To be successful in the fast-paced environment of eCommerce, businesses must be agile and able to pivot when circumstances change, and technological advances or customer trends demand it. Competition nowadays is in abundance, and as we continue to shift into an increasingly customer-centric landscape where personalised experiences have become the norm, many businesses are looking to initiate replatforming projects to meet growth demands and remain competitive.
However, the path to success is rarely a straightforward one. Without question, replatforming is a daunting task even for the most experienced IT or eCommerce professionals. It poses a massive disruption to the business, and complications frequently crop up unexpectedly. Timelines are often unrealistic and unattainable, and unforeseen costs have a way of springing up when you least expect them. This really is not a simple task.
Nonetheless, with smart and diligent planning, the potential for disruption can be significantly reduced. By identifying and understanding the common mistakes that
cause eCommerce projects to derail - businesses should avoid the pitfalls and ensure their journey is as smooth and streamlined as possible.
The power of planning
At the core of any successful eCommerce project lies a well thought-out and realistic plan. Seemingly obvious, but often rushed, the planning phase is fundamental to the success of the overall project, and far too often replatforming efforts stall because expectations have not been managed correctly.
Both the customer and supplier must be responsible for honest, up-front planning – the customer needs to be realistic and take their project input seriously, while the supplier should resist the temptation to overpromise. Companies that rush their replatforming efforts often have to spend more time dealing with unexpected obstacles, than those who allocate enough time to get things completed the first-time round.
Agree on criteria for success
At the very early stages of planning, it’s crucial that both the customer and supplier agree on a viable project roadmap. Businesses must be ruthless in their approach to defining the scope of a project. By identifying what the non-essential objectives are and excluding them from the plan, business can significantly improve the project’s chance of success.
It can be tempting to try and design the ‘perfect’ platform, incorporating the latest and greatest functionalities on the market. However, instead of trying to construct an all-singing, all-dancing platform, customers and suppliers must focus on a minimal viable product that gets the platform live as quickly as possible, whilst also ensuring to not lose sight of the core objectives. This is valuable when planning any replatforming effort, and in turn will allow the project to see returns at the earliest possible juncture.
Intelligent management of incumbent suppliers
It is absolutely essential that the relationship between the customer and supplier is productive as it builds the foundations of any successful eCommerce project. Businesses need to understand the importance of their incumbent suppliers in helping the difficult transition to a new platform. However, this relationship requires intelligent management or there is a danger of becoming a hostage to the supplier. To be a good project manager, you need to ensure objectives, deliverables and a viable timeline are all clearly defined from the outset.
Plan B – have a contingency plan
Whether unanticipated costs and complications have emerged from poor planning or, just as likely, unforeseeable variables - having a contingency budget can save the project from derailing and prevent additional costs further down the line as a result of unplanned production.
There’s a common misconception that building a contingency budget into a plan is seen as a negative and admitting failure before you’ve started. This is simply not true and it is the only responsible course of action as it addresses certain ‘what-if’ scenarios and minimises the potential havoc they can have on a business. Having a contingency budget in place means, that should anything happen, you’re still financially on the right track.
Take project management responsibilities seriously
A seamless eCommerce project requires a harmonious relationship with mutual respect between customer and supplier. Achieving this very often comes down to the effectiveness of in-house project managers who must focus on ensuring client-side performance is high, especially carrying out tasks such as readying and testing data.
Measurement is key
Metrics and measurement are critical to success when carrying out an eCommerce and replatforming project. However, worryingly a study we conducted earlier this year ‘eCommerce: The Cost of Missing Metrics’ found that 87 per cent of eCommerce decision-makers believe their retailer needs to improve when measuring the success metrics of a project. Businesses need to be very, very clear about the measures of success and do the due diligence to ensure metrics measure a real shift in business growth or customer experience. Conversely, if there’s no improvement – metrics facilitate an examination of what was holding the project back. It is crucial to demonstrate what is driving the business forward in order to get buy-in from stakeholders, and budget for other eCommerce projects in the future.
So frequently, replatforming projects stall because they are mis-managed with measures being misaligned with the business strategy, or left until the very end of the project rather than being monitored throughout. Equally, businesses often set such unattainable metrics that the project fails to meet expectations. Senior management must ensure they take a measured and due diligent approach when planning and implementing a replatforming project.
Know what traps lie ahead
A successful eCommerce project is defined as one that is delivered on time, on budget and meets the project’s goals. However, it’s unrealistic to assume that a replatforming project won’t have a few unforeseen bumps in the road along the way. By understanding the common mistakes and identifying where the traps may be – businesses stand a much better chance of avoiding the common pitfalls that all too often easy befall many eCommerce projects.
Amal Gal, Head of Service Delivery, Greenlight Commerce
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