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TechnologyOct 08, 2015

What to Think About Before Starting an eCommerce Re-platform

Justin Bell

Over the last 15 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with our clients and teams on more than 30 eCommerce re-platforms for leading companies across retail, travel/hospitality, entertainment and B2B.  During this time, we’ve gained exposure to many different eCommerce platforms including ATG, Hybris, Broadleaf Commerce, Commerce Server, Websphere Commerce, and custom solutions.  I recently put a list of “things to think about when planning to re-platform” and thought it would be helpful to share here.

  • Ensuring engagement of the right business, technology, and digital stakeholders from the beginning is crucial.  These projects really put the organizational structure to the test because they require alignment across these functions to be successful

  • After the key stakeholders are aligned, start by defining the business objectives, drivers, customer needs, and the behaviors you want to encourage – instead of just on what the new platform can do.  This will result in a better user experience and higher likelihood of meeting or exceeding business goals.  I’ve seen many companies go wrong by jumping straight into vendor demos (or even picking a platform) before defining what you want your customer experience and business outcomes to be

  • To pick the right platform, it is important to go beyond the analyst reports and feature lists and do a detailed analysis of your current and future needs and how well the different platforms fit those specific needs.  An often underappreciated aspect of the platform is the ongoing product roadmap and agility that your custom solution will have…eCommerce solutions must continue to evolve and respond to new opportunities

  • Picking an implementation team with the right skills, experience, and culture fit with your organization is even more important.  Because the leading platforms are all very capable, the primary success factor will be in the team that is defining the user experience, determining the appropriate requirements, architecting a technical solution that meets those requirements and will be easy to maintain / enhance, and then building and deploying a high-quality, scalable solution

  • We recommend breaking the re-platform initiative into logical chunks that can be completed iteratively.  For example, to mitigate some of the risks, we typically recommend identifying certain “modules” (e.g., billing / payment processing, search, 3rd party integrations, certain services, etc.) that can be re-platformed and put into production incrementally, as opposed to one “big bang”.  During longer phases, we recommend developing and demonstrating progress to key stakeholders on a regular basis (every 2-4 weeks) to ensure expectations are aligned and maintain interest / engagement with key stakeholders

  • Mobile should be considered early and in everything you do (e.g., the platform, the design, the implementation, etc.) because consumers now have high-expectations for user experience across a wide-variety of devices

Picking and implementing a new eCommerce platform is a very challenging endeavor and huge investment for your business.  Before you dive in, make sure you have a solid understanding of the business drivers and focus on the customer needs / experience and then pick a platform (or set of components) that best meets your needs.