What to think about on your next eCommerce project

The first step to getting results, is to show the importance of the project by your actions

Make the individuals in the team delivering the project more important than the success of the project is to you and the company. Following this principle will help you prioritise and allocate the necessary time and resources to enable the team to be successful. Organisations need to build longer than anticipated timescales and recognise that an eCommerce solution roll out will be competing against other resources if you do not prioritise the project and align it with strategic objectives.

Putting the right people in place

An eCommerce solution is only as good as the people behind it. Building a strong team made up of pro-active individuals is key. The strength of the team is the difference between success and failure.

Project organisations are similar to operational organisations in that they need to be staffed. Ensure that your organisation has the capacity to handle the extra demands when running projects. A common cause of project failure is under-resourcing and allocating the wrong people to the project.

As a general guide, if the project will impact the whole organisation then the CEO or at least another senior manager should be given the role of Project Executive.
If the project will impact at department level then the department manager may be suitable as a project executive.

Important roles in a project organisation

Project Board

Make sure the person(s) filling the project board roles have the following in relation to each project;

  • Authority
  • Credibility
  • Ability to delegate
  • Availability

Regular Feedback

Get regular feedback from the project executive and project manager if you are not the project executive.

Make sure expectations are well understood.

Telling your core team what your expectations are and the results you are looking for is always a good start. While this takes time and effort up front, it will save a significant amount of time down during the project. Following on the next stage is to give the team time to plan and tell you how they will deliver the results in the most effective and efficient way possible. Get the team to explicitly layout their expectations from others including yourself. Taking time to listen and understand the teams view on how they can best deliver the results you want is most probably one of the most valuable ways to spend your time.

Request for Proposal or Request for Information will incur costs

If you are going to take the rout of sending out a RFP or RFI (Request for Proposal, Request for Information), bear in mind that these exercises take time and cost money. Have someone available and whose job priority for this period is to answer questions and give the required information to the agencies. This will increase the likelihood of you getting more realistic feedback from the agencies / solution providers.

Remember: Failing to plan in sufficient detail is planning to fail

Ensure that before any build work starts on the solution you have an initial discovery and design phase with the people who will deliver the solution.

The purpose of the discovery and design phases is to make sure the right processes, technology and architecture is identified and implemented from the start. The complex technical integration needed for an eCommerce solution must be respected from the start of a project. The architecture design needs to be able to integrate with multiple systems and use appropriate technologies, it needs to be agile and have the ability to be quickly and easily rolled out across the different countries.

An important output of the discovery and design processes is an estimate on the effort required to deliver the project output (product or service) the following two articles will be useful to consider.
Effort estimations and the probability of delivery
Defining Done is also important so that there is a common understanding and reference point for measuring the effort against. This supports the principle of “Start with the end in mind”.

The time invested wisely in an initial discovery and design phase will increase the effectiveness / efficiency of the build phase and help ensure the business has the capability to achieve strategic objectives.

Make sure that each project you approve is initiated to deliver a capability that can be linked to an important objective in your organisation such as:

Financial: Relating to tangible measures that satisfy stakeholder expectations
Core Service: Relating to increasing efficiency, quality or output
Customers: Relating to ensuring that reputation is managed and demand for services remains strong and predictable.
Organisational capability: Relating to ensuring that the organisation remains relevant and able to meet future needs (e.g. innovation and new service development)

Visualising the goal of the organisation along with the necessary conditions and critical success factors that need to be fulfilled can be a powerful way of communication to the organisation why the project is needed. You can use the same concept to visualise the project goal and critical success factors.
Visualising strategic objectives

Start each and every project with a clear mandate

The project mandate will be the bases on which the project should be initiated.
Identify how the project(s) will contribute to fulfilling the organisations Goal or an important objective.

Make sure that there is a business case that is updated and reviewed throughout the project and after

Use the business case document as a core control document for the project. A good business case enables you to make informed decisions.

Regulate project start-up based on scheduling work through the constrained resources.

From a business perspective you want to focus on keeping the constrained resources 100% productive.

From a business perspective you want to focus on keeping the constrained resources 100% productive.
All other resources must focus on having their work done to support the constrained resources.
DO NOT start projects to keep all the other resources busy if the work must pass through the constrained resources.

Do not allow bad multitasking in or between projects

Individuals assigned to work on multiple projects inevitably get less done. Attempting to work on two projects/activities at once is one of the biggest drains on project team performance. Many managers seem to think they solve problems by encouraging multitasking, possibly because it creates the illusion of efficiency and progress. Finish one activity or task at a time, and then move onto the next.


1: Is there a clear mandate issued by the right person for the project planning to start? This should be someone who can ensure the project organisation will have the resources to deliver its output and capability.
2: Does the mandate identify which business objective are being targeted by this proposed project?
3: Plan a lessons learned session to go through what did and did not work on previous projects.
4: Make sure that the right people are involved in decision making.
5: Do you know who has an interest in the project succeeding or failing, who are the stakeholders?
6: Who will be the project manager? Remember the project manager should report to the project executive. If the project manager comes from the supplier organisation it is very important to make sure their terms of reference align with “you” the client and they do the job on your behalf. This can be difficult when the project manager is paid and rewarded by the supplier of your solution.
7: Prepare your business case early and keep it updated throughout the project.
8: Do you have a well-established project management methodology to work with, if you do not then seriously consider investing the time and resources needed.
9: Have you determined what performance metrics are suitable specifically for your project?

Long term management of your solution

Employing a strategy of continuous optimisation is essential to ensure that progressive enhancements are made to the solution and for delivering added capability. A well designed and implemented solution will allow processes to be quickly improved in line with changing business needs for the long-term.