allowed. This system has to also allow for changes in a royalty amount when an item is returned or exchanged. This was a difficult process to troubleshoot, especially finding all the possible combinations. Without the subject matter experts at Vision Video and our close working relationship, this would not have been accomplished.
We also had to maintain the internal order-taking system, which was required to have even more flexibility then the Web shopping system. In addition, an ‘internal distributor order’ module was set up for the many distributors who resell Vision Videos products.
The system also manages all returns and exchanges from within the FileMaker back-end.
Numerous reports have been developed so that marketing decisions can be made in regard to different products and promotional campaigns.
“Several years ago we began the process of looking for a developer to redesign our database and integrate it with our website. We had had a very bad experience with our last database redesign, so we hired a consultant to help us select a firm this time. After talking with 12 different companies, we asked three for firm proposals and chose DSS and Dan Stein for this project. Dan’s proposed solution was a great fit for us. We use Filemaker that all our staff is familiar with, yet have power of SQL for our website. The close integration of our website and administrative database has been tremendous time saver for us. The database help us handle the most complex and demanding tasks like accounting for royalties for over 500 program and 150 licensors, while at the same time remaining straightforward and simple to use. We are thrilled with the royalty system Dan build into our database and have continued to work with Dan to add updates to both the website and database.
Last fall we decided to change fulfillment houses, and we had a very tight timeframe in which to make the transition. Dan worked with us to accommodate all the I.T. changes needed in our system to work with the new fulfillment house. The process went great, finishing ahead of schedule and working wonderfully. We are grateful for the help Dan Stein and DSS has provided to help us run our organization as efficiently as possible…” Bill Curtis, President
Roughton Galleries, Inc. specializes in American and European paintings from the 19th and early-20th century. They first came to DSS because a long-term project to build a content-driven site was stymied. They had a basic design, but were unable to get the dynamic content and performance they needed. DSS was able to re-engineer the site so it was up and running in four days. Over the years since then, we have worked on several re-designs with the gallery. The challenge is to keep the site fresh, make searching easy, and give added value to becoming a site member. Content for the site can change daily, and the owner has to be able to manage those changes easily from within the database, rather than needing Web design skills and tools. We accomplish this with a custom designed FileMaker solution, taking full advantage of all the built-in functionality of FileMaker 10.
- From the database, the gallery is able to just click a button that creates an updated XML file and sends that file from their computer to the proper folder on the website.
- The photos related to a painting can be uploaded to the site directly from the database using a PHP page and FileMaker’s Webviewer.
- A FileMaker plugin allows content rich emails to be sent to targeted members when paintings they have expressed interest in become available.
“As one of the few art galleries with a website in the 90’s, Roughton Galleries discovered how important it is to find the right team to develop an innovative, fresh and easily manageable website. After a few disastrous relationships, we discovered Dan Stein and his team at Digital Software Solutions.
Having a relationship with the right website developer is what it takes to convey a professional image to each and every visitor to Roughton Galleries. Unlike other developers who we interviewed, we soon learned that Dan listens. His team at Digital Software Solutions was able to take my thoughts and ideas for our website and put them into action.
95% of Roughton Galleries business is generated through our website which makes having a professional relationship with Dan Stein and his team at Digital Software Solutions incredibly important and cost effective.”
Brian Roughton, President, Roughton Galleries, Inc.
We have four applications that we maintain at the Central Bucks School District. I think Rick has done a great job of explaining the Community School Application which runs, Adult Education, Aquatics, and MBIT Summer School. So we will let his words speak for the history and relationship.
“Central Bucks Community School contracted with Digital Software Solutions nine years ago to provide online registration, retrieval of data and the management of our web site. The program was created from scratch to meet our specific needs; that is to provide a registration vehicle for adult education courses, MBIT Summer School consortium for Central Bucks, Centennial, New Hope and Council Rock school districts, Aquatics and student educational programs. One of the most important things Digital Software accomplished was the ability of our students to register and use credit cards, the many different programs we offer had to have the money flow into the correct account. The retrieval of data from the registration was also a key in our selection of Digital Software. The printing of rosters, course counts, the ability to open and close courses and the entry of course material by our instructors into the web program and then download it into Indesign for publishing. We are also able to download all of our financials, course information and student information to Excel for analysis. Without Digital Software we would not have been on the cutting edge of running an effective and innovative program.” Rick Mayberry Director Community School
Global Routes provides a unique learning experience abroad for teens and college students. They are successful because of the quality of the programs they run. This is a complex task that needs a lot of coordination and staff time. When we first meant with them it was clear that their current FileMaker 6 solution took a lot of time to maintain, provided no historical data, and was cumbersome to work with.
With the support of the staff, as subject matter experts, we decided to build them a new system from scratch in FileMaker 7 that would meet their current needs, and be able to grow with them.
Over the years we have added to the database functionality.
- Rebuilt the web site so content could be added directly from the database
- Add a rich mailing module so HTML mailings can be sent directly from FileMaker by passing the mail client
- Added an on line referral system
“We have worked with Dan Stein and Digital Software Solutions for 6 years now. Dan has provided a great many technology solutions for us, saving lots of staff time and money in the process. We have completely overhauled our database and fully integrated into our web site with him, making managing the web content a real pleasure. Dan has been great to work with, at times offering advice on what might be possible to do, and at other times helping stay within our budget. I can’t say enough good about what his consultation and web/database development has meant for our organization.” Kenneth Hahn