Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Fieldshare Announces Groundbreaking Modular Database Design

Last updated Tuesday, February 28, 2023 18:10 ET , Source: Fieldshare

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Boutique data management startup Fieldshare recently announced the release of its 2.0 interface, which represents a massive upgrade to an already powerful system. Systems integrators and other database designers will want to see the simple, effective structure Fieldshare has created, if only to compare their own systems to one that’s stood up so well to rapid change.

For the unfamiliar, Fieldshare has always held an unusual position in the software world. Set alongside angel-funded software startups with a grow-or-die mindset, this Vancouver tech company has set a different pace, prioritizing development over sales and long-term relationships over immediate growth. Is there a place for the slow, steady approach in the fastest-paced industry on the planet? It seems the company has been making steady progress over the past 10 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Remarkably, Fieldshare has tackled one of the thorniest issues faced by enterprise and just sub-enterprise organizations. Namely, the ability to safely manage and store vast amounts of continually growing, changing data.

Their recent UI overhaul affects the most important aspect of the Fieldshare platform: the part that interacts with people.

Read on to see behind the curtain of this hugely successful database redesign.

Why was a redesign needed?

By 2020, Fieldshare’s platform matured from an industry-specific solution for environmental cleanup to a much broader product. New clients included municipalities, property management firms, energy companies, and government commissions like the Orphan Wells Department of the BC Oil and Gas Commission. Meanwhile, the product adapted to more and more variability, until suddenly it was clear there was only one direction to go. Fieldshare spokesperson Zann Hemphill commented:

“Even though we were dealing with hugely different datasets by this time, there were these common denominators across all our clients. Costs, tasks, documents and files, reports, lists, forms, and locations. People needed to connect these data types in one system, and couldn’t. Their apps all had their own internal data systems. People were inventing all sorts of convoluted software and integrations that never quite worked for the users, or just hand-bombing between apps or into Excel, which has its own problems. When we came in with Fieldshare, we were always able to straighten out the workflow, but the “product” model wasn’t enough. Workflows need to be able to change. People need a framework.”

According to Fieldshare, by early 2022 it was clear that what people really needed was not a product that could solve a specific problem -- but a framework. In other words, a system they could follow that would spit out the tools they needed to support their workflow as it changed.

As those of us who have worked with custom software know, these solutions are quite rigid. API connections and integrations are made as needed but usually can’t support user-editing of the system. Very quickly, the user needs to change, but the software can’t. Then users every abandon the new system or start adding other apps. The latter increases complexity until most people wind up back where they started: managing in their own silo, in Excel, or whatever they can get their hands on.

In order to make a UI where organizations could do their own changes without making a mess of the system, Fieldshare rebuilt the entire platform from the ground up.

Why Fieldshare 2.0 is such a groundbreaking divergence from other database designs

Changing your main offering from a product to a framework is a monumental shift. How did a small company, with only one office and a development team of six, succeed where so many others have failed?

The key lies in Fieldshare’s upper management. CEO Chris Kam has been heavily involved in product direction since his joining the company in 2019. Kam’s approach maintained strict criteria for data connections, enforcing the use of a common denominator throughout the entire database – not an easy task. His concept organized datasets and workflows into modules, where at a high level, he and his team have designed the freedoms and restraints that make data control possible.

In essence, Fieldshare has pioneered a functional middle ground between building your own software – and thereby taking on the costs and risks of such an undertaking—and having to make do with an existing product that isn’t quite right.

What does the future look like?

In a word, automation.

Automation and workflows have been a much-loved feature of SaaS productivity apps for years, but in the field of data management they have some significant drawbacks. Specifically, the downside of automation in a database is the potential to add junk to a system very quickly. Or to allow junk to build up over time. Automation can really throw a haystack on your needle and ruin your database.

Fieldshare released a statement regarding the potential for in-app automation, and what’s next for the company.

“With Fieldshare 2.0, we’ve solved the familiar problems posed by using too many apps that store data separately from one another. Our database is flexible, and customizable, and has been implemented successfully by a wide variety of organizations. The next step, now that data can be organized into one place, will be the judicious addition of automation. As always, our goal is to allow users as much freedom as possible, without compromising the integrity of the system as a whole. With automation, that will mean building tools to clean the database at the same time as we release tools to fill it.”

More information on Fieldshare can be found on the company’s website, Fieldshare.io.

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