Foundation Data is a software development company like many others, except that it relies almost completely on the FileMaker database platform.
The four-staff company operating out of an office in Auckland offers a number of software development services, creating bespoke solutions for the SME market across a wide range of industry verticals. However, the company places a strong focus on FileMaker-based development, which lead developer David de Villiers refers to as the company’s “core business”.
It may sound like a big risk, putting all your eggs in one basket and aligning your business strategy with one particular vendor, but it seems to be working for Foundation Data, which isn’t considering a shift in focus any time soon. In the database business, de Villiers says, “it is good to align yourself with a strong vendor”.
“It’s a good solution, easily expandable,” he says, adding that Foundation Data provides both application design and back-office integration. “FileMaker is the only database system at the intermediate level. Oracle is too big. FileMaker is a good match for the size of New Zealand businesses,” he says.
Along with software development, Foundation Data also provides both FileMaker v7-11 and v12 servers for solutions it has developed as well as third-party solutions. The company’s servers are hosted at the ICONZ datacentre in Auckland and customers can choose from shared servers or their very own dedicated machine. In addition, part of Foundation Data’s business also involves providing onsite or remote support options which include ad hoc service on a casual basis or formalised Service Level Agreements (SLA).
De Villiers says the company is happy with its market position even though “there are quite a few FileMaker developers in New Zealand”. “There is a community feel,” he says, mentioning the different Devcon groups that meet up every couple of months and include “a wide range of ages and skill sets”, sharing FileMaker knowledge among themselves.
One point of difference for Foundation Data, as de Villiers points out, is its integration with Kiwi online accounting software company Xero. “We are the only FileMaker developer in New Zealand that integrates with Xero,” he says.
Throught the grapevine
In one of the most recent projects undertaken by Foundation Data it partnered with Vinepower, a contracting company that employs around 400 staff to work in the vineyards in Marlborough. Vinepower workers are paid on a piecework basis and it is essential to gather job details quickly and accurately. Through the partnership with Foundation Data, the company was able to move from the outdated manual process of collecting these details in the vineyard and then feed the data into separate payroll and invoicing packages. Foundation Data created an iPad solution aptly called Vinny to automate the whole process.
Through Vinny, a job contract is set up in the FileMaker database. A detailed quote is generated and sent to clients. Once the client confirms, a job card and vineyard schedule is produced and passed onto the supervisor. In the vineyard, workers enter their names and the vine rows they are working in onto the schedule sheets. During the day the supervisor gets these details direct from the workers and enters them into the appropriate job on his iPad.
With poor cell phone coverage in many rural parts of Marlborough accessing real time data on the server was not an option and Vinepower needed something which could capture data and download at a later stage. As FileMaker Go runs on iPads and iPhones, the vineworkers are able to sync the system when they’re back in range.
"It was a simple and affordable solution and easily modified to our changing needs," says Vinepower's staff recruitment manager Jono Bushell."Most important was ease of use for our supervisors, many of whom are not computer literate. The iPad screen holds all of the relevant information and is simple to use for people who are used to manual labour and have big fat clunky fingers."