Stefan Scheller is a reserved person, he doesn’t particularly like being in the spotlight. Thus, we are all even more excited, that the man in his mid-forties from Osthofen in the Wonnegau region of Rhineland-Palatinate, is meeting with us in a video chat and answering our questions. After all, we hope the interview will give us a deeper insight into his work as head of atriga’s IT development department. And in one respect he even conforms to the usual computer scientist clichés: “I’m the only one who doesn’t wear a suit or tie in the official atriga photos. The photographer must have noticed that I don’t really feel comfortable in them,” he tells us with a smile.
Computer science has no future!
“The early 90s were not rosy times for IT people,” explains Stefan Scheller, “at the career counselling centre, I was told right away that computer science had no future.” That’s why he first decided to train as a chemical laboratory technician and was then able to gain three years of professional experience. After that, Scheller was looking for a new challenge, because everything to do with computers and programming had been his passion since his youth. He graduated from the University of Cooperative Education in Mannheim with a degree in information technology (BA): “In 2004, it wasn’t easy to find a job as a programmer because there were too many graduates on the market at the time. Nevertheless, Stefan Scheller found what he was looking for. In his first job as a computer scientist, he was allowed to work on an electronic shift book for a large automation technology company, at that time still in the programming language Visual Basic 6. He did not find his professional happiness in the company structures, so the journey was to continue.
Win-win for atriga and Stefan Scheller
On 1 February 2005, more than 16 years ago, Stefan Scheller started at atriga, which was only two years old at the time: “Together with the managing director Oliver Burgis – the father of the atriga DebitManager™ – and another colleague, we formed the IT department; all in all, we were just under 20 people in Langen at the time,” Scheller describes the beginning of the atriga success story. We wanted to know what his first project was: “Our task was to develop a desktop version of the atriga transaction management system, with which we could assign incoming payments from debtors to the files of individual clients. This application was then integrated into the then newly developed ‘BOSS’, atriga’s back office support system, now a very intelligent background system which all atrigans work rely on.”
Exciting and varying challenges
In the meantime, there are significantly more employees working in atriga’s IT development department, and the company has grown steadily and organically over the years, now with more than 100 colleagues. The tasks of the IT team around Stefan Scheller have also changed: “As head of IT development, I plan and coordinate current and future projects together with the entire team and other departments, and I am also still actively involved in the further development of the company’s internal software myself.” We are curious: what are those specific tasks? “On the one hand, we receive requests from clients whose software systems require a different data transfer format, for example, or who need very specific evaluations. On the other hand, we implement ideas and suggestions from staff for the further development of BOSS and iron out minor software bugs that often occur in the course of operating system updates. Among other things, we are currently developing a completely new web version of our support system for smooth and secure remote access from the home office. In addition, we have now integrated our new, completely IP-based telephony solution into BOSS in such a way that, for instance, everyone in the contact centre can store individual process steps in the system with just a few clicks after a customer call, such as an individually agreed instalment payment, so that further processing is then fully automated and systematically controlled; a ‘busy’ is automatically stored in the contact history. There are numerous examples of our highly innovative solutions, many of which also include fully automated and AI/ML-controlled process flows.”
IT in times of the pandemic
Of course, Stefan Scheller has also been working from his home office since the outbreak of the pandemic. But how does he keep in touch with his colleagues, how are the current projects coordinated? Scheller explains: “We meet regularly in a large team meeting to coordinate where the current construction sites are, who is currently working on what and which tasks have already been solved. In close coordination with the respective departments, we also provide test versions of new software modules and implement change requests. The same applies to our dealings with our clients. A particularly exciting development here is one that reads analogue and digital incoming mail with the help of intelligent algorithms and correctly assigns it in such a way that an automated systemic response is possible at the end. To do this, we have to feed an artificial intelligence with data, train it, analyse the results and constantly readjust them. A good example of a typical machine learning project.”
Came to stay
We can’t let Stefan Scheller leave the interview without an explanation of why he has endured atriga for over 16 years. It all adds up: “It just feels good at atriga,” enthuses Scheller, “the job allows a lot of freedom and I appreciate the productive and constructive exchange with our clients, but also with the colleagues in my team and the other specialist departments. I am also impressed by the flexibility and excellent working conditions at atriga. Parental leave after the birth of my children was no problem at all and despite the growth of the last few years, we have been able to maintain a family atmosphere.”