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«From my point of view, the biggest advantage is that there are no travel times or times on the move»

As National Armaments Director, Martin Sonderegger is responsible for equipping the Swiss Armed Forces with materials and systems. As a result, he works together closely with industry and politicians. Travel is only possible with difficulty at the moment, so he has to maintain business relationships using digital communications tools.

Joller Romy, specialist area communication, resources and support

The head of armament, Martin Sonderegger, stands at his desk and makes a Skype call.
Martin Sonderegger takes part in a video conference in his office.

Mr. Sonderegger, how have you as the National Armaments Director experienced cooperation with industrial and other partners during the Corona measures?

Very positively! Our business partners were very quickly able to communicate with us via digital media. With our long-term business partners, we were also able to accept each other’s electronic signatures in a straightforward manner. This accelerated the financial management of businesses and thus ensured the liquidity of the companies. The temporary option of applying the “force majeure” clause was also greatly appreciated.

* «Force majeure» clause: If performance has become impossible due to circumstances for which the debtor is not responsible, under Swiss law the claim is deemed to have lapsed in accordance with Art. 119 CO.

How often do you normally travel on business and for what purposes? And how often did you travel in 2020?

In a “normal” year, I travel abroad on business between five and ten times a year. Various trips abroad were also planned in 2020. However, things turned out differently than planned. Since my return from the Singapore AirShow on Friday, February 14, 2020, I have not been abroad either on business or privately. Most of the events and trade fairs which I wanted to visit were cancelled. For the physically scheduled meetings, for example, with foreign counterparts, we switched to electronic media. However, the topics and contents of conversation in video conferences were restricted to unclassified information.

Were planned physical meetings also replaced by video conferences?

Most of the meetings within armasuisse, in the DDPS and with suppliers were held via video conferences. As far as possible via Skype. Where this was not possible, other formats were also used for communication upon invitation.

 

You can see the armament chief on the screen talking on the phone through the Skype mask.
Digital communication tools enable meetings to be held via video conferences.

Where do you see the advantages and disadvantages of video conferences?

From my point of view, the biggest advantage is that there are no travel times or times on the move. The time saved as a result is clearly discernible in my case. I have the impression that video conferences tend to be shorter than physical meetings.
From my point of view, the lack of emotion is a disadvantage. In video conferences, you do not see or feel the effect that a statement has on the other party and which emotions it triggers. Personal contacts are still important and essential.
At the technical level, the greatest disadvantage is clearly the lack of a means to transmit classified speech and images. In such cases, we have switched to Threema Work and have sent the classified documents physically to business partners in advance.

What will you take away from this experience once the situation has returned to normal, hopefully soon?

Of course, not only time and money are saved with limited travel activity. The ecological footprint is also significantly improved as a result. A critical test of whether future business trips are actually necessary must become a matter of course for us. Even when, hopefully, the whole virus situation rapidly stabilises again, we should not fall back into our usual routines without reservation.
We miss the personal contact today with business partners, work colleagues and friends as well as unrestricted family contacts. For armasuisse and its employees, I hope that the spread of the virus can be contained as quickly as possible and that our business and private contact will approach normality again.

Brief profile

Martin Sonderegger has been National Armaments Director of armasuisse since 2015. He is responsible for the development, evaluation, procurement and disposal of systems and materials for the Armed Forces and other customers, as well as for the planning and procurement of real estate of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport DDPS.