FileMaker 18 is another important step for the FileMaker Workplace Innovation Platform. It has a nice collection of new capabilities and features that make our jobs as Workplace Innovators even easier. But I like to take these now-yearly releases as an opportunity to step back, look at the bigger picture and fit this release into the broader trends that I see both inside FileMaker, the community and in Workplace Innovation in general.

The Beginning

Two years ago I wrote about how important FileMaker 16 was. I called it the Biggest Change Since FileMaker 7.  We got full cURL support, JSON parsing functions, a REST API and lots of others features that enabled FileMaker to become a first class citizen of the world wide web. It is hard to imagine being able to build apps today without access to those features.  But it was really only the very beginning of what was to become a major transition for FileMaker and the community. We are now well into that transition. In fact I’d say we have reached “The End of the Beginning”

Since FileMaker 16 shipped, several important things have happened or will be happening later this year. They show a company and a community that is more focused than ever and is fully engaged in strategy that I believe has a high chance of success.  Certainly there are challenges, more on this below.  But we are coming out of the awkward 🙂 beginning stage.

First Class Web Citizen

New features are great and individual companies and users can adopt them as soon as they are available.  But practically speaking the ecosystem as a whole is working with an average of the versions that are currently supported. There are still a lot of people using FileMaker 15, which does not support cURL and JSON.  Therefore the whole ecosystem doesn’t get to assume they can use JSON or any other feature in 3rd party products or sharable code, without excluding some portion of the ecosystem players.

Later this year FileMaker 15 will drop out of FileMaker, Inc.’s list of supported versions. All supported versions of the FileMaker Workplace Innovation Platform will be first class citizens of the web, able to integrate with just about any service, API, or app out there.

Modern Cloud Server

FileMaker 18 Server is the first version that has been built with core support for using multiple processors. While some of the benefits of this will take some time become obvious, we need to recognize how important this is.  Re-writing a database engine for a new feature like this is not easy. It’s not like just adding a new script step or a new layout control.  It is messing with a database’s highly optimized core job of writing data to disk correctly.

This had to get done for FileMaker to move fully into the cloud. We now have a server that has the required technical foundations to function as a cloud service or a on-prem server.

Workplace Innovation Platform

I am now into my 3rd decade developing on top of FileMaker and for the first time, I feel that I am in sync with–and have an essential role in–FileMaker’s strategy. FileMaker is and always has been a Workplace Innovation Platform. But there was never a common understanding even within FileMaker, Inc., never mind within the broader community, of what it was. Now there is. The time of figuring out what FileMaker is over, and the time to grow into that category is now in full swing.

We have a new community forum, new hilarious marketing videos, and even a new design on FileMaker front page. The roadmap promises more important changes coming soon. Everything is being shifted and brought into alignment with the new focus on the Workplace Innovation Platform. We even have new changes at the top jobs at FileMaker.

Changes at the Top

Dominique Groupil as CEO kept FileMaker relevant and profitable for two decades, a truly remarkable accomplishment. But even more amazing to me is the fact that he had the foresight to kick off this transformation and make sure it was on the right track before announcing his retirement and turning over the reins to Brad Freitag.

I have had the opportunity to work with Brad on the FBA Partner Council and in various other venues.  He is a good listener. He takes the time to collect and consider many viewpoints before taking action, sometimes bold action. He also has the confidence to course correct when the landscape shifts. In short, I am sure he will do an excellent job in leading the team at FileMaker, and I have high expectations for the years ahead.

The End of the Beginning

The new FileMaker 18 Platform is the world’s leading Workplace Innovation Platform used to help problem solvers address their unique business challenges. It includes great new features for developers to create, share, and integrate custom apps.

It also marks the end of the Beginning of FileMaker’s transformation. We have new features, new marketing strategy even a new management team. The transition is now well underway. Buckle up!

Future Challenges

This all great news. FileMaker needed to rise to the challenge being presented by the market today. In my opinion the challenges that lie ahead have a lot to do with developing the right language to describe what it is that Workplace Innovators have to do everyday. We have a good description of the problems people face trying to use technology to solve problems, and we now have a good set of low level capabilities like cURL, REST, WYSIWYG forms etc. So we know the goal, i.e. where we are trying to go, and we have a good tool that can get us there, but we need to make it even easier for people to pull it off.

Let me put it this way.  In 1995, I could use FileMaker 3 to build a custom information system using the just 6 concepts: Tables, Fields, Layouts, Value Lists, Scripts, and Relationships.  If you understood those six things you could build just about anything you needed at the time.

Today, I have different requirements. Things are lot more complex. I can still do everything I need to do, but it can take a too long to do it myself.  Can we find a way to “compose” new types of objects together so that we can assemble systems faster, using larger teams of people? I am not sure we can ever get back to just needing to know about 6 building blocks. But I believe there is set of modern system design patterns that we can break down, understand and recompose with FileMaker.

For example. Since version 16 FileMaker has had the capability to connect to any API and exchange data. Thats awesome! But once you start down that road you find that it is still a lot of work. We need to make that easier. I say “we” as in we the FileMaker  community and the company. It is up to all of us.

FileMaker DevCon 2019

I intend to share more thoughts on this topic at the FileMaker DevCon in a couple of months. I am giving two talks on Workplace Innovation Platform. One will be focused on where we are right now. The other presentation will be on where I think we are headed in the next few years.

Also Jeremy Brown is giving a Training Day Session on JavaScript and Geist Interactive is also a conference sponsor. We’ll have an awesome booth. Hope to see you there.

All the best

Todd Geist
CEO, Geist Interactive