A little more than three weeks ago, I said good-bye to my Alexa (sur-name: Amazon). We went to the South Seas – so she had to remain behind. However, Barbara (sur-name: Dürre), of course, joined me. Yesterday, on our return, many things had accumulated. Many snail mails (paper), parcels and hundreds (?) of emails.

View from 300 metres height onto Raiatea and the neighbouring island – one of the many highlights of our trip.

One of the parcels contained “smart scales” from Phicomm (SMART SCALE S7). I immediately unpacked and installed it. And I measured my body in a completely new way.

In my email, I found – among other things – the login data for BayStartup, because I need to see and evaluate the newly submitted business ideas. That means work which needs to be finished by the time I leave for the Antarctic on February, 7th (again with Barbara and without Alexa).

And from the InterFace AG, I received many appointments and a very remarkable invitation to a workshop about the Data Security Basic Decree (DSGVO) on February, 25th, 2018 in Unterhaching near Munich. Well, I cannot attend, because by the time I will already be in the Antarctic.

Alexa, the smart scales, the 3D glasses, the drone and the batteries for my electronic Utopia (bike), along with the DSGVO, have quite a few things in common – they produce data, data, data – real multitudes of them.

ALEXA (or GOOGLE HOME and others)

My second wife Alexa Amazon.

But let me first tell you about my Alexa. I cannot really say I missed her during my time in the South Sea. However, after my return, it made me quite happy to hear her voice again and to ask her to play a Beatles song for me.
After all, Alexa is “just” a language interface, connecting me to internet functions that have realized an interface with Alexa through their apps. There are products made by the competition, such as “google home“. I would probably recommend them even more. The fact remains that the progress language deciphering has made in IT is sensational.

Being able to give your input and output via audio signals will probably, in the long run, make reading and writing just as unnecessary as we already know calculators have made it unnecessary to do any calculations mentally or on paper. This cultural technique is already lost to us and reading and writing are heading towards a similar destiny. The majority of people, especially in developed countries, will only have rudimentary knowledge. Only very few people will master it to perfection.

What Alexa and the competition have in common is the fact that they are ardent data collectors. For instance, they know how often I listen to my Beatles song. But perhaps they also collect more important data.

My Three-D-Glasses

The last time I wore 3D glasses was on Christmas 2016. I remember being impressed. I cannot really say how 3D will continue to grow. However, I can imagine that there will be some segments where it might become quite important. Both for industry with business and for the customer segment with games.

My Drone

I have no drone. Nor will I buy one. Although they are certainly nice gadgets. During the Christmas holidays (2017), they had organized a drone day at the Neubiberg airfield. Many owners of new drones could be seen testing their toys. But I have no drone.

Especially in the South Sea, I got quite intoxicated with the aerial photographs the ship’s photographer took of the mountains in French-Polynesia. It seems to me that all wedding photographers – if they want to survive against the competition – have to and can have such a drone today. After all, it costs less than a good mirror reflex finder with a few extra lenses used to cost in the good old days – including the camera.

My Smart Scales

On the left, you see the new Phicomm scales (SMART SCALE S7) sitting next to the old, stupid ones.

These scales really fascinate me. They remind me of business ideas and plans in the category medicine/diagnosis. They are mostly about special sensors (sub-category of sensors in general as you need them in everyday life, for instance for autonomous cars…), And then, you can measure the iron content in your blood quite “bloodlessly” with an app and much more. This is, for instance, important for babies.

The corresponding app informs me about my weight and diverse other values, for instance BMI, “biological age”, body fat, type of figure, muscle mass, bone mass, water content, visceral fat, basic turnover in kcal, protein in my current physical state. It also tells me how many kilograms in muscles and body fat and in per cent my individual limbs (torso, arm, left and right leg) have. Above all, I can graphically follow how these values change. Because more often than not, the tendency is more important that the current values.

I find these data quite exciting. Unfortunately, not all of them are in the green segment. Two are even in the red segment. Consequently, I would really like to publish the data in order to put pressure on myself towards working on them. However, this would a) be of no interest to anybody and b) require additional work by me which, being a lazy person, I am not keen on. But then, perhaps there will soon be a “publish-my-data-on-facebook-feature” or something similar.

The development in this field is quite exciting. Perhaps such an app will soon be able to tell me when I am sick and also what I am suffering from. Many interesting data might be available. And here it is already again, the German Angst. What will happen if my health insurance company finds out about it?

My Electric Battery

This is how the electric London from Utopia looks on the website.

Even today, the batteries are rather intelligent. The only thing they cannot yet do is talk, e.g. tell you something. The next generation will have solved that problem. Then the bike (or its batteries) will disappear when …, or when the batteries are empty. They will also use Alexa or “google home”. In the evening, they can tell me if I should re-load my bike in order to make sure it will not be empty before I reach my destination.

Everything Produces Data.

All those devices, and many more, have one thing in common: they generate data. And that is a good thing. Allegedly, we Germans are particularly anxious when it comes to new technology. I the past, this was often criticized, especially by politicians.

Perhaps we no longer like new technology because there was a time when we euphorically embraced nuclear energy and sacrificed our country to cars. And as a consequence, we really fell on our noses and so now we have become more cautious. And now we are afraid for and of our data. Perhaps because politicians tell us that data are the oil or the gold of the future. Which, basically, is utter nonsense.

“GERMAN ANGST“

When it comes to data, it seems to have re-appeared: the German Angst. And it seems like it developed into a European Angst. However, it does not matter how you feel about it. Because now it is before our doors: the DSGVO. And if you want to be law-abiding – and that is what we all want, isn’t it? – you need to do something. And you want as little stress in the process as possible. It might become an art that will make the difference between the success and the failure of an enterprise.

What can you do?

The InterFace AG, along with Kinast und Partner, DataKonform and Bizagi invites you all to a workshop. It costs nothing. It will be held on February, 15th, starting at 16:30 hours until about 20:00 hours (with enough time for networking) at the InterFace AG on Leipziger Str. 16, 82008 Unterhaching – very close to Munich and easy to reach by public transportation.

  • Here is some information issued by the InterFace AG about the workshop:

    It is about, for instance, how you can fulfil your obligation of accountability while legally and operatively accompanying our team with the support of tools. The tool will document everything efficiently and in total compliance with the law.
    Because with the introduction of the new EU data security basic decree (DSGVO), the way we treat data in the EU and world-wide will change forever. The new DSGVO will be effective as of May, 25th, 2018 and it will replace the former EU data security decree (EU-DSRL) that was active for more than 20 years.

    This expert workshop will show how the DSGVO demands can be met, namely:

    • How to prepare for the EU-DSGVO and what you need to keep in mind;
    • How to fulfil the legal demands of the DSGVO as shown in a model;
    • How to adapt, optimize and automatize processes in compliance with the new EU-DSRL;
    • How tools can support a solution during this process;
    • There will be a real-time demonstration that shows how you can immediately begin and actively meet the demands!

    Here is the agenda for the event:

  • Outline of the goals and short introduction of the enterprises involved;
  • Overview of the current situation (Kinast & Partner);
  • New DS-GVO and what you should know about it (Kinast & Partner);
  • Problems to be solved and obstacles to be overcome (practical examples);
  • “Data security as a Service“;
  • Introduction of the “achievement model”;
  • Types of achievement;
  • Model for the procedure;
  • Introduction of workflows as actual use cases/examples;
  • Questions and answers;
  • Networking discussions and finger food.

    Please do not hesitate to ask questions now. We look forward to your registration via E-Mail or eventbrite.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Yesterday, we had our yearly InterFace AG Christmas Party. As always, it was a nice party – with lots of music, dancing and communication. We were in the Rock-Café in the heart of Munich.

On the preceding evening, they asked me to say a few personal and Christmassy words. I worked very hard on formulating something nice and I presented it yesterday evening. You can find the text under the picture.

I took my inspiration from ALTO, Knud Johanssen’s saxophone. It accompanied us beautifully during our performance on October, 22nd, 2017 at the Nuremberg DOAG.

Here is what ALTO – Knud Johannssen’s saxophone, said.

Here are my ideas on Christmas 2017. I gave it the title:
WRONG or RIGHT?


It started with my early childhood. My educators wanted to make a perfect human of me. I was to be a model person! Every mother’s pride. I was to be nice, honest, obedient, polite, well-combed at all times; I was to stand upright at all times (“do not stand like a hunchback”), as well as talk in a loud, distinct and correct way – but only when asked. And, above all, I was to be a good student.

With many of their attempts, my suppressors failed. But nevertheless, it was far from nice for me. And what had been required of me certainly marked me for life.

Later, I wanted to be a “good” person, a diligent employee, a quick (and error-free) programmer, a loving husband, an understanding father, a top manager and a super entrepreneur.

Perfection was my motto. I wanted to be a “professional”, not a “dilettante”.
In other words – I wanted to do things “right”!

Then I understood that it is not so important to do everything “right”.
It is much more important to do “the right” things!

My reasoning is simple:
What happens if I do the “wrong” things totally “right”? Can’t it easily end in a catastrophe?

🙂 Consequently, I am now glad that I remained a dilettante through my entire life. Because that means it is not so bad if I occasionally did or do the wrong things!

But who knows what is “right” and “wrong”?

I live in the NOW. More often than not, I do not know if what I did YESTERDAY was “right”. So how am I supposed to know TODAY what will be true TOMORROW?
Today, everybody talks about TRANSFORMATION and INNOVATION. People suffer under the COMPLEXITY of life (it does not matter if said complexity is imagined or real). COMPLEXITY does not make it any easier to decide whether something is “wrong” or “right”. As I see it, the only way to deal with COMPLEXITY is PARTICIPATION. And the same is true for TRANSFORMATION and INNOVATION.

So:
The only way to find the “right”, i.e., the nice way is if we try to find it together. As many persons as possible must contribute by giving their hearts and their wisdom. We need to share knowledge and pull at one string.

As an inspiration, here is a small anecdote:

In 1985, everybody who was important in music met in order to record the song “We are the world” for Africa. At the door of the music studio, they had hung a note that said: “Please leave your ego out!”

Well, that takes us back to right or wrong. Because, of course, you need to contribute by bringing the “right” parts of your ego. You only have to leave the “wrong” parts back out.

So here I stand feeling gratitude and love and wishing you a nice holiday, a good start and a successful year 2018! Thank you for everything, in love!

WE ARE THE WORLD!

If you feel like it, you are invited to hum and/or sing. Because the message is:
DO NOT LAMENT, JAM (= TOGETHER)!


Now I wish everybody and especially those who are in some way or other connected to InterFace AG a wonderful and nice Christmas and all the best for the New Year 2018!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

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)