As a web solutions provider, we are heavily involved in the e-commerce projects of businesses who are upgrading their internal processes. When projects are evolving, challenges arise which can slow development and hinder success.
In this competitive marketplace, obstacles need to be fully understood so they can be overcome. Whilst many challenges are due to technical issues, some arise because aspects of project development are not perceived in the most beneficial way. To shed a light on what can be encountered, here are some of the challenges we find in projects:
A business may jeopardise their project because “success” was not envisioned clearly. In short – the outcome was always ‘a great new website’ and this is not goal oriented. Instead, it is far more effective to use business drivers to be the reason for success. For example, a goal to reach for could be “In order to push 75% of non-EDI orders through the site by the end of the year” OR “In order to reduce calls into the CS team by 15%”. Using these drivers allows measurable success criteria which itself can be used for decision making. When considering whether to replicate a current ordering process online, it is important to ask whether customers still phone up to chase the order. If the answer is yes, then reducing the inbound calls is not likely.
Another challenge is when the sales team assume a particular feature is the key ingredient for new business whereas analytics show it is unused – who should win and how do you improve? A key solution here is using a platform (like HotJar) to understand customer behaviour and consult with users to find out what they want and need – develop this and then evolve it as needed.
Complex functionality is often sought after to impress customers. A business may like their website because it allows their customers to do X, BUT they also need to do Y, phone Z and then email a request. Just because complexity is shown and delivered, this doesn’t mean the user experience is of high quality. It is crucial to look at what the end goal is and then, if needed, change the business process. This leads to grateful customers because a streamlined process saves them time and money.
When aiming for a site with complex functionality and a slick appearance, businesses may get tied to the idea of a perfect website. This leads to them being frustrated their website has not achieved that perfect completed condition. However, the site should never be classed as finished. It is far more beneficial to consider it to be a growing project where value is being added over time. If you believe that it is complete, then it will grow stagnant.
Your company’s website should not just be viewed as a growing project from a business development perspective. From a technical standpoint, building to the best of the current technology leaves yourself room to grow and adapt. A Modular/Pluggable architecture will allow you to upgrade piece by piece. Software development also takes time, so should be allowed the time it requires. Technology and standards could change throughout the project, so it’s necessary to be pragmatic!
A further challenge we have encountered when supporting e-commerce projects is that legacy systems are most often tightly coupled, meaning that a change made in one field has a ripple effect with the others chained to it. For example, an order process may break if new fields for delivery date and time are added in because there is a corresponding change required up and downstream to make it effective. A tightly coupled system is hard to separate and can significantly delay project development, therefore, we advise systems to be loosely coupled and tightly integrated.
When working on your ERP system, figuring out and defining the integration points is key – the system should be linked in a way that makes life easier for everyone instead of adding workload.
Businesses have considered it too difficult to upgrade their website and ERP system at the same time. However, when thinking about the long-term benefits, these far outweigh any initial challenges. This is because upgrading both together means functionality will be more efficient since it is divided between the website and ERP system according to their strengths. This fluid functionality gives choice and flexibility, creating a superior overall product.
Whilst it is true that development and testing take time, this doesn’t mean you need to wait for everything. Buying into a platform allows you to get the benefits and changes over time. Also, smaller and iterative releases allow change to be demonstrated quickly. Celebrate all changes and updates (no matter how small or technical) and bring your customers along for the ride. For example, Facebook change their app every 2 to 3 weeks and do not declare what they are updating.
The final challenge we wish to share with you is when technology and marketing are competing. This happens when a project was initiated and is being run by the technical team, but the marketing team want to evangelise the benefits and possibilities. Benefits come from letting both teams have a voice, and both be a part of requirements, but ultimately you will need a project owner to be able to determine the correct direction of the project. The path to success involves considering the valuable input from different teams so that the best decision is made.
These are just some of the prevalent issues we see, but every project is different and there are many more challenges to overcome. Please get in touch if you want us to support your e-commerce mission.
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