The Hawaii FileMaker User Group is led by Kent Roller, President of Island Network Solutions, LLC.

The idea of a local user group was proposed by Glen Suarez, FileMaker’s Western Region Sales Manager, during DevCon 2009.  The idea was simple: Promote the use of FileMaker in the Aloha State by bringing the user community up to speed with advancements in the platform.  FileMaker is evolving at a rapid pace, and is the ideal database engine for the broad base of small businesses in Hawaii.

Kent said to Glen at breakfast, “No matter where I go, everyone has FileMaker.  And they’re using it to solve specific and important needs.  But the solutions people enjoy don’t seem to get off the desktop, and departments are fighting to keep the old database they started in version 6.  FileMaker is the tool to satisfy the real-world needs of the very staff that make the business run.  Upper management should invest more in the platform.  The problem is the perception of FileMaker as a simple spread-sheet replacement.  Even the users aren’t fully aware of the power behind the friendly layouts, fields, and buttons.  How can we change the perception?”

Glen responded, “User groups have started in other states, and that seems to do a lot to educate the market.”

Less than a year later, we held our first user group, attended by 37 representatives from a variety of organizations around the state.  What struck me was the “thirst” for more information about how to achieve specific database management goals using FileMaker.  To find practical ways to make database operators and administrators more efficient and confident is the foundation of this user group.  We call it, Real World Development.

Every meeting will focus on a solution that is relevant to the members.  Instead of focusing on what we could do using FileMaker, we’ll focus on what we should do.  Every topic won’t be relevant to every member, and some tasks might be so specific that none of us would ever repeat it in our systems.  By discussing the background behind the solution, we’ll find answers we weren’t even looking for. Members are encouraged to share their solutions by describing the situation they were/are faced with and then demonstrate how they handled it in FileMaker… or how they would like to handle it… and receive feedback from the group.

It is understood that business operations are proprietary and data is confidential.  Presenters should be prepared to demonstrate generic versions of their solutions and not disclose anything they are not comfortable divulging.  We are also not about stealing, demeaning, or competing with each others work.  It is better to share solutions to broaden our understanding of FileMaker. Eventually this will expand the use of FileMaker statewide.

Those of us tasked with altering or building FileMaker databases can feel self-conscious about our efforts.  Maybe the fields don’t line up.  Perhaps a button is broken.  What if the poor data entry volunteer has to do eight steps before they can correctly commit the record?  Unless you have a shrink wrapped FileMaker product, your project will never be perfect.  That is the nature of in-house development.  It is also the power of in-house development – the power to customize the database exactly the way the organization needs.

Vertical market applications seldom fit the business, and the organization finds itself adapting to the software. That is what members of this user group are – adapters, improvisers, innovators, and specialists of the organization’s information assembly line.  We take an inexpensive, flexible, and powerful tool like FileMaker and devise new tools to get work done – at little cost to the business.  What we want to become are artists, engineers, and programmers of customized tools that look, feel, and perform like the heavy weights of the industry.

Thanks for reading what the HFMUG is all about.  We hope you’re able to join in the challenge, comraderie, and fun of our group.