You’ve got a big e-commerce initiative that you’re managing this year. You’ve got the budget. You’ve got a vision for the overall initiative, but the details are still a bit rough and you still need to finalize on the platform. It’s time to get started. Great. Now what? At Accorin we find that companies have no problem dedicating the budget or the overall goal for the year, but getting the momentum to actually get started can be a challenge. The purpose of this article is to help orient e-commerce managers in the right direction with the right initiatives – because it’s not always that easy. As e-commerce vendors we see a lot of e-commerce projects and the most successful projects have the following 5 key elements.
- You Need a Plan – with a REALISTIC Timeline
As Benjamin Franklin said “If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.” This absolutely holds true for e-commerce as well. We have found that through the 2 decades or so that e-commerce projects have been around the corporate world that the planning, scoping, specifying and designing take much more time than the coding and configuration of e-commerce systems. That makes sense and it also obviates the need for a plan that accounts for the complexity and involvement of a very diverse team of staff and vendors. The plan also needs an honest timeline that accounts for buffer and scope changes. E-commerce is a lot like construction: many systems, trades, and task types are included in the project plan. And it takes time. Some of the more popular e-commerce platforms advertise that you can “start selling today” which is in fact true. Using an inexpensive SaaS platform you can turn it on and sell a widget today. True. But in the corporate B2C and B2B worlds with complex business rules, product assortments, and integrations, it isn’t that easy. That’s why you need a solid, realistic plan.
HINT: Consider breaking out the building a of a plan from the actual project. The more complex your organization and project the more likely this will help.
- Confirm Specific, Achievable, Sustainable Goals
The plan should recognize achievable, sustainable goals. You know all your stakeholders want everything as soon as possible for the lowest budget. But is that achievable? The art of compromise and getting everyone to live in reality can serve you well. We suggest taking an “MVP” approach to planning and launching a new site. It typically stands for Minimum Viable Product (though we prefer “Most Valuable Product”). Focus on launching with the features and functionality that you “must have” to be successful. The “want to have” features can come later as you learn more about your customer’s habits and evolve your site. (
- Kickoff Meeting with All Stakeholders and Key Vendors
It seems like a simple thing. But the last part is the hard part. The first meeting for your project should include ALL stakeholders with sign-off authority. Wait until everyone is available. Please. Then run through an agenda that makes logical sense and that tests everyone in the room or on the phone to confirm roles and responsibilities.
- Project Summary
- Timeline Overview
- (discuss that a detailed timeline with key milestones will be forthcoming)
- Identify weekly status meeting times :30 / Identify SCRUM session intervals (it’s amazing how many projects we see that don’t have this until we intervene!)
- Confirm project management software, accounts needed etc
- Q&A / Next Steps
- Document Requirements, Requirements. Did We Say Requirements? And then SIGN OFF on them!
Requirements are not only immensely helpful for the design and development teams – but they’re an essential tool for the manager controlling scope in a complex e-commerce project as well. Having detailed requirements from the start also helps to time things and then phase in features that are associated with the business requirements. A format for a simple requirements table includes the following columns:
Requirement Name | Details | E-commerce Feature | Release |
Robust Promotion Capabilities
The new platform will have the capability to provide % off, dollar discount, buy one, get one for free, and % off shipping promotions
This is typically referred to as a promotions engine. Our current provider (Shopify) has it
- Establish the Team and Responsibilities – with a Dedicated PM
Establishing the team and their roles in a complex e-commerce project is critical. It’s especially important to synch important times in the project plan with business deadline, vacation schedules, and required sign-offs that are needed in order to keep the project moving. There is no substitute for having a dedicated project manager for each vendor and for the merchant. PMs can help keep each role responsible, and accountable to their sign-off authority and manage all of the moving parts. The primary PM should also be established and that person will run the status calls and have overall responsibility for managing the timeline.
BOTTOM LINE: E-commerce projects are complex and sometimes, given all of their moving parts, they are hard to get started but these 5 tools should help you get your project off the ground smoothly.