One of our clients required an effective solution to integrating their company’s Filemaker database into a usable website dashboard for both customers and administrators to access for updates and live project information.

The brief:

  • Connect client’s existing Filemaker database to a Drupal CMS website, displaying the customer data in a usable dashboard interface.
  • Have the customer and account information secured and accessible to varying degrees depending on different users and roles.
  • Display the data via on-brand, usable interfaces for easy portable access.
  • Extend this functionality into a new portable Drupal module to be contributed back to the community.

BBI Solution:

Using our expertise in Drupal CMS development and the comprehensive API documentation provided by Filemaker we wanted to create a solution in a modular fashion enabling us and others to rapidly adapt it to other scenarios. We saw this as a perfect opportunity to not only provide a solution to this project, but also to create a Drupal module that would allow others with a similar future specification to leverage our work on Drupal sites.

Customer Dashboard Settings:

For this project, we wanted the connection settings to be as minimal and simple as possible so created a single administration page for configuring the connection data.


Customer Dashboard Listing:

The client data is imported via a DRUSH command to allow flexibility on how often and when to pull the required information across. Using Drupal’s best practice API approach means this DRUSH import command can be leveraged by other modules such as rules and scheduler so pull schedules can be configured easily and flexibly depending on requirements and database sizes.

The imported dashboard data is displayed in a table listing general customer information; specific dashboards are accessed via a ‘view dashboard’ link.


Customer Dashboard:

We created a clean, sleek, and usable interface for the customer dashboards. These were accessible to specific customers whose accounts had been assigned the ‘customer’ user role access by site administrators. Once customers have access they can simply login to the Drupal and access the dashboard from their profile page.


Fieldable entitles! OMG!

We wanted to ensure that the customer data is imported as Drupal ‘entities’ so that we could add CMS fields directly onto the resulting Drupal nodes. For example, this allowed us to create and attach a field called ‘Application Status’ so that administrators could easily login and update a customers progress status to a percentage display to keep customers up to date. Couple this with customer ‘Messaging’ through the dashboard and then all the possibilities that extending Drupal’s profiles gives the dashboard the features to be extended in almost any direction for countless uses.

All data, in one secure, well-organised system

This has allowed the client to collate all their data into the one system which they are now able to easily extend and shape perfectly in the future. The big win is for the customer now though who can easily access, message and communicate with their client effectively where before there was no immediate source of online information regarding their applications.


The Module:

What’s out there already?

We initially looked into an existing Drupal module that offered leverage for a possible solution; however on closer inspection we discovered that this module uses a third party library called fx.php which is not well supported, has its drawbacks and—importantly—Filemaker now has its own comprehensive API offering a modern future-facing solution connecting directly without third party plugins.

The Plan & The Name?

We have been in discussion with the maintainers of the above module to update it using our version, but due to the distinctly new API approach, for our version we believe a full independent module release to be the best approach to providing this functionally back to the community. So watch this space… Filemaker Connect is coming to a Drupal site near you soon!

By Billy Bamford

Us Technology Development Work