Cong Fu knows how smart ideas become reality as Senior Manager for Project Portfolio Control and Business Development at Mercedes-Benz Mobility & Technology Services in China, Together with his team, he provides a solid foundation for management to make strategic decisions regarding the project portfolio. In his interview, the electrical engineer explains, why he needs an all-round view, what he loves about his role as a manager, and why he sometimes plays the role of a “gatekeeper”.
Mr. Fu, you and your team are involved in the project selection with the aim of introducing new products and services, which projects are you currently working on?
With our team, we are responsible for the Demand and Project Portfolio Management at Mercedes-Benz Mobility & Technology Services. We help our colleagues here in China and in the AAP (Africa & Asia Pacific) region to obtain management approval for the implementation of the new products and services. In one current project, for example, we are evaluating how we can use digital technologies such as e-contracting, chatbot solutions and self-service offerings to make vehicle purchasing even more convenient for our customers in China. Every time we do this, we ask ourselves: What will happen, if we don’t implement this idea?
How do you go about preparing such a project for market launch?
We often accompany projects from the first idea to the final approval by management. The digitization projects for the Chinese market are a good example of this. When we receive a request from our business unit, we first need to understand what value the project offers. In e-contracting, for example, we then take a look at how the buying experience for our customers improves if we offer the option of completing the vehicle purchase completely through an online and paperless journey. Then we conduct a 360-degree overview, collect and analyze market data as well as the global insights, and of course check with the local conditions.
And in the end, you evaluate the project as a whole?
Exactly. Mercedes-Benz Mobility has company-wide criteria and standards for this, the framework is Global Project Portfolio Management. For example, the extent to which the project contributes to Mercedes-Benz Mobility’s strategic goals - and what financial benefits are associated with its implementation. Only when a project meets the criteria, we submit it to management for a final decision. When it comes to the approval of the new projects, we act as "gatekeepers". This means that we are the preliminary stage that assists management with decision-making.
Additionally, you ensure that international projects meet requirements and regulations in the local market.
Yes, of course we want to ensure our project approval under the same standard with high quality around the globe. The common processes within the group are very important for this. If a business-model and the project implementation prove to be successful in one market and there is global demand, we work on an international solution. However, there are always local hurdles that we have to overcome.
What would be an example of such a "hurdle"?
There is a global solution in terms of supporting customer credit approval during the customer onboarding process. Together with our Headquarter and local project teams, we then analyzed what data protection and security requirements apply for the various countries. In line with these requirements, we had to adapt the process for each market to comply with local legislation.
We are currently evaluating how e-contracting, chatbots and self-service offerings can make vehicle purchasing even more convenient for our customers in China. Every time we do this, we ask ourselves: What will happen, if we don’t implement this idea?
How did you actually end up at Mercedes-Benz?
My first job after graduation was with an international telecommunications provider. After five years, I wanted to gain a different experience and through an acquaintance I heard about the job opportunity at the Mercedes-Benz Group. At that time, the automotive sector in China was growing rapidly. Mercedes-Benz has always been a special and renowned brand for me, so I applied immediately. I didn't want to waste any time. [laughs]
How were things for you in the beginning?
Great. It was the international spirit in particular that immediately excited me when I started here as a project portfolio manager in 2015. Working with colleagues around the world is very inspiring. Our unit was relatively new in Beijing at the time, and I had a lot of creative freedom right from the start. That was a very great time for me. Today, I love using my expertise to drive new innovative projects or initiatives at Mercedes-Benz. Through the work of our team, we constantly deliver good products and services to our internal and external customers that benefit our daily businesses.
You have been a team manager since 2019. Can you give us an idea of what your team looks like?
My team consists of one colleague with a very strong business background, another colleague who specializes in innovative and new technologies, and our IT expert, who has a lot of know-how when it comes to data analysis and visualizations. The four of us complement each other very well and we learn a lot from each other. As a manager, I am responsible for the success of the entire team. At first, this was a completely new task for me, one I had to get used to.
What is special about the way your team work together?
The open and trusting atmosphere. Everyone contributes fully. Even during lunch breaks we like to discuss our projects. There's just a lot of enthusiasm behind it. For me, it's great to see how my employees develop and outgrow themselves. I am happy to help them reach their next career goals.
And what are your personal goals at Mercedes-Benz?
I want to continue to work with my team to ensure that good ideas can be realized in the company and that the process of project and portfolio management can be improved continuously. Additionally, I want to develop as a manager. At Mercedes-Benz, there is a living ”feedback" culture that allows me to test and understand my limits, learn from mistakes, and grow. That is particularly appealing to me.
One last personal question: Where would you like to travel to if time travel were possible?
Then I would travel to the 1990s and watch a Chicago Bulls game. I am a big basketball fan, and Michael Jordan and the Bulls - I'd love to see that live.
In person: Because Cong Fu (36) was enthusiastic about science and technical subjects from an early age, he quickly decided that he wanted to become an engineer. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. Born in the metropolis of Beijing, the electrical engineering specialist not only got to know the relaxed atmosphere of the provincial capital, but also his passion for innovative communication technologies. Today, he contributes his expertise to support management on deciding right company investments, which enables new products and services to be realized at Daimler Mobility & Technology Services with his team in Beijing. It is especially important for Cong Fu to spend time with his little daughter, his wife and the family dog called Jacob, which is enough to make him miss one or two games of his favorite basketball team: the Los Angeles Lakers.