What we do
We are specialized in all kinds of consultancy, solutions, software development and services related to systems and processes in technical information.
A brief history
- 2003: Dr.-Ing. Boris Horner, texolution's founder and owner, established his independence.
- 2006: Horner GmbH was founded as a society.
- 2007: The Cinnamon Open Source CMS project was established.
- 2013: Horner GmbH was renamed to texolution GmbH.
Interview with Boris Horner
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your background in the field of technical documentation and communication?
Sure. I am a physicist and appended a doctorate in mechanical engineering, in the field of flow measurement. Thus, from my education, I have the technological background adaptable to the one of our clients, but not the documentation side of it. After a few (short) career steps leading me from measurement device development via IT infrastructure via a freelance period with Jack-of-all-trades character to a three year engagement with the documentation service provider reinisch, as a software developer and consultant. At reinisch, I worked in a number of projects and learned how documentation is never a silo but touches virtually every part of a company.
In 2003, I quit the job and became a freelancer again, continued working in the same field with reinisch and other customers. And the remaining part of the history will probably be the answer to another question.
That's an impressive and diverse background, thank you for sharing!
What inspired you to establish your own consulting company, and how has your unique career journey helped you provide better solutions for your clients in technical documentation and communication?
Well, in the three years, I worked for reinisch, I enjoyed more and more working in this particular field of technology and consultancy. With growing experience and knowledge, I wanted the freedom to pick up other interesting projects or develop things on my own intiative. Still, I want to mention that reinisch was a good employer. I learned a lot and had more freedom where and how to do my job than I had had at many other companies at that time.
I think, what helps me give good advice to our customers is indeed my broad background with experience from fundamental science over engineering over IT to software development. So I not only understand many details of the products of our customers, even the more complex ones, but I can also discuss with IT department, technical writers, sales, purchase or marketing about their particular requirements.
It's great to see how your diverse experiences contribute to your success as a consultant.
What are some of the key challenges companies face in the realm of technical documentation and communication, and how does your consulting company help them overcome these challenges?
I believe that nowadays, there is an immense choice of excellent software products on the market, commercial or open source ones, that have the potential of giving all the stakeholders I mentioned above, plus all the others, like developers, construction, service and last but not least the customers of the products an impressive user experience.
The problems customers face are not caused by the unavailability of solutions, but by the fact that they are not used at all or not properly, for example, by choosing the wrong products or setting up the processes in an unappropriate way.
There are several reasons why this can be so. One is lack of knowledge about the existance of better ways of working. This is quite rare. Most technical writers who write their documentation with a word processor are aware of the existance of CCMS. There might be no budget, or there might be, but TD can't convince management to spend the money. TechDoc department managers might be overwhelmed by the many products on the market, and postpone the decision. TD might have bought a CCMS, but one that fails to meet the needs and then they go back to MS Word. There are many reasons.
When we get in contact with new customers, we start with listening to them, about how they work, how they would like to work, how they came where they are and so on. Then we can start to help showing them a way out of the labyrinth. It's amazing how often five days of consultancy can save ten times the money they cost.
It's clear that your approach focuses on understanding your clients' unique situations and providing tailored solutions.
Can you share a success story or a project that your consulting company has worked on, which showcases the impact of your services on a client's technical documentation and communication process?
There are a number of stories I could mention here. Maybe I'll pick one that's a while ago, but that influenced the further evolvement of texolution GmbH (which I founded shortly before the project, in 2006).
The initial situation was that the Latin American division of a bus and truck manufacturer wrote the workshop literature in FrameMaker and organized the data modules and their translations in a home-made database solution that came to its limits.
We proposed a solution that was basically a CCMS, but due to some boundary condidtions (mainly, the requirement to publish to the global content retrieval system) we had to build a custom solution. We started using the software version control system CVS as the data backend and built a desktop client for managing the data. The client did what the customer wanted, but CVS was too slow when abused for this task. So we started developing an open source platform to replace CVS. This platform became our open source CCMS and DMS Cinnamon later which we use as platform for a diversity of solutions, including CCMS.
On the Cinnamon platform, and with data converted to XML later, the system was in operation for more than five years in the Latin American site, and was used until the customer introduced the new release of their global system.
The solution enabled the customer to produce high quality documentation that seamlessly integrated into the proprietary retrieval system of the customer until the delayed release of the global system was done.
That's an impressive example of how your company can adapt and create customized solutions to meet client requirements and improve their technical documentation process.
As technology continues to evolve, how do you see the future of technical documentation and communication, and how is your consulting company preparing to adapt to upcoming trends or advancements?
Well, just at this moment, it would be odd to start the answer with something else than the obvious breakthrough of Artificial Intelligence and its rapid and massive impact on the work of all the stakeholders in the technical information field.
Still, while AI will replace human labour in many steps of the process, it will not necessarily reduce the number of humans involved. Since at least these days, skilled employees are rarer than job opportunities, it should rather be seen in a way that AI can take a burden from the shoulders of the staff and set them free to produce better results.
We are ready to help our customers through this disruption by gathering experience and knowledge early and on our own initiative instead of waiting until the first customer asks for it. I guess, to whom I am giving this interview says a lot about our position towards new technology in general and AI in particular.
Thank you for sharing your insights on the role of AI in the future of technical documentation and communication. It's great to see that your company is proactive in embracing new technologies and adapting to the evolving landscape.
This wraps up our interview. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts with us. Your expertise in the field of technical documentation and communication, as well as your commitment to providing tailored solutions for your clients, is truly inspiring.
If there's anything else you would like to add or if you have any final thoughts, please feel free to share them.
Thank you for your questions. Indeed, I want to add one thing. Speaking about AI in the environment of technical information, it is an extremely powerful tool in our hands, and no-one can know for sure how this will be in even 5 years. But AI is not a solution for everything, nor can it answer every question, and even when it answers, we must not blindly trust the machine. A friendly scepticism is probably a good approach.
That's a wise and thoughtful perspective. It's essential to strike a balance between leveraging the power of AI and maintaining a healthy skepticism, ensuring that we use this technology responsibly and effectively. Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us, and we wish you and your consulting company continued success in the future.
The interview was done by ChatGPT, using the GPT-4 model available to Plus accounts. After a few instructions about the purpose and intended lenght of the interview, ChatGPT asked the questions autonomously. The dialog was not edited beyond the removal of typos.