Successful Project Management through Agility and the Human Touch

From game design to medical technology, from a start-up to ZEISS, from programmer to project manager – Nicolas has demonstrated continuity throughout the different stages of his career. The unifying element is software and a passion for bits and bytes. These influenced early on what he would decide to study: game design. However, design is more than just writing code – a game's development is always a challenge in terms of project management as well. Though a commercial computer game consists of at least a million lines of source code, it is teamwork that is the key to success. In other words, the perfect cooperation between developers, designers, and project managers. This is not any different at a start-up than it is at ZEISS.

"At a small company, everyone does a little bit of everything. At a large company, by contrast, the roles are clearly defined. I find I'm more comfortable when there are clearer structures," says Nicolas, explaining the difference between his first employer and his current one. A move to ZEISS was the logical outcome.

Software that helps

As Project Manager for Software at the ZEISS branch in Munich, Nicolas is now responsible, along with his team, for medical applications. In his projects, he is also happy to involve the UX Team on-site in order to ensure customer-friendly operability. "Medical technology has always fascinated me. In no other industry does the interplay between technology and knowledge, hardware and software have a more person-oriented focus. This way I am able to help others."

Together with his team, Nicolas is responsible for his projects, from product idea to approval. He scours the market, plans iteration steps, and checks the design aspects for customer-friendly usability. This motivates him to take on more responsibility. For this reason, he is daring to make the leap to team leader. Starting from this point, the calculation software Z CALC will dictate his daily work routine.

By people for people

Z CALC enables the precise calculation of customized artificial lenses for direct insertion into the eyes of patients, so-called intraocular lenses. The program is as complex as the human eye and is continuously being developed. A Herculean task. "The first time was already very challenging, as Z Calc had been delayed when I first came on board. However, the team and I met the project goals within three weeks." You can see how proud he is about this.

Instead of writing program code himself, Nicolas now aligns developers, designers, product managers as well as clinical, regulatory, quality and service specialists with the common cause, and defines and supervises project goals and steps. This also requires all of management to agree to it. "Preferably, I will have clear goals, guidelines, and deadlines that I can implement with my team on my own initiative. To this end I make decisions and also take the fall for colleagues, but that goes with being a team leader." Responsibility requires broad shoulders.

Preferably, I will have clear goals, guidelines, and deadlines that I can implement with my team on my own initiative.

Agile approach to reaching goals

For the realization of his goals, Nicolas relies on project management involving Scrum. Unlike traditional management methods, you can respond better to adapted conditions with agile work methods. This is because they are defined using short iteration steps. This flexibility makes software teams in particular more reactive, and as a result, more productive.

"Scrum is no end in itself. For me it's mostly about creating good medical technology. This is why even though I am the contact person for this area of expertise, I am also the moderator and motivator," says Nicolas. "This works great as long as you involve all team members at an early stage, motivate everyone, and keep them focused on the common goal: meeting our customers' expectations." This has worked so well for him that Nicolas is now the software manager for EQ Workplace, a program where doctors can plan and optimize their workflows. This module is part of the ZEISS Cataract Suite, an all-in-one solution for the diagnosis and treatment of gray cataracts.

Visible progress

And who motivates the motivator? Nicolas thinks a bit before he answers. "My colleagues, my tasks, and my future. It's fun to work together with different personality types and skill sets in a leadership role. More than anything, I am still just as enthusiastic about medical technology. I like having the opportunity to help people." In doing so, Nicolas is leaving a mark on the field of medical technology that is quite uniquely his own.

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