13 Replies Latest reply on Jun 2, 2017 7:59 AM by cliffribeiro

    Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.

    cliffribeiro

      Hey guys,

       

      My background. I was always computer literate, but never wanted to work with computers professionally. Took on a different career. Many years down the road this led me to opening my own business. Upon opening, I very quickly realized the importance of data – and “good” data at that, to maximize business potential and subsequently human potential. After turning to the available solutions for our industry I noticed how all the platforms geared towards us left way too much to be desired.

       

      I investigated and realized that maybe I could do this. I looked into both filemaker and access and the more traditional path sql/php etc and fell into filemaker for whatever reason. Well it looked prettier, and was relatively quick to learn and deploy something significant. We were on our knees for a solution.

       

      So I started learning how to develop a database and in the process – develop our own. After many, many hours of online training, and many days and weeks developing and building a real cohesive product - I've come to love developing. I went through both beginner and advanced filemaker training on Lynda multiple times, as well as multiple online courses on database theory - normalization, concatenation, ERD diagrams – (this was the most valuable out of all of it. Actually theorizing and putting down all the “real” world semantics of anything!) I was going on a data trip

       

      Now I’m wondering how to make this new skill a viable source of income. I have since developed a pretty complex and in-depth solution for my business and it works well but has its quirks, which seems to be with all complex solutions.

       

      The thought has crossed my mind to somehow sell the solution - I have a huge market that I know is literally a phone call away, but granted it's tied to filemaker becomes a hard sell. How does one provide support? Force clients to buy filemaker licenses? updates????  I noticed how that tends to be an issue in filemaker....Runtimes make sense but what about a hosted solution? Has the thought ever been to rewrite the entire solution in a different platform?

       

      From another side, maybe the filemaker intention is to not for developers to sell solutions, rather develop them! What have your experiences been in evolving to selling a filemaker solution or even a full on software company?

        • 1. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
          Vaughan

          There are two avenues for getting paid as a developer:

           

          1) Create a product that you sell to other customers;

           

          2) Work as a developer-for-hire on other people solutions -- either building them from scratch or maintaining and supporting existing solutions.

           

          Regarding your questions about support, licenses and so on... that's part of your business strategy and you need to work that out for yourself.

          • 2. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
            CarlSchwarz

            cliffribeiro wrote:

             

            Hey guys,

             

            The thought has crossed my mind to somehow sell the solution - I have a huge market that I know is literally a phone call away, but granted it's tied to filemaker becomes a hard sell. How does one provide support? Force clients to buy filemaker licenses? updates???? I noticed how that tends to be an issue in filemaker....Runtimes make sense but what about a hosted solution? Has the thought ever been to rewrite the entire solution in a different platform?

             

            From another side, maybe the filemaker intention is to not for developers to sell solutions, rather develop them! What have your experiences been in evolving to selling a filemaker solution or even a full on software company?

            You probably want to look into FileMakers "Solution Bundle Agreement" for FileMaker licensing.  When you look into that FileMaker will ask you to team up with a "FileMaker Business Alliance" member (or become one yourself) and they will provide the tech support to your clients.

             

            As for your product just make FileMaker part of the installation process I guess.  I mean don't sell FileMaker, sell your product. I'm a developer and most clients don't care what platform I use and some after using FileMaker for years still haven't got the foggiest clue what FileMaker is.

            • 3. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
              Jason Wood

              You might want to look into the SBA program (Solution Bundle Agreement). This would allow you to bundle copies of FileMaker with your FileMaker solutions. Otherwise, yes, you do get your clients to buy FileMaker licenses to use your software.

               

              You may also find this DevCon session interesting:

               

              FM DevCon 16 / Business: Starting a FileMaker Vertical App Company - YouTube

               

              For the part about "updates????", you might want to look into RefreshFM, but you can also build this yourself. I also may have misunderstood your question since it was only 1 word... ;-)

              • 4. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                wimdecorte

                cliffribeiro wrote:

                it's tied to filemaker becomes a hard sell. How does one provide support? Force clients to buy filemaker licenses? updates????

                 

                That's only a problem if you make it so.  When you sell a solution (either as a product or when pitching a custom development project), you pitch the total cost vs. the value it brings.  You don't sell the tool that you use to create it.

                (The nature of the tool only comes into play if companies have strict rules about the technology stack that they will allow).

                 

                Obviously for yourself you have to keep track of that total cost and realize that part of that cost is your buying into a platform that allows you to cut down on development time (and its associated cost).  That means that part of your total overall cost is somewhat out of your hands.  That is the trade-off for ease-of-use, short learning curve, etc.

                 

                To maximize your chances of success it's a good idea to always dabble in some other technologies so that you can continuously compare and contrast that total cost picture.

                • 5. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                  fmpdude

                  In my experience trying to sell FMP "solutions" (zero for three) the always tech-savvy clients eventually ask what the underlying technology is. Once they heard "FileMaker", that was the end of the discussion (regardless of follow ups with website, new product directions, etc.)

                  • 6. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                    wimdecorte

                    fmpdude wrote:

                     

                    In my experience trying to sell FMP "solutions" (zero for three) the always tech-savvy clients eventually ask what the underlying technology is. Once they heard "FileMaker", that was the end of the discussion (regardless of follow ups with website, new product directions, etc.)

                     

                    I never sell "FMP solutions"; I sell 'solutions'.  If the client asks what underlying technology I'll outline some options.  FMP is one of these options.  I outline the rough ballpark cost and timelines of using each of the options to help them decide among those.

                     

                    Sometimes clients only want technologies from their pre-approved technology stack but more often than not they don't care as long as the solution provides value over cost.

                    • 7. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                      fmpdude

                      I agree with you.

                       

                      I never mentioned FileMaker until asked specifically about underlying technology. There's no way to defer a direct question from a technical client.

                      • 8. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                        wimdecorte

                        Agreed, and I'm not deferring those questions at all.  In fact I have these discussions with big IT all the time.  Some time it fits, sometimes it doesn't.  More often than not they have no objections to using the FM platform if positioned properly within their overall IT strategy.  So the only thing that I want to convey is that in my experience it is not an automatic "no" when you mention FM.  Not even in the most tech savvy global corporations.

                        • 9. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                          fmpdude

                          I believe you. Just haven't had a good experience yet.

                           

                          Most common complaints: (1) Proprietary, (2) Increasingly expensive over time, (3) non-scalable, (4) Slow.

                          • 10. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                            wimdecorte

                            (1) Proprietary: yes.  That's a given.  But not to the extent that the data is in a silo.  One good thing that comes with proprietary is the promise of support.  That's important for many clients and one of the reasons why some clients don't like open source technologies.  They want to be able to do vendor management.

                             

                            (2) increasing expense: what isn't.  Even our developer rates go up over time.  But it definitely is something to consider; as I mentioned before the cost of the platform is significant  Still only a fraction of the total development cost though in most cases and in that sense it almost never comes up as an issue for me.

                             

                            (3) and (4): speed and scalability: these are known going in so they are very much part of the initial discussion and choice of technologies.  As such they are factors in the choice but not complaints.  That would be like complaining that my SUV can't beat an Aston Martin on the race track.  I chose the SUV for a reason.

                             

                            How does that saying go: "if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will be forever disappointed"

                            • 11. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                              fmpdude

                              Good points all. Like you've said many times, and I agree, it all comes down to the particular situation.

                               

                              From your points above:

                               

                              1. Visual FoxPro, is a comparable example of a proprietary product, now gone. Kaput. No support. (though support once promised). I have a client who is still seething over all that. Yes, he needs to move on, but the app works. Just no support from MS. Client is hoping some MS service pack won't finish it off completely. Although the point is open to discussion, many would argue that open source software doesn't suffer from this particular malady.

                               

                              2. I think FMP's sweet spot is CRM-type apps. It rocks there for sure. However, the folks I talk to would rather pay more up front for development and then have something that is "free" (all things being equal, server, etc.) from that point forward for any number of users (within reason).

                               

                              3-4. Yep.

                               

                              The bottom line, for me, is I've just yet to find anyone who will consider FileMaker regardless how I have presented the solution.

                               

                              Thanks for your replies as always.

                              • 12. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                                bigtom

                                I think the video that was linked is a good one. I was at that session. When you sell any sort of solution the things like support become an ongoing thing that you need to make sure you are prepared for.

                                 

                                Users will find ways to break things that you never expected. One of my biggest lessons was that the a solution is about doing a process/task and presenting data while always controlling what the user is allowed to do.

                                • 13. Re: Business questions on Filemaker and developing solutions.
                                  cliffribeiro

                                  Watched the video Good overall business practices listed. Probably more important for me that I took out of it was the difference between vertical app and horizontal app and that fact that software development is a true business just like any other. Seems however that the money is really in the support.