Florian Gutzwiller founded Open Systems AG in October 1990. When he launched his company, he did so without clients or safety nets, but with the deep conviction that «open systems» would change the world.«The deciding factor for founding Open Systems AG twentyone years ago was not a specific business idea, but instead my deeply held conviction that the Internet would radically change the way in which people communicate.The core element was the ability to generically link systems all over the world through the Internet. This networking of systems for the first time allowed so-called «open systems» to communicate with each other. The technology in and of itself is secondary to me. What fascinated me then and fascinates me now is the resulting networks of people.
It was while I worked at the renowned Swiss Federal Institue of Technology ETH Zurich that universities first started using the Internet. It was an exciting time: a superb environment with smart, committed people. There were also many innovative — and expensive — toys that allowed us to explore this new type of networking to its very limits. The decision to start a business was a «gut decision.» I didn’t have a specific plan, but felt I wanted to do something new and be independent.
Open Systems AG was founded in Basel, Switzerland, without existing clients or a safety net. Basel is my hometown; it’s where I grew up and attended school. I owe a great deal to Basel, although the city didn’t make it easy for me to found my business. But the spirit of Basel afforded me opportunities I would never have had anywhere else, such as working with Hoffmann-La Roche and what was then the Schweizerischer Bankverein (today UBS), our first major Open Systems clients.
To my mind, quality is the measure of all things in a service company like Open Systems AG. I will never compromise on quality. Admittedly, my relationship with the topic is strong and complex: my perception of quality starts with people and goes right through to architectural details. The most important thing is to follow a unifying central theme, a main thread throughout. Quality requires consistency, all the way from business leadership and employees to clients and suppliers. You can’t talk about things to your clients that you’re not living within the company, and vice versa. In this respect, we have achieved a great deal. And I’m very proud of that.
Employees are crucial for quality. Having a good team is a matter of luck. Teams occur randomly, they are a social, human entity. It isn’t possible to evaluate teams on a technical level. Naturally, the members of a team must complement one another. But this can’t be evaluated on a technical level (with performance specifications or similar tools). A good team consists of people who meet and simply function well together. This is something that develops over many years.
Another deciding factor for quality is clients themselves. In fact I’m convinced that a company is only as good as the clients it serves. That’s something I’m adamant about. These days, you need to conduct an opportunity/risk analysis before starting to work with a new client. Having the wrong clients can destroy a company. So it’s not about gaining a client at any price. It’s about gaining the right clients at any price, maintaining that relationship and building on it.
We provide our clients with security. And what security really boils down to is a feeling of being comfortable. It might be unusual to talk about a company in these terms. But in the end, the same emotions are at work here. Decision-makers on the client side work with people they feel comfortable with and where they do not need to worry. In the end, it is a measure of comfort to feel they are in safe hands with Open Systems. They know that their network and their security are in good hands with us. Naturally, these emotions are based on a large number of technical arguments, presentations, white papers, studies and the like. But the bottom line is always whether the client trusts us and feels at ease sitting down with us or calling headquarters.
I’m particularly proud of our independence. This is also a quality I value. We are accountable to no one except our clients and ourselves. We have no external investors, no commitments towards banks or other stakeholders. When we sit down together as the three shareholders, we are able to make binding decisions quickly. Naturally, we’ve had several requests over the past few years about partnerships or selling shares. But in the end, we always decided against it. Probably because we were just not interested enough.
Open Systems AG has been in business since 1990. It’s a great feeling to be able to deliver such a consistent level of performance with our company in the dynamic IT environment. I feel that this is tremendously important, particularly in our field, where everything revolves around protection and reliability. That is our best reference. We deliver — and have done so for more than 20 years.»