You can’t be involved with successfully building and maintaining applications unless you are also involved with: supporting them, understanding their users, understanding their owners, and understanding all the high-level aspects such as architecture and security and usability and cost.
Customers and Clients
I’ve had the privilege to build, maintain, and support applications for a large number of customers, mainly in the manufacturing industry. Some of my biggest customers have included:
- Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart
- Roche Applied Sciences
- Heidelberger Druckmaschinen
- Swiss Federal Railways
Sadly, there are always nondisclosure agreements or Geheimhaltungsverträge in place, and these keep me from sharing screenshots or discussing my experiences publicly.
Domains and Focus Areas
The IT projects I have been involved have been closely allied with the following areas and topics:
- Information lifeycle management (ILM) – originally all about “getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time.” But recently it has become quite clear that “the value of information changes significantly during its lifecycle.” And what THAT means is that companies dealing in significant amounts of information can often get the edge on their competitors (or else maintain the edge) by paying very close attention to what systems and applications are used to maintain that information, from creation to retirement.
- Document management. Sounds boring – and I suppose it is – but the huge changes to the media industry in the last ten years have forced huge changes in this field – both applications as well as infrastructure. For example, in the field of personalized health care, it may be necessary to store terabytes (TB) of data per patient!
- Finance. For three years my team was responsible for the financial back-end systems used by the Swiss Federal Railways to process credit card transactions, e-commerce and web-based transactions, etc. As well as many of the applications used for working with billions (CHF 1+ Bio) collected in yearly revenue. We were also responsible for the “Western Union” application used to wire money at nearly 150 train stations in Switzerland. This was a custom application specially built for the SBB, and in 2009 I was proud and honored that our team won the “Best Western Union Application” award, directly from the WU company itself!
However, I’ve also had exceptionally broad experiences with building applications, and these have included factory control and automation, applications for financial transactions (both Western Union as well as EDI transfer) – and a project team I managed won an award for an application that created organization charts for exotic, self-referential organizations!
But even though the customers may have been different, there are some universal principles I’ve always seen:
- customer service matters
- building and maintaining applications overlaps entirely with architecture at all levels
- clever use of a few tools (such as defect tracking systems or ticket tools) pays big rewards
- the more standards, the better
You can find some more ideas in this direction in many of the technical papers I’ve written.