One of the goals of the WDAqua ITN is to work together with the industrial partners. Here a summary of one of these experiences with our partner DATEV. Two intense weeks!

On of the big advantages of WDAqua is that, as a student, you are very free and you have many opportunities. I want to tell you about my experience at DATEV eG which is one of Germany’s leading software companies and IT service providers. It is providing “technical information services for tax, accountant and attorneys” with a yearly turnover of close to 1B EUR.

First of all, how I got there? WDAqua has contacts to a number of people working in industry. One of these is Andreas Both, currently Head of Architecture, Web Technologies and IT Research at DATEV. In many occasions, during the WDAqua project, I worked together with him. I knew that he has a lot of experience in both industry and research and I knew also that he has an “infectious” motivation, i.e. he is able to make is motivation swap over to other people. So during a conference I asked him: “Can I do an internship for some week at DATEV?”. And shortly thereafter I was there.

The project is “top secret” (welcome to industry!) so I cannot tell to many details nor provide pictures. But I can describe the goal and the atmosphere. The goal was not to work on something existing, but to brainstorm to create a new product for the main customers of DATEV, i.e. tax accountants. The topic was related to machine learning and to question answering.

What were the key ingredients of our project?

First, a good mix of people. We were 12 people. Eight of them were people from DATEV: two developers, two marketing experts, a tax accountant, two people from the business area, two designers and Andreas. The last two were external experts. A machine learning expert from a Big Data Engineer company called Datameer and me.

Second, a creative room and two weeks of time. We worked together in the DATEV Lab. The DATEV Lab is a space at the company to develop prototypes and brainstorm new ideas. In particular we had one room with dozens of boards, hundreds of post-it, pens, colors, sheets, flip-charts and workstations. Sometimes I looked around and I thought: “This looks crazy!”.

Third, some objective reviewers. We had three sessions with people evaluating our work. We had people from other departments and some managers looking at our result. The last day we had a 2 hour presentation in front of many people and the feedback was really positive.

How it will go on? The project will be soon evaluated by a board of decision makers and hopefully it will receive the funding to become a real product. It would be great!

In summary, the two weeks were really great! A melting-pot of different domains and ideas. It was really fruit-full!

Dennis