The problem

In this digital age, we often juggle numerous software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to keep our businesses running smoothly. Individually, these tools are incredible, but collectively, they often create a challenging maze of data silos. We find ourselves trying to centralize our customer data with FileMaker. Here is how we did it.

Our data was spread across Quickbooks Online, PipeDrive, Harvest Time Tracking, and our eCommerce platform, Easy Digital Downloads. Each of these applications held a fraction of our customer data, so whenever a customer contacted us via email, we had to embark on a somewhat frustrating scavenger hunt through these applications. Simply put, it was not the most efficient or enjoyable process.

This problem isn’t unique to us; many businesses today face similar challenges. The growing suite of applications makes customer data more fragmented than ever. We needed to find a solution to this problem.

The solution: Radar and Front Plugin

Our goal was to create a central hub, a system capable of consolidating customer data from all our different applications. So, we introduced an application we call Radar, along with a plugin for Front, our email application. FileMaker plays a central role in pulling the whole thing together as we’ll see. Here’s a look at our journey:

Centralized Customer Data with FileMaker
Centralized Customer Data with FileMaker

The first step was to build a FileMaker application, named Portal. Portal’s task was to gather customer data from all the different apps and enable easy customers searches by an email address. We employed Otto, our product, to receive webhooks with data changes from the other applications, and SimpleQ, our FileMaker message queue system, to distribute the data to the respective databases and tables within our FileMaker system. 

We also connected Portal to ZeitGeist.fmp12 our billing system, and LedgerLink.fmp12 our Quickbooks Online Connector application.  This gave Portal access to information about our customers invoices and projects. Now FileMaker had our customer data centralized in one place.

Next, we built a custom web application using Next.js. This application is designed to assist our team in swiftly finding any data from the FileMaker app, thereby creating a single, user-friendly platform for all our customer data.  Now our team can quickly look up information in any web browser on their desktops or mobile devices. All they need is an email address.

We didn’t stop there.

Front email integration

Front, our email application, has an SDK allowing us to embed a custom UI in the sidebar, next to the email message. We utilized this feature to display Portal data about our customers based on the currently selected email. Now, any time an email comes into our inbox, we have immediate access to comprehensive customer information right beside the email message.

The result? A total game changer. Our team couldn’t be happier.  Here is what it looks like. The sidebar shows relevant data pulled from our FileMaker centralized customer data system right in the email app.

Notice how in the image above, we instantly get information about our customers in the sidebar of Front. We know that Ernest Koe is the account lead for our fictional PG-Customer. We know that 3 different people at the company have interacted with us in some way in the past.

Each of the colored badges lets us know that this customer has interacted with us in different ways. We can tell for example that lisette@pg-customers has 11 purchases in our shopping cart “EDD”. We can also tell that she is the billing contact for PG-Customer since she has a green Quickbooks Badge. And we know that their Account Receiving balance is $0.00, because that is also included in the badge.

Not only do each of those colored badges have meaning on their own, but they are also links to other pages that provide more detailed information.

Now our staff can quickly and easily get all the information they need about a person with a given email address, and they can do it right from their email client.


FileMaker customer data, but not by itself

That’s how we used centralized our customer data with FileMaker. But we didn’t just use FileMaker here is the list of different technologies we used

Building this solution required the use of diverse technologies:

– FileMaker Server 2023

– FileMaker Pro 2023


Chakra UI for the UI

proofgeist@fmdapi.js, a TypeScript-safe FileMaker connector, built by our teammate Eric Luce

Auth.js with a FileMaker Adapter, also built by Eric.

Otto, our product for receiving webhooks on FileMaker Server

SimpleQ.fmp12, our free FileMaker message queue implementation

Deploying our centralized customer data with FileMaker

For the deployment of this solution, we relied on strategic hosting platforms. Our Next.js apps are deployed on Vercel, and our FileMaker Server runs on our FileMaker hosting platform, Ottomatic.

In conclusion

The world of technology often presents challenges that are, in truth, opportunities in disguise. Our journey to RADAR and the Front plugin was born out of a need, but through the imaginative use of existing technologies and a healthy dose of geekiness, we transformed this challenge into a solution that’s truly loved by our team. 

At the core of Proof+Geist is our mantra: “Be curious, do good work, together”. We thrive on finding solutions to real-world problems and sharing our geeky joy with the FileMaker community. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not just about the technology – it’s about the people it serves.