I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had people say to me ‘F#!k I’m over this website project’.
I’ve had to clean up the mess caused by website projects that went off the rails on more than one occasion; a task I can do, but would prefer to not have to as a lot of the problems are actually quite avoidable.
The following are the most common issues I’ve encountered to date:
- Client – Agency expectations are not aligned
- Client is not sure what they really want or cannot articulate what they want
- Scope (requirements) misalignment
- Client over commitment and underestimation of the amount of work they will need to do
- Client under preparedness in terms of getting data and content ready for the agency to use
- Client staff are disengaged from the project
- Inadequate change and process management
- Inadequate user training
Further to the above, I will now describe the most common approach to building an e-commerce website that I have personally seen:
- Internal business decision is made: ‘we need a new website or an upgrade to our existing e-commerce website’
- One or more agencies are contacted for a quote to build an e-commerce website
- In most cases the agency asks a few questions to help them understand your requirements
- Proposal and price provided
- Proposal and price agreed upon
- Work begins
- Several back and forths result as the project progresses, often due to clients saying:
- I don’t like that
- I want something else, but I don’t know what that is
- Can you do this or that
- Can you add this to the build but I can’t pay any more
- Actually, I don’t want that
- Usually a raft of frustrations and loads of swearing take place throughout the build – by both parties
- Website is finally launched, well over due in terms of time and price that was initially agreed to.
- After the fact, in many cases, the client says or thinks to themselves: ‘I’m not fully happy with what I got but F#!k I’m glad that’s done’
Does this sound familiar to you? It does to me. Having been involved in over 100 website builds over the years, several of which were really complex e-commerce style projects, this strongly resonates with me.
Here’s the thing. Most web development agencies are good at what they do: And that’s to build websites. What they lack, however, in the many cases is the ability to connect the website with the functions of an entire business holistically, through a deep understanding of business process mapping, re-engineering and true digital transformation. And this is a fair statement – I am not stepping out of line at all, because that’s the reality. I’m not taking a dig at them (agencies); I’m simply highlighting an issue that I have personally seen cause so much grief and headaches. If only the whole project had been handled slightly differently. I’d also like to point out that in many cases where the ‘F#!k’ moment occurs, it is actually the CLIENT who is the cause of the problem, and NOT the agency!!!
So, how do you avoid the ‘F#!k I’m over this’ moment’?
To be honest, the answer isn’t simple. There is no such thing as easy when it comes to embarking on an e-commerce project. Heck – the answer to this question is actually very convoluted, because before we even talk about the ‘how’, I would need to understand you, your business and your position. And I don’t mean your requirements. That’s later. What I mean are things like:
· What experience does your business have with actually managing an e-commerce business?
· What digital skills and experience does your team have?
· What experience does your business have with project management?
· What experience does your business have with using multiple cloud-based software at the same time?
· When was the last time you undertook a full inventory count?
· Do you have all your products catalogued in an easy to access digital format?
· And more…
So, getting back to our question of ‘how do you avoid the ‘F#!k I’m over this’ moment’. While there is no ‘one’ answer, there is a quick guide I can provide you with, which will help you better prepare for the project and be in a less of a ‘F#!k I’m over this website project’ state.
The 8 Tips To Avoiding The ‘F#!k I’m over this website project’ Moments:
1. Engage your team by involving them in the entire project.
2. Undertake comprehensive review, mapping and re-engineering of your existing business processes. Don’t know how to do this? Engage a consultant – this is money very very well spent!
3. Create a detailed scoping (requirements) document. Some agencies create such documents, but they are usually writing these from their perspective – you must focus on your needs when creating this as you will know from the process mapping exactly what you want built. As per above: Don’t know how to do this? Engage a consultant – this is money very very well spent also!
4. Assign someone who has got project management experience to manage this project. If you don’t have such skills in-house, then I strongly advise that you engage an external consultant to assist you with this. I caution against relying on the web development agency you select to project manage this without an experienced representative at the project table from your business.
5. Prepare, prepare and prepare! All e-commerce builds are challenging: the more you prepare whatever it is that you need to prepare for the project, the greater the chance that your ‘F#!k’ will turn into a ‘WOW!’. What do you prepare? Stuff like inventory databases; images; descriptions; pricing structures; customer databases; content and more! Your consultant and your agency will guide you on this part of the process.
6. Training MUST take place THROUGHOUT the project to anyone and everyone who will be using the new website. As the business owner or manager, you MUST take part! Bypass this advice and you WILL have many ‘F#!k’ moments – guaranteed…
7. LISTEN to your agency and DO as they ask. Please. So many times I have had clients simply ignore the agency for whatever reason and land into some serious hot water. I owned a web development agency a few years back and experienced many ‘I told you so’ moments when a client didn’t listen to our advice and then struggled.
8. COMMUNICATE. Everyone involved must communicate with everyone else involved. If your team are unsure or unhappy about something, you need to know, as does the agency. If something isn’t looking right or not doing what you thought it was going to do (for example), then talk to the agency immediately. Never let things fester, because that small grain of sand can very quickly turn into that massive mountain of a problem if left unchecked.
If the right approach is taken, I can tell you from experience that the outcome of a well deployed e-commerce website will deliver serious benefits for your business.
If you need someone to help you get the most out of your next e-commerce website build, talk to me and my team at Malekso. We are experienced e-commerce management consultants who have helped many businesses over the years leverage digital tools, such as e-commerce websites, to achieve serious business growth. We will ensure that your next e-commerce project results in the best outcome for you and your business!
Do you have any questions or comments? Contact me for a confidential chat.
Written by Peter Spinda, Principal Consultant and Owner at Malekso. Visit malekso.com.au for more.