Hoping for a successful eCommerce integration project is good, but planning for success is much better. While planning carefully may feel like it will require an investment of time you don’t have, choosing not to plan for ways to address existing problems or issues that could arise is very likely to lead to a much lengthier implementation process with lots of bumps in the road along the way.
Here are some tips for effective eCommerce integration project planning and preparation that avoids mistakes that can plague unsuccessful implementations.
- Seek to understand what your organization wants from the project: This means getting people involved, starting with conversations to help draw out every stakeholder’s needs. What are their current pain points? How do they want things to work after the project is completed? This helps you and your implementation partner create a project plan that will result in the achievement of the goals and benefits that are most important to your organization.
- Examine key workflows and specify your automation requirements: Getting into the details of the business processes your organization uses currently in order to define the requirements for automating those processes is a critical planning step. How are things being done today? What will it take to get from the current process to the planned process? Are there any aspects of the process that must be reengineered or adjusted in order to accomplish the automation plan? How will the plan impact your team and what education will they need in order to adjust, accept, and adapt to the changes?
- Identify the skills and resources needed to achieve your automation goals: Now that you have an understanding of the business processes you will automate and you have a list of automation requirements, it’s time to consider whether you have any of the skills and resources you need internally and what skills and resources you will need to look for through relationships with partners. An eCommerce integration partner with an understanding of your automation goals and timeframe can help you identify the resources you need.
- Think about the future: A solid planning process takes into consideration not only your needs today, but also your potential future needs. Forecasting eCommerce business volume growth expectations, the channels or platforms you may want to add, and features you’d like to add in the future can help you select the best systems and resources for the longer term.
- Consider your data: While not essential, it is definitely helpful to conduct an analysis of the quality of your data prior to beginning an integration project. To keep the analysis do-able, put some boundaries around it: identify the most important data points only. What data points have the potential to derail the success of your integration project? For example, if your integration requires having a unique email address for each customer account and one of your systems allows for the same email address to be used in multiple customer accounts, uncovering this potential pitfall early in the process will help you create a method for working with it. Any data issues that aren’t uncovered during the planning process will very likely be uncovered during project implementation or testing.
- Identify the system of record, and make integration direction and method decisions for each type of key data: Don’t miss this critical planning step for a smooth implementation. Identify your key pieces of data (what data flows are crucial for customer order success, for website inventory level accuracy, for pricing accuracy, etc.), and document which system “owns” that data, where you need to move that data, and the integration method that should be used. If this feels overwhelming, don’t worry. Your eCommerce integration partner should be an experienced, helpful resource for this planning step.
- Including time for a testing process: No matter how well your project has been planned or how smoothly the implementation proceeded, it’s never a good idea to skip testing. Reserving a period of time to put the integration through its paces before going live is an essential step that helps you make sure your customers don’t experience difficulties or frustrations when they begin using your newly integrated eCommerce system. By creating a sandbox or testing environment to look for issues to address before you go live, you will be doing everything you can to avoid pressure-filled service issues and customer dissatisfaction.
- Understanding the project responsibilities and timeframe: eCommerce integration projects often require up to six months of time to complete. It’s important to make sure you and your integration partner are on the same page about project timeframe expectations and what each of you is responsible for in order to meet your timeline and budget. Businesses often feel overwhelmed by the details of getting an integration project completed, so understanding a realistic timeline helps everyone feel comfortable and avoid surprises. Kissinger offers a fast track system and implementation process for Web-Stor, our Sage 100 eCommerce integration solution, which provides eCommerce integration in 30 days—a desirable option for companies who need to get started more quickly with bi-directional integration.