Gather requirements from all stakeholders
Before you choose an eCommerce software it seems a good idea to write down all the requirements of all the interested parties. To do this you decide to speak with the heads of departments and individuals that will be involved in eCommerce. They may not be familiar with eCommerce, but they want to help you. Thus, there is a good chance that they will think of functions that may be useful. You end up with a huge list of features, sometimes excluding each other – it’s difficult to find a software that meets all of them. After the launch it often turns out that the majority of them isn’t used. A much better solution is to use the know-how of your software provider and talk about the features that are expected by customers in a given industry.
Involve IT in early talks
eCommerce usually lies somewhere between Marketing, Sales and Technology. Involving the IT department ensures the ease of integration, verifies security and a sense of commitment. Usually, discussions with IT are based on the actually quite correct answer that “everything is possible” mixed with “it depends.” In fact, at an early stage it’s the only possible answer, as more specific talks require strong commitment and an in-depth analysis. Nowadays, eCommerce solutions are not rocket science – any professional e-store can be integrated with any professional ERP, WMS or CRM system.
IT departments usually prefer solutions created in technologies they know well. They may reject an industry standard (e.g. Magento) just because they prefer .NET. Meanwhile, this technology lacks good eCommerce solutions and if you let IT manage the process, you’ll end up with an oddity being three years behind the contemporary trends. Ask your chosen eCommerce provider to convey a message to your IT department in 3 paragraphs. If anything arouses the IT suspicion, let them call the provider’s CTO. That should be enough. Your CTO will appreciate that you don’t waste his precious time.
Consider full TCO
TCO or Total Cost of Ownership includes all costs of maintenance and software development. You need to pay special attention to the offers you get. Some companies don’t provide you with all the costs. Of course, some are obvious: licenses, hosting, sla, warranty. Some of the costs are not: one of eCommerce main characteristics is that it requires constant change. Annual development often requires more money than creating a given solution. Thus,you should work out with all your providers a coherent vision of development and then compare them. I suggest, for example, assuming that the software will be developed by a team of 2 backend developers, 1 frontend developers, a tester and a PM. Additionally, you need to add part-time jobs of a UX Designer and a Graphic Designer to the above. Now you can really see how much a given platform it will cost you. Magento is so popular mainly because the slightly lower rate of PHP developers’ work, which in the long term results in substantial savings compared to the work using, for example, Java. This is one of the main reasons why Magento has the lowest TCO in its category.
Don’t assume that your provider understands all your requirements
The biggest risk in IT is the difference between business requirements and the provided product. That’s why SCRUM methodology is so popular, as it includes frequent demos and matching the product to the business requirements. When analyzing tenders, it is often assumed that all bidders comply with the requirements of the brief and the only thing that differentiates them is their price and experience. Meanwhile, understanding your requirements should be verified first.
To minimize the risk of confusion in determining the scope of the project we use:
- workshops with a presentation on how we will meet your requirements in Magento
- description of the finished modules which we will use to meet the specific requirements
- test tasks where possible, to show how we understand them.
Don’t look for a platform that fulfills all your requirements
As it was stated earlier – collecting and verifying requirements is a difficult task. Most eCommerce functions works similarly on any platform. All your competitors will easily launch their e-stores, so paying too much for basic functions is pointless. It’s much better to jump-start the basic version and then develop it based on customer feedback. More important than the feature set is to verify the flexibility of the platform and experience of the provider. Experienced providers also have a lot of ready-made modules, which will quickly expand the platform. Focus on 20% of the features that are necessary to run an e-store and then develop it dynamically. It’s a recipe for success in eCommerce – both in B2B and B2C. When choosing an eCommerce platform, you should pay attention not only to whether it currently corresponds to your needs, but also on how it develops and what will happen if it stops developing. In the case of proprietary software it’s a big problem, but it looks much better in the case of Open Source.