Managing stakeholders is difficult but one of the most important aspects of making a replatform project a success. Realistically, the task of guiding a website upgrade or replatforming project towards its successful realisation is almost certain to be a long, complicated and occasionally rather fraught endeavour. But there are ways to minimise the stress factor and maximise your chances of achieving a successful, commercially transformative end product.
We asked 18 eCommerce experts for their advice on how they manage stakeholders for our magazine ‘Replatforming: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly’ and here I’ve put together their top tips.
1. Ensure the project is seen as a business project, not just for eCommerce
While we’re strong advocates of developing a solid, self-contained plan for your eCommerce project it’s important to remember that it doesn’t exist in a bubble.
“As an eCommerce or multichannel director it’s very easy to go off and do your own thing without actually engaging with the business , but if you follow this path you will run into problems, particularly in a more political business” warns Ryan Thomas, Managing Director of Christys’ of London. “This is a business process change not just an eCommerce replatforming, so you need to ensure you do the groundwork to get stakeholder buy-in into the business plan in terms of the strategy.”
2. Get buy-in early
Key to the success of ensuring the project isn’t just regarded as just an eCommerce project is getting stakeholders from across the business involved as early as possible. As Nadine Sharara, eCommerce and CRM Director at Moët Hennessy, advises: “Establishing unanimous stakeholder commitment is mandatory for rapid success. A clear onboarding programme to gather inputs from Executive stakeholders with regular feedback processes needs to be built as standard.”
Mike Durbridge, Director of Omnichannel at B&Q did this by taking the Executive team through a real-life customers journey at present and then took them through what a standard customer journey would be with the -out-of-the-box capability of the new solution “so we could really bring it to life for them.”
3. Define who are the decision-makers and the decision-making process
It is crucial to define from the outset who has responsibility for making decisions and on what. From Nadine’s experience, one of the many pitfalls of replatforming is that projects start without this total ownership piece and Executives make decisions on something they don’t fully understand, causing the programme of work to delay and inevitably cost more.
4. Establish a shared understanding of the project’s scope
Having gathered input from key stakeholders, the Project Manager’s initial task is to devise a coherent, deliverable plan that everyone’s on board with. Of course, sticking to that plan is another thing altogether, but pretty much every expert we spoke to emphasised the need to define a lean roadmap and doggedly stick to it. As discussed in my recent post about the importance of Minimum Viable Product, establishing an MVP and accelerating Time To Market (TTM) can really help to keep your project on course and your budgets under control. It’s also a great way to gather vital data and insights and quickly begin to deliver return on investment.
5. Foster a collaborative approach
Fostering a collaborative, transparent and genuinely agile working atmosphere as quickly as possible is crucial to the success of your eCommerce project. An effectively run project will ensure that there is no impediment – be it structural or as the result of a disengaged, uncommunicative working culture – to stakeholders and suppliers joining forces and working towards a shared goal.
It’s entirely possible that you’ll have to manage competing agendas among both stakeholders and suppliers, so strong, even-handed leadership and a firm emphasis on agreed targets and processes will be necessary if you’re going to keep the project on course. Unless everyone’s pulling in the same direction you’re liable to struggle. Craig Elwell, Head of eCommerce at Express Gifts advises that “stakeholders work collaboratively with the integrators as it saves a lot of time – I reckon we could have saved several months, possibly more, had we worked this way from the outset.”
6. Use a project collaboration tool
It’s very easy for something which seems a very small deviation to develop into something major that can cause significant cost and time overruns so it’s essential to have a great project collaboration tool like Basecamp, JIRA or Agile Solutions (formerly Rally) that everyone uses to assign priorities, tasks and see the progress of the project. The business-wide transparency is crucial to the success of any project.
While working as merchandise and eCommerce advisor to men’s shoe brand, Anatomic & Co, Peter Callaway witnessed the problems caused when a project is managed without a project collaboration tool. He used Basecamp for their recent replatforming project and found this kept everyone on the same page. However, at the same time the retailer was also running an ERP implementation project and without a similar tool, it lead to confusion as to exactly what the priority was, resulting in much inefficient use of emails and calls to get things back on track.
7. Manage expectations
Finally, all your stakeholders must understand that the development of an eCommerce site doesn’t conclude on Day 1. Commenting on his own replatforming project experience, Phil Ward, Head of Experience & Development at Carphone Warehouse, emphasised the importance of managing stakeholder expectations:
“We had to be firm with our stakeholders regarding scope. The programme of work lasted two years and maintaining focus on core deliverables protected budget and timescales. We had to manage expectation; what you ask for today may not meet all future business and customer requirements in such a fast moving industry.“
If you’re interested in finding out more from our experts, get the whole picture in our Replatforming Magazine.