Q&A with Manuel Karg, Head, Project Management at Fides
Manuel Karg has a wide range of business experience. He has worked in Germany and the United States as well as Switzerland. He has held positions in IT, technical marketing, software quality management and human resources. Prior to joining Fides in 2014, he spent four years in project management at Credit Suisse.
In his role as Head, Project Management, Manuel is responsible for the top-level management of the team and processes, including supervising and scheduling all of the project managers and making sure everything runs smoothly. His primary goal is to ensure customer satisfaction while maintaining efficiency. Manuel also acts as the liaison between project management and all the other departments internally, and manages some projects directly.
What are the responsibilities of project managers at Fides?
Project managers are responsible for onboarding of new clients and new services, manage orders and tasks with Fides and the banks and the clients. This includes creating the project scope, governance, creating statements of work (SOWs) and blueprints, ensuring on-time delivery and quality, and managing the steering committee for large projects.
There is also program management, coordination and communication between the different teams internally, as all teams need to be aligned so that tasks are done on time. We also do client relationship management. We are the single point of contact for the client during the implementation process. Each client has an assigned project manager and when we finish the project we hand it over to the client services team/support team.
When does a project manager get involved?
As soon as a client signs a contract with Fides, I assign a project manager, but we are always customer-facing. Project managers will sometimes accompany the client relations managers to meet with clients, especially if there are a lot of technical requirements.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There really is no such thing as a typical day in project management. Each project is unique, and we have different kind of projects. You never know in the morning what to expect from the day. You have internal projects, clients, different banks, you build out the converters and test them – it’s always a mixture, it’s not just agile and not just waterfall, it’s a mixture of different methodologies. In this job, I am never bored!
How many projects does your team manage over the course of a year?
Last year the team completed 100 projects. This year, we are already close to that number and still have some months left to go! But it is important to note that we do not measure our success on number of projects closed. Customer satisfaction and success are our highest priorities. A project manager on my team could finish 20 projects over the course of a year, but that is meaningless. Good quality client feedback is far more important. We want to deliver the best levels of service possible.
What is the typical duration of an implementation?
The typical client implementation project takes 6-12 months. If it’s payment tech, where they are building a payments factory, that’s more like two to three years or could even be four or five years, but it is done in various phases that cover the global roll-out step by step.
How are project managers matched up with clients?
I assign project managers based on the nature of the project. For each type of project (internal, partner, external) you need a different skill set. It is important to try to match the right project manager to each client, as they will be working so closely together. Our clients often ask the project manager to stay on as their main contact after the implementation ends, so if new needs or client parties arise, we create a new project but we keep the same client relationship manager and project manager for consistency.
What type of skills are required?
Half the team has a financial background, so they are familiar with the workings of treasury departments and know the terminology. A couple of the team members have an IT background — I do as well — which is helpful for internal projects, and projects with Fides’ parent company Credit Suisse.
How much technical knowledge do your clients typically have, or need to have?
Most of our client contacts are treasury professionals. They don’t know much about formats and channels with banks, they know about financials. Our job is to take the client by the hand and lead them through the whole project phase. They don’t need to understand how messages are converted or how we connect to the bank: they have software to create payments or collect statements. They click a button and the message should be sent. If they look in the bank account, the message should be there. We take over the IT stuff so the client doesn’t have to worry about the details. They tell us what they need on the business side and we translate to the IT side.
How many clients is each project manager assigned to at any given time?
Each project manager works with approximately 20 clients. That sounds like a lot, but every project is different. We currently have 145 active projects, but the timeline for each is different. With partner projects, the partner will have a project manager who works with the clients and with Fides, so we often do not have direct contact with those clients. For direct clients, there is more ebb and flow. There are usually periods of down time while we wait for information from the clients or while we wait for the banks, so it all balances out.
With all those projects, how do you prioritize?
It’s most important to satisfy the client requests and objectives. We work with a ticket system, so a project manager can assign requests to the different IT departments. We have a foster development department and a Kanban board. My team creates all the tickets for channels or any converters that may need to be developed. If a client priority arises, the project manager comes to me and I make the change. I am the one who has to explain to our development and IT teams if and why changes need to be made.
What do you feel is the most important part of project management?
Our team directive is to satisfy our clients. I believe that communication is the most important part of doing this. When things are busy, stress levels rise. Emails or tickets can be misunderstood. But when people talk to each other you can solve most of the problems. It’s important for us to communicate clearly both with our clients and internally. If there are any issues or problems we need to be open about them and make sure they are dealt with appropriately.
Manuel is also responsible for monitoring the team’s performance and reporting on key performance metrics. It’s important to him as a manager to create an inspiring team environment with a culture of open communication, and provide both motivation and support.