Tools like Claris FileMaker have always been easy for new users to learn, but there have been historically some barriers to entry with hosting, deployment, licensing, etc. With the introduction of the Problem Solvers Circle, Claris intends to reduce friction that slows the spread of productivity-boosting tools and provide a path to leverage the power of custom software within a whole organization – not just one team within it.
Lessons from History
When I worked at Macromedia – the creators of Director, Flash, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator – the company had a business model problem. As popular as Flash was at the time, revenues from it were trivial compared to its true customer base. Nearly everyone on the Internet consumed Flash content, but Macromedia was only selling Flash developer licenses to professional web tools users.
The company tried all sorts of approaches to extend their market beyond a developer-centric niche, including launching their own content subscription-based website, Shockwave. Eventually, Macromedia was purchased by its rival Adobe and another chapter in the evolution of the Internet came to an end.
One could argue that Claris has struggled with their own market positioning as well, but in many ways, they have the opposite problem from Macromedia: Claris has always been a platform. They’ve always derived revenue from the users consuming FileMaker solutions, not only from professional developers.
Asking for Claris
The challenge has been adoption: end-users don’t demand FileMaker in the same way website owners specifically selected Flash and sought out Flash developers, ask for PDFs by name, or conflate “Salesforce” with CRM. It’s usually the developer, or the key do-it-yourself problem-solver, who understands the promise of the Claris platform, who then champions adoption.
Claris adoption isn’t driven by its true customers. Whether it’s a web app, effective use of Excel, or FileMaker, end-users don’t usually have a commitment to a given platform. At times they may not even perceive that Claris is being used at all. Further, once their individual problem is solved – with a champion, a developer, and a workgroup of users being served – other problems in an organization often start with a clean slate and come up with their own approaches that may or may not (often not) involve Claris.
Low-code technologies exacerbate the problem: we live in a world awash with accessible tools that are a quick free-trial-version click away.
Widening the Circle
This is where Claris’ current strategy is rightly focused: making it easy to add new solutions into an organization. The Problem Solvers Circle targets organizations with a pod of Claris users who can help extend to the entire organization.
The program includes access to all three Claris products: Claris Pro (FileMaker), Claris Connect, and the forthcoming Claris Studio. Users will be able to try ideas, experiment, and deploy real solutions without restriction. It provides a simple two-year site license and includes anonymous web and mobile access – a major boon for solutions that need data from outside vendors, customers, and so on. This invite-only program is being driven with partners like Codence in mind: customers will have relationships with experienced teams and experts with early access to technologies from Claris.
During the introduction of Claris Studio and the Problem Solvers Circle, they stated development tools would, essentially, become free. Claris is focused on hosting, on end-users, and on providing an accessible foundation on which to support business process improvements.
As Claris continues to introduce new technologies, in my view it will be critical that they pursue an adoption strategy targeted at the people whose problems they’re solving: end users.
The Problem Solvers Circle is a really interesting step forward and in many ways a unique opportunity to engage differently with the Claris platform.
Scott is an expert in FileMaker and other technologies, with decades of software development and a lifelong love for inventing new apps. Deeply passionate about both project management and design. His family has deep roots in Colorado, he loves spending time in the mountains, and is an enthusiastic cook.