The Business Helper makes computing easier
By DOMINIC MARIANI
FileMaker Pro 5 Unlimited is an off-the-shelf software application designed for use by small- and mid-sized companies and work groups to manage, organize and share information.
The Business Helper Inc. is headed by the Danbury-based husband and wife team of Nancy and Matthew Greger who have been installing FileMaker and training outside staff on how to use the database for the last year and a half.
With a customized version that suits specific needs, small companies can compete without having someone on staff or contract to constantly update their websites or to track visits, respond to inquiries and recommend what parts of a site are most beneficial or need to be modified.
“What it does is help small companies devise database programming that is customized to their business or way of doing business,” Nancy Greger said.
This could apply to simple procedures, such as setting up invoices, sales contracts and letters, or more complicated ones, such as tracking inventory with descriptions of products and monitoring wholesale/resale prices.
“The beauty of the system is that everyone in the company can access and use the same database at the same time,” Greger said. “We can also restrict who is allowed to go into whatever area, what kind of information can or can’t be extracted and who would control the ultimate password.”
According to Greger, what makes FileMaker better than Microsoft Access is its user-friendly adaptability. She can use an existing company logo, color, and look and feel and replicate it.
“The idea is for everything to appear seamless, that everything on the database is familiar for all employees,” Greger said. “If they get frustrated, they won’t use it. So the key is to be as user-friendly as possible.”
FileMaker is the No. 1 database application for Macs and the No. 2 for PCs. It was honored with a Codie Award for the best numeric/database software by the Software and Information Industry Association. It was selected over IBM DB2 Universal Database v7.1 and three other finalists.
The software was also a finalist for best application development product. FileMaker is a subsidiary of Apple Computer Inc.
The application is mobile and can be downloaded onto Palms to avoid re-data entry and retyping. And data can automatically be moved onto an intranet or the Internet.
One of the companies The Business Helper worked with recently is DPD Builders in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
“We needed to track and develop our purchase orders, devise standard contracts, things like that,” John Cyr, a project manager for the company, said.
Cyr’s four-person group had been using Microsoft Excel as its database before turning to the Gregers and their installation of FileMaker. Excel files were dragged and dropped onto FileMaker Pro 5.5, thereby instantly creating a functional database.
“Basically, it helped us to network better and work as a unit more efficiently,” Cyr said.
The Gregers came in intermittently over a period of a couple of months, and from time to time asked Cyr to input certain information before they could build on the existing database. They trained the staff as they moved along.
“They were easy to work with and patient, and that’s very important when you’re learning something new,” Cyr added.
Jeff Setaro is vice president of the Danbury Area Computer Society (DACS), a group of about 450 novices and professionals, who attended a recent free FileMaker Pro demonstration at the Danbury Hospital Auditorium.
“It showed that it was no longer your father’s FileMaker,” Setaro said. “The product has changed dramatically over the last nine or 10 years.”
He said FileMaker could easily compete with Microsoft’s Access and SQL Server.
“It’s a very robust product and it was always very user-friendly, only more so now,” Setaro said.