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A love of technology

Friday 15.11.2019 Christian Walter
Christian Walter

Christian Walter ist Geschäftsführer und Redaktionsleiter von swiss made software. Bis Ende 2010 arbeitete er als Fachjournalist für das ICT-Magazin Netzwoche, publizierte zuletzt aber auch im Swiss IT Magazin, der Computerworld sowie inside-it.

Despite the rich pickings on the global tech market, Opacc continues to focus on in-house development. That’s why staff regularly spend time getting their teeth into the relevant technological foundations.

“We cultivate a certain professional pride here and develop an excellent product. We don’t just snap things together in a hurry around here,” explains Christian Reiter, CTO at ERP software producer Opacc. For example the user interface: Rather than using one of the many varied libraries already available, the Rothenburg-based firm partly built their own. That’s also because third-party products are often overly driven by technological trends. “If a project changes direction every three years or so, we have a problem – because we have a very long product lifecycle. Changes like this can therefore quite easily have a negative impact on our architecture and the resulting quality,” says Reiter. 

Another reason is the lack of accuracy of fit: “We usually need no more than 20% of the entire solution, but we have to deal with 100% of its complexity. Yet despite this, we still have to invest a lot of time and effort into customization,” Reiter explains. However, Reiter says the worst thing about these technologies is the fact that staff are so far removed from the technological foundations and principles on which everything is based.

Brute force is not the way

One example is rich client computing, where a transformation is currently afoot. A framework was developed for this purpose, and then the majority of the code was automatically adopted. This was preceded by careful considerations. What technology is it based on? How do I map this in the framework? Opacc doesn’t take a brute force approach, using as big a team as possible, but instead favors small and highly skilled project teams with members recruited from permanent staff.

“At Opacc, technology decisions are made by the architects, who are found in every team. If a decision has potential ramifications beyond a particular team, then all the architects put their heads together,” Reiter explains. 

The teams are organized based on the architecture: client, backend, web apps, and mobile. Each team includes a team leader as well as the architects. The architects are responsible for decision-making, but everyone can offer their input. That’s why developers are given so much freedom to examine new technologies, build prototypes, and offer internal seminars to their colleagues. “Docker was a staff project – and now, part of the server-side installation in the CloudCenter runs on Docker,” says Reiter.

Harnessing creative freedom

Innovation is often driven by employees’ own initiative. “We all share a love of technology. Our people often select their own projects,” says Reiter. The same applies to professional development opportunities: The company is supportive of staff doing courses and further academic training, “even though developers often prefer to teach themselves.” The same applies to career choices: If they so wish, our people can work towards becoming a team leader or architect.

Staff also enjoy some autonomy regarding how they use their time. “If you’re always 100 percent busy, you don’t have time to think freely. Developers need to keep multiple different options in mind. The wrong path can take three times as long,” says Reiter. “Of course, the pressure always increases just before release. But this autonomy our people enjoy – and the emphasis we put on core skills – are key to producing a long-lasting, high-quality product.”

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