As I begin to pen this blog article, I realize that my chosen title may give the wrong impression. At first glance, you may think that I am no longer satisfied by my chosen profession, in general, or my current job, specifically. To put any rumors to rest, please indulge me as I take a step back to explain the origin of this question.
I grew up on a small family farm in western PA. (Since the residents simply refer to it by its postal abbreviation, that would be Pennsylvania for those of you living outside our great Commonwealth. We also distinguish which side of the state we call home since growing up a Steelers fan or an Eagles fan is a big distinction, but I digress.) Despite its small size, our farm still had many things in common with larger farms in the area. The crop yield was always dependent upon the weather. New equipment was always an expensive investment so you had to know how to repair everything. And, the work was never done.
Naturally, the work was more demanding during the planting and harvesting seasons, but there was always something to be done: feed the cows, fix the fence, chop firewood, patch a tire, mow the pasture field, etc. Your day starts at sunrise, if not before, and might be over when the sun finally goes down. Your reward for putting in a full day’s work was to get up and do it all over again the next day.
This led my brother and I to start asking the question “Can we quit now?” We never asked “Are we done yet?” because we knew the job was not done, and it was probably never going to be done in the metaphysical sense. However, we had been up since dawn, it was already 9:00 PM and we thought it was time to get something to eat and maybe get some sleep.
Now, knowing that, we can fast-forward back to the present. As I have spent the last 15 years building custom business solutions with the FileMaker Platform, I’ve come to realize that asking this same question, “Can I quit now?”, or a slight variation, “Should I quit now?”, is still appropriate.
First, regardless of the development platform, I think we can agree on the fact that no programming project is ever completely “done”. There is always a scripted process that can be optimized or a UI/UX object that can be refined. This is especially true for those who build solutions using the FileMaker Platform. With each release, the engineering team at FileMaker, Inc. continues to provide new tools for our toolbox, and we are eager to implement each of these new features. Unless we draw a line in the sand, we could continue to tweak and update a solution forever.
Second, we have to examine our capabilities as developers and programmers, and I’m not talking about skill level. There is only a finite amount of time and resources that can be dedicated to a given project. We can’t spend so much time on a project that we end up working for free. Along with this, we may end up turning away other projects because of the perceived busyness with updating a solution that already meets the customer needs.
On the flip side, we have to consider the monetary factor for the client as well. No software development project for any company has an infinite budget and a deadline that never arrives. Each customer is only able to invest a fixed amount of capital and needs to have a finished product that solves the business problem by a specific time. We also need to realize that an area of a solution where we see opportunity for improvement may be a very low priority for our client, if it even makes their list at all.
So, in the three scenarios outlined above, there comes a point where the answer to “Should I quit now?” is “Yes”. We have used the extent of our programming knowledge to deliver a custom business application that satisfies the customer’s needs while keeping our boss happy since we were on time and under budget. Our personal satisfaction may be at 98-99% as we think about the one calculation we could have done a little differently, but the project is completed and working well from the user’s perspective, which is the goal.
Speaking as a former in-house developer, there is more flexibility in that space since in-house developers can return to the “unfinished” or “pet” project once the latest feature request that came down from upper management has been delivered. Still, FileMaker developers that work as consultants have some wiggle room even after a solution is declared “Complete”. As noted above, each new release of the FileMaker Platform brings new features to our disposal. We have the opportunity to meet with our established clients on a regular basis and look for opportunities to revisit an old project. With a demo in hand, we can showcase these new features and describe how they could be implemented on their particular solution to further improve their business.
In summary, the answer to the question “Should I quit now?” will eventually become “Yes”. However, the answer to the question “Should I stop using FileMaker, the premier Workplace Innovation Platform, to deliver custom solutions to my clients that continuously improve their business practices?” is a resounding “Never!”
Until next time,