Silicon Valley, Redmond, Walldorf, software makers in India as well as the mostly Eastern European and Asian nearshore and offshore software development regions – these are all well known. Each of those regions has its own culture with individual characteristics and is known worldwide. Up until now, Switzerland had not been known as a software region, despite its considerable size and remarkable results. International software groups such as Google, IBM and Microsoft have discovered the Swiss values – quality, dependability, precision, innovation, open-mindedness, and flexibility – in the field of software development and have opened important research and development centres in Switzerland or acquired and integrated Swiss software makers.
Google, for example, develops its map applications and central search algorithms in Zurich.
In light of the aforementioned lack of visibility and strong decline in the numbers of computer science students and trainees in recent years, anycase gmbh, with the support of a Swiss graphic designer and 15 other Swiss software firms, including Avaloq, Crealogix and Day, created a label through a website on the occasion of the Swiss National Day on 1 August 2007. This gave shape to the branch: swiss made software.
Label of origin and hallmark of excellence
Two conditions are required for a product to obtain the Swiss Made indication of origin. These are established by law.
Firstly, the Swiss portion of the value must be at least 50 per cent of production costs. Secondly, the most important part of the manufacturing process must have taken place in Switzerland. In the future, the Swiss portion of the value may even be raised to at least 60 per cent. In the watch-making industry, it already is at least 80 per cent.
SGS, the worldwide largest certification company, is currently engaged with setting up a joint certificate with the help of the “swiss made software” label, which will verify both the indication of origin and the software quality according to ISO 25000 (formerly ISO 9126) standard. This is one step closer to taking the aspect of quality fully into account.
Innovation location of Switzerland
The same fundamental values that are rooted in the Swiss culture and have found their expression in watches and other precision tools for a long time now, can also be found in Swiss software. There is an enormous innovation and engineering potential present in Switzerland. Only very few are aware, for example, that the zip fastener was invented here or that the Logitech firm was founded in Switzerland by the Swiss Daniel Borel. Those Swiss characteristics are given expression by Swiss-made software.
While the Swiss are proud of their products, they are often too reserved and humble to flaunt. Above all, Swiss software combines innovation and quality. Metaphorically speaking, it is the software version of the Swiss Army Knife. Due to its four national languages and 26 cantons, which are governed by direct democracy, Switzerland has always had considerable challenges to overcome in terms of software architecture. That is why solid products offering high flexibility and adaptability are commonly found here. There are, for example, numerous Swiss ERP applications that boast complex functionality while being easy to integrate. Switzerland is the source of software for free secure online storage, standardized bank software, co-browsing software, frameworks for Ultra-Light-Clients, and security software for everyday use, amongst others.
State of the industry
In the past, Swiss software makers predominantly supplied the domestic market – not least due to the lack of visibility, about which much too little was done.
Software creators took only little attention to their own branch. When a single firm would occasionally gain international attention, it was usually bought up by a US software group. Meanwhile, the branch has gained more identity and confidence. Thanks to the country’s multilingualism, many companies are capable of supplying Germany, Austria, France and Italy without any language barriers to overcome.
After graduating in computer science from ETH Zurich, the author co-founded the software firm Obtree, of which he was CEO until 2001. Subsequently, he was a manager for the Canadian firm Open Text. Currently, Haldimann offers a co-browsing standard software through unblu inc. and promotes the technology location of Switzerland through the initiative “swiss made software”.