Success Stories


Success Story: What is it like to work as a Project Manager on a billion-dollar project?

Teodor Martev has been a Project Manager at Sirma for 13 years. The company attracted him with its many innovative projects and portfolio, so he decided to become part of the team. His career path in Sirma has brought him across many interesting projects, including the ambitious EEA Financial Mechanism and Norway Grants management project, which he is still working on today. Read more about Teodor and his work at Sirma in his interview.

How did your career path in Sirma start and what interesting projects have you worked on?

I have been part of Sirma’s team for 13 years. The first project I worked on was the development and implementation of the Export Control System in Bulgaria. Actually, I was working on this project even before I came to Sirma, but I was the project manager on the client side. Even then I had a strong desire to continue my career path at Sirma, as I saw it as a large and ambitious software development company with a lot of opportunities for professionals like myself. The export control system was the first of the big projects I was responsible for. The requirements for non-responsiveness, precision, and countless integrations with external systems were a big challenge back then.

My next major project was the development of a process management system, documentation, and implementation of ISO 9000 for an American machinery plant. The challenge there was in extracting and describing the work processes across the company, optimizing them, and automating much of it into a single system. We put the first version of the system into operation in early 2012, and then the development of new features continued for another 4 years. Currently, more than 12 years after the first version, the system continues to be heavily used.

After that, I led various projects in the company related to the customization of the Sirma Enterprise Platform. One of the interesting applications of the platform was Museum Space, a product designed for galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. The platform as well as the products on top of it relied heavily on the semantic database, a technology that allows for easy creation of relationships across the vast amount of data, as a result of which more value can be extracted for users.

I am currently in my fifth year working on GrACE (Grants Administration and Collaboration Environment) - a system for managing processes, documents, and financial flows in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism.

What is the GrACE system and what is your role in the project?

GrACE is a system that we are developing for the needs of the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO), an EEA/EFTA organization. In a strong competition of 19 bidders, six years ago Sirma was selected as the contractor for the task of developing, implementing, and maintaining the web-based information system. Through GrACE, FMO manages the processes, documents, and finances of the EEA and Norway Grants, which for the financial period 2014-2021 have a budget of over 2.8 billion euros.

The system manages information on thousands of projects spread across hundreds of programs within 15 beneficiary countries. Key functionalities include financial management and performance reporting by financial mechanism, country, external organization, program, tender, project, bilateral initiatives, contracts, reports, budget management, audits, monitoring, non-compliance management, risk management, work plans, payments, and integration with banks. From a technology perspective, GrACE is a web-based system developed on the Microsoft .NET technology stack.

I started working on the project at the beginning of 2019, as a business analyst, and soon after I became the project manager.

What were the challenges in managing a project of such scale?

All these processes involve a large number of stakeholders - FMO with its various departments - legal, financial, Results and Control, various external organizations such as Fund Operators, Programme Operators, National Focal Points, Donor Programme Partners, International Partners, Audit Authorities, Certifying Authorities, Programme partners, Project promoters and others.

Eliciting, agreeing, and prioritizing requirements from such a large number of different stakeholders is the biggest challenge in the project. Requirements are not infrequently conflicting and often unclear and changing.

To deal with this situation, together with the team and the client, we were able to define and implement work processes to manage the project successfully. GrACE has been in operation since 2018. Since then, along with the daily maintenance work on the system, we have a version with new requirements implemented every month. We use Scrum for the planning and development processes of new features and Kanban for the maintenance and problem-solving processes in operation.

What is the team’s role in the successful implementation of GrACE, considering the diverse professionals from around the world working on it?

It will come as a surprise to no one when I say that the team is the most important part of a successful project. Many people have worked on the project since its inception in 2017 and everyone has contributed so much with their professionalism and dedication.

I am glad that we can work as a close team and tackle the various daily challenges together. Our creativity in problem-solving, defining processes and the discipline to follow them, meeting deadlines, everyone’s demanding attention to detail and quality, attitude to the client, and understanding their needs help us a lot. Last but not least is the expertise in the various areas that each brings to the job.

What motivates you every day in your work at Sirma?

The people and the interesting projects motivate me. At Sirma I have been fortunate to work with many colleagues from whom I have learned a lot, both professionally and personally. I am glad that with many of them, we are not just colleagues, but also friends.