Digitization is one of the greatest challenges facing companies in the 21st century to succeed. But what exactly does that mean? Peter Imthurn, Chairman of the Board of Directors and co-founder of the St. Gallen start-up actesy, has a simple but concise answer to this question: “Today, digitization is understood as letting systems that were not developed together work together. That’s exactly what actesy is committed to. Founded almost a year ago, the company stands for process optimization, system openness, security and agility, according to Imthurn, who can look back on 30 years of experience in the IT industry, 18 of which he spent as Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO at GUS Schweiz, and is particularly familiar with ERP systems.
SYSTEMS AS MONOLITHIC BLOCKS
There are plenty of them, from Oracle to Microsoft to SAP. “But companies are often faced with the challenge that no one really cares about having the systems communicate with each other,” says Imthurn. “Each system is designed as a monolithic block. This has induced the four founders of actesy (by the way, the name is a Portmanteau from the English term Act for action, E for electronics and Sy for systems, but also a reference to Act Easy, but not to Ecstasy, the drug, as Imthurn emphasizes) to create a framework that allows companies to network their systems already in use with each other. The founders are Peter Imthurn, his son and CEO Andreas Imthurn, Sandro Secci CIO, as well as Tim Kühnl CTO, also owner of the German company Tiksys, on whose technology actesy could partly build. actesy thus wants to enable companies to break out of their dependence on complex (ERP) systems, so that they can select the best application for individual processes or application scenarios, but always link them together and integrate them into a single workflow. “Old interface technology is like shooting old cannons at old castles,” postulates Imthurn, recalling the difficult work that this can entail: “In my career I have certainly built an interface to SAP 300 times. And every time it was said that you had to design it in such a way that it could be reused later. But that never really worked.” There are three reasons for that: First, they always developed for a specific application; second, they were always under time pressure; and third, limited budgets ensured that the interfaces did not become what was actually hoped for. One could also compare the whole thing with road construction: “Everyone tears up the road again when a new pipeline is to be laid. What we do differently is we tear it open once, lay a large channel into which we can then install different lines in day-to-day operation.” In this way, the adaptors could be adapted to the customer’s specific requirements afterwards. The start-up ecosystem now consists of an abundance of adaptors for every conceivable business application. “Customers can link their systems individually with our more than 250 available adapters,” explains CIO Sandro Secci
The first major project that actesy was able to implement in its short lifetime resulted from the demand of various customers “who wanted to connect an online shop but wanted to integrate it even more deeply, i.e. wanted to integrate processes from the shop as well,” recalls Imthurn and adds: “This includes the integration of logistics and consulting services, which cannot be easily integrated with a simple, classic shop system. Another major project came from “one of the best sports car manufacturers in Europe,” reveals Imthurn. “This was about the exhaust scandal and the associated type certificate.” Here, the exact traceability of individual components and data had to be ensured.