Speed-to-Market: Implementing an E-Commerce Platform in Three Months

Whether your goal is to increase customer loyalty and boost online sales, or test a new market, requests to implement user experience enhancements and new commerce platforms are happening more quickly than ever. This special report provides guidance for implementing an E-Commerce Platform in 90 days.

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1Speed-to-Market Whitepaper Contents Executive Summary 2 Managed Services or On-Demand: Choosing the Appropriate Solution 2 The Marketing Organization 4 Information Technology (IT) 4 Merchandising / Product Management 4 Finance / Analytics 4 Steps to Going Live in 90 Days 5 Phase One: Requirements Gathering / Mapping 5 Phase Two: Design 5 Phase Three: Construction 6 Phase Four: Deployment 6 Ensuring Long-Term Success 7 About ECA – Ecommerce Accelerator 7 Speed-to-Market: Implementing an E-Commerce Platform in Three Months A New B2B e-Commerce Platform In 90 Days? B2B commerce executives reviewing this paper may initially believe that three month implementation applies primarily to B2C organizations. It’s true that deploying B2B e-commerce platform involves many unique requirements not commonly found in B2C operations, such as incorporating a complex product port- folio, multiple distribution channels, and integrating with third party systems And yet, it’s possible to complete an initial out-of-the-box B2B implementation within three months, if all the right critical path steps are followed. Additional features and functionality can be added after the initial launch, provided that the chosen out-of-the-box platform is designed to be used over the long run. 2Speed-to-Market Whitepaper Executive Summary In today’s competitive business climate, speed-to-market is a top priority for many B2B and B2C organizations. Demand for rapid deployment of agile e-commerce systems appears to be growing as quickly as the e-commerce market itself. Accord- ing to the 2011 edition of Internet Retailer Magazine's Top 500 Guide, “Sales of the top 500 North American online retailers grew by 18% to $150 billion in 2010, from $127 billion in 2009”.1 Whether the goal is to increase customer loyalty and boost online sales, or test a new market, executives are being asked to implement user experience enhancements and new commerce platforms more quickly than ever. It’s now common for organi- zations to set a goal of implementing a new or next generation e-commerce solution in 90 days or less. For commerce organizations operating under these tight sched- ules, the key question is often: “Will this timetable be achiev- able?” Based on the recent experiences of leading retailers and B2B manufacturers, the qualified answer is “yes.” Best-in-class technologies can empower organizations to deploy e-commerce solutions on the most aggressive deadlines without sacrificing long-term objectives. Companies should have realistic expec- tations of the features available at launch, however, a fully- functional e-commerce platform can be implemented in three months. This paper provides guidance on how B2B and B2C companies can navigate a variety of e-commerce implementation choices to accelerate time-to-market. It outlines various platform options and provides insight on important features that organizations should look for when evaluating solutions and vendors. It also suggests what functionality can realistically be incorporated if a company has only three months to deploy a solution, and provides guidance on which capabilities should be postponed for implementation until after the initial 90-day period. 1 Gartner Group, Magic Quadrant for E-Commerce, November 3, 2011 Managed Services or On-Demand: Choosing the Appropriate Solution The breadth of today’s e-commerce platforms has resulted in a wide availability of solutions that drastically reduce time-to- market and meet the diverse needs of both B2B and B2C orga- nizations. Companies evaluating agile e-commerce solutions typically choose one of three implementation options: → On-premise installations – implemented and managed in-house by internal IT resources, thus offering the most flexibility. → Managed Services installations – identical to on-premise installations, except they are implemented and maintained by an outside vendor, reducing or eliminating the need for internal IT resources. → On-demand Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) installations – involve a vendor running multiple e-commerce implemen- tations on a single installation of software, using pooled servers and other shared resources. These solutions are less costly and can be rolled out more quickly and ef- ficiently. Organizations planning to go live within three months should rule out an on-premise installation. This option relies heavily on internal IT resources, which are often scarce. Even when they are available, existing IT staff members almost always lack the domain knowledge needed to quickly and successfully implement a new platform. Managed Services On DemandOn Premise 3Speed-to-Market Whitepaper → Integration with other Systems – Many B2B and B2C organizations rely on external systems such as ERP and warehouse fulfillment software to run their businesses. An agile e-commerce solution must have the option of inte- grating these systems into the e-commerce platform after the initial 90-day launch. Whether an organization leverages a managed services or SaaS platform, it is unlikely an initial out-of-the-box e-com- merce platform will include every item on their wish list. There are a number of features which should be deferred until after the initial implementation, or omitted completely, especially in the case of a SaaS implementation where customization op- tions are limited. Below are features which must be part of an “out-of-the box” solution, and others that can wait until later. The most appropriate solution thus becomes a managed ser- vices platform or an on-demand, SaaS solution that is capable of converting to a hosted or on premise solution as business requirements in the longer run become more specialized. When evaluating commerce platform providers in a rapid implementa- tion scenario, companies should consider the following: → Speed – Executives evaluating managed services should ensure their vendor of choice has a product which is de- signed for rapid deployment. The more seasoned a vendor is, with a successful track record of managed services implementations, especially in the organization’s specific industry, the more likely they will be able to deliver this op- tion successfully, on a tight deadline. → Agility of the Solution – When considering SaaS implemen- tations, one should assess both the breadth and depth of what is available in a vendor’s offering. Companies should evaluate the long-term viability of the platforms they are considering. After the 90-day implementation is complete, the winning solution should allow for additional features and functionality to be added to fulfill longer-term require- ments. The chosen vendor should have a clear path to migrate from SaaS to managed service or on-premise, and ensure the business does not lose its configurations. → Globalization / Internationalization – While evaluating their needs to go live quickly, B2B and B2C organizations must consider their plans for future global expansion and ensure the platform they select has been built from the ground up to support multiple languages, multiple currencies, and other internationalization requirements. Must-Have Features “Out of the Box” → Branding → Simple Promotions → Multi-Language / Multi-Currency → Robust Search and Navigation → Customer Accounts Capability → Basic Mobile Storefront → Simple Analytics → Integration with Fulfillment System → Integration with a Payment Provider Features that can Wait → Site Redesign → Personalization → Ratings and Reviews → Complex Promotions - Multiple Stores / Domains - Complex Products - Complex Sales / Pricing Rules → Other Integrations: PIM, ERP, Financial Systems 4Speed-to-Market Whitepaper To achieve a successful e-commerce deployment, every department of an organization must work in lockstep. From marketing to operations to IT and finance, each functional area has to invest in the implementation to reap the rewards of the new platform. Every department must be clear on what the initial implementation will deliver, and which capabilities will be out of scope and added later. The following sections outline the possibilities and the sac- rifices for key departments which interact with e-commerce systems. The Marketing Organization Branding and promotions are the two aspects of an e-com- merce platform which are most relevant to the marketing group. Style sheets are an integral part of most solutions, and make it possible for marketing to dictate the aesthetics of the platform. In the first 90 days, the marketing team will be able to control the color palette, basic branding and general layout of the site. An advanced, strategic site redesign, with an outside design firm engaged, is not generally possible on an accelerated three month schedule. From a promotions perspective, the marketing group should expect the platform will support basic promotions such as percentages, flat discounts, and buy-one-get-one-free offers. More complex promotions will be out of scope until after the initial launch. Information Technology (IT) In an e-commerce implementation, the IT group’s primary role is in integrating the platform with other systems. With a 90-day schedule, IT can expect to integrate the platform with payment services and fulfillment systems. These tasks are easier if the platform has been previously integrated by the vendor with other instances of those systems. In some cases, companies may choose to change the addition- al systems they’re using, to reduce complexity. For example, some e-commerce platforms pre-integrate with specific pay- ment service providers, and companies may consider changing their payment vendor to one of those, to expedite implementa- tion. There are some integrations, especially for B2B companies, that can’t be completed in three months. Integration with an external product information management (PIM) system or a customer information system (CRM) will probably have to wait. Information can still be exchanged and entered manually until further integration phases have been completed. Merchandising / Product Management The company’s merchandising or product management de- partment can expect to have control over the online product catalog and pricing at launch. In a three month implementa- tion, as noted above, it might not be possible to integrate the e-commerce platform with an external product information management (PIM) or product content management (PCM) system. This limitation may require that product information is kept in two places, perhaps in both a PIM and an ERP system for example, for an interim period. The rapidly deployed e-commerce platform might not support the complexities of the company’s current product taxonomy until further development and integration take place. But downstream, enhancements can be made to provide full func- tionality. By making these relatively minor compromises, the 90-day launch deadline can be met. Finance / Analytics Sales and finance departments will have to interact closely with the new e-commerce platform. An initial implementation will provide basic sales reports from online channels, restock- ing information, and the popularity of viewed items (items viewed most often, even when they aren’t purchased). How- ever, there are many features an agile implementation will not offer, such as integration with existing financial, ERP or CRM systems. Integration with these systems is driven by complex rule sets, and it might be necessary to exchange data manually for an interim period. 5Speed-to-Market Whitepaper Steps to Going Live in 90 Days Companies faced with a challenging deadline to implement an e-commerce solution quickly will need to employ a great deal of disci- pline to launch successfully. Even before a vendor is selected, an effective go-to-market strategy should be solidified. Organizations should reach an internal consensus on the basics. What are they going to sell, how are they are going to source prod- ucts and services, and how will sales be fulfilled? In addition, companies should decide whether they’re going to manage the imple- mentation themselves or work with a professional services team that has deep experience in rapidly implementing the e-commerce platform of choice. Once this foundation is in place and a vendor is chosen, the three-month implementation cycle can begin. Phase Two: Design (Duration: Two to Three Weeks) Once requirements have been gathered at the detailed level and mapped to the best practice sets (those features which can be delivered out of the box, or with minimal development), the next step is to build functional specifications, which may be best accomplished by an implementation partner. This involves documenting complex data flows, planning what can be achieved by simple configurations within the platform, and determining what elements will require development or integration. In parallel with building functional specifications, implement- ers should begin creative development at this stage. Most often, this means gathering the aesthetics of an existing online presence or website and dividing them up, so they can be ren- dered into the new e-commerce platform. Phase One: Requirements Gathering / Mapping (Duration: Two to Three Weeks) The most important platform requirements must be identified and analyzed before a final vendor decision can be made. Then, less significant needs should be compared to the capabili- ties of the e-commerce platform the company has selected. Implementation team members should familiarize themselves with best practice recommendations from the vendor, and map those to the organization’s unique business processes. Organizations should consider identifying some of the unique business processes which can be standardized to reduce the necessity for interim manual processes and later customiza- tion, when a relatively small amount of change management could make a significant difference. Category managers should determine how products are displayed and how much product data is needed to optimize the relevance of search results. Marketing managers should evaluate the promotional capabilities available out of the box, and decide which of those will initially be used. Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 On Site Discovery & Business Requirements Gathering Phase Design Phase Construction Phase Deployment Phase 6Speed-to-Market Whitepaper Phase Three: Construction (Duration: Four Weeks) The functional specifications become the blueprint for what happens next. During the construction phase, the functional- ity developed during the design phase is delivered. Frequently, work is completed in one-week to ten-day sprints. The func- tional users of the e-commerce platform should be heavily involved in reviewing the work at the end of each sprint, so development and rollout stays on track and within budget. The construction phase is also when the user interface and integration work is done. During this time, multiple mini- projects must be undertaken simultaneously. For example, four teams might be simultaneously configuring the product catalog, tweaking the user interface to accurately reflect the company’s brand, integrating with a payment service provider, and developing new mission-critical functionality. QA testing is an important element of phase three, and it can become a full time job for the IT team. It is advisable to include key business users in the QA testing to avoid some of the pitfalls described in phase four, below. With only four weeks available to complete phase three, all team members must be highly organized and ready to start at the end of the first sprint—otherwise too much time may slip by. Phase Four: Deployment (Duration: Four Weeks) At the start of this fourth and final phase, bugs and require- ment gaps should already have been resolved. Users in each functional area of the company should complete a rigorous set of acceptance tests. This is the time for internal users of the e- commerce platform to be thoroughly trained. This is also when production data is loaded into the platform. Four weeks should be planned for the deployment phase, although it is common for the construction phase to take longer than anticipated, causing the deployment phase to be crammed into three weeks. It’s not unusual for additional critical requirements to be discovered during this final phase. That’s another reason to impose a firm, four-week cap on the duration of the construction phase. Choosing an Implementation Partner Out of necessity, most companies decide to work with an independent third party consulting firm, or the consul- ting arm of their e-commerce platform developer, to implement the new solution. The reason for this is intui- tive. Most internal IT departments are heavily scheduled with numerous projects already in the pipeline. Internal IT people will have little or no experience with the new platform, and will face a steep learning curve which could endanger the 90 day deadline. Here are some of the qualities organizations should look for when choosing an implementation partner: → Recent Experience with the E-Commerce Platform – An external implementation partner must have in-depth experience with the platform of choice—and preferably, recent experience, since e-commerce platforms can change dramatically in just a few months. → Experience with the Company’s Industry / Segment – An implementation partner needs to be familiar with their client’s industry and be able to adapt the implementation process accordingly. Learning the peculiarities of a new industry can greatly slow down the implementation. → Cultural Fit – This is a characteristic which can easily be overlooked, but it is a crucial element. The orga- nization needs to ensure that their implementation partner’s delivery methodology fits the corporate cul- ture to ensure good communication, speeds delivery, and prevents technical headaches. → Scope Fit – The implementation partner needs to have experience in working with companies similar in size to the client. If an implementation partner regu- larly works with Fortune 500 companies, they might not be as efficient working with smaller, venture- backed firms and vice versa. 7Speed-to-Market Whitepaper Expert Counsel from the Field Domenico D'Avirro is VP of Services at ECA / Ecommerce Accelerator, a professional services firm that has assis- ted dozens of companies in implementing e-commerce platforms. “We’re faced with tight timelines in almost all of our e-commerce implementations,” D'Avirro explains. “So we inevitably recommend a template-based platform such as an accelerator that allows us to move more quickly and deliver on time. In addition, we work closely with customers to clearly identify what features we will launch with, and which functionality we will move to a separate phase. Ideally, we will go with a hosted option, which allows for an easier implementation and better scalability going forward.” “These kinds of solutions and customer communica- tions have enabled us to get our clients up and running and ready to sell faster and more efficiently,” D'Avirro advises. Ensuring Long-Term Success To improve the likelihood that the investment in the new e- commerce solution provides immediate ROI and future financial success, companies must take time to anticipate future needs. What works during the early days might not be sufficient in the future. Organizations operating under an aggressive deployment dead- line should choose a platform vendor who offers SaaS, managed services, and an on-premise version of their platform without locking the customer into any single one of those. This enables a company to bridge the gap between initial needs and long-term requirements. When this is done successfully, it becomes less likely that integrations with third party software and fulfillment systems will have to be abandoned. Future global expansion will be easier, and will not require a separate, discrete system. Selecting a vendor who offers agile deployment options to meet the needs of fast-paced B2B and B2C commerce organizations helps future-proof e-commerce investments. After deploying a SaaS or managed services platform, a company can evaluate the effectiveness of the platform in meeting its business goals, and adopt more functionality over time and as the business matures. Over the long run, this flexible approach will save time, resour- ces and money. About ECA – Ecommerce Accelerator ECA is one of the premier hybris multi-channel commerce integrators in North America. Our deep technical experience with the hybris multi-channel commerce framework, agile- based development approach and proprietary tools, deliver a true end-to-end multi-channel commerce solution customized to the needs of every client. As a hybris Gold Partner, we have solid experience with com- plex multi-channel commerce solutions. We are focused on helping our clients deliver consistent customer experiences across every channel to drive customer acquisition, retention, average order value, revenue and profits. Our client experience includes brands such as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Cisco, Overstock.com, Gildan, Whitefence, Thomson Reuters, Super Supplements and Latham International. For more information about multi-channel commerce integra- tions or to learn about the rapid client launch discussed in this white paper, please contact us. Email: amartin@eaccel.com Web: www.eaccel.com USA: +1-201-389-3339 To accelerate your next multi-channel commerce project, visit the following link: www.ecommerceaccel.com/technology/hybris-integration/ 8Speed-to-Market Whitepaper About hybris software hybris software, an SAP Company, helps businesses around the globe sell more goods, services and digital content through every touchpoint, channel and device. hybris delivers OmniCommerce™: state-of-the-art master data management for commerce and unified commerce processes that give a business a single view of its customers, products and orders, and its customers a single view of the business. hybris’ omni-channel software is built on a single platform, based on open standards, that is agile to support limitless innovation, efficient to drive the best TCO, and scalable and extensible to be the last commerce platform companies will ever need. Both principal industry analyst firms rank hybris as a “leader” and list its commerce platform among the top two or three in the market. The same software is available on-premise, on-demand and managed hosted, giving merchants of all sizes maximum flexibility. Over 500 companies have chosen hybris, including global B2B sites W.W.Grainger, Rexel, General Electric, Thomson Reuters and 3M as well as consumer brands Toys“R”Us, Metro, Bridgestone, Levi’s, Nikon, Galeries Lafayette, Migros, Nespresso and Lufthansa. hybris is the future of commerce™. www.hybris.com | sales@hybris.com Version: December 2013 Subject to change without prior notice © hybris hybris is a trademark of the hybris Group. Other brand names are trademarks and registered trademarks of the respective companies.