With the increasing intersection of the commerce and cloud industries, Echidna has put significant capabilities and processes in place to implement a wide range of commerce websites quickly, safely, and with high quality due to our creation and use of a robust implementation methodology. Put simply, our abundant experience has created a process to ensure we can do great work for you.
commerce website implementations are easy – if you’re a retailer that is 100% cookie-cutter and operating at a moderate scale. It’s far from easy if you’re a differentiated business or operating at significant scale. It’s even further from easy if you are both.
Our principals here at Echidna come from your world. Some of us have operated large commerce organizations (Sam’s Club; Urban Outfitters; Anthropologie; Teleflora), some of us have led enterprise projects for large commerce organizations (Target; Best Buy; Kohl’s), and all of us have overseen multiple commerce platform implementations – some spanning multiple years with project budgets in the tens-of-millions of dollars. We’ve been there.
Our experience gives us an extremely rare and robust purview when it comes to implementing commerce platforms. We’ve leveraged our experience in massive projects for massive companies and used it to create Echidna, bringing the same level of diligence and planning to businesses around the world – businesses as large as Kohl’s and as small as brand-new start-ups.
In this article, I intend to share a summary of a common methodology that can help you as you embark on your journey to implement a new or replacement cloud-based commerce platform.
Notice the “s” on the end of vendors. You will have multiple. At a minimum, you will have a technology platform vendor and an implementation vendor. You’ll likely have additional integrated vendors, as well.
Your technology platform vendor is a company that has built a cloud-based commerce platform that has invested tens-of-millions of dollars into creating a platform that you can use for a tiny fraction of the cost. It will include both hardware and software, so you’re generally 95% of the way there already.
Your implementation vendor (Echidna for example) specializes in customizing and installing the software for you. We write new code to ensure your specific needs are addressed, and we use the technology platform to do it.
Integrated vendors add capabilities, like connections to credit card payment systems or product reviews, to reduce the amount of custom code that needs to be written.
Often, people like yourself come to the implementation vendor (us) so we can guide you through the selection process for your technology platform vendor and your integrated vendors.
Notice the “s” on the end of vendors. You will have multiple. At a minimum, you will have a technology platform vendor and an implementation vendor.
Whether you come to the implementation vendor with your project specifications or come to us for help to create your project specifications, you absolutely need your project specifications defined.
This is a tremendously large body of work, requiring you to take full inventory of every little thing you want or need your system to do. This includes your consumer-facing websites, your internal business tools, and integrations into your business partnerships. We create things like architecture diagrams, business requirements documents, functional requirements documents, and lots of more specification documentation. This process ensures a) we both know what you need and b) nothing got overlooked that would prevent you from growing your business.
After the project specifications are defined, then the project plan is built. This is the implementation vendor’s job. This is an absolutely critical and often-overlooked part of your project. It is common for us to produce projects with hundreds (or thousands) of line-items in them. If you are looking at a project plan with tens-of-lines, you are not set up for success. Get a different project manager or implementation vendor.
The project plan comprehensively covers everything that was documented in the project specifications — and more. This ensures that the project will run on-time and on-budget, along with ensuring that quality won’t suffer.
There’s also a lot of responsibility on your plate – it’s not a project you can hand to your implementation partner and then walk away from until it’s done.
You need to be — or have a team be — deeply engaged through the project. Like the construction of a skyscraper, even the best laid plans are mandatorily changed during the project due to unforeseen or unknowable events. In addition to approving stages of the project, you’ll need to be ready and prepared to make important decisions quickly throughout the project.
Remember that the implementation partner is a group of humans doing work for you (also human, I assume). Strong communication is important. Team morale is important. Strong leadership is important. Flexibility is important. Commitment is important – things will go wrong, so it’s critical that you and your implementation vendor have demonstrable success at amicably resolving significant issues and disagreements. Some projects have only a few small issues while some have several very large issues. You want to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you and your implementation vendor are confident in each other to be there until the end, and be reasonable and committed throughout.
Like the construction of a skyscraper, even the best laid plans are mandatorily changed during the project due to unforeseen or unknowable events.
We just turn the site on, right? I guess you can if you want to. Preferably, though, you’ll know exactly what to expect and be well-prepared before turning the site on.
People don’t like it when interfaces change. Even when the change is good for us, we hate it. Then, over time, we get used to the new interface and begin to love it. We don’t hate the interface — we hate the fact that it changed. You need to know what this means, and you need to know how to prepare your users for the change so your awesome project doesn’t sputter due to human nature.
Your business processes are also going to change. You will have a new way to add products, process orders, and handle customer service issues. You need to be prepared.
The launch of your new website (or app, for that matter) isn’t the end of the game – it’s truly the beginning. You showed up at the arena and put your jersey on. You still have to warm-up and you still have an entire game to play... and then there's the rest of the season.
Prepare accordingly. Know what your short-term plan is; know your long-term strategy. Be prepared to continue to work closely with your implementation vendor on a weekly basis for the long-term to ensure your investment in your new website or app is not only appropriately leveraged, but is also a) maintained to avoid issues and b) enhanced to stay ahead of your customers and competition.