Q&A with Alexander Von Zitzewitz, CEO at hello2morrow Inc.

Media 7 | September 15, 2021

Alexander von Zitzewitz, CEO at hello2morrow Inc., is also the company's co-founder and managing director. He has more than 25 years of project and management experience. In 1993, he founded ootec - a company focused on project services around object-oriented software technology. In March 2000, this company was sold to Valtech group, a French company and from 2003 to early 2005, he worked as company Director for Central Europe for a French software vendor. His areas of expertise are object-oriented system design and large scale system architecture.

So many systems end up as a big dreaded ball of mud (which is totally preventable) when designing an enforceable architecture model.



MEDIA 7: You founded hello2morrow over 15 years ago. What has that journey been like?
ALEXANDER VON ZITZEWITZ:
It has been a wild and interesting journey. We had our first product SonarJ a couple of months after founding the company in April of 2005. But we did not have enough revenue from the product to sustain us, so we did consulting gigs on the side to survive. Two years later, we broke even and were able to focus all our energy on improving the product. In 2008, we won the second prize for the most innovative product at the Jax conference in Mainz, Germany. That was also the year when we expanded our operations to the United States. In hindsight, that was quite bad timing; we started there just a month before the Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. But we managed to survive and today the US is an important market for us with customers like Apple and Car Gurus.


M7: How does hello2morrow help its clients avoid the accumulation of technical debt?
AVZ:
I founded the company with the conviction that the structure and architecture of a software system is the key factor for its long-term sustainability and maintainability. So many systems end up as a big dreaded ball of mud (which is totally preventable) when designing an enforceable architecture model. I consider architectural debt to be the most toxic form of technical debt because it requires risky and error-prone global refactorings to fix it. So, one key feature of the Sonargraph product family is to enable developers and architects to create architectural models either via a powerful and easy-to-learn software-architecture DSL (domain-specific language) or interactively over our architectural view. This model can then be used in the automated CI build to break the build if certain configurable conditions are met. Here at hello2morrow, the build breaks every time somebody violates the architecture or introduces a cyclical dependency. In the meantime, Sonargraph covers a lot more than just architectural and structural issues. For example, we can mine the version control history to create dynamic 3D visualizations of your software system.


In this picture (from the open-source project Apache Cassandra) each building is a source file. The footprint size of the building is determined by the size of the file in lines of code. Its height is determined by the complexity, and its color comes from the change frequency within the last 90 days. This is interesting because you'd like to find tall red buildings which point to files that are highly complex and changed often, in other words, ideal candidates for refactoring. I'd say, right now, Sonargraph is the leading product for use cases like software modernization and continuous mitigation of technical and architectural debt.


The main reason we exist is to help our customers create better and more maintainable software.



M7: Could you please tell us a little bit about the different services hello2morrow provides to its customers to make the software more agile?
AVZ:
The main reason we exist is to help our customers create better and more maintainable software. Sonargraph can definitely help with that, but the tool also has a learning curve. So, we offer services like software assessments, reduction of technical and architectural debt, modernization of software, and our very popular virtual architect service. With this service, we organize weekly online sessions of 60 to 90 minutes with one of your lead developers or architects and work with them to solve specific issues detected by Sonargraph. Doing that for a couple of weeks can achieve amazing and noticeable results. And since it is only 60 to 90 minutes per week it is also very affordable.


M7: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your and your team’s work ethic?
AVZ:
As a small business distributed over Germany, the US, and Colombia, we are used to working from home, so Covid had no impact on the way we work. But it made our sales operations harder which relies a lot on large software development conferences. So we had to learn how to sell without person-to-person contact only using online meetings and targeted advertising on social media.


"Fake it until you make it", which means always believe in the success of your vision even if it has not manifested yet.



M7: Could you tell us about some of the latest developments at hello2morrow that you and your team are excited about?
AVZ:
I believe that the addition of version control metrics and the powerful new 3D tree-view visualization has added a lot of value to Sonargraph. Moreover, we made licensing a lot more flexible with the addition of team licenses, integrator licenses, and personal licenses, which immediately led to a significant uptick in the number of active users.


M7: What is some advice you received that has helped shape your personal and professional life?
AVZ:
Believe in your vision and fight for it. Also "fake it until you make it", which means always believe in the success of your vision even if it has not manifested yet.

ABOUT HELLO2MORROW

hello2morrow's vision is to help their customers build better software by providing tools and services that empower sustainable software craftsmanship. They believe that keeping technical debt under control is critical for the development of high-quality and maintainable software. Their products use static analysis to detect technical debt by checking for violations of a customizable set of architecture and programming rules. By integrating those checks into the developers’ IDE and the automated build process, rule violations can be detected at the earliest possible moment making them easy and inexpensive to fix.

By avoiding the accumulation of technical debt, the overall cost of a software project can be easily reduced by 30% or more. Risks are reduced while software quality increases. Teams become more agile because it is a lot easier to work on a clean and well-structured codebase. In addition, transparency is increased because the quality metrics of a project can be made available to all stakeholders. hello2morrow was founded as a self-funded independent software vendor in 2005 by Dietmar Menges and Alexander von Zitzewitz. They currently have more than 200 customers in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, with offices in Germany, the United States, and Colombia.