Avoiding the Cost of a Poor Web Development Strategy

In ecommerce planning the scope of work is the blueprint

Photo courtesy of ABC Blueprints

Posted in Strategy & Discovery

Web builds are architectural in nature. Just as you need a blueprint and a solid foundation to realize a skyscraper, you need the same footing for a web project. Modern web builds are complex and often integrate dozens of systems from third-party providers.

So what’s the blueprint for a complex website, with all the functionality, integration, and sleek design that you’d like? It’s the Scope of Work (SOW). A robust and well-articulated SOW document is crucial as you embark on any web project. Your development team’s job is to iterate and collaborate with you to flesh out a plan that accounts for everything your web business does.

Process

Give your development team the opportunity to understand the inner-workings of your business and how all the pieces interplay. Be sure to inquire about the team’s process for learning the ins and outs of everything you do. This process – how they gather information, ask questions and learn about you – should be systematized and streamlined. They should ask thorough questions about the systems you have in place now, what is and isn’t working for you, your pain points, your ideal world operations and much more. Further, they should suggest alternatives or workarounds where useful. You don’t want anything to fall through the cracks. When in doubt, share more, rather than less, with your development team.

Spell out every aspect in the SOW

As you create the SOW for your project, you’ll be working closely with your web team. The more clarity you provide, the more they will be able to help you arrive at a plan that takes into account all of the moving parts of your business. If there’s a key component or a part of your business’ ecosystem that your team doesn’t know about, it won’t be accounted for. This can end up disrupting the project down the line when it has to be integrated into the project. Not letting your team know about all elements of your business, and how they interact, can cause a scramble later and throw your project off track.

Actively engage with your team to align your SOW with your goals. A robust SOW allows for some shifting decisions and priorities over the course of a project; it’s flexible and supports some inevitable changes that will happen throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Let the experts be experts

As you’re working together to think through the project, let your team utilize their expertise. Self-prescribing a solution is tempting. But while you’re the expert at your business, your web team is the expert at the web. Let them shine and suggest ways to solve problems that you may not have thought of. Focus on your goals and let them handle the nitty-gritty of getting you there.

In addition to a firm grasp on best practices, remember that they’re working with lots of other ecommerce companies and have been keeping a close eye on what works and what is less successful. They also have inside knowledge of what it’s like to work with third-party providers that you may be just getting familiar with. They’ll know who has good support, whose work is well documented and who to avoid. There is often more than one way to meet your goals, and your web team can present the different approaches. The more open you are to their suggestions, the better.

Prioritize primary features

Everyone wants to release a flawless site with every feature you’ve dreamed of on launch day. However, it can be far more efficient and successful to approach your site as a minimum viable product (MVP). If you prioritize your dream list of features and focus on rolling them out in the order of importance, you can often get to market faster and at less of a cost than if you wait until every element has been completed.

Launching with primary features first can also give you valuable insight into the project that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. Maybe your customers aren’t interacting with your site in the ways you expected. Maybe you realize that they’re behaving in a way that would make a new feature useful. Deploying early and tracking your KPIs can be very revealing. If you get the minimum viable product up and running first, you’re often rewarded with additional intelligence that can inform next steps at less of an investment. Prioritizing and establishing a plan for phases two, three and beyond also ensures that you’ll launch on-time. If you try to get everything in with one fell swoop it can lead to moving timeline goal posts.

Lack of planning can lead to abundance of issues

As the famous adage says: “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and this is very true in ecommerce. There are major pitfalls that can happen, like choosing the wrong platform for your business. If you and your dev team have done your collective homework, however, you won’t run into that awful surprise. Smaller things can add up, too, like choosing two extensions that seem like perfect fits on their own, but that can’t work together in your store. You don’t want to be left in a lurch with semi-working solutions that impede conversions.

Planning as investment

It may seem like overkill to invest time, thought and money into planning for website builds or even for specific features. Though if you engage in the process that the team has prescribed, are open and expansive about how your business works, share your priorities and trust the team, you will save in the long run. Let the developers you work with do what they do best: dig into your issues and use their expertise to solve them head-on. It’s their job to craft solutions to tough problems. They just need to know the specific problems that your retail business is experiencing. With this understanding, the work of resolving the issues can truly begin.

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