The road to eCommerce success is rarely a straightforward one. Complications are par for the course, timelines are frequently stretched beyond all recognition and unexpected costs have a nasty habit of springing from nowhere. Keeping an eCommerce project on track is undoubtedly a challenge.
Nonetheless, as with most projects, the potential for disruption can be significantly reduced with savvy, diligent planning. It also helps to understand the common mistakes that can all too easily befall an eCommerce project, after all, if you know where the traps lie you stand a much better chance of avoiding them.
Here is a quick glance at some of what we would consider to be the major pitfalls an eCommerce project could encounter:
1. Unrealistic planning
Far too many eCommerce projects come a cropper because they haven’t been realistically planned and managed. The responsibility for honest, upfront planning lies with both the customer and the supplier – the customer needs to be realistic and take their own project input seriously while the supplier should resist the temptation to over-promise. Ultimately, an open, honest and collaborative relationship between supplier and their customer will help to ensure timelines remain realistic and the project stays on course.
In depth, comprehensive costing is obviously central to the planning process and must also be as realistic as possible. As many as 43% of companies underestimate the cost of their eCommerce platform according to Forrester Research so avoid complacency and over-optimistic budgeting.
2. Failure to agree on criteria for success
It’s important that the customer and supplier agree on a viable project roadmap. Project scope management can play an important role in clearly defining this roadmap and the project’s goals so that all parties are fully aware of expectations and deliverables.
Don’t be afraid of being ruthless when defining the scope of your project – identifying and excluding non-essential objectives from your plan can help to clarify the roadmap and significantly improve the project’s chances of success. Agreeing what a minimal viable product looks like and focusing on core objectives that will allow the project to see returns at the earliest possible juncture can be valuable when planning your project.
3. Poor management of incumbent suppliers
Again, this point hinges on the development of a productive relationship between customer and supplier. As a customer it’s important to manage your incumbent supplier intelligently, recognising the importance of their role in helping you transition to a new platform without becoming a hostage to them. Extensive planning at the start of a project can help to ensure a supplier remains fully engaged in the project. A good project manager will make sure objectives, deliverables and a viable timeline are all clearly defined.
4. Not having a contingency plan
When embarking on an eCommerce project it really is wise to plan for the unexpected. Changes in project scope are fairly commonplace and the potential for third-party dependency issues cannot be discounted. Having a contingency plan (and budget) can be an invaluable way of accounting for risk, minimising disruption and maintaining continuity.
There’s a popular misconception that building a contingency budget into your plan is in some way negative – essentially an admission that things are likely to wrong – but in truth it really is the only responsible course of action. Whether unanticipated costs and complications emerge from poor planning or, just as likely, unforeseeable variables, the presence of a contingency budget can save the project from being derailed and prevent the accrual of further costs as the result of unplanned production. Our blog post about the importance of contingency budgets goes into more detail on the subject.
5. The customer not taking their project responsibilities seriously
If there’s one takeaway from this article it should be an understanding that successful eCommerce projects are built on a harmonious customer / supplier dynamic. Achieving this hallowed state of affairs very often comes down to the effectiveness of in-house project managers who should be just as focused on client side efficiencies as they are on supplier performance. It’s vital that the customer pulls its weight when it comes to important tasks like readying data and testing.
Replatforming: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly
We recently interviewed 17 eCommerce and IT experts from the likes of B&Q, CarphoneWarehouse, Jacques Vert, ghd and Moet about their experience of replatforming or upgrading their website. You can read the interviews in our magazine ‘Replatforming: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Ugly‘.