The Unpredictable Ones

Philipp Stelzer and Ishay Sommer have developed an innovative new project management software. It makes it possible to accurately examine the effect of human factors

Ishay Sommer und Philipp Stelzer Foto: Task 36 GmbH

Truly innovative ideas usually inspire the following statement: That can‘t possibly work. Philipp Stelzer and Ishay Sommer have heard this phrase many times. It‘s not possible to calculate that. Fortunately, good ideas often end up proving the doubters and naysayers wrong. And Stelzer and Sommer have done just that. They have made the unpredictable predictable, that is, they have made it possible to calculate the effect of human factors. Last year, the duo founded the company Task 36. Since November 2015, the second version of their new project management software „Adaptivplan“ has been on the market. In other words, nothing is impossible.

Stelzer sits in a meeting room at the CHIC founders‘ center. He pulls his laptop closer and points to the screen: „Let‘s say an employee misses three weeks of work due to an illness. In the meantime, two new employees arrive at the company and then one of their suppliers is delayed. What kind of effect are these things going to have on the course of the project,“ asks the 29-year-old, clicking different buttons on the screen. For project managers, such a situation could turn into a disaster. The project would have to be planned anew. This would cost time and energy. Plus, it‘s hard on the nerves. „Many project managers make their decisions based on gut feelings. At some point, you lose your perspective,“ explains Stelzer. Especially in projects where large teams are involved and the development lasts many years. Just like in medical technology, for example.

After a few moments, the small blue bars on the screen begin to shift. The cloud-based software is finished with the calculations. Data, times, deadlines have changed and been adapted to the new situation. This is what distinguishes the new software from everything that‘s come before. Adaptivplan is not a statistical tool; instead, it actively supports users by calculating and presenting different options, suggestions and scenarios.

It takes a highly complex algorithm to achieve this. Indeed, many experts consider the problem to be simply incalculable. And yet, Sommer managed to make it work. Back when he was in grade school, he had sold his school a self-made computer program. Later, the 36-year-old had developed defense programs for large companies to defend against cyber attacks.

While some insisted it couldn‘t work, others actually recognized the idea‘s potential. In fact, Stelzer and Sommer became the first German startup company to be invited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The two entrepreneurs spent four months in the USA, where they were able to come up with the so-called „proof of concept,“ i.e. proof that everything was calculable. And they learned something else in this period as well: „A lot of companies fail not because they lack a great idea, but because of interpersonal problems,“ notes Stelzer. The two men haven‘t had to confront that problem yet. And even if it comes up at some point: nothing is still impossible.

Stefanie Paul
Kluge Köpfe 2015