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Identifying the market?


Fridolin
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Hello!

I'm a in house developer, but contemplating my own business. The main product would be a networked project management tool. It would suit teams working on larger projects with clear and mesurable goals.

My main problem is estimating the market and below is a list of questions. I don't expect to receive answers to them. I'm just curious about how You guys are tackling these issues.

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How many users of FMP (per platform) are there out there (Filemaker wont answer)? Is it worth the effort to develop for multi-platforms?

In what branches are FMP a common tool. EDU is given (but not a very interesting market) ?

I guess right pricing is essential. At what price does the customer decide to develop their own solution (I'm guessing under 1/20 of dev costs)? And at what price does he demand support?

What's Your experience on developing a product line with Single-user, Multi-User and Server version with ASP/JSP connectivity? Guess this approach demands that You keep the product alive for some years?

Does the customers expect free updates?

A DB i just a tool (and not a very sexy one) for handling information. I can increase the product value by bundling it with a specific but adaptable work model. The quality of the model is exellent, but will the customers reject it in favour for their own material?

The competition is brutal these days. What's Your experience on marketing and selling via the web?

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Well, a lenghty post. But there is a lot on my mind these days....

FileMaker Version: 7

Platform: Mac OS X Jaguar

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Fridolin,

Based on my own situation, here is what advice I can give you.

Platforms - Even though I do the majority of FM development on a Mac, all my clients use PC. However, I do run through the program on both Mac and PC before delivering the solution to them because the font sizes differ between the two platforms. Remember if you create runtimes, you need to create them on the target platform (Mac Runtime on Mac and PC Runtime on a PC).

Branches - EDU may be a given in your region, but not in all. Don't forget the small businesses - they are my best customers. They need custom solutions for the way they run their business.

Pricing - Always tricky and highly dependent on your geographical region. The numbers that I have seen quoted here range from $45 - $125 per hour. It is really what you think the market will pay. As far as support, the way I work it is if the problem is a bug that I caused either in a script, calculation, etc then I don't charge to fix the problem. Otherwise it is a design or function change requested by the customer and they must pay to have any changes implemented.

BTW - I have not given up my day job (they do not use FM). I do FM development SSN (Saturday, Sunday & Nights). The cost of Health Insurance is a major reason I have not made the jump to full time FM development.

I'm sure you will get some other interesting opinions, Mike

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Hi, Mike!

FM is a good tool for making low cost custom solutions. But the product I have in mind would be a generic tool for managing work flow, documentation, resources and costs in a project driven organization. Smart features and ease of use for a low price is the idea. I would have to develop it in my spare time. I don't know if this is the way to go, there are already a number of apps out there.

Working as a consultant making custom solutions sound nice, but... Selling an app for 80$ or my services for 80$ an hour is two different things. Guess I'm hoping that a strong product would generate other commissions.

Thanks for the input!

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Fridolin:

As a full-time freelance FM consultant, I can tell you that it works the same both ways, whether you are developing custom solutions or selling a finished product. You've got to answer the telephone and the emails and provide help-desk service quite a bit, even when you think you've provided a completely idiot-proof solution. Mike's advice is for the most part on the money, especially about small businesses. All of my clients are small businesses (in the $1-10 million annual turnover range, which is small here in NYC) and their needs are always VERY specific.

As far as some markets not being "sexy," it really depends on what you do with the solution. I have built very complex graphical displays for factory scheduling solutions (think Mission Control) which have had the owners' eyes watering...

-Stanley

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