Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why your eCommerce Project needs an eCommerce Project Manager

Let’s imagine a situation that is becoming a pretty regular occurrence these days…
You have been given the go-ahead for developing (or re-developing) your company’s online store or multi-channel retail proposition. As the ‘business stakeholder’ you are far too busy running day-to-day operations (or fighting fires) and do not have the bandwidth to deliver this work yourself. You have a ‘sizeable’ budget to implement the right solution without cutting any major corners, but you have to have it live within pretty tight deadlines and it must be ‘right first time’
(Question: Does anyone get told “oh, its ok if you screw it up this time around, you’ll have plenty more chances to get it right in the future except politicians?”).
There are a number of things you can initially do to get things on their way, but here’s why I suggest you look at getting an eCommerce Project Manager in first.

1. Market knowledge
Unless you have recent prior experience of the eCommerce landscape (e.g. the vendors, products, prices and all their associated short-comings) then you are stepping into a virtual swamp, where three letter acronyms (TLA’s) abound and the initially-offered price of some web services could be overpriced from anything between 20% and 300% … or beyond.
Someone who has managed a project similar to the solution you are looking for should have some idea of the available services and be able to hold your hand through the early stages of the project.

2. You don’t always have the right person internally
It is an obvious statement to make, but to stand the best chance of having a well-managed project you need a project manager with the relevant experience. If you do not already have someone within your organisation that can correctly fill the eCommerce PM’s role then you really need to look outside. I’ve seen all sorts of people in the past drafted into the role who were clearly not able to run the online project. Examples include: a graphic designer who was friends with the chief executive’s wife, an IT manager who clearly had other important things on her mind (like running the IT department) and a member of the ecommerce team who “didn’t have anything else to do”. In each case project either failed to deliver completely or had to be rescued by stakeholders and/or external assistance.

3. If you don’t…. it will be you that gets asked to deliver it…

In essence….. If you really want an eCommerce project run well and do not want to be given the run-around by the project, then you need the right person to manage it.
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