The advantage of excellence
BY ANJA FAHS
A watch never runs completely accurately. It is absolutely normal that even the mechanical timepieces with reliable Swiss clockwork have a deviation of a few seconds per day. This is not a bad thing, we won’t miss our plane due to a small deviation of a few seconds, for example. This looks completely different in the software area. This is where the smallest mistake or deviation can cause problems and possibly cost the company a lot of money.
Every year, the ‘SQS Quality Systems AG’, a worldwide leading specialist for software quality, name the ten severest software mistakes of the past years which mean financial damage and loss of image for the affected companies. For example, a small software error in 2012 cost a US stock trader $440 million in just 45 minutes. A faulty algorithm purchased a large amount of different types of stocks at the market price and sold them at a special offer price thereby losing several cents per transaction. This dynamic trading pushed the prices of the affected stocks up and lead to the spectacular loss of the trader.
Three years ago, in a survey, experts and managers from the German IT branch already estimated a damage to the economy of one to ten billion euros per year in Germany alone - which comes about as a result of programme errors. The reason for this is often the complexity of the projects which are doomed to fail. Almost 50 percent of the IT managers asked declared that software projects exceeded planned costs and time frames by 30 to 50 percent. Even undiscovered errors in the software, if this is already in use, can increase project costs by 15 to 50 percent. The requirements the IT experts have of the solution developers are therefore also extremely clear: flexible tools for agile processes such as guarantees for the development time and the budget.
Clearly structured processes, services for individual customer needs and clean project management are essential prerequisites, just as is the technical support which accompanies the project from beginning to end. In Switzerland there is even a software seal of quality. Under the label ‘Swiss-made software’, 230 Swiss companies have come together with the goal of improving the quality of their products and developments.
We met with a Swiss software company whose expectation of quality is underpinned by Swiss values such as reliability, responsibility and also flexibility: Advellence Solutions AG in Walisellen near Zurich. CEO Otakar Tomes and Markus Schönenberger, two of the total of four partners of the IT service and technology company told us what they understand Swiss quality in customer service and in the realisation of projects to be.
Mr Tomes, what is essential for you in order to deliver the best quality to the customers?
Otakar Tomes: We always first want to understand the area of expertise of a new customer project. Only then can we also have the technology under control. For us, a holistic consultation is greatly important. Beginning from the creation of concepts, the realisation of business blueprints such as customising, to the simplification of system-wide processes in order to increase efficiency and simplification. Part of this is the integration of different solutions and system landscapes, just as quality assurance and project leadership.
How do you proceed with customers in order to understand what they really need and what you have to integrate so that everything works out reliably?
Markus Schönenberger: We listen to the customer. And not only to our contact partner on the project but also the employees. Our job is to ‘marry’ many different problem areas with sustainable solutions which also offer the customer added value. In doing so we work on the big picture. Many other firms are so specialised, they do a little part - and they do it excellently. However, they forget that the rest of the world around them have completely different requirements. We always try to be very open here and to get a complete picture. In our team, we have real ‘manual workers’, who can do their job well, work carefully and without superfluous IT frills or ideas which would just make everything complicated.
You said you also speak with the employees of a company and let their feedback flow into the realisation of the project?
O. T.: Yes, that is important, as there are always different user groups, for example an administrator, an HR employee, a controller etc., who all require something different from the system. We don’t only want to understand the project from the manager’s side, but also to know what is directly needed on the ‘front’. In addition, we go directly to the production department in overalls and a safety helmet, and look at where the demands on the system lie. This is where we differ from other suppliers who often have only a standard solution, which everyone has to live with. Such problems usually fail as a result of acceptance, not as a result of technology.
What is essential for a project?
M. S.: A solution has to be very simple at first, particularly if it has to suit all users. Often, projects are too complex, for a simple order procedure you often have to click through many different screens - today this is no longer possible. ‘Easy to use’ is the magic word, we need simplified solutions which are flexible and ease the day to day work. Primarily for SAP programmes we have often built specialized user interfaces which are easy to use on a daily basis, but where all processes continue running in the background. We not only think of the data integration, but should not forget the follow-up processes. They also have to be taken into consideration.
How do you find the optimal solution for the customers?
O. T.: We claim to deliver the highest quality with the largest possible flexibility. But of course in development or integration sometimes limits are set, for example as a result of the budget or as a result of the time available. Together with the customer we work to find a way which offers them the optimal solution under the given preconditions. That is why we also carefully select our partners. We are a company which places great value on consistency, this applies to the quality of our products and services as well as to our team.
What is essential for you in the budget planning and compliance?
O. T.: I think that you have to think about establishing complete change management which works hand in hand with project management. In this way, you can react quickly to changed requirements, and the project progress and costs remain transparent for both sides. That is a discipline which we master perfectly. The Group of Analysts has also featured us in the subject area ‘ability to execute’.
Otakar Tomes, CEO, Advellence Solutions AG. After working in technical IT, he focussed on software development, project management and consultation, among others at the then SBG and De Simone & Osswald AG. After three years as MD at Altran Schweiz he became CEO at Advellence in 2007.
Integrators and Consulting
Advellence is a leading Swiss IT company. The services comprise a wide range - from software integration, individual/standard software development and business intelligence solutions to software architecture and consultation.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q4 2015. Picture credit © Advellence Solutions AG