25 years bbv

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25 years of bbv – a success story Dear Readers, What an exceptional year – and not just because bbv is celebrating its 25th anniversary! While coronavirus has given fresh impetus to digitalisation, and by extension to our industry, after all the online meetings and virtual conferences, I for one could do with some time away from the online world. Do you feel the same? We all know how important breaks are – and yet we don’t take enough of them. In recent months, I have had more opportunities than usual to step back and take a good look at our company: what are we doing at the moment? And just as important: what aren’t we doing? Where are we now in the context of “Making visions work”? I have also realised how much I now miss the usual unscheduled breaks and interludes during the working day: the journey to and from work, the spontaneous chat about something non-work-related, funny or thought-provoking. I have learned that time out is not there so that we can simply pick up where we left off. Instead, it provides the opportunity to unconsciously reflect on and work through what we intuit and feel. This can suddenly give rise to turning points, new beginnings and different ways forward. Downtime creates the space for us to see the whole picture and improve our understanding, opening our eyes to new perspectives. And new perspectives are exactly what I hope you will gain from reading the stories and interviews in our anniversary magazine. Philipp Kronenberg, CEO

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32 / bbv international Working with bbv offices in Vietnam and Greece.

04 / Nurturing young talent Once a month, bbv software engineers give children insights into the world of IT. 06 / The history of bbv bbv’s action-packed 25-year history in short anecdotes.

22 / Visionary leadership bbv CEO Philipp Kronenberg discusses leadership strategies, responsibility and workplace culture at bbv.

34 / Under pressure How bbv employees learn to communicate in stressful situations.

38 / Innovation made easy Tips and tricks to help companies develop innovative products. 40 / “Space for innovation” Interview with Dirk Hoffmann, head of the Central Switzerland Innovation Park, and Adrian Bachofen.

08 / “Visions need figureheads” Interview with Sonja Betschart, CEO of WeRobotics, and Adrian Bachofen, co-founder and President of the bbv Group.


14 / Learning by failing Is software development like climbing? Sometimes it is, says Dominik Berner.

24 / Employee visions Thomas Gaugler on motivated employees and corporate culture. 28 / There’s nothing routine about it Software engineer Michel Estermann shares insights into his daily work.

44 / Hidden talents Quiz: Match the bbv employees to their unusual hobbies. 46 / Quality map The product and service quality treasure map for development teams.

IMPRINT Published by: bbv Software Services AG, Blumenrain 10, 6002 Luzern Overall responsibility: Andrea Luca Späth Edited by: bbv Software Services AG, tnt-graphics AG

16 / Teaming up to learn the ropes How bbv develops software in collaboration with ropeway manufacturer Garaventa.

30 / Satisfying light-bulb moments Training mentor Thomas Britschgi on his job.

Articles by: Hansjörg Honegger, Felix Raymann, Larissa Seeburger, Andrea Luca Späth, Christoph Widmer Photography: Daniel Brühlmann, Thomas Egli, Tobias Haas, Herbert Zimmermann Illustrations: Celine Endras Design and production: tnt-graphics AG Copy-editing: Nadia Steinmann Printed by: Druckerei Ebikon AG

25 years of bbv — 3

Inspiring tomorrow’s talent Once a month, children and young people aged between seven and 17 converge on the CoderDojo in Lucerne. Dedicated software engineers give them insights into the world of programming through play-based activities. And who knows – perhaps some of these boys and girls will go on to follow in their mentors’ footsteps. www.coderdojoluzern.ch

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25 years of bbv — 5

The history of bbv Article by Andrea Späth — Illustration by tnt-graphics

1996 A place of its own bbv gets its first taste of freedom when the company moves into its own premises at 25 Brünigstrasse in Lucerne. It also lands its first major client contract. The number of permanent bbv employees rises to four.

1993–1995 bbv’s story starts a few years before the company is actually founded. Back in 1993, Marcel Baumann and Adrian Bachofen are already meeting up for an occasional chat over a pint. As time goes on, their idea for a software company begins to take shape.

A vision becomes a reality The official beginning: bbv is launched on 15 November 1995 by its three founders, Adrian Bachofen, Marcel Baumann and Detlef Vollmann. The company’s office is located at 1 Zöpfli in Lucerne.

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Next stop Zug

1998 Awards and another move Ten new employees in one year: the workforce grows by 17, and the office is bursting at the seams. Moving to 10 Kellerstrasse in Lucerne becomes absolutely essential. 1998 is a successful year: as well as turning over almost 2 million Swiss francs, bbv is also the runner-up in central Switzerland’s Young Entrepreneurs’ Contest.

A crazy idea?

15/11/ 1995




The first million Two years after its launch, bbv employs seven people and has a turnover of 1.5 million Swiss francs. The company wins a genuine big-name client with lift manufacturer Schindler.

Five years of bbv. Due to the sharp growth in its employee numbers, bbv takes the decision to open a second office in Zug. bbv moves into its second home in a former margarine factory with an urban loft feel located at 5 Untermüli.

1999 Visits from the police and politicians bbv now has 24 employees and has to move offices yet again. This is celebrated with an opening party where even the police find out that bbv has moved to Blumenrain. bbv also gains political recognition when Minister of Economic Affairs Anton Schwingruber visits the successful start-up.

From central Switzerland into the Swiss plateau bbv now has more than 50 employees and an annual turnover of almost 8 million Swiss francs. In addition to Lucerne and Zug, a third office is opened in Bern. A new website is launched to provide the right online presence.

2005 Ten years of bbv 10 years have passed in the blink of an eye: bbv celebrates its birthday in Cuban style at Zug’s casino. The inaugural bbv Techday takes place in the same year, starting life as a one-day in-house event before branching out in subsequent years.



A new market

bbv goes to Greece

bbv Forum, the forerunner to Focus Day, is launched. Following on from the success of its four Swiss offices, bbv takes the plunge and opens an office over the border in Germany. bbv Software Services GmbH is founded in Munich in 2012. And the company once again wins the Microsoft Switzerland Technology Innovation Award, this time for the Selectron fleet diagnosis application, which enables Swiss Railways to run remote diagnostics on trains during ongoing operation.

Greece follows Vietnam: bbv Greece MEPE is founded in Thessaloniki. A group of bbv employees, alongside other IT specialists, launches the CoderDojo in Lucerne. Children and young people meet at the club each month to work together on programming projects with support from experienced engineers.

2015 From the bbv Group to a corporation During its 20th anniversary year, the bbv Group Ltd. becomes a holding company. Like-minded bbv employees start meeting regularly at Competence Centres, the forerunner to the Communities. Experts gather in 13 self-organising communities to debate and discuss the latest trends.



25 years of making visions work.

bbv goes to Vietnam

2010 Lucerne, Zug, Bern and … Zurich! To mark its 15 anniversary, bbv opens its fourth Swiss office in Zurich. The company finds a suitable premises close to Oerlikon train station. In the autumn, GARAtre – a project for cable-car manufacturer Garaventa – receives the Microsoft Switzerland Technology Innovation Award. th

bbv ICT Solutions merges with Swiss IT Bridge and takes over its subsidiary in Vietnam. In 2016, it is renamed bbv Vietnam Co., Ltd.

2017 Award bbv receives the ICT Education & Training Award for its work in nurturing and supporting the next generation of employees. The efforts made by bbv to inspire young people to pursue a career in IT, and the company’s commitment to fostering new entrants to the IT profession, win huge plaudits.

25 years of bbv! After a quarter of a century, bbv is still a young company and will continue to provide creative support to bring client and employee visions to life.

Sonja Betschart, co-founder and CEO of WeRobotics.

“Visions need figureheads” Having vision means wanting to achieve great things. But why is having a vision important for ambitious companies? Adrian Bachofen and Sonja Betschart talk about their own experiences of making corporate visions a reality. Article by Christoph Widmer — Photos by Thomas Egli

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Adrian Bachofen, co-founder and President of bbv.

Adrian, Sonja, how and where do corporate visions come into being? Adrian Bachofen: Visions aren’t conceived by a single person, who then shares the vision. A vision has to be supported. Without foundations and substance, it will amount to nothing. Ideas, an instinct for current trends, an eye for the challenges of the future – these are all subsumed into the vision. This requires an abundance of intelligent minds and a good deal of reflection on all sides. Sonja Betschart: Vision emerges from inspiration. And inspiration usually arises from a need: you identify the need, you are inspired by it, and this results in a vision – and your aim is to solve some of the world’s really big problems. Which of these problems does WeRobotics address? Sonja Betschart: Our initial discussions were around democratising technologies such as drones, data and AI. There is often unequal access to these technologies, which is precisely what we want to change. However, the focus here was too narrow;

Sonja Betschart

Adrian Bachofen

Sonja Betschart is co-founder and CEO of WeRobotics. The non-profit organisation, founded in 2015, creates and facilitates a network of local knowledge hubs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, paving the way for technologies such as drones and AI in these countries. These Flying Labs make fundamental contributions to humanitarian assistance, health, development and the environment.

Adrian Bachofen is co-founder and President of the bbv Group AG. As an entrepreneur, innovation is crucially important to him. He advises boards, entrepreneurs and investors on issues relating to vision, strategy and digitalisation. His focus is on intelligent business ecosystems and platform strategies. He is a member of the board of the Central Switzerland Innovation Park and the Technology Forum in Zug.

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“Visionaries need inner stability and an unshakeable belief in the cause. And you have to stick with it: not for a week, but for years, even decades.” Adrian Bachofen

it is not just an issue of access to technology – we are talking about countries that are not very technologically advanced and still depend on the North’s expertise. We are also interested in sustainability. That is why we talk about decolonising technology. Our Flying Labs provide drones to local experts and give them the knowledge needed to deploy the technologies independently to solve local problems. These include combating malaria in Tanzania, disaster risk reduction in Peru, India and Côte d’Ivoire, and cargo drone projects in Nepal. To achieve these aims, WeRobotics also works with NGOs. And how did bbv come up with its vision? Adrian Bachofen: At the beginning, our vision was something intangible floating in the air between us, the founders. However, as the company continued to grow, it became increasingly important for us to set it out. We were inspired by each wave of technological development, as every one has given rise to completely new opportunities. With our origins in the realm of embedded software, we can now take a collaborative approach to shaping our clients’ visions and make a meaningful contribution. In terms of our vision, this has meant constantly reflecting on it over the last 25 years and re-examining it to make sure that it continues to be valid. Today I can say that we are still moving in the right direction, and I like our claim, “Making visions work.” But simply having a vision isn’t enough. We have also worked tirelessly to develop our cultural principles and our corporate understanding, as well as introducing new elements to support and strengthen our vision. You also need figureheads

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with an authentic and believable presence who can inspire, convince and motivate the other employees and bring them together. If not, the corporate vision becomes nothing more than empty words and loses all of its impact. Sonja Betschart: I agree. Otherwise, the vision just becomes an empty shell. Visions need to be supported – by employees and by partners. It is one thing to set out a vision, but quite another to live it. What makes visionaries stand out? Adrian Bachofen: If someone recoils at the smallest obstacle, then they will hardly be prepared to work towards a vision which, by definition, is some way off in the future. Visionaries need inner stability and an unshakeable belief in the cause. And you have to stick with it: not for a week, but for years, even decades. Sonja Betschart: I agree with you. Your orientation has to be longer term. But sometimes you’ll need to change direction very dynamically. Even if you have a vision, the path to achieving it is often unclear. You may need to veer away from the track you originally envisaged. This means visionaries must not be afraid of making mistakes. That takes courage. Courage to face the unknown. Where do people get the energy to pursue their vision with fearless tenacity? Adrian Bachofen: I think that energy and vision have a reciprocal effect on each other. The progress you make as you are realising a vision creates its own energy. And that allows you to continue pursuing the vision. Vision without action is boring. Action without vision is too. Not everyone is enthusiastic about a vision. How do you deal with criticism? Adrian Bachofen: Simply ignoring or lashing out at critical voices is no way to react. Doubts and misgivings should be taken seriously and allowed to feed into a constructive dialogue. This may even take the vision forward or enhance it. Sonja Betschart: We often use design thinking and co-creation methods to give us the frameworks and processes we need to involve stakeholders at every stage. We also always try to bring those who are very sceptical about our vision into our discussions. This gives us the opportunity to thrash out issues in advance that we will have to deal with later on. In addition, we do a lot of storytelling. Good stories that demonstrate what can be achieved allow us to reduce fear and doubt. It is also useful when we are

Adrian Bachofen: “Vision without action is boring. Action without vision is too.”

looking for suitable partners. The technology is actually always the least of our problems. Adrian Bachofen: I have to agree with what you said. Storytelling is essential. By showcasing your achievements and presenting innovative, complex projects, you show other clients what you as a partner are capable of. And you also show them the significant contribution that you will make to their corporate vision. Good stories inspire people, and they will suddenly want to be a part of them. You need to do a lot of work on your communications here. The use case has to be depicted in an authentic, accessible and tangible way.

Sonja Betschart: Sometimes, visions need to be bold, too. A good vision, one that seeks to have a meaningful impact on the world, doesn’t only produce sceptics but supporters as well. This means that the vision pursued has to be ambitious enough to motivate the stakeholders. How important is having a vision for employees? Adrian Bachofen: The importance of “the vision” has increased sharply over the years. For many people, a company is more than just an employer. They are looking for a workplace that is aligned with their own convictions and ideals. We have managed to

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show people the meaningful added value that we create with bbv and to inspire them to be a part of it. We have many long-standing employees. I think that sort of continuity is very valuable in the current climate. Sonja Betschart: It’s no different for us. We are a young team, and we are doing everything we can to keep the current configuration of our team. We work alongside interns from the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) on our development projects. These collaborations always allow us to meet incredibly motivated people who find what they are looking for in the work that we do. Sonja, you said that the technology is the least of your problems. Adrian, would you agree? Adrian Bachofen: It depends on the scale of the vision. If you are pushing at the very boundaries of technological possibility, you will face significant obstacles. You may first have to carry out preliminary work to demonstrate the technological opportunities tangibly before you can win over partners or clients. Many clients are feeling the pressure from every side. What they do has to work, and there’s very little room for risk taking. You have to work hard to convince them before they will agree to a partnership.

“Visionaries must not be afraid of making mistakes. That takes courage. Courage to face the unknown.” Sonja Betschart

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How persuasive do you have to be with partners and clients? Adrian Bachofen: bbv is a software and consultancy business. We are not trying to convert our clients – that would be totally inappropriate. At an early stage, we examine whether the client’s vision aligns with our own. It needs to be clear that both parties believe in pursuing the vision co-creatively and advancing towards it one step at a time. Here at bbv, we also need to be convinced of this. That’s the only way that we can provide our clients with the certainty they need that the project can be realised. Is it at all feasible to pursue a corporate vision in isolation? Sonja Betschart: That is a question of speed and financial resources. In the technology sector in particular, it’s not easy to keep pace without outside assistance. Those who wish to strike out on their own will tend to find the process sluggish, slow and expensive. That is why it’s worth taking advantage of the strengths of expert partners. WeRobotics itself is a small set-up – and we want it to stay that way. We achieve growth through our partnerships. In contrast to the size of our workforce, our activities have increased significantly. Adrian Bachofen: How are you able to enter into increasing numbers of partnerships without increasing your number of employees? The complexity doesn’t decrease as the numbers of partnerships increase; quite the opposite, in fact ... Sonja Betschart: Our partners take on some of our activities. We could train our local knowledge hubs in the use of drones ourselves – something which is time- and resource-intensive. Or we can train our partners instead, who then go on to deliver the training themselves. We see ourselves as ecosystem facilitators. The industry often doesn’t even know that there are suitable customers in particular markets. If you create this connection, you become the beating heart of the ecosystem – and you can use the synergies that arise to your own advantage. Do your customers and partners realise that you are visionaries? Sonja Betschart: It remains to be seen how visionary we actually are. We are still too young to be judged on that. I think it will be five years after we started – in around two years from now – that you’ll be able to say whether we are really moving towards our vision.

Sonja Betschart: “The future will show whether we are visionaries.”

Adrian Bachofen: But what you’ve already managed to achieve is visionary. Sonja Betschart: Our working methods are indeed visionary. However, it remains to be seen whether we will really have the impact that we set out to achieve in our vision. With your 25-year history, bbv is at a different stage. What does the future hold for the company? Adrian Bachofen: At bbv, we want to continue to support visionaries. We can’t sit back and wait

for someone to tell us to move forwards. That is why we have launched the bbvLab for our clients. It focuses on the ecosystem economy and platform-based business. The idea behind it is to realise visions faster by working simultaneously on developing technological opportunities, business model innovations and visions. bbv takes this approach to its business on its own initiative. Over the past 25 years – together with our clients and partners – we have proven that we are up to the task.

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Learning by failing Can you really compare a climbing accident to a software development failure? “Yes, you can,” says Dominik Berner, who shows what it means to fail – and how setbacks can lead to growth. Article by Dominik Berner


hese days, companies generally prefer to talk about an “error management culture” rather than “failure”. What this means is that, while failure continues to be undesirable, it is accepted. That is because failure leads to valuable learning experiences, which are vital if the individual or the entire organisation is to produce creative and innovative work. In mountaineering, failure tends to be obvious and immediately felt. If you don’t reach the summit or you fall onto the rope when sport climbing, then you have failed. In software development, failure is more abstract, but just as present. How and when can we fail without worrying, and conversely, where should there be no room for error? Dominik Berner, Senior Software Engineer at bbv and an enthusiastic mountaineer, has brought the two worlds together, analysed them and defined four categories of failure: successful failure, controlled abort, near miss and catastrophic failure.

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Successful failure Here you achieve your goal, but not necessarily in the way you had ideally envisaged it. You reach the summit but fall onto the rope several times along the way. In the field of software development, this means that a feature is delivered but not developed in the exemplary way that you really wanted it to work. This is an example of simply failing to fulfil your ideal expectations. People learn from small errors on an ongoing basis.


Controlled abort Halfway up the rock face, you realise you can’t go any higher; you have overreached yourself. In a software context, this translates to errors still being present in a software update shortly before delivery, and running the risk that you will end up in a technological dead end. In a situation like this when out climbing, you would immediately come back down. In software development, this means rolling back the version control, reworking the backlog and starting again from scratch, using the knowledge you have gained.


Near miss If you miss the best place to bail out on a route, it can be dangerous. You are suddenly in a position where a fall might result in broken bones or worse. This is the equivalent of the client receiving a software update containing a vulnerability. The goal suddenly switches from reaching the summit to getting out of the situation unscathed – and ensuring the continued viability of the product (or the firm’s reputation) on the market.


Catastrophic failure It is no longer a question of whether someone gets injured but rather the extent of the damage. In the field of software development, the consequences of a catastrophic failure tend to be more indirect but no less dramatic. We only have to think back to the Boeing 737 software debacle or the way software was used to falsify VW’s emissions values.

“Once you get past the initial reflex – fight, flight or freeze – there is a moment of absolute focus. Now is the time for systematic problem solving, not mindless action.”


There are definite analogies between climbing and software development.

Taking back control The dividing lines between the four categories of failure are fluid, and they are highly dependent on the abilities and experiences of the people involved. The transition from controlled abort to near miss is itself hugely difficult to predict in advance: A critical software error may emerge in the productive environment; the last belay point may have worked its way out of the rock. The goal suddenly changes from getting there to damage limitation. Once you get past the initial reflex – fight, flight or freeze – there is a moment of absolute focus. Now is the

time for systematic problem solving, not mindless action. You need to galvanise your knowledge, dig deep and deploy all your skills to gradually return to the controlled abort zone. The software is rolled back to a stable version, the backup is restored, the bug isolated, and a patch is deployed. In many cases, it is advisable to discontinue. Open, honest communication in the roped party or the team is essential here, not just in emergencies, but also when you have both feet planted firmly on the ground again. At this stage, it is crucial to work through your experiences, to reflect on what has happened and to learn from it.

Where is the joy in failure? The crisis is over, and the damage has been limited to an acceptable level when suddenly the situation arises again. You still want to reach the summit or include the feature in question in the product. You are faced with the same situation: Heart pounding, you tie yourself to the rope, take the card with the user story from the scrum board and get started on your ascent of the rock face or the line of code. And there it is – the point where things got tight last time. You take a deep breath, give your climbing partner the nod, find a colleague to pair programme and get started. Line by line, move by move, you formulate the problem, testing it and securing it with chocks. And that’s how you reach the summit. And you finally send the feature to the CI environment, where everything runs smoothly and ends up in production. You can now look back on what you have achieved and that feeling of elation kicks in. Elation at reaching your goal, despite the difficult circumstances. Elation at doing it better this time and gaining so much experience. That is the joy of failing!

www.blog.bbv.ch bbv blogs! We publish exciting posts from across the big, wide world of software development each Thursday.

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Teaming up to learn the ropes When IT projects go off course, the reasons can be complicated. The people are too different, the requirements and expectations too ambiguous. But sometimes all it takes is for very different things to fortuitously come together – and suddenly it all seems very simple. Article by Hansjörg Honegger — Photos by Thomas Egli

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Ueli Sutter, Project Manager at Garaventa (l), with Alan Ettlin, Business Area Manager for bbv Software Services.


he then bbv Project Manager and Software Engineer Alan Ettlin is a master of understatement: “I didn’t have a clue.” Ueli Sutter, Project Manager for ropeway manufacturer Garaventa, grins. “That’s true.” That was the situation ten years ago, when Garaventa was looking for a supplier to develop a new ropeway calculation software. This software would be the central element of all subsequent projects and ultimately the basis for the construction of the systems. However, ropeway calculations are highly complex. A range of issues needs to be factored in and considered alongside each other, including the cabin, steel cables, towers and the topography, as well as external factors such as wind, ice and temperatures.

Engrossed in the subject matter Ueli Sutter is a tough customer. Half measures and idleness are anathema to him. Before the meeting, his requirements were clear: he did not simply want to talk to a salesperson – “I don’t mind if they’re there; someone needs to fetch the coffee” – he wanted to speak to the project manager in charge. “I wanted to find out whether he was up to the job. He didn’t need to understand ropeways at that point, but he did need to understand the theoretical concept.” At their initial meeting, the pair were quickly on first name terms: before very long, Ueli and Alan were standing in front of a flip chart, engrossed in the complex subject matter. Ueli Sutter had a clear objective: “I needed to know what he was capable of and when it all became double Dutch to him.” It was a test. SO, where was the software engineer found wanting? Sutter laughs: “There were no issues with his understanding – quite the opposite, in fact. By the end, Alan was asking questions that even I couldn’t answer.” Alan Ettlin certainly

Garaventa AG Garaventa AG is a Swiss company with its headquarters in Rotkreuz and branches in Goldau, Uetendorf and Sion. The company is the Swiss arm of the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group and has established itself as a centre of excellence with international outreach for cableways, funicular railways, goods cable lifts and sophisti-

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cated ropeway engineering. Garaventa is responsible for all the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group’s aerial ropeway projects in Switzerland. Switzerland provides all the functions and expertise for these specialised transportation systems to the rest of the global group. Garaventa employs approximately 380 people in Switzerland.

did have a clue – his mathematical armoury was excellent, having previously been involved in calculating stimulations for rigid-body dynamics. Smooth collaboration Now, ten years later, the pair are sitting in the operations room of one of the most exciting and breathtaking funicular railways ever built by Garaventa – the Stoos funicular railway in Central Switzerland. It is mind-bogglingly steep, audaciously built into the side of the mountain, with four unique rotating passenger cabins and calculated using bbv’s software. The two men continue to collaborate intensively. And what is almost more remarkable than the Stoos funicular railway is the fact that Alan Ettlin and Ueli Sutter can look back on many years of smooth collaboration. No conflicts about money, no arguments about deadlines or specifications. No disagreements that wound up in front of the management team. What is their secret? First and foremost, it is their relationship. While at first glance they may seem very different – one a software engineer with clean hands and a briefcase, the other an engineer, a typical mountain guy in rugged clothing – they hit it off straight away. What

“I wanted to find out whether he was up to the job. He didn’t need to understand ropeways at that point, but he did need to understand the theoretical concept.” Ueli Sutter

They hit it off straight away: Alan Ettlin (l) and Ueli Sutter.

they have in common to this day is their passion for complexity and challenge, the allure of pushing the boundaries of possibility. And the determination not to allow petty squabbles ruin their enjoyment of their work. There was also their fundamental agreement on the methodology for taking their ambitious project forward. “We were already working with scrum ten years ago,” says Alan Ettlin. “We would not have considered anything other than agile software development,” confirms Ueli Sutter. “The waterfall model doesn’t work in our environment.” Effective team cooperation This policy of addressing one project stage at a time had a range of benefits: on one hand, it made the development of the software feasible for Garaventa’s very busy team as well. All the engineers involved were also working on other ropeway projects that they couldn’t simply drop. The bbv project was more of a side issue, but this did not reduce its importance or urgency. What’s more, in the early days at least, Garaventa wanted to keep an exit open. “After each project stage, we had the option to stop collaborating if we weren’t happy,” says Sutter. In the initial months, the bbv team was working with the sword

of Damocles hanging permanently over them. “That’s true – on paper, anyway. But it never felt like that,” comes Alan Ettlin’s laconic response. The project managers are communicators You don’t have to look far to see why. As well as agreeing on agile methods, Sutter and Ettlin also saw eye to eye on how communication should be managed – pretty much exclusively through them. “We funnel all the information,” says Ueli Sutter. “A stroke of luck” is how he and Alan Ettlin describe the fact that they communicate so well with each other. Misunderstandings? None! After intense and lengthy cogitation, they are still unable to think of any tensions that arose due to communication. Strictly speaking, they cannot actually recall any clashes at all. “We have always cleared up any uncertainties straight away in a calm manner, without getting personal about it,” says Alan Ettlin. Workshops and team meetings were always held in the presence of both project managers. “That made it easy for us to see if people were talking at cross purposes and allowed us to intervene,” says Sutter. Clear structures also played their part in their smooth collaboration. Alan Ettlin sees himself as

25 years of bbv — 19

“There is a high level of expertise at Garaventa. They can tell straight away if something isn’t right.” Alan Ettlin

a service provider in the best sense of the word. He took work off his client, Ueli Sutter, whenever he could. “Alan took our requirements and formulated them in such a way that his engineers understood them immediately. It was a huge relief for me that he was able to convey our needs so clearly.” The same is true of Sutter, who shielded the bbv team effectively from internal debates at Garaventa: “Ueli’s stakeholder management was perfect. We were never involved in any internal strategic discussions at Garaventa,” Ettlin emphasises. Ueli Sutter immediately plays this down, saying: “I always had the complete backing of the management board. And I am responsible for the project and, other than the core team, no-one else gets involved.” Which is sure to keep everything calm. High-quality software But an IT project doesn’t really get exciting until the software gets to demonstrate what it can do. Many errors do not become apparent until the application is running. This is hardly desirable for ropeway calculation software: Errors could have very expensive consequences; in the worst-case scenario, the ropeway system may not even work. “We assumed that every piece of software always has errors. Very

20 — 25 years of bbv

early on, we had to decide how to handle this issue,” says Ueli Sutter. The scope and size of the error were crucial. To ensure the software would be errorfree as quickly as possible, they always used the old, tried-and-tested software as a benchmark. In addition, every design calculation was examined by external experts and submitted to the responsible authorities. bbv built a test suite which was used to perform test calculations based on pre-existing ropeways. This was done for every software change. “We run the calculations and compare the result with the result from the existing software. This allows us to determine rapidly whether the result is correct,” explains Ettlin. “In addition, the engineers at Garaventa closely scrutinise our calculations. They have an incredible level of expertise and can tell straight away if something isn’t right.” The bottom line is that the two project managers are in agreement: the quality of bbv’s software was astonishingly high right from the start. With mutual respect What Alan Ettlin says about the expertise of Garaventa’s engineers points to the final piece of the puzzle; when it comes to smooth collaboration, mutual respect is the order of the day. You cannot orchestrate or impose it; it is simply a question of attitude. And that applies even if you don’t see eye to eye on everything: “The first time I stood in bbv’s offices and saw the table football and the chocolate on the desks, I definitely caught myself thinking, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’” remembers Ueli Sutter with a smile. It was nothing like his own company, where the employees stand on a mountainside in wind and snow constructing ropeways. But Ueli Sutter would not be the talented communicator that he is had he not opened his presentation to bbv employees with a fitting image: “I brought a huge ropeway screw weighing several kilos with me. I then asked the engineers to get me the biggest screw they could find in their PCs. It was tiny. But my conclusion was this: we’re all talking about screws. The size is irrelevant.” The option to pull out after each software sprint was abandoned long ago. Shortly before Christmas, the decision was made to begin more intensive development of the software, which is now ten years old. It’s a nice job for bbv. And the two “mates” – as Ueli Sutter refers to Alan Ettlin – are truly delighted that they can continue working together.

Serious hardware: Ueli Sutter and Alan Ettlin in the machine room at the Stoos funicular railway.

Visionary leadership An open error management culture, respectful interaction and trust rather than “command and control”: bbv CEO Philipp Kronenberg explains how his employees take responsibility – and why innovative leadership approaches such as these pay off. Article by Philipp Kronenberg — Photo by Herbert Zimmermann


adical shifts are once again under way in the business world, this time shaped by the digital transformation, rapid changes in the corporate environment, and not least by the emergence of Generations Y and Z with their own value systems. Anything seems possible in the digital world. There are huge freedoms. However, the downside to this is the potential indecision and insecurity it may lead to. Presumably, leadership was more straightforward in days gone by than it is today. And yet, from my perspective, the role is far more fulfilling and sustainable now that the days of “command and control” are thankfully behind us. The new demands facing the world of work mean that we can approach and apply leadership differently today. Working together as equals At bbv, we foster a culture of treating our counterparts respectfully and as equals – from the board of directors and manag-

22 — 25 years of bbv

ers to the engineers. Many businesses are committed to the notion of “respect”. However, we have delved deeper into the real meaning of “respect”. Respect is not the same as nodding politely while choking back your anger. Respect means seeing different opinions and ideas as a mutual asset and benefit. When teams are more diverse, we observe that they are more likely to challenge the status quo and improve their performance. They benefit from exposure to a wider range of perspectives, and this allows them to see the bigger picture. We are coming to see how diversity can help to find the best approach. Embodying respect and trusting From a scientific perspective, placing trust in others as well as in ourselves is an essential part of our spiritual and physical well-being. However, if you trust others, you also run the risk of being let down. At bbv, we therefore try not to have expectations in our dealings with others. Instead, we engage in a dia-

Innovative approaches to leadership in times of constant change: bbv CEO Philipp Kronenberg.

logue to work out the conditions for success and achieving our objectives. Consistently examining our own capabilities and constraints in this context fosters a discussion about mutually agreed action and its consequences, and all sides can rely on what is discussed. To my mind, this is one of the underlying principles of leadership among equals or people-oriented leadership.

always examine it closely, but with a view to the future. And I don’t bear grudges. Of course, ultimately, we want to avoid mistakes. High-quality solutions and striving for excellence are in our DNA at bbv. If things are not working, it is up to the leaders to take and act upon decisions. In situations such as these, open communication is very important to me: I always try to communicate as soon and as transparently as possible. Open communication determines the mood in the company. Emotional outbursts by contrast are toxic. And although I may not always succeed in this aspiration, it helps if you can see certain decisions and the criticism that may at times be associated with them as opportunities.

Tolerating mistakes, striving for excellence The way we handle mistakes is also important. The pace of change is enormously high, and we can only imagine what tomorrow’s world will look like. As a result, we frequently have only a relatively sparse pool of data to draw upon when making decisions today. This means that errors are now inherent to

the system. At bbv, “continuous improvement” is more than empty words. In our project teams, our client relations and our leadership committees, we constantly and systematically engage with improvement and learn from the process. A leadership approach that pressurises employees and punishes mistakes does not work – and it is not something to which we aspire. If a mistake is made, I

Putting cultural principles into practice New employees are part of this from day one. They should feel that bbv has placed its trust in them: trust in their capabilities, in their contributions, in their ability to learn and in their commitment. When managers welcome new colleagues to the company, these cultural principles are discussed. They are then fleshed out in two-way conversations with the service unit manager. Our five cultural principles define how we want to be seen by our clients and our partners. Excellence, client centricity and shared responsibility, respect and passion underpin the day-to-day work of our leadership. Agility is crucial to our corporate image and to the pace of technological change. In our efforts to make visions work and generate added value, an agile, flexible and robust concept of leadership is essential. We want to be capable of responding effectively and efficiently to unexpected opportunities and challenges. It is clear that the role of leaders has changed considerably in the last few years. Leadership now means dealing successfully with change. At bbv, we have been doing this for 25 years.

25 years of bbv — 23

Collaborating as equals Making visions work. At bbv, this means taking a collaborative and fair approach to balancing the visions of experts and clients. This ensures committed, motivated employees and provides even greater added value to the client. Article by Larissa Seeburger — Photos by Herbert Zimmermann


here is one word that gets mentioned a lot in IT projects and especially in those in the software environment: delivery. However, at bbv, we do not simply focus on the straightforward delivery of products and services. Our approach is much wider: “Our employees are not ‘suppliers’. They are highly qualified knowledge workers who work with our clients as partners to develop the optimum solution,” explains Dr Thomas Gaugler, Chief Human Resources & Operating Officer at bbv. The company consciously views employees and clients as equals. This means satisfying the needs and wants not only of its clients – which goes without saying – but also those of its employees. “bbv is active in two markets: the client market and the expert market. Our claim, ‘Making visions work.’, therefore applies to both of these,” says Gaugler.

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A creative environment and the employee experience There is a mindset behind bbv’s philosophy. To ensure that engineers and architects can develop creative, intelligent solutions, they need an environment that provides them with exciting and challenging assignments. When it comes to resolving complex client requirements, a purely reactive approach simply won’t cut it. What’s more, current estimates indicate that Switzerland will have a shortage of approximately 40,000 ICT specialists by 2026. As a result, the market for experts is highly competitive. Similar to the concept of the “customer experience”, HR professionals also talk about the “employee experience”, which is to say the desire to make the experience of working for the company as positive as possible. “This approach turns our employees into valuable brand ambassadors,” says Gaugler with confidence.

Thomas Gaugler, Chief Human Resources & Operating Officer at bbv.

“With 25 to 30 courses per year, we have a wide range of options. This contributes to employee excellence, commitment and employability.” Thomas Gaugler

CPD within the company Each path to creativity and commitment is as individual as the employees themselves. Some firms build slides in their breakrooms or provide vegan food from leading chefs. At bbv, all employees have the opportunity to engage in personalised CPD in a variety of forms – either as training time or an individual budget. Employees can use 15 days per year for training or their own projects. There are plenty of opportunities to develop and discuss new ideas with work colleagues or collaborate to promote different issues. For instance, at the Focus Days, it is left to the experts themselves to define the trends and topic areas in which they wish to engage in further training. Presentations, workshops and hacks are organised, and prototypes are even built. There are also the annual Gatherings, held over several days, where all employees can meet up

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away from the office. “In essence, the aim is to develop new methods or technology projects, share useful experience, learn together and take our innovations forwards,” explains Gaugler. In addition to the Focus Days and Gatherings, the experts particularly value the Academy courses. “With 25 to 30 courses per year, we have a wide range of options. This contributes to employee excellence, engagement and employability.” Diverse communication channels Many bbv specialists work on-site for clients rather than at bbv offices. They do not have a lot of contact with their colleagues. Thomas Schenkel, Project Manager and Requirements Engineer at bbv, says: “Being treated as equals when collaborating with managers and effective sharing of information are especially important for colleagues such as these.”

Martina Gartmann, HR Specialist for Learning & Development at bbv, understands the issue: “This is why we want to work hard to foster team spirit and encourage employees to identify with the company. Examples include regular staff meetings and our Communities, which are internal groups of experts organised by the staff themselves and forums for lively debate, where employees can get actively involved. The communication platform Slack, which is used extensively by employees, is a good substitute for chatting at the water cooler.” For example, colleagues use these Slack channels to lend each other a hand with problems without any bureaucracy. “Recently, someone was looking for a Korean or a Japanese speaker to test an app and posted on the ‘Help me’ channel, where virtually everyone helps each other out,” explains Karin Klaas, Administration Team Leader at bbv. She adds: “Other times, someone was looking for a place to live or needed a lift from our Lucerne office to our Zurich office.” The Kudos channel by contrast is the place for expressing thanks to other employees or teams. However, in general, Slack communication is used for discussions about work. “Our employees really value it, and it contributes to a good, communicative working atmosphere among colleagues – even if they rarely see each other in person,” says Klaas. Employee personal development Motivated, committed employees underpin corporate success. The huge commitment to ongoing training and creating a positive corporate culture, as well as the many former bbv employees who return to the company, demonstrate that bbv is on the right track. With its firm focus on its corporate vision and cultural principles, bbv intends to maintain its strong position going forward in the hard-fought markets for clients and highly skilled professionals. According to HR Specialist Martina Gartmann, a lot is being done to ensure that is the case: “We have an ongoing dialogue, we discuss our cultural principles, we canvass our employees about the mood in their client projects, and we explicitly support their personal development.” For Thomas Gaugler, it is not the technology that makes the difference at bbv. “Technology changes and can be overtaken.” It can hardly be your USP these days. “What matters is not what we do but how we do it – that’s why our corporate culture fundamentally important.”

bbv’s five cultural principles How we want to be seen:

excellent bbv employees are keen to learn. They are good lateral thinkers who are interested in understanding the big picture. Their professional expertise is second to none. They want to deliver nothing other than intelligent solutions and firstclass work.

client-focused They understand and identify with our vision, our goals and our needs. Their contribution to our success has been outstanding.

co-responsible Commitment is at the heart of everything they do. They focus on solutions rather than problems and are good at facilitating consensus. They share a proactive sense of responsibility which extends beyond their work to contributing to society in general.

respectful They are honest and open in their thinking. Their credo is that valuing diversity leads us to the best solutions.

passionate They have a positive attitude and help to foster a creative and dynamic working environment.

www.bbv.ch/jobs bbv offers ambitious projects, teamwork with excellent colleagues and endless opportunities to develop your career and get involved.

25 years of bbv — 27

“The best moment is when I realise that I’ve become part of the new project team.” Michel Estermann

There is nothing routine about it It is like changing jobs every few months: Software Engineer Michel Estermann works as an on-site specialist for bbv clients. It is challenging – but never boring. Article by Michel Estermann Photo by Herbert Zimmermann


hen I started at bbv twelve years ago, I was looking for more variety – and I certainly found it. As a specialist, I work on-site at different bbv clients all the time and am constantly engaging with new, innovative projects, new working environments, new colleagues and a new corporate culture. In that respect, working as an external engineer is very much like changing your job: at the start, you need some time to get used to things, and you may even feel a bit overwhelmed until you find your feet in the new environment. For that reason, I don’t think it would suit everyone. Bur personally, I’m quite happy to engage with new work situations; in fact, these are the challenges that make working at bbv so appealing to me. As a C++ engineer, I frequently work for industrial firms – those are often long-

er assignments, some of which I ended up working on for up to four years. I actually could have continued working even longer at these clients. But I didn’t want to: once routine sets in, I start to crave a new challenge for a different client. Working at bbv allows me to satisfy this need for change and allows me to tackle new, exciting assignments for a wide range of companies. The best moments for me are when I realise that I am quickly becoming part of the new project team, and no-one really notices that I am actually a bbv employee. Our clients do not rely solely on bbv’s expertise and also contract engineers from other service providers – strictly speaking, they are bbv’s competitors. But in these situations, the company you come from is irrelevant. You are all in the same boat; you all want the same thing: the best outcome for the client. If you are committed to this, competition doesn’t really come into it – and that’s what I love about working as a contractor.

www.bbv.ch/expertise Discover bbv’s expertise: we can provide support across twelve different categories to empower your company and enable you to overcome complex problems and realise challenging projects.

25 years of bbv — 29

Satisfying lightbulb moments Whether he is providing on-site expertise to clients or mentoring trainees at bbv, the day-to-day work of Thomas Britschgi, Software Engineer at bbv, is brightened by the many light-bulb moments he witnesses. Article by Thomas Britschgi — Photo by Herbert Zimmermann

30 — 25 years of bbv

Nurturing new talent


aving worked on early client projects as an external expert for bbv, I am very familiar with the role, but I have actually been working at bbv’s office in Lucerne on a permanent basis for several years. From there, I am currently in charge of developing software for one of our clients, and I am also responsible for the project budget. On top of that, I mentor our young professionals as well as our third- and fourth-year trainees. I set their targets for the semester with them, and they then work towards these independently – and I am also available if they have questions or concerns. It isn’t always easy: if you are in the middle of your own work and suddenly have to break off to help a trainee, then you have to do a fair amount of mental acrobatics. But I have got used to it over time. I particularly like the fact that working with our trainees means always being in touch with the latest developments. There are no fixed “lesson plans” that I get out each year. We address the latest trends – be that cloud, AI or relevant areas from my own client projects. I have a lot of

“Those light-bulb moments, when trainees work the solution out for themselves, are what I enjoy the most.” Thomas Britschgi

Along with its apprenticeship programme, nurturing new talent is a key focus at bbv. The company supports a range of university campaigns and other initiatives to foster ICT talent at all levels. bbv also supports the Linh Son Pagoda Orphanage in Vietnam and continues to provide assistance to the children after their compulsory schooling is over, enabling them to enter further education and training. www.bbv.ch/jobs/nachwuchs

practical experience in project-specific tasks, and conveying this information as simply as possible comes easily to me. Explaining things to others sometimes gives me new insights into an issue, too. My work for our clients and my role as a mentor for our trainees build on each other and complement each other perfectly. Sometimes, I even notice certain parallels between software development and mentoring trainees. With software errors, you try to identify the underlying reason. I do the same when it comes to my trainees’ thought processes when there is something they don’t understand. I ask them questions designed to get them to come up with the right answer themselves. It is always great and really satisfying to be there for those light-bulb moments. You know that he or she has moved on in their understanding and can work independently again. It really is astonishing to see the huge progress our trainees make in such a short space of time. And I am delighted to have been part of it.

25 years of bbv — 31

Xin chào bbv clients also work with teams in Vietnam and Greece. But the cultural differences are no barrier to the project work. Quite the opposite, in fact. Article by Larissa Seeburger


he fundamental principle couldn’t be simpler: “Communication is the key to good teamwork. The same applies to collaboration with our offshore locations. The daily interaction with our international specialists adds genuine value for me,” says Alan Ettlin, Business Area Manager at bbv. Alan Ettlin advises and supports clients to select the best collaboration model and ensures projects run smoothly with the right set-up. “In discussion with us, our clients choose the project organisation that will work best for them.” At the start of a longer project, Ettlin encourages his clients to meet up with team members in person in Thessaloniki in Greece or Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. This creates a solid foundation for the future collaboration.

All pulling in the same direction: the bbv Vietnam team at the annual team event.

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* Vietnamese for “hello”

Vietnam Experts in leading-edge technologies Clients working with Asian teams for the first time often have questions about cultural differences. “The dynamic in Saigon is shaped by an incredible quest for the future,” says Alan Ettlin. “This is also reflected in our engineers. They attach great importance to working with the latest technologies and are really keen to learn. They are used to working in international teams and consider it a major benefit.” The collaboration benefits if the specialists in Vietnam are able to interact directly with their Swiss clients. “Over time, it is as if the entire team were sitting in the same room together,” says Ettlin. This assessment is backed up by Duong Luu. He heads up bbv’s Vietnamese office as Managing Director. Originally from Switzerland but with a Vietnamese background, he speaks both German and Vietnamese, and bridges the two cultures. Duong Luu explains

“It is crucially important that the client outlines their vision at the outset and explains where they want to go.” the cultural differences to new clients and employees: “In Vietnamese culture, it is very important to treat each other with respect, which is why the initial meetings often start with personal questions about age and family. These questions may seem unusual to us, but in Vietnamese, forms of address are chosen according to age and the age gap.” People will work together particularly well if everything is discussed openly. “This is one of the reasons for working agilely. Our stand-ups ensure there is a daily exchange of information. The interim stages allow the client to see straight away whether the team

Kalimera: a warm welcome for Risto Kyburz, Head of Office in Greece.

is developing the product in the right direction.” It is important that the client outlines their vision and direction at the outset. If the team understands the vision, then it makes it much easier to contribute ideas. The Swiss Software Architect Jan Moser has been working in a mixed team in Switzerland and Vietnam for two-and-a-half years. “The culture in Vietnam is very different to what I had imagined. We communicated openly about details and difficulties. This makes the collaboration very easy for me.” Vietnamese English took some getting used to for Jan Moser. “The Vietnamese often swallow the final syllable. When they mean ‘size’, they say ‘sigh’. You can only work out whether they want to say ‘size’, ‘sight’ or ‘sign’ from the context.” This is because Vietnamese words are monosyllabic and are combined together. “The English spoken by the Swiss takes some getting used to for our Asian colleagues, too, whatever we may like to think,” says Jan Moser with a wry smile.

Greece Versatile, expert, open and warm bbv Greece has been part of the bbv Group since 2018. “The versatility of our Greek bbv colleagues impressed us right away,” says Alan Ettlin. All the specialists have experience in a range of roles and different technologies. Thanks to this experience, they have the flexibility to familiarise themselves with exotic or obsolete technologies. This means they can find a pragmatic way to bring projects to a successful conclusion. This is reiterated by Risto Kyburz who, as Head of Office, is the contact for clients in Switzerland. Kyburz, who comes from Switzerland, moved with his family to Thessaloniki in February 2020 to further expand the site. “University education here is excellent; the Greeks should be proud of it. I have been very impressed by the technical and methodological expertise of our Greek specialists.” The warm and open communication is the icing on the cake for Kyburz in his new role: “Requests and issues are discussed openly until everyone is sure that they have fully understood each other,” he says.

25 years of bbv — 33

Under pressure 34 — 25 years of bbv

Time pressure often leads to misunderstandings. Clear, regulated communication can save lives in emergencies. In the Effective Communication workshop, bbv employees learn about communicating under real stress. Article by Felix Raymann — Photos by Thomas Egli

Silvan Wegmann (l) and Raphael Meyer experience radio communication in a flight simulator.

25 years of bbv — 35


oftware development is all about solving problems. Seamless communication in the team is therefore important to ensure processes run efficiently and mistakes are avoided. Raphael Meyer, Senior Software Engineer at bbv, is fully aware of this. He designed an employee workshop on effective communication and has led it several times. “I took my inspiration from the numerous emergencies in the world of aviation, where poor communication has had fatal consequences in the past,” explains Meyer.

1. The cockpit of a Boeing 747300: for safety reasons, the instruments and displays are still analogue, but there is digital technology behind them. 2. The two bbv employees focus on “flying” and communicating at the same time.

Clear communication leads to fewer mistakes Raphael Meyer uses a tragic example from aviation to illustrate the fatal consequences of ineffective communication: a crash between two jumbo jets at Tenerife airport on 27 March 1977, which resulted in 583 deaths. While fog was a contributing factor in the accident, which was the worst in civil aviation history up to that point, the primary reason was misunderstandings between the two pilots and the tower. Due to the use of “take-off” in the radio communications, a KLM and a Pan Am plane both began their take-off procedures, resulting in the collision between the two planes. “Because of the disaster, among other changes, the language used in radio communications was adapted and regulated much more strictly,” says Raphael Meyer.

Radio communications now adhere strictly to crew resource management rules. One consequence of these regulations, for instance, is that the term “take-off” may only be used in one specific instance in flight communications – immediately before a plane takes off. “The regulation of communications in the fire service and the armed forces is also designed to prevent misunderstandings,” says Meyer. A fun approach to communicating under pressure With the hectic pace of software development, sometimes team members talk over each other, and communication can break down. To help his colleagues get a feel for when this is happening, Raphael Meyer came up with the idea of running a course to teach bbv employees about effective and efficient communication using fun activities. The idea came to him while playing the video game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. In this game, one of the players has to defuse a virtual bomb, directed by the other players. While the individual defusing the bomb on the screen has no idea how to defuse it, the assistants have all the information in a manual, but they can’t see the bomb. It is now up to the players who have the knowledge to correctly guide their unknowing fellow player as quickly as possible so that the bomb can be defused safely.



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“It is not enough to simply learn the theory of communicating under stress; you have to put it into practice in reallife situations.” Raphael Meyer

In his bbv workshop Effective Communication, participants play this game twice in groups of four. “The first time they play, their communication is usually chaotic and unstructured, with a correspondingly poor outcome,” says Meyer. It is followed by a review and a theory session on regulated communication. According to Meyer, the second attempt always works better. “The participants speak in a more structured way and are more in control of the game.” The most important element is the opportunity to practise using regulated communication. “Simply learning the theory is of little value,” he says. “It has to be practised in similar scenarios so that you can react appropriately under pressure.” To understand what it is like to use flight deck radio communications, Raphael Meyer and the course participants even boarded the cockpit of an Air Force One Boeing 747-300 flight simulator.

www.bbv.ch/ academy Silvan Wegmann and Raphael Meyer are active bloggers. They share their profound knowledge as trainers at the bbv Academy or on-site at your premises.

Important lessons for working life According to workshop participant Dominik Berner, despite the lack of life-threatening emergencies in their own workplaces, those attending the course definitely come away with learning they can apply to their day-to-day work. “Structured communication and a clearly defined vocabulary are essential if you want to communicate effectively in stressful situations. When you are working with others, it is really useful to agree on consistent language.” For the software engineer, the game-playing exercise is an excellent way of experiencing communication in stress situations. “The initial attempt was chaotic for everyone, people were using imprecise words, and it got very noisy without anyone achieving anything. The second attempt was more successful. I am sure the bomb would be defused even more successfully with a third attempt,” says Berner. For Silvan Wegmann, Senior Software Engineer at bbv, the thoroughly stressful experience was also instructive: “‘Clear communication is especially important in critical situations’ is the sort of statement that you pay lip service to and accept on a rational basis. It is not until you are under pressure to give a helpless colleague verbal instructions for defusing a virtual bomb that you truly appreciate how necessary it really is.” The participants and course leader Raphael Meyer agree on the bottom line: It is not enough to simply learn the theory of communicating under stress; you have to put it into practice in real-life situations. This will ensure that employees are properly equipped to undertake projects for bbv under the most hectic and difficult of circumstances.

25 years of bbv — 37

Innovation made easy These days, companies ignore the word “innovation” at their peril. But how do you develop innovative products? The seven points that follow include tips and tools to help companies on the path to innovation. Article by Christoph Widmer and Ken Blum


eveloping groundbreaking products, disrupting the status quo, creating added value and achieving company success: a company’s ability to innovate is becoming an increasingly decisive competitive factor. What can companies do to create the right conditions for developing innovative products? Here we’ve put together some tips and tools that no innovative company should ignore:




Innovation (IN) arises where business (BU), user (US) and technology (TE) intersect.

38 — 25 years of bbv

2. 1.

Put yourself in the user’s place Innovation encompasses three different aspects: the business, the user and the technology. Products are innovative if they are profitable and technically feasible, and add value for the user. Although technological trends such as blockchain, IoT and AI are the buzzwords of the moment, they do not guarantee innovation. “As I see it, technology is rarely a driver of innovation,” says Ken Blum, Senior Software Engineer at bbv. “It is usually more productive to start with the user’s needs and to take this as the basis for establishing potential business areas and the necessary technologies.” Tools: Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas

Understand the problem Innovative products are often intuitive for the user. The response to innovation is often: “It’s relatively easy to find a solution to a problem. It is much harder to identify the user’s problem as accurately as possible,” says Blum. Get to the heart of the problem. Identify what really drives and concerns your users and what the primary and secondary aspects are of solving the problem. Tool: Value Proposition Canvas


Find solutions Take the time to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a range of solution options. Tools: Design studio, design sprints

The Mpemba effect: under certain conditions, hot water freezes faster than cold. The same is true of product innovation: the right conditions are needed.


Innovation never ends

5. 4.


Digital does not always mean innovative It is not always constructive to simply make analogue products digital. Ken Blum gives an example: “A parking app isn’t innovative if you still have to specify in advance how long you want to park for, just as you did before.” Here, the problem associated with the analogue solution is transferred to the digital version rather than being removed through digitalisation. “In Japan, there are parking meters with image recognition sensors that identify vehicles’ number plates as they leave. The parking charge is automatically billed to your credit card.” Think carefully about the technologies and channels that will best meet the user’s needs.

Test ideas Ideas are cheap, but implementing them is expensive. Clients and engineers need to work together from the outset. This will ensure that the product actually addresses the user’s requirements. Sometimes a simple sketch on a piece of paper is all it takes to determine whether product development is on the right track. Only then can the implementation begin. “As a software company, we say here at bbv that ‘Ideas are cheap but good code is expensive,’” Ken Blum explains. “Ideas need to be validated first using prototypes, feedback and micro-experiments. The code comes right at the end.” Tools: Wireframes, mock-ups, interactive prototypes, test cards, MVPs & spikes

The process of developing innovative products never really ends – just as business models are never set in stone. User requirements change over time; some become more pressing, while others fade into the background. For this reason, all products should be updated regularly. Companies should therefore aim for permanent innovation. This will enable them to respond more quickly to shifts in the market and in user needs. Methodology: Lean start-up


Live innovation None of these suggestions will yield results if only some departments are on board. Innovation can only thrive if every individual in the company understands these processes: “Innovation must be championed and promoted at the highest echelons of the business,” stresses Blum. “It is crucial to have an iterative approach and an open error management culture, where the mantra is ‘fail fast, fail often’ to minimise the consequences of failure and be able to learn quickly from mistakes.”

www.bbv.ch/innovation From the idea to the business case. In our Innovation Workshops, we work with you to develop business ideas.

25 years of bbv — 39


Dirk Hoffmann and Adrian Bachofen are convinced that it is increasingly important to have spaces where people can innovate. With the bbvLab and the Central Switzerland Innovation Park, they are providing environments where ideas can be generated, developed or rejected. Article by Hansjörg Honegger Photos by Daniel Brühlmann

40 — 25 years of bbv



bbv President and Innovation Park board member Adrian Bachofen with Dirk Hoffmann, head of the Innovation Park.

Digitalisation provides plenty of possibilities for people to get together. Are physical spaces really still necessary today? Dirk Hoffmann: Yes, absolutely. Meeting face to face is now more important than ever and will be even more essential in the future. Companies that are currently successful in the digitalisation business almost always generate innovations in creative environments known as open innovation labs. Groundbreaking innovations rarely occur when individuals lock themselves away in a room to think. Adrian Bachofen: Companies are facing increasing challenges today. We are more globalised and more transparent, and people’s needs are changing rapidly. It is increasingly difficult for a single business to meet all the demands on their own. Trust is a crucial issue. We need institutions such as these, organisations that act as links between different companies and where people can meet and get to know each other in person. This is where trust is developed.

bbvLab – Growth through an ecosystem economy In the bbvLab, clients discover new business opportunities beyond their core business. It inspires company strategists and enables them to expand their own perspectives, devise profitable business cases with the support of bbvLab’s outstanding experts and convert them into pilots – with an interdisciplinary, co-creative and practical approach and in an atmosphere of trust. www.bbvlab.bbv.ch

Without any digitalisation? Adrian Bachofen: No, of course not. Digital tools help to build trust and are much more effective in bringing the right people together. Strategic fit is important here. That’s why we are in the process of building a digital innovation ecosystem for the Central Switzerland Innovation Park. Not least to improve the transparency of the ground rules and make access easier, which will then increase the pace of development.

25 years of bbv — 41

Adrian Bachofen: “Facilitating innovation is a crucial task for companies.”

At the Innovation Park, there are companies working together to solve problems even though they are actually competitors in the free market. Are we seeing the end of competition? Dirk Hoffmann: The traditional boundaries between sectors and proprietary protected zones are clearly becoming a thing of the past, and this can be seen in day-to-day competition, too. These days, the danger to conventional companies primarily comes not from their traditional competitors, but from digital newcomers.

“The customer is the top priority here. You have to identify the customer’s requirements – their future requirements, not their current needs.” Adrian Bachofen

42 — 25 years of bbv

Can you give us a specific example? Dirk Hoffmann: V-Zug – where I was CEO until recently – does not build complete kitchens. They also need kitchen fitters, electricians, plumbers, etc. From the customer perspective, designing the perfect kitchen solution requires close collaboration between all the parties involved. Adrian Bachofen: Complementary collaboration, like in this example, is certainly more straightforward than two companies that are both active in the same market working together. However, we also know that you sometimes have to cannibalise your own business model these days to prevent someone else from doing the same. This approach sometimes forces us to collaborate with competitors – to stop those newcomers we’ve mentioned from gaining a foothold. This all sounds very simple: people come to the Innovation Park and collaborate on innovative ideas. Where do the problems arise? Adrian Bachofen: Ultimately, it is a cultural issue. Developing the culture in such a way that this type of innovation bolsters rather than thwarts the business is a crucial task for companies. However, it is often more difficult to achieve than changes to the organisation, strategy or vision.

Dirk Hoffmann: You’re absolutely right. We are changing the way we work together – both internally and externally. Resistance is primarily driven by existential fears, such as how will my job change? Will it even exist? And there is also the pride that people have in the company’s history: we’ve been successful for 100 years, why should we change? How do you transfer the innovative drive from the Innovation Park or an innovation lab into a company? You run the risk of the two cultures remaining separate and the momentum fizzling out. Dirk Hoffmann: Yes, this risk exists. It’s important that the employees working on innovation projects remain a fully integrated part of the company and that they collaborate on a wide range of projects there. That is how you spread the drive and enthusiasm throughout the company. When we set up a lab at V-Zug, it was initially met with a lot of scepticism. This soon gave way to curiosity. Now (almost) everyone is on board, and there is an internal competition to be the most innovative department. How should you think in concrete terms about the development of innovative ideas? Do you work with specific methodologies or leave it all to creative chance? Adrian Bachofen: The customer is the top priority here. You have to identify the customer’s requirements – their future requirements, not their current needs. This is the foundation for generating ideas that, at first glance, may seem completely off track. This works better when you have the space needed for creativity rather than being under the pressure of day-to-day business. In the next stage, you flesh out the idea and have to demonstrate whether it has legs or needs to be discarded. This phase is key: every idea must be put through its paces. How many ideas should make it through? Adrian Bachofen: There needs to be a high mortality rate! Two-thirds should be discarded; otherwise, something isn’t right. But time and money still need to be invested in the bad ideas ... Adrian Bachofen: Of course they do! That’s the only way. Dirk Hoffmann: You have to bring together the right set of people for a process like this. You need the right combination of genders, ages, skills, knowledge, forward-thinkers and customer perspectives. You also need disruptors, people who will ask the difficult questions. The idea that the innovation process is undisciplined or playful is completely wrong. It is a high-energy process.

Dirk Hoffmann Dirk Hoffmann is the chairman of the Central Switzerland Innovation Park. Following management positions at Bosch, Siemens and V-Zug, he was appointed head of strategic projects at the Metall Zug Group. Dirk Hoffmann has many years of international experience and an extensive track record in the manufacturing industry.

Can you give us an example? Dirk Hoffmann: One time, we put a team into an empty room and set them the task of disrupting V-Zug’s laundry appliance business. What was the outcome? Dirk Hoffmann: There were hundreds of ideas. There was also a high mortality rate, but it gave the rest of the company a tremendous impetus. Is an empty room all it takes to encourage innovation? Adrian Bachofen: First and foremost, you need to bring people together who fit together; the chemistry has to be right. The rest will then more or less take care of itself. Further support will increase the speed and chances of success. How transparent is the work that goes on here? You talk about open innovation. Dirk Hoffmann: In essence, it is all transparent – unless the team members decide otherwise. Our code of conduct governs the use of intellectual property. It is clear that these decisions are taken jointly within the project team. Adrian Bachofen: The Innovation Park and the bbvLab operate within this spirit of openness.

25 years of bbv — 43

Hidden talents bbv employees are not just experts in the cloud or clean code. Many of them have hidden talents. As the following examples reveal, their interests are sometimes a little surprising. Can you match the hobby to the right bbv employee?


Water baby The fascinating underwater world is a home from home for this member of the bbv team. It’s where they find inner peace most easily.


Highland gamer Kilts, caber tossing, axe throwing and stone putting can mean only one thing: the highland games. Someone at bbv regularly joins in the fun.


Festive bell ringer In Beckenried, St Nicholas Day (Chlaustag) is always celebrated with a traditional Swiss Christmas market and parade. A member of the bbv team is in the thick of the action. But who?


Chariot driver Simply riding a horse or driving a carriage is far too mundane for this bbv team member. Which is why they are learning the art of ancient chariot driving from a professional.


Mathematical author Pi is a never-ending number. This individual has written a book about pi, calculating it to 543,656 decimal places.


Gemstone collector This person has a passion for gemstones and crystals. As a child, they were attracted to the intrinsic magic of these minerals. These days, they are fascinated by the vagaries of nature.



Office artist Forget Banksy! This artist from within bbv’s own ranks used an airbrush to paint one of the walls in the bbv office.



Ski guide Desolate winter landscapes exert an enchanting appeal on this bbv employee. That’s why they are a qualified ski guide.

5 44 — 25 years of bbv


Match the hobbies Iris Cipriano

Rainer Diehl

Christoph Speck

Marcus Exner

Silvan Wegmann

Eleftherios Zacharias






Dominik Berner

Christoph Murer

blog.bbv.ch/quiz Visit our blog for the online quiz and the answers.

25 years of bbv — 45


Workshop on software quality

Go on a treasure hunt with your team Software quality encompasses a broad range of aspects. We have brought these together for you in our software development quality map (see inside). Go on a treasure hunt with your team when you book the accompanying workshop. We will navigate the treasure map together, discovering and prioritising the aspects that are most important to you. Examples from practice will stimulate you to think of ways to implement these aspects within your own organisation, allowing you to make quantifiable improvements to your software.

Workshop: 100 times better software quality • An overview of the aspects that impact quality • An introduction to the different aspects of product and service quality • A journey of discovery with the quality map: Mindset, Communication, Lean Process, Product Discovery, Team Organisation, Product Production and Product Release • Identifying and prioritising the most important aspects for you, with practical examples to implement

Book your workshop on better quality software and software modernisation: www.bbv.ch/en/expertise/software-modernisation

Software development quality map

A treasure map for development teams Every developer wants to produce high-quality software. So what should you do if the software does not meet the quality expectations that you set out at the start? How can it be rescued? The software development quality map shows you how: it takes teams on a journey of discovery and reveals areas for improvement in a fun and entertaining manner. The map covers more than 80 software quality issues, depicted as eight different countries. Readers can either follow the orange route or embark on their

own course to cross the countries. They will navigate the Stream of Team Building and stop off at the Gulf of Legacy Code before passing Bug Bay and the Release Monster to arrive at Product Release Land. They can go back and forth to explore the quality aspects of the different countries. There is no fixed order for navigating the software development quality map. The only specifications are those given in Product Production Land: first and foremost, define the level of quality you wish to attain, then monitor it and commit to achieving it before you start.

Product or service quality? The map also illustrates an alternative way to enhance the product or service quality of software: for each quality issue – otherwise known as a quality attribute – three topics with the greatest positive effect on that particular

quality attribute are listed. Beware: these quality attributes are sometimes conflicting. Finding trade-offs is therefore essential to achieve the optimum outcome.

PRODUCT QUALITY The attributes of the developed software product (based on ISO 25010).

SERVICE QUALITY The client’s perception of the overall project (partially based on SERVQUAL).

Functional suitability: H3, L6, I1 Performance efficiency: N7, N8, K5 Compatibility: N9, N8, R7 Usability: M7, H2, H1 Reliability: L2, M3, P8 Security: N8, P6, N2 Maintainability: O3, O6, Q4 Portability: N3, S8, P9

Expectation: H7, P2, N2 Effectiveness: H6, L3, I4 Efficiency: J5, E7, C6 Predictability: B5, C5, I6 Reliability: K2, B4, H4 Responsiveness: S8, C4, F8 Assurance: E4, G5, B8 Empathy: B7, E5, D6 Tangibles: L1, H3, J1

Design Studio

Impact Mapping


Product Prototype User Research

Empathy Map


Design Thinking



Product Vision

1. Define Quality

Business Model Canvas

2. Define Checks

Crossfunctional Teams Idle Time (Slack Time) All Goals Visible




All Work Visible



COLLABORATION Retrospectives


Collaboration on whole Value Stream




Pull System

Decision Making Methods




Product Focus


Low WiP


Feedback Cycles


Decision Making Roles


Low Number of Queues

Document Management






Shared Task Responsibility Collective (Code) Ownership



(Almost) No Handoffs

Defer Decisions


Team End-to-End Responsibility


Diversity and Inclusion

Empirical Decision Making

Team Charter

Facts over




(T-/ -)MShaped Team Members


M I NDS E T / CU LT U R E Culture of Failure

Team Alignment

Communication Map

3. Commit to Quality

Team Autonomy

Constructive Feedback

Small Steps Sustainable Pace




Communities (of Practices)

Continuous Learning & Improvement



An overview of the countries MINDSET/CULTURE There are many facets to effective team work. It is not just about creating transparency or reaching decisions efficiently. Raising awareness of values and organising both work and unproductive time are far more important.

LEAN PROCESS This is about optimising tasks. How can the team work quickly and efficiently?

COMMUNICATION How does the group communicate with each other? Which rules are important to prevent misunderstandings?

TEAM ORGANISATION How should the team be composed and what should the working environment be like in order to foster productivity in the team?




Zero Bug Policy Definition of Done


Decompose Work Vertically (by value)

Continuous Delivery

Systems Thinking

WiP Limits Rolling Wave Planning

ENVIRONMENT Risk Management

PROCESS Root Cause Analysis

Definition of Ready Continuous Documentation

Clean Code

Clean Architecture Evolutionary Architecture/ Design

RACI Matrix

Coding Conventions Code Review


Predictive & Reflective Design

Feature Toggles

Continuous Refactoring

Pair Programming/ Pairing/Teaming (Mob Programming)

Push/PR Review


Modularization, Decomposition/ Composition






Team Architecture Workshops


Compile Time Safety over Tests

System Parts Interaction Tests

Process Boundary Tests Algorithm Tests

Exploratory Testing

Scenario Tests Approval Tests

Functionality Tests

6 System Behaviour Monitoring

Operation Tests

Defect Driven Testing



Version Control

Performance Testing


Security Testing Interoperability Testing Compatibility Testing


TEAM You cannot guarantee that a team is going to have the same expectations or pull in the same direction. Which issues impact software quality here?


Maintainability Testing

Versioning (Product)



Usability Testing



Load Testing




System Smoke Testing




PRODUCT PRODUCTION Design/ Architecture Options


Stakeholder Management

Test Tenants

Testing in Production

Continuous Integration

Continuous Deployment


Configuration Management

Reliability Testing Installability Testing


PRODUCT DISCOVERY How can the product be developed in such a way that it provides value that the customer is prepared to pay for?





PRODUCT PRODUCTION The product is being developed. Which aspects of quality can be found in the prerequisites, environment, process, architecture, design, code quality, TDD, test-after, usability, non-functional tests and monitoring?



PRODUCT RELEASE Which phases need particular consideration when the product is being released or once the software is productive?

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