Roland Dürre
Thursday August 10th, 2017

Digitalisation – Experts Talking at InterFace.

More often than not, situations arise by accident. All you have to do is create the right surroundings. It is always the same in life. Here is the story about how the “IF Expert Talk” on “Digital Transformation” at InterFace on July, 14th, 2017, was brought about.

First and foremost, you need to know that my beloved IT colleague and card-playing friend Lothar has been a member of the SPD for many years and as such was also the chairman of the board of directors at SPD-Ortsverein Neubiberg. In this role, he had invited me a few years ago to give a presentation about “new economy” (or something similar) for his SPD comrades at an SPD event.

That is what I did. After all, I travel a lot trying to make people aware of the fact that progress is, basically, important, but that you also have to act with a huge amount of responsibility when creating progress. To demonstrate this, I often cite the great Bertrand Russell:

All increase in technology will create a corresponding increase of wisdom if you want it to go with an increase, rather than with a decrease, of human happiness.

This sentence should make us all a little more considerate and critically contemplative.

So, while we were playing cards, Lothar told me that Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel (deputy SPD chairman) was going to be in our region on Friday, July, 14th and that the regional SPD was welcoming him between 4 and 5 p.m. He said that the guest had expressed the desire to attend “an event in or near Unterhaching“, with as little organizational effort for him as possible.

And the new SPD chairman was keen on organizing the visit to a modern enterprise in Unterhaching for Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, perhaps with some connection to digitalization. Since he remembered my presentation at the SPD (years ago), he had the idea that maybe InterFace AG was a good choice.

As you all know, I am no longer active in the operative business of InterFace AG, but I still try to accompany and support the enterprise as a “friendly board member”.

Consequently, I gladly made the visit of an SPD delegation at the InterFace AG headquarters in Unterhaching possible. Among other things, I believe this kind of thing is also part of our social responsibility as an enterprise.

And, accidentally, the regular board member meeting of InterFace AG was scheduled for the very same day, July, 14th, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Which meant that both my highly appreciated colleagues on the board of directors Dr. Professor Kathrin Möslein (deputy chairwoman) and Manfred Broy (chairman) were present.

And who could be better qualified to say something about digitalization in Bavaria and Germany than Manfred Broy, who is the founder of the Zentrum-Digitalisierung.Bayern (ZD.B)? Consequently, it was an obvious thing for me to ask the chairman of our supervisory board to interrupt our board meeting while the SPD delegation was visiting and to be part of the expert talk “digitalization” with Bela Bach and Herrn Schäfer-Gümbel.

After the expert talk, we continued with our supervisory board session and our visitors went to see the IF Lab. The video where you can see our visitors judge their stay actually made quite an impression on me.

Here is the full-length video of the “IF expert talk” on “digital transformation” from July, 14th, 2017 in Unterhaching at InterFace AG. You see the SPD candidate for parliament of the region München Land, Bela Bach, the SPD vice director Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Manfred Broy (founding president of the Zentrum Digitalisierung.Bayern) and Paul Schuster, speaker of the board of directors at InterFace AG. Incidentally, Bela Bach did a great job moderating the expert talk. Earlier, she had told me that this was a first for her!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday April 13th, 2017

IT-Treff – Nostalgia 1999 – It was Awesome!

Among the IF Blog documents, you can find a very special article. For a long time, it was hidden at the very bottom.

It is a satire on New Economy – a theatre play titled:

“Can we be saved?“

Norbert Weinberger and yours truly wrote it. The idea originated when we were on a flight from Munich via Zurich to New-Delhi with Swiss Air.

Swiss Air was a compromise that had taken long to agree upon. My friend and partner Norbert always flew Lufthansa Business Class as a matter of principle. And, just as true to my principles, I always flew Economy. Since we wanted to fly together, we compromised on Swiss air Business Class, because at the time the price was almost exactly halfway in between.

Incidentally, the reason for our flight was the official opening of our joint subsidiary company “AMPERSAND limited“. The trees grew into the heavens at the time.

The Business Class of the Swiss Air plane to New Delhi was completely empty. In those days, Swiss Air was still an independent airline and suffering from losses – but that did not matter to the friendly crew. The service was excellent, we were really mollycoddled. During the entire flight, charming stewardesses served us champagne. That was also one of the factors that made us bold. Consequently, we developed the rough concept for our theatre piece while flying.

Together with friends of ours who were also entrepreneurs, we had the first performance on June, 29th, 1999 with an audience of considerably more than 500 at IT-Treff 99 in the over-crowded Munich Schlachthof. It was great fun and the audience were enthusiastic. For us – the cast – it was mania. And additionally, it was a great outlook towards what happened around the turn of the millennium.

How did the IT Treff come about? In the mid-1990s, it was not always quite so easy for IT enterprises in Germany. The general feeling was not too good. Consequently, a few courageous IT entrepreneurs wanted to do something to improve the mood.

Their names were: Muschka Utpadel-Domdey, Alfred Bauer, Hans Nagel, Dr. Christian Roth, Markus Winkler and yours truly.

Our idea was: let us celebrate against the crisis. So we initiated the IT-Treff and invited the entire Munich IT scene. And alas – they all came.

Stars with names like Gerhard Polt and Django Asül performed for us and extended their programs to include IT-specific topics. The Bavarian Government was always on board – I remember well how Secretary of State Hans Spitzner gave us very special welcome addresses. There was always hot music – we even produced our own CD in the Schlachthof with the George Greene Hotline Band. In fact, to this day I enjoy listening to it.

And the entire IT sector danced. That was in the years 1996, 1997 and 1998. We had our last IT-Treff in 1999 – and we (the organization team) made our own cabaret IT-Treff Satire (1734) “Can we be Saved?“ – for you to read and imitate.

Since is it such a nice piece and was such a huge success, I offer a bonus for small and big theatres if they play it. You can call it a “negative performance fee” (royalty), which means you do not have to pay 10% of the turnover, but instead get something back. It is short and very much to the point – the prelude can also be used for other occasions besides celebrations.


 

Here is the IT Treff 1999 flyer from the outside

And from the inside

RMD
(Translated by Evelyn)

In the autumn of 1985, I was the first to bring this book to Munich after having bought it at the Uniforum fresh from the printing machine.

A short time ago, I retrieved it. It reminded me of having been at Uniforum conferences with friends of mine in February 1985 (Dallas, Texas) and in 1986 (Anaheim, California). It was great. In those days, the Uniforum was the one and only UNIX conference in the USA. We were thousands of enthusiastic visitors from all over the world. I experienced a huge atmosphere of dawn at the time.

There was also a small sensation. Copies of the very new book on C++ by Bjarne Stroustrup (see left on the picture) right from the printing machine were delivered in the middle of the conference and sold directly from the palette. I bought a few of them and took them home. They were probably the first C++ books to ever reach Munich.

This brings to mind: in the 1980s, I constantly gave presentations on software development. At the time, the change in programming was the central topic, and the catchword used most often was OBJECT-ORIENTED.

I also wrote quite a few presentations on “OBJECT-ORIENTED” for IT managers. Among them was a “high-up” at Siemens AG in UB D at D AP (or was it already SNI at the time?). He was asked to tell his “team of leaders” what exactly OBJECT-ORIENTED meant. Afterwards, he said the presentation had been well liked – but it certainly did not really make a difference.

Today, everybody programs object-oriented. In fact, it is even a little too much for my taste.
Later, I gave up my “programming career” and became something like an “entrepreneur”.

Now I was no longer preaching the gospel of technology. Instead, I spoke about leadership and management. And in particular, I talked about the “smart” pentagram that consists of the terms “agile”, “digital”, “lean”, “open”, “social” and how they interact.

For instance, I related why courage and joy in those working for an enterprise is also a central requirement for economic success. And I also told the people how necessary mutual respect and appreciation of each other are (not only) in an enterprise. Why meeting at eye-level and shared participation and responsibility are the basic requirements for innovation. And why humans are not resources. And how change can only happen in an agile environment.

“Pro Agile“on the DOAG Podium /Yearly Conference in 2013.

I explained why processes, rules and bureaucracy are obstacles to the necessary change. I also explained what a huge damage Taylorist developments cause in an organization and how much waste (as opposed to “lean”) is created by an overwhelming administration and the rising bureaucracy in an enterprise as a consequence of those developments. And that it is totally useless to have endless meetings.

And that departments such as “human resource”, “customer relationship management”, “marketing”, “legal service” etc., basically do not guarantee the success of an enterprise. In fact, they come closer to endangering it.
And that the young and well-educated persons of today prefer working in an enterprise the central element of the culture of which is trust.

I can easily give you good reasons for all I said. After all, I myself was part of the scenario when we software developers made a (as I see it: central contribution) towards a new understanding of work that now spreads more and more to other sectors (#newwork). And this is how it helped to change the world.

I wonder if my call for “agile, digital, lean, open, social” as a “smart” pentagram will do any good? I am not sure.

I also got the impression that my audience mostly saw it in the same way. In fact, it would make me happy if we in the German Industry were to talk less about industry 4.0 and more about entrepreneurial culture. Be it 2.0 or 5.0.

Even the big bosses must understand that our enterprises and we ourselves can only survive well if we are prepared to question what we used to consider certainties and to change what we were used to.

Of course, I understand that it hurts to question hierarchies, cherished sinecures and structures you have become used to. Especially if you are the boss. But please keep in mind: we no longer live in the times of Henry Ford’s conveyor belts and even the prime time of the Chicago slaughterhouses is coming to an end.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I took the star from the central media archive Wikimedia Commons.

Roland Dürre
Friday September 23rd, 2016

IF Forum on October, 19th, at 6 p.m. – this time in Stuttgart!

if-logoIF Forum on October, 19th, at 6 p.m. – this time in Stuttgart!

It is my pleasure to advertise the next IF Forum. This time around, it will be held in Stuttgart. The topic is:

THE DITIGAL TRANSFORMATION IN IT AND SOCIETY – WHERE IS THE BREAK-THROUGH?

Time:
October, 19th, 18:00 hours

Location:
InterFace AG, Zettachring 8, 70567 Stuttgart

Speaker:

Dr. Georg Panagos, University teacher (business/media), HS Fresenius, Management counsellor for technology enterprises (telecommunication, IT, media) N-Pusle GmbH

Abstract:
Today, digitalization has arrived in everyday life and in many enterprises. Perhaps the “digital transformation” was misunderstood, or else maybe underestimated or even ignored.

Many enterprises are quite quick when it comes to selling their products and services via internet – which, as they see it, is already digitalization.
Unfortunately, though, this is the wrong approach and will often end in failure, which, for example, several print media had to experience to their detriment. They also call it newspaper demise. But other sectors, too, feel the pressure from the new online world, for instance banks and insurances.

The presentation by Dr. Panagos will discuss more sustainable and future-oriented procedures, for instance the fact that digitalization must cover the entire enterprise, even the entire society. This is because we do not only need the technology but also robust and sustainable digital business models. Examples and trends from the media and communication industries will provide an incentive for ideas and discussions.

I will also try to be there. Both the presentation and the topic should make it worth travelling to Stuttgart.

Click here for the Agenda and Registration.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday January 25th, 2016

UPDATE: Creative Times

Unfortunately, I made some history-related mistakes in my article Creative Times (Kreative Zeiten).

(Many thanks to Claus M. Müller – then managing director and part-owner of InterFace Computer GmbH).

Here is what we currently know:

The Konrad-Zuse-Tour organized by InterFace took place between the years 1982 and 1985 and had four legs. We had planned to visit Konrad Zuse, the inventor of the electronic calculator, in Hünfeld and pay our due respect to him on his 75th birthday.

TAL_3863It seems that the poster was printed in 1982 and not in 1986! That was also a state election year (Landtagswahlen) in Bavaria. At the time, the interval between state elections was still four years (in 1998, they changed this to five years).

In 1982, during the first leg between Munich and Regensburg, I was not part of the cyclist group. To be sure, I knew the InterFace group around Peter Schnupp, whom I learned to very much appreciate and like at Softlab. But other than that, I did not yet have any connection with the InterFace GmbH and InterFace Computer GmbH (except that I rather liked their logo).

In 1983, the second leg from Kelheim (?) to Nürnberg (?) was scheduled. As Barbara’s husband, I was permitted to take part. At the time, she worked for the InterFace Computer GmbH, developing a syntax-based editor. Even as early as then, she was allowed to write programs in the language C that, later, I was going to love so much.

In 1984, we continued with the tour. The InterFace Connection was now part of the group (it had started as an enterprise on April, 1st, 1984).

In 1985, we had the great finale, arriving in Hünfeld to celebrate the 75th birthday of Konrad Zuse. I still remember very well how we were welcomed in a community office at Hünfeld and how pleasantly Konrad Zuse greeted us in his speech. Konrad Zuse also invited us home and gave us one of his pictures. It is still in the InterFace AG office today. In fact, the number of cyclists who went on this tour was quite large, consisting mostly of InterFace Computer GmbH and InterFace Connection GmbH employees.

We were able to reconstruct the history because of our children. In 1983, we had Sabine (born in September 1980) and Maximilian (born in April 1982) with us. In 1984, our little Martin was also with us (born in January 1984). All three of them were also riding shotgun on our bikes in 1985.

As you see, there are still a few question marks in the article – which means I would certainly appreciate more insider information on our Konrad-Zuse-Tour.

But one thing remains very clear – the tour was a wonderful adventure. It gave much joy to all those who took part and thus gave us courage for more enterprises.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday January 18th, 2016

Creative Times

TAL_38631986.
State Elections in Bavaria.

The InterFace Connection had already really become successful. We celebrated intensely and consequently organized a company outing. We rode our bikes through Bavaria for three whole days. It was the second leg of our Konrad-Zuse-Bike-Tour (Konrad-Zuse-Radtour), which, eventually, was to take us to Hünfeld, where Konrad Zuse had lived.

It was during the first October week. On the next weekend (October, 12th, 1986), the elections for the eleventh. Bavarian State Parliament  were to take place. All over the place, in cities and villages, huge numbers of campaign posters could be seen. They all had messages that were mostly the opposite of intelligent. It was so bad that once in a while it really hurt.

On the second day of our bike tour, we rounded a corner and were suddenly in the middle of a wonderful boulevard. And on all the trees lining the boulevard, there were posters saying: vote for InterFace. This action increased the already good mood in our group even more.

Hartmut Streppel, a dear friend who at the time worked for InterFace Computer, found this so fascinating that he took two of the posters – or maybe he later went to the MSV office and asked for them. And now, almost thirty years later, Hartmut found them again and wants to donate them to us. Since, at the time, the MSV had ordered these posters, I am sure they were designed by a very famous artist. This was how InterFace worked at the time.

MSV – that was Maximilian Schulze-Vorberg. Together with Dr. Peter Schnupp, he had been the one who came up with the InterFace idea. MSV was our creative head and was full of such ideas all the time. Many of them were also realized.

😉 Well, those were the good old times.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Tuesday November 10th, 2015

Now Online: Presentation by Dr. Andreas Zeuch.

Dr. Andreas Zeuch came to speak. On the IF Forum of October, 29th, he gave a presentation:

ALL POWER TO NOBODY

Experience him

LIVE

For those who could not come, here is his presentation on the “DEMOCRATIC ENTERPRISE”:

Enjoy!

RMD

P.S.
Andreas Zeuch is also the author of several books, for instance Alle Macht für Niemand – Aufbruch der Unternehmensdemokraten

CLOU/HIT at InterFace Connection

Or:
How Wolf and I eventually ended up doing it ourselves.

During the Berlin PM Camp, I related the stories of four projects from my vintage time. They were all very important to me. And I told you here  that I was going to describe them all in the IF blog.

if-logoProjekt 4

Now comes the story of my fourth project:

Even before 1983, I was fed up with working for others. At the time, I was still a Softlab employee. This is where I learned to extend my one-sided competence – with the exception of a little SNA (IBM), it was mostly Siemens technology – and learn more IBM technologies. In particular, however, I was able to learn about the different systems of the “intermediate data technology”.

I am talking machines which, dependent on their storage unit, consisted of two to three parts and had the size of Bosch refrigerators. That means they were a lot smaller and also a lot simpler than mainframe. At the time, those were especially fashionable. Consequently, there was an enormous amount of European and non-European competition with differing and often very proprietorial technology. Kienzle and Nixdorf were also among those aspiring MDT enterprises. And in those days, even in a city like Munich, the same software was developed synchronously in different enterprises for different technologies.

I am sure that Softlab was one of the most innovative German “software houses”. They, too, had a proprietorial system, the famous PET-Maestro. For me, this was the first system without the permanent frustration of data loss, because the Pet-Maestro already worked in symbols – and every symbol was immediately transferred to the hard drive. Consequently, you had a current warm start with every reset – and nothing was lost! It was such a relief to finally no longer have to fear data loss at all time when working, for example, with EDT or EDOR.

On other fronts, I also learned a lot of new things at Softlab. This is particularly true for the business sector: how to formulate an offer so that it contains the least possible risk, how to talk with the VB-s of the big enterprises (Bull, ICL, IBM, Nixdorf, Siemens – even at that time, nothing was going without the big ones), or how to write studies.

This is how I became a paper tiger (totally unrelated to paper tiger, the famous Chinese theatre movement). And in those days, it was (still) true that you got better pay per hour as a paper tiger than as a programmer. Thus equipped, I wanted to do it myself. Yet I did not dare to start all alone. So I went in search of a partner. I looked for and identified persons in my vicinity who I found nice and competent. And who perhaps also wanted to found a company. There were quite a few. But again and again, nothing came of it.

Until Wolf (Geldmacher) came. Wolf was considerably younger than I. Technologically, he was super. And our view of things was similar. Meaning that our values, expectations, interests and needs complemented each other. I was more the old style programmer – and Wolf had the knowledge about everything that was modern and new in IT. Also, Wolf knew absolutely no compromises when it came to quality. And if anybody had common sense, then it was Wolf. And I guess those are the most important factors: competence, common sense, quality awareness. Then you only need to be a nice guy…

Consequently, we founded the short version of InterFace Connection. We inherited the InterFace from Peter Schnupp, the “Connection” was our own contribution. That is what we wanted to be together with our employees: a “connection” that sticks together and later shares its success. We founded the enterprise in 1983 and started business on April, 1st, 1984.

But then, the enterprise is not the project I want to talk about. The project was about developing a product. And there were two reasons why Wolf and I wanted to have a product: firstly, we were convinced that a product would be something to be proud of. It creates an identity. Secondly, a product is easier to scale than a service.

Besides, in our eyes, the then well-established concept of “body leasing” did not have a future. Basically, we still believed in the law and as founders, it was pretty obvious to us that the common form of body leasing was exactly what, according to the AÜG, was simply illegal.

It did not take us long to become quite convinced that, in those days, Unix was the best basis for future products. Also, we agreed without hesitation that, basically, everything you needed for using computers was still missing in Unix. And in particular, we saw that a text system was sadly missing. And that the first thing you would have to develop rather quickly on Unix with its new data displays (in raw or cooked mode) and especially with the language c was a comfortable typewriter.

Since we had a huge amount of respect for the production and successful marketing of a product, we started the development of the product in cooperation with InterFace Computer. It did not take long before we had a small success in the SINIX (the Siemens Unix) environment. Consequently, the development of the product was moved to us and the InterFace Computer was put in charge of the ports and the sales on the “remaining market”.

And in no time, we also had a two-digit number of team members, all of them very young. In general, they were students. They had to have programming competence and be nice. And they had to cope with the work, regardless of their double burden of studying and working. Nothing else mattered to us.

Since Wolf and I (along with a few young employed computer scientists with academic diplomas whom we got through aforementioned body leasing and whose hours cost between 150 and 120 DM) financed the entire development, the young persons were rather free to come and go as they pleased. The only control was our assistant Heidi (Kaindl). Heidi was quite in charge of all the young persons, taking good care that everybody actually worked. The only times Wolf and I met them was during meetings (soon after our foundation, women, too, were employed).

In those days, Wolf had the role of SCRUM-Master and more (even though the word SCRUM did not yet exist). He told the team about quality. And that, first and foremost, they produced quality not for our customers, not for our sales partners Siemens and not for the InterFace Connection. Instead, being honest programmers, they needed to produce quality in their own interest. And Wolf had rather high standards and was very strict. If someone was not able or willing to deliver quality, he or she had no future at the “Connection”. But Wolf also protected the team, for instance when I tried to limit resources. And he made sure that we invested were necessary.

My task was perhaps that of the Product Owner. At least in the beginning. When I had been a young boy, I had been forced to learn stenography and typing. I used to love stenography, because it is a beautiful way of writing. It does not hurt your hand, as normal writing does. But I hated the typewriter. And I knew exactly how a good editing machine would have to look. I had also written it down in the time of our foundation.

When things got more complicated and, for instance, CLOU with its “embedded sql“ was added to our repertory, I transferred the role of Product Owner to our customers. And that was one of my best decisions ever. Because the customers actually were able to tell us their ideas about an automated chip processing. They showed us how to continue on our way.

One of our rules was that all employees – with the exception of Heidi – were able to program. Heidi was our first and most important customer. As soon as the first HIT version was available, we confiscated “nroff-makros”, her “office vi”, and she had to use HIT – which, incidentally, she did not appreciate at all. After all, the vi solution had not been so bad. Later, however, she learned to love her HIT. Surprise, surprise! After all, she was one of those who built it!

All other colleagues on the HIT team had to work hands-on. In other words, all of them had to be able to program, find errors and, above all, co-work (team work).

We were very early users of tools that would be commonly used a lot later. But this was only true for tools that actually made sense, such as “lint” for the quality control of our code or “sccs” for the source code administration. I am pretty sure that, time and again, we were the first in Munich. We were also earlier than most of the others using a “tracker” and an automatic “built”. But we never used planning software. Just as we always took pains to avoid “bureaucrazy”.

So all of us involved in the project were programmers. And we actually always coordinated in the team who was going to develop what. The personalities of the people involved were very diverse. But then, we also had the magic programmer. It was not entirely in jest that we called him “God”. But the first rule was that we were a team. Everybody helped everybody. Our motto was: “one for all, all for one”. Nobody was ever left in a lurch. And whenever you did not know a way out, you asked your colleague. Pair-programming in the strict sense did not exist, because it went without saying that this was practiced quasi automatically. Consequently, there were always several persons who knew the sources of the others. It was like an overlapping system that worked well some way or other without many words.

Of course, we had a rather complicated system with an awful lot of modules, interfaces, tools, API-s in our development. In total, a huge number of lines of code was produced. There were modules for the virtualization of keyboards, terminals or printers. We had developed the first National Language Support. Later, it became part of the X-Open UNIX implementation. We had complicated modules and modules everybody feared, as well as boring modules. Once in a while, we also had to find errors in the compilers we used.

The team always decided among themselves who was going to take on which task. Everything was part of the project: our value bank, mostly constituting of OpenSource components for source code administration, for the Built and the partly automated test, for the ports to the many end systems the Unix world then offered. Even producing the customer newsletter HITNews, which at the time was printed four times a year and determining the structure of the courses were part of it. Everything was done together, everyone .gave his best.

Naturally, once in a while there were situations when perhaps someone was unable to cope. Because maybe he did not yet have enough experience or perhaps he had underestimated the task. But then a colleague would help. The right person was always available. And when it was really necessary, there was still “God”.

Of course, everybody had his own role in the team. Each of us was a project manager and as such responsible for the appointments he had made. Some had more, others less. Each of us was a quality manager. Some more so, others less. Of course, there was something like a first contact for our customers and our partners. It was always a mutual decision (“who is the best for this job?”), but he remained in the team as a programmer. But, basically, every developer answered the questions of his customers. After all, they simply came into our office. The central bell rang, and whoever was the first to answer the telephone was talking to the customer.

Naturally, some of the colleagues were more concerned with integration, planning, configuration and the built-theme, the manual, … But every one of them was always fully integrated into the team in terms of technology.

But everybody always went back to programming. And everybody was responsible for top quality. For instance because they built automatic test environments simply as a part of the project. The responsibility was totally shared.

With the success came the necessity to have teachers for our product HIT/CLOU. During the first few years, all the developers also taught the courses. This was true for teaching the end users, the special users, the systems engineers, the operators and the programmers. Even the central persons, like Friedrich Lehn, the “father” of CLOU, taught courses where beginners were instructed on how to program CLOU.

There were instances when the developers did not appreciate this. After all, developing is much more important, isn’t it? But the courses were quite popular (because, after all, the colleagues knew what they were talking about, which certainly counterbalances the occasional “didactical” weakness). But the great thing about it was that our colleagues always knew exactly what the customer wanted and needed! This is how the customers as a whole became the Product Owners.
Due to these inter-disciplinary tasks, our colleagues grew both in technological competence and personality at enormous speed – that is also true for sales competence. More often than not, it was unbelievable how young students became experts with a huge self-esteem after a few months.

Without ever saying it out loud, we on our team understood even at that time that it is all about making all the persons in the team and in the enterprise look biggger instead of smaller. And to make them be part of everything and share everything. We knew that we often had to have really steep goals, often even bold goals. Otherwise, we would never have managed our product. But we also knew, especially in this situation, the importance of living a strong error tolerance.

The colleague in the team or the customer must never ever be the enemy or adversary. Instead, the only enemies were the challenge or the detrimental circumstances.

Wolf and I were the “management”. But we were more like visitors in our enterprise. After eight to ten hours with customers every day, we came back to our employees at home in the office for recreation. They were all our friends, it felt good to be near them. And they showed us all the great things they had, again, created. We gave our feedback and then disappeared to our next day of consultancy.

And whenever a nice result was achieved, we all celebrated. It was the best time of my life. We learned so much. We also learned that thinking normal and conservatively is often nonsense. For instance, I always wanted to deliver to our customers on time. And I had to learn that this is utter nonsense.

Because if you want to create something really innovative, you will learn again and again that deadlines do not make any sense at all. It simply will not work. If a deadline can absolutely not be met, then all that matters is a functioning communication and looking for a solution that satisfies the customer. Because when they are all in one boat and want to be a success together, then there is always a solution – and we found out that it can always be done.

I already hear your objection: 
Well, it might work for a small project. But what about a huge project?

To be sure, we were perhaps less than 50 persons. But the very same projects had failed with more than one huge concern. They had often used five times as many persons as we or even more. Expensive, experienced and highly qualified ones. But it did not work.

I believe it can be done in the same way if you have a huge or even a very huge project if many such great teams are linked and cooperate with good-will.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday November 7th, 2015

Founding my Own Company in 1983 – A Retrospective Analysis

logo-HITLooking for a HIT logo, I found this article. It is based on an interview I gave in August 2014. It was perhaps during one of those (totally confusing) many state-sponsored contests for founders of medium-sized firms. Well, one of those many sponsoring opportunities. I no longer know the name of the person who interviewed me at the time.

The article was published in:

header-1

The basic message of the article is:

My own company founding process went well because many necessary requirements were met. Yet we had not planned them a-priori and rationally. Instead, we only found out about them a-posteriori.

It is a personal report on how InterFace was founded. I will modify it a little for publication in if-blog.de, because it is part of my personal life story. With this report, I would like to encourage young founders and also prepare you for the almost finished fourth instalment of my series “vintage project management”, which is soon to come. Here is the text:

Ever since the early 1980ies, I was tempted to become self-employed. One of the reasons was that I (like many founders of today I know) wanted to take responsibility for an enterprise and decide its future, thus also enjoying my work more. Another reason was that I wanted to earn more money. Strangely enough, this is a motive that does not seem to be so important to many founders of today I know – perhaps because today the restrictions at the work-place are a lot more than they used to be and many people are no longer prepared to sacrifice their private life for their career.

For starters, I set out looking for the “ideal partner” as early as 1982 (I did not look for the “ideal business idea”, because even then I firmly believed that there is no such thing as an ideal business plan). Mind you, it was not easy to find the “ideal partner”, either, but after a little more than a year, I was lucky enough to find Wolf Geldmacher.

He brought enormous entrepreneurial power and was down-to-earth, just like I was. With Wolf, founding the “InterFace Connection Gesellschaft für Datenfern-verarbeitung und Entwicklung von Software mbH“, which was the predecessor of InterFace AG, did not take long. Our topics were IT and Unix. On the then new Unix platform, we wanted to create a successful product. It was important for us to actually have a product, because we assumed it was harder to scale a service. Besides, in 1983 (before the foundation in 1984), we were not sure if body-leasing was going to be a business that would endure. Even then, we believed that Body Leasing (“Letting of Workers” AÜG) would be a sector that, from the legal point of view, occupies a grey zone at the least.

Consequently, it was clear that we wanted to build a product. After various ideas (data base, networking,…), we decided in favour of an office-compatible typing system on Unix. As a name, we chose what we wanted it to become: a HIT: Seen in retrospective, we actually succeeded with something rather risky. It took us only a few years to become the most successful text system by far on Unix in Europe. It was like a dream!

Thinking about it later, I identified persons and important requirements or events without which it would never have worked. We simply were moving in the right time and had enormous luck that made so much just right.

The duo “Wolf & Roland“
Even in the early 1980ies, the two of us firmly believed in agile, lean and open. We were in favour of self-organization and self-determination, formulated our ideas and our requirements and then let our teams do the job. It was all done in a profound sense of belonging together.

Necessary “skills“
In 1960, my parents had managed to get me a place at the Augsburg “wirtschafts-wissenschaftliche Oberrealschule Jakob Fugger” after the four years of primary school at Wittelsbacher Volksschule. This had by no means been an easy task. Later, this school was re-named “„wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Gymnasium“ (until 1960, it had still been a business school). Book-keeping and business administration, both of which I was taught at the “wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Gymnasium”, were certainly useful skills when it came to founding a company, but they were not an absolute necessity. The things I had learned at TUM in computer science were basically also not much use. I had learned programming as a student at Siemens. In the Siemens Laboratory, I had learned team work, in the sales department communication, and at Softlab: business.

“The method“
We had developed and lived our own private method of software development. It was a little like what they call SCRUM today. Wolf was the “SCRUM-Master“ (and more than that). He was responsible for the technology and the people. He pointed the colleagues towards quality and made it clear to them that they had to live and give quality, first and foremost for themselves. And I was something like the “product owner” and business director.
There are a few persons who hugely contributed to our success. I would like to give my special thanks to them:

Anton Böck
Stenography and typing had been obligatory at the Jacob Fugger school until 1960, and later, during my time, elective courses. My father forced me to learn both, because he considered these two techniques important advantages when it came to fighting for your professional position.

Anton Böck was my teacher of these two elective courses. I always did quite well in stenography. Whenever I was forced to learn at home, I spent hours drawing stenographic symbols. For me, this was just like calligraphy. Beautiful. And my parents thought I was learning. In reality, I fled into some kind of “meditative drawing”, thus finding solace in my dreams.
Mr. Böck was a strict teacher and he rather liked me because I was an excellent stenographer. But he also forced me to sit behind the typewriter. I hated the typewriter and even when I was sixteen, I dreamed of what a “nice” and “beautiful” typewriter would have to look like. It may sound a little ridiculous, but I am sure that, without this early negative experience of mine with the generation of text, the InterFace Connection would never have developed a text processing system. Which means it would never have become the rather successful product enterprise it was.

Hans Strack-Zimmermann
Hans was my mentor and the person who had made Unix big, both in Europe and at Siemens (here under the brand name Sinix). He awoke my enthusiasm for his vision and believed in our team. And he helped us a lot. This is how, in the end, our success proved him right.

Dr. Peter Schnupp
Peter was a second generation IT pioneer (I see the generation Zuse as the first and myself as part of the third). IT expert, column writer in the Computer-Woche and also quite famous for many other activities. He had an excellent reputation as an expert.

Peter managed to convince the strategic decision-maker of a huge agency that the future of IT lies in Unix and that there is a great local product for text on the market.
Without this stroke of luck, the project CLOU/HIT would never have been a success.

My projects
Even as a young software developer for Siemens AG in the mid-1970ies, I had worked on a great task. In the course of the development of Transdata, I had developed the “Connection Handling“ and also been part of the team that developed “APS“ (user programming language). “Connection Handling“ has a central importance for “Remote Data Transfer”, as it was then called. With APS, it was possible to decentralize computing power to local “data station computers” (operating system PDN) and thus to be the first to break the centralized main frame principle.

With this “superior knowledge”, it was easy for me to shine during big projects and as a logical consequence of this, I was able to change into the department “special projects sales” at Siemens AG. In this department, my most important project was DISPOL, a central project of the Bavarian Police Force – which, early in the 1980ies had given itself the task of changing from paper filing (data), typewriters (documents) and teletext machines (communication!) to electronic data processing.

I accompanied this project until I founded my own company and in the process, I understood how market, customers and in particular authorities work.

Without this personal history of mine, HIT/CLOU would never have become a successful product.

The people at InterFace 
We employed very young persons for production. More often than not, they were still students when they first came to work for us. And in (almost) all cases, they were the right persons to hire. The speed with which these people became overachievers and took upon them a high responsibility was truly amazing.

The right principles
Along with product development, almost as an accidental by-product, a high-quality counselling and co-operation with Siemens in the field of “Unix Operating Systems” developed. Technologically, we were at the source and we learned many extremely helpful things from our operation systems partner. For instance, we were among the first who started using tools that were not at all common in Europe. And we created many novelties, such as for instance the “National Language Support (NSL)”, which later even made it into XOPEN, becoming the basis for all Unix systems.

We used methods (or rather, we invented them intuitively) such as the four-eye-principle of programming, peer2peer-reviews, “extreme programming“, developer rotation and much more. Those methods did not even exist at the time, or else were not known to us. But it just made sense to do it in this way. In fact, it brought us more than fundamental advantages when it came to developing speed, user-orientedness and quality.

Our developers were always in direct contact with the customers. For instance, they taught the HIT courses for our customers themselves and thus understood what the customers wanted. All these factors contributed hugely towards the quality of our product.

Finances
We were well aware of the difficulties. Consequently, we shared the IF computers during our initial founding phase. For the second phase, the marketing, we had planned to share tasks. The InterFace Connection developed the product and looked after our big customer Siemens. InterFace Computer did the porting to the many other Unix systems and the sales for more hardware producers and partners. Until, later, the InterFace Connection took over the entire affair.
Developing a product necessitates a huge “man power”. And men cost money. In 1984 and the year after that, we solved this problem in a very simple way. Wolf Geldmacher and yours truly worked as consultants. Evenings and sometimes also Saturdays were used to look after the product and the team.

As consultants, we charged 150.- DM per hour. That was a terrific rate and the only reason we got away with it was that US consultants with equal know-how were a lot more expensive.

Now you can do a simple calculation: A good month will bring you 200 man hours (we were rather industrious). Multiplied with 150.- DM, that would earn us 30,000 DM in a good month. Subtracting our salary of 5,000 DM each, after taxes, which makes around 6,000 before taxes, this left us with 18,000 for hardware, Heidi (our assistant, who worked for us right from the start) and our students, the product developers.

As early as a few months after our foundation on April, 1st, 1984, we were able to recruit, and immediately use as consultants, some young computer scientists. They brought us similar money to dispose of. Money we used exclusively for product development. And from late in 1985, the product itself saw to it that we quickly had increasing marginal returns.
Events 
Moreover, there were some rather lucky circumstances that helped us very much.

For instance, Siemens had started a very huge project, wishing to develop their own text system for BS 2000 and Unix. Regardless of the fact that these projects had several times more people working for them than our development team, and also regardless of the fact that the Siemens project developers were all grown software developers, none of these projects seemed to get anywhere. They all turned out more or less complete failures.

Yet the concern Siemens needed such software in order to achieve what they wanted to achieve. Consequently, they had to buy licences from two providers – we were one of them. This is how we became the provider and licenced producer of the then market leader in Germany on Linux.

The “technological time frame” worked in our favour: At the time, Unix replaced the numerous varying computer systems of the “medium-sized data technology” MDT. Our product HIT could not have come at a better time.

Those were also the times when using databases became more and more common. As a brand new definition, you had SQL as a “query language“ based on natural language. There even was a German SQL version! So what better than to extent CLOU, the 4GL (programming language of the fourth generation) that enabled HIT to program text elements, to also include an “embedded SQL“ which would suddenly make it possible to send dynamically generated queries to a database during the running of an element program and to then automatically use the received data for creating a document? That was really sensational, and it also came at exactly the right moment.

Lots of luck and just a little ill luck
It was certainly something special that a federal agency was courageous enough to base its future technology on a totally new technology created by a very small provider. A wonderful market development favouring UNIX. Then there were many more courageous and, for us, lucky customer decisions. And a super team…

There were also some problems
Buying the hardware for the development was extremely expensive. As early as 1985, we had to buy MX500 – which at the time was listed at more than 300,000 DM. For us, this was an unbelievable sum. But it was clear that, without this system, we would never be able to manage the necessary speed of development. Two years later, the machine was already totally outdated. We worked on SUN computers and quasi overnight, new fast PC-s with diverse Unix variants that were considerably less expensive came onto the market.

InterFace Computer backed out, the strategic cooperation was no longer working. Consequently, we were forced to buy the rights to the product. This was a huge investment and a hard decision, yet, in retrospect, it was a decision that paid off.

Other necessary requirements
I am sure there are several more causes and incidents without which the enterprise HIT/CLOU would never have become a success. Some of these might be things I no longer even remember or things I am not really consciously aware of. But without all the aforementioned factors, the InterFace Connection as the producer of HIT/CLOU would never have existed. Many special circumstances and coinciding events taken together caused our huge success.

With this article, I wanted to use my own example to show that many requirements must be met if you want to succeed. And that there are things you cannot plan. I also wrote this to encourage you towards having a (reasonable) readiness towards leaving things undone. Yet I also want to show you that it is not all that easy to found a company and that a pragmatic approach is fundamentally important.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

I am glad to announce that now the video recording of the great presentation by Bruno Gantenbein at the St. Gallen IF Forum of July, 23rd, 2015, is available on youtube and can be watched by all of you:

The presentation ”Learning in Innovation“ held by Bruno Gantenbein at the IF Forum left me deeply impressed. Many of the audience felt the same. But some who also were very impressed by Bruno’s theses came back with the important reply that what he spoke about was not something “normal people” can live in a “normal life” in the “real world”. Because your normal Jim and Jack cannot really manage it. And it simply cannot be done. Once in a while, it sounded really like people were despairing.

To me, it seems the reason is that
“most people cannot really imagine living in another world than the one we are living in“
and that
“we are no longer capable of distinguishing between what is important and what is not important. Consequently, what is unimportant is dominant in our lives.“

To me, this seems to be the major problem both for us and our society. A degree of external control through marketing and lobbyism as we never had it manipulates us in a totally new way. It is totally different from, but certainly no less dangerous than, for instance, religious indoctrination of persons in the Middle Ages or, if we are unlucky, the manipulation as practiced by the Nazis.

The formatting of our lives through a super-powerful but not tangible system took away our autonomy. Now we get nervous and start talking change. Yet we lack all desire to start another life outside our comfort zone. In fact, more often than not, we are not even capable of imagining such a life. For instance, the strength to develop utopias for the future seems to have left us. Looking for values and visions no longer plays a role in our society. In fact, if we do look for visions, it is actually something others are belittling us for. The attempt to re-create a new “social consensus” is smothered in the very first stages. Consequently, we assume that the status quo is true and there is no alternative.

We no longer have the courage for change. We accept our dependence and are happy to be “enslaved”. Be it by technology or as our social concepts of life (our lies of life) determine it. We believe you cannot live without a car, a TV set and electricity all over the place. We believe in the omnipotence of medicine. That the federal administration must and has to guarantee our security and safety. And that the planet will certainly find a way to survive it all.

Except that so many of the things we take for granted can be easily disproved. There is no absolute security. We experience it all the time. The sudden death of an important partner or a surprise illness totally throw us off balance. We can easily fall victim to some mishap.

But then, there are also harmless examples. The stamp collection we inherited
from our grandfather that was so precious, but for which now not even the wastepaper trader is prepared to pay, shows us how difficult it is with security. Many things that used to cost a lot are totally valueless today. I made the same experience when pay day came for my direct insurance. What a discrepancy between the money I received from what I had expected when, decades ago, I first signed the insurance contract. Instead of the imagined free-hold apartment, the only thing I got for it was a medium-size car…

Regardless of all this, the (alleged) security of our modern financial world suggest for some that we actually are in total control of the risk of our material life through retirement money and savings. Except where will the Euro be ten years from now? Will we be able to solve future problems with it? What will money be worth? Have we not learned a long time ago that “you cannot eat” money? Especially if it is just virtual money and perhaps out of the blue will have to be shortened by the occasional digit.

To make up for it, we capitulate for fear of terrorism. And we are prepared to sacrifice our present freedom for these kinds of mind games. Sacrificing freedom for what we believe is an investment in increased future safety! And we are even prepared to start a modern (crusade) war for it.

This is how we follow the stupid and brazen battle cries of politicians and economic leaders who, more often than not, are no longer sane. We swallow pointless laws they serve us with, regardless of the fact that we know those will do more harm than good. And we surrender before the stupidity of our “representatives”. In fact, I actually yearn for a German or European Spring. But I do not mean one triggered by hunger or poverty like the one in Northern Africa – which inevitably dooms it.

Why do we believe them when our politicians tell us that “without the Euro, there would be no Europe” and that the so-called “Grexit” would ruin us all? Why do the politicians tell us such fairy tales? We know as well as the politicians that the Euro is good for those who stand in the light. And it is detrimental for those standing in the shadow. Just as we all know that the exploitation structures, both globally and within Europe and Germany, must fail or cause conflicts, either in the near or not-so-near future.

But we get the impression that we cannot do anything about it and perhaps that is really what happens. Also, we no longer have the courage to oppose the structures of the administrative and economical systems that rule over us. And we no longer stand up against this, even though we know that human beings – which is we! –, and not system interests that have de-personalized and de-humanized themselves, should be the centre of the society, politics and economics. First and foremost, the economy and the state must serve the interests of the people. Just like it is written in the Bavarian Constitution.

The system of the oligarchy of the parties (Oligarchie der Parteien ) – see Jaspers -rules over us and the morals of mercantile metric in economy sharpens the boundary conditions of our behaviour. Thus, the systemic mills will continue to grind, making the restrictive nets of bondage tighter and tighter. It happens in small portions, which means that we often do not even notice it and almost consider it normal.

Consequently, here is what we need to do:

Let us also get back to remembering that we, as “natural beings” are also part of the “natural world”. To be sure, the “cultural world” we created makes some things easier for us, but it also took a lot from us. It made us lazy. And we forgot that the price we are paying is rather high.

As I see it, we should return – and radically so – to thinking about whether, perhaps, we could also live in other worlds and probably even be happier living in other worlds. As you all know, my favourite example is the “away from the car” and turning towards active freedom through “active mobility”. Yet it is just as important to take a close look at the working and living conditions we subjugate ourselves under, be it in social systems such as families or otherwise. We need to question all that seems self-evident and draw conclusions from the answers. Formerly, one would have said: Destroy what destroys you.

Part of this is also to live a “life in harmony with nature” as Seneca formulated it. And he meant more than just the biological nutrition process and the preservation of the environment. He also meant we need to listen to our inner voice.

After all, Seneca was a great teacher who wanted to help his pupils on their way to become successful and happy persons. So let me finish this article with another sentence by Seneca that might perhaps make it a little easier for us to start travelling towards other worlds:

“It is not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It is because we dare not venture that they are difficult”.

Yet – there is hope. What is currently happening on the internet is actually something I rather delight in.

RMD
(Translated by EG)