The great news is you’ve just been given the go-ahead for that big eCommerce project you’ve wanted to implement for months, so what next? Among organising everything else an eCommerce project entails, you’ll need to ensure that you resource the project sufficiently in order to deliver it on time and to budget while maintaining business as usual.
There are a number of ways you can do this: if you’re fortunate enough to have the budget you can bring in additional resource to help deliver the project – whether this is by recruiting contractors or outsourcing work to a third-party. For many though, this isn’t an option and it will be down to the existing team to deliver the new project, as well as BAU. Each option comes with its own list of pros and cons that you will need to consider carefully.
We recently spoke to Mike Durbridge (Director of Omnichannel at B&Q), Michael Barker (CTO at Wex Photographic) and Ewan Rayment (Director at Webleaf) about their previous (and vastly different) replatforming projects and asked them to talk about the challenges they faced with resourcing and what advice they offered.
To read more about Mike, Michael and Ewan and their respective projects, download our magazine ‘Replatforming: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly’.
Resourcing your project internally
According to our three experts, it’s never too early to involve the right people in the project. Leaving it too late into the project can have significant knock-on effects – resulting in delays and complications.
Mike at B&Q : “A big learning from a previous replatforming project was that we focused on it very much as a technology, coding, development and implementation project, with all aspects of the business involved but we didn’t involve the merchandisers until too late in the process, purely because they were running the existing site. What I did differently on the last project was that six months before we were due to launch the new platform I split the merchandising team in two, with half of them working on the old platform and half of them working on the new. Then as time got closer, more of the team working on the old platform moved onto the new platform.”
Ewan from Webleaf agrees that getting people involved as early as possible is only a good thing. He adds: “I think letting people get as hands on as possible, as early as possible is always a good thing. Often people struggle with change as it can be scary and put up barriers where there don’t have to be. The more visibility and input they have from the start, the better.”
If budget is tight then relying on your existing team to deliver the project may be your only option. But even when you are in the position to bring in external resource, it can seem logical to develop your future capability in-house. However, our experts advise against depending too much on in-house teams.
Mike at B&Q says: “One of the biggest things that I would do differently would be that I wouldn’t rely as heavily on the technical in-house team. We wanted to make sure that we were developing our future capability in-house so that we really understood the platform for any future development. The challenge was that it took too long to get them up to speed with the platform.” Instead, Mike suggests bringing in experts or contractors who have ‘been there and done it’, who live and breathe this stuff day in, day out.
Bringing in contractors
Sometimes your business may need additional resources to carry out specific or very specialist tasks. Contractors offer retailers a lot of flexibility and they often have a fast turnaround. It is important, though, to work with contractors in the right way. Don’t waste budget by bringing them in too quickly and don’t miss deadlines by misjudging when they should leave – and only bring them for a very specific task.
The real benefit to using contractors means you can let your staff concentrate on the core business. In Mike’s case, he brought contractors onto his project to work on his old site while he moved his permanent employees to the new platform:
“I brought in contractors to keep the old platform live, whilst I had every permanent employee working on the new platform at least a month before the launch so they really got to know it and understood the new modules and merchandising so that from Day One it was totally proficient and everything was set up to a very high standard.”
If you’re expanding your team, expect that there will be significant pain in finding the right people. “Finding good quality, skilled resources is a major challenge in itself and seems to be getting harder every year” observes Michael at Wex Photographic. And not only is it hard to find the right skills, but Michael adds that the search itself can take months.
Never assume that people you hire will immediately have the appropriate and in-depth knowledge you’re after as skillsets often appear specialist on paper but in reality are quite generalist. “There are lots of people who say they are familiar with a particular platform, but very often their exposure to the technology is superficial” advises Michael. “It’s equivalent to someone knowing the words of a language but not being able to construct beautiful sentences in it.” And don’t expect training courses to turn generalist developers into experts in a week: it will likely take 6-12 months after training for a developer to be fully productive.
Michael’s final piece of advice is “to hold onto your good resources and find good, reliable recruitment agents”.
A common factor our retail experts cited was that staff always come first. This means acknowledging that your people are the most important aspect of your project because without them you cannot deliver anything. A successful project has skilled and also engaged people working on it who don’t feel constantly overworked and are happy to do a good job.
Resourcing for the resourcing plans themselves is just as important as any of the above challenges and mistakes. The operational management of every eCommerce project should never be a second thought but instead made a priority before resourcing is purchased, positioned and allocated.
Read the full interviews with Mike, Michael and Ewan as well as 15 other eCommerce and IT experts in our magazine ‘Replatforming: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly’.