Commerce implementations are fast paced and require a lot of time and effort from the implementation team. However, the time and effort is equally as important for the companies that bring in this team of consultants. These companies often need a well thought out division of labor and work-stream ownership to support the overall project.
Not being prepared internally for a new implementation can hinder a project, yet a lot of companies just aren’t familiar with what they need to do. This article is targeted towards those companies in an effort to help think through the various areas for preparation.
Areas for Preparation
The sales cycle and time leading up to a large initiative like a commerce project is usually pretty drawn out. As a result, this leaves ample time to prep internally and align stakeholders and other key players to the work required. A lot of times, however, this is not done well. At the time of project kick-off this can lead to confusion about who owns specific tasks or work-streams and how to align your company to reach the project finish line.
To prevent these issues, you can better prepare for your implementation by considering the questions below. This will to help better organize internal teams that will be contributing and ensure optimization of your consultants’ time.
What other initiatives are happening in parallel? Often, there is an expectation that a stakeholder or subject matter expert will be fully involved in the project and it turns out he or she is 100% allocated to other initiatives. Setting priority of projects and establishing a reasonable expectation of someone’s time is very important. And this needs to come from the top down within the organization. For example, if the project is a Digital Marketing driven initiative, sometimes IT is not fully involved until later and they have not planned for the work required.
What are the roles and responsibilities needed within your organization? For example, there may be a need for a program manager to manage the implementation team(s) as well as the internal team. This is very difficult if that type of resource doesn’t exist. Assessing internal skill-set gaps is something that will allow risks to be managed and reduce serious issues from arising. One of the most common gaps is simply capacity to support data migration and content entry. It is often underestimated and there may not be enough resources or the right skill-sets to do the work (Reference our post on Product Data). Aside from planning ahead to try to fill these types of roles, having multiple backup plans allows quick decisions to be made.
Is the budget and projected cost realistic? Anticipating increased cost for the full project is a great way to plan and budget. There may be a need to extend the teams involved past go-live, bring on additional QA resources to help with testing initiatives, etc. It’s also important to plan for future phase budget. It becomes an extreme letdown to have a very successful commerce site launch, only to essentially put it on ice with no further enhancements or improvements to grow the business following the go-live. Assessing capex v. opex budget numbers and sharing cost across different internal departments are good ways to creatively flex the budget.
Am I aligned with the consultants on ownership? Discrepancies often formulate when a project gets started regarding which team owns a certain part of the overall program. Sometimes that can be the program manager, other times it is the QA work. A statement of work may leave the door open to interpretation on some of these things, and regardless, it is extremely important to discuss and address these items to align before the project begins.
Do I really know the business user tooling? Internal adoption and expertise in the new tool will allow you to make the best usage of the features and capabilities of the software. Business users are often hesitant on using “yet another tool” simply from a comfort level factor. Encouraging early training and allowing users to familiarize themselves with the product will put you in a position where there will be less ramp up time prior to go live, and there will be a better context in your interactions with the implementation team. This will also generate a higher probability of internal advocates and overall excitement of using this new product.
Overcoming These Issues
Preparing for a project internally in advance of the kickoff is ideal, but we know that is usually not the reality. And the project is likely not going to halt in order to wait for the internal team to hire more resources, get trained on a certain tool, etc. As a result, the areas noted above should be considered by any company looking to implement a new commerce solution alongside a consulting team to ensure the project can operate as expected. Above all, if you can align on expectations with your implementation team regarding timeline, cost, ownership and resources, it will allow you to freely operate during the project and minimize the number of surprises leading to scenarios where you are unprepared or scrambling.