What is next for Claris?

“All progress starts by telling the truth.”
- Dan Sullivan

Are you a full time developer that has been solving client problems with FileMaker for 20+ years and watching FileMaker market share dwindle over time and wondering what will happen next?

What is next for Claris?

Before discussing that – lets consider the existential threats facing Claris and FileMaker Pro:

Let’s consider

  1. Aging codebase
  2. Aging developers
  3. Competition to attract new developers
  4. Competition from other RAD tools – now Low Code / No Code – to attract new clients
  5. Competition to retain existing clients
  6. Competition to retain existing developers

Aging Codebase

Netscape tried to rewrite its browser and lost to Microsoft. Microsoft tried to rewrite Internet Explorer, failed and re-branded Chrome.

“Too much” code is needed to meet client production value expectations – sharing is needed.

Issues:

  1. FileMaker Server is unable to handle thousands of connections
  2. development and user interface is unable to natively meet new client production value expectations – consider what user’s expect from a calendar – drag and drop and dynamic resizing – all requires using javascript in a web viewer – no native solutions exist only “work arounds”
  3. FileMaker Server is unable to handle internet speeds because it is a fat client, thin server – Citrix / RDP screen sharing is necessary to deploy large and complex applications to distributed remote users

Aging Developers

There are still Cobol developer job postings:

Issues:

  1. Developers are retiring faster than new ones are joining
  2. Developers are retiring faster than clients retire FileMaker applications – which in the short term is “good” for remaining devs – but longer term will motivate application owners to move to a platform that is thriving
  3. Developers with a waiting list of clients maybe less interested in learning new tricks ie. learning Javascript and JSON. The current functions and script steps do not abstract Javascript and JSON to the same degree that FileMaker has trained developers to expect. Levels of abstraction such as portals, the table occurrence graph and the file import mapping screen. Imagine what an abstraction model for JSON that was consistent with the existing FileMaker mental model could look like. See Principle of least astonishment.
 

Competition to attract software developers

In our experience, new software development grads want to leverage what they’ve learned in school and new developers want to  learn new skills that will maximize their present and future earning potential.

This creates a mismatch for hiring software development grads that have learned C++, .NET, Javascript / HTML / CSS, Python, SQL and machine learning.

FileMaker doesn’t leverage what the students have learned, nor does the insignificant number of filemaker job postings – linkedin has 70 in canada and 876 in USA vs 53,012 javascript in canada and 824,113 in USA.

FileMaker developer salaries are not either: Glassdoor puts FileMaker salary in Canada at $67,732 vs $76,768 in USA compared with $77,115 in canada and $90,864 in USA.

Country Canada USA
FileMaker
$67,732
$76,768
Javascript
$77,115
$90,864

Source: Glassdoor

Competition from other RAD tools

Before no code / low code, we called them rapid application development tools.

In the past 10 years there have been 10+ startups in the No Code/Low Code space getting 30 million plus in funding.

The space is crowded but in our experience, they are terrible – developers and users can’t actually build apps.

However they are arguably gaining faster on FileMaker. Claris, being owned by Apple might actually be a hindrance in that they can’t raise investment or go in to debt, and are required to be profitable.

That said, FileMaker has a proven developer base. Great chefs don’t blame their tools – and the Ancient Wonders of the World were built with simple tools. FileMaker has a proven on-premise solution – but has struggled with IT acceptance and standards.

However the competition can attract and leverage new software developers.

Competition to retain existing clients

Every years clients renew their existing license – giving them a chance to think “should I stay or should I go?”

There are more off the shelf vertical market products in the Microsoft, Android and Apple app stores.

There are more SaaS products, and then there the no code / low code startups.

However there are steep switching costs for FileMaker customers – evaluation costs, acquisition costs, implementation costs, training costs and ongoing costs. In my experience clients have always chosen to remain with FileMaker unless they are part of much larger enterprise.

The other client to consider is the client that has not upgraded. Apple boasts that it has the highest number of users running the last version of its OS compared to other phone vendors.

After how many years of not upgrading, can the client still be counted as a client?

If the client hasn’t upgraded after 1, 2 or 3 releases then they have voted with their wallet that they don’t see enough value in the new release versus the release they have.

Monthly licensing makes the price magically 12x cheaper by dividing 12. I can gauge the utility of tool priced monthly much easier than a tool I can only purchase annually. Competitors are ALL priced monthly – and have a freemium tiered pricing model. With all the choices available to consumer, vendors are responding to market pressure to sample the product.

In addition low code / no code vendors are providing customers with sample templates, partner developer listing AND marketplaces with more add ons, templates and integrations.

Competition to retain existing developers

For developers to stay on developing in FileMaker they consider

  1. current income
  2. future income
  3. investment costs – training, adding clients, adding developers
  4. new lead volume and growth
  5. existing client volume and growth
  6. access to an App store that shares 70% to developers
  7. powerful tools that can build powerful solutions (no Bento!)

These are related to FileMaker product development and marketing efforts.

Developers need clients that

  • are large enough to need a part time developer, but too small to need a full time developer
  • have multiple departments or enough complexity or silo’d data
  • have unique problems that can’t be solved by off the shelf software OR are unable to afford available off the shelf software
  • have data processing needs that IT is unable to solve (with Sharepoint??)

Solution 1 – Attract problem solvers

FileMaker is the tool for problem solvers.

In our experience, it is rare – to find a FileMaker developer that comes from a software development background. Instead we find magazine publishers, bond traders, film editors, musicians, photographers, chemists and accountants to name a few – that have found FileMaker to solve problems.

Let’s focus on attracting and cultivating people that are problem solvers first, that can be taught to code a purchase ordering system with clients over zoom in real time.

Solution 2 – App Store

To retain developers the development tool needs to attract clients that have the potential to grow into large custom development projects – one proven way to do that are marketplaces – especially those that support monthly subscriptions.

The Apple App store has been a bonanza for Apple shareholders and developers. 

“There is an app for that.” has made many iOS developers millionaires.

Does anyone have any ideas about how Claris – an Apple subsidiary – could help FileMaker developers – sell their Apps and FileMaker licenses on the App store?

Perhaps an integrated iOS App builder right in the Developer Tools menu with wizards for submitting apps?

Solution 3 – Android Android Android

 

To retain developers the development tool needs to support both mobile platforms. Not having native Android support is a deal breaker for clients with a large investment in Android.

Solution 4 – Positioning

Historically FileMaker Pro has been positioned as a team player with HTML, PDFs, Excel, and Google Sheets. Treat the “new” crop of no code / low code tools in the same way –  as team players. JotForms is great – when leveraged with FileMaker. Airtable is great – when integrated with FileMaker. Salesforce is great – when teamed with FileMaker.

FileMaker makes these tools more powerful because of its ability to act as an Extract Transform Load (“ETL”) tool with user workflow.

The key is to position FileMaker as leveraging these external tools – not as a replacement.

Final Thoughts

What could Claris do to change the trend direction? Something incredible!