Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. Over the years, we’ve watched many different retail organizations approach the challenge of replatforming in many different ways, and some trends have emerged. One thing that continues to color early discussions for Magento 2 projects is the strategic approach to big-picture planning—specifically business requirements, timeline expectations, and financial investment.
Without fail, this part of the process is usually given very little attention, is driven by challenging management restrictions, or is skipped altogether. Many times a client approaches us with a “features first” mentality, which has a dramatically negative impact on long-term success for the business as a result of short-sighted thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to throw shade here. Most of the time the eCommerce Manager/Director we are working with has a set of corporate restrictions they have to work within. Often times that is a VP or another Executive mandating a timeline and a budget, but not necessarily spelling out clear business goals. If you’re in the challenging position of having hard restrictions but are still required to drive short and long-term business results then you’re in the right spot. We’ve worked with many clients to navigate these waters in the past, and I have a few suggestions.
If you’re in the early stages of planning a Magento replatforming project for your organization you’ve got a lot of future changes to plan and work through. It can be tempting to see that big pile of work and want to dig in right away to figure it out, especially when most of the time it’s your job to drive results. Crossing tasks off your list is definitely a positive result that you and your team love to see, but we have found that retailers who take the time to hit the pause button at this stage and devote time and conversation to dreaming about their new platform both start and finish stronger.
Dream With Your Team
Why? I have a few theories.
First, taking a minute to pause is a way to build momentum and keep the team focused on positive outcomes. Often times these big projects come with an amount of uncertainty which can generate some fear or hesitancy. If you’re able to discuss what an ideal future could look like with your team, without worry or restriction around finances, features, or operational requirements, you have the opportunity to build the foundation for the project on the hope of positive future outcomes.
Second, skipping this stage and moving right to technical and business requirements may limit the future potential of your eCommerce business. With our clients, we like to talk about any platform decision as a 5-year choice, as they will likely stay on that chosen platform for 3-5 years. We are seeing these numbers decrease slightly with new technology and platform options, but even if you plan for the low-end of that, you can see how a poor decision and execution can hinder your business for a long time.
Conversely, dreaming about ideal scenarios and fostering a period of brainstorming and collaboration early in the planning process will drive innovation and creativity, which will certainly have a positive impact on your long-term success. By asking blue sky questions of your entire eCommerce team, you’ll gain a host of different perspectives and ideas from the people who are the most familiar with your current operations and challenges. Chances are, you’ll come away from this process with a handful of ideas you never would have uncovered without these conversations.
Don’t Overcomplicate The Process
If you’re like me, then your immediate response to all of this is “so what are the steps, how long should it take and what do I do first?” Easy does it you control freak, we’ll get there!
Keep it simple and light—start with a few basic guidelines. If you over-complicate or over-manage the process it’ll stifle the freedom and benefit of these conversations. These early discussions are more about leadership than management. That being said, here are a few suggestions:
- Schedule 30-minute conversations with each team member who you think will be involved in the project. Ask simple questions like “What do you wish our eCommerce platform could do?”, “what creates the most day-to-day frustration with our current platform?”, and “what keeps you up at night thinking about this project?”
- Don’t take notes during these conversations. (Yes, I actually wrote that). This is a practical and simple way to avoid making these discussions too formal and structured. You should pursue these as casual conversations over coffee, just like you’re meeting with a friend. You can (and should) jot down some notes after the discussion on your own time, but your focus during the conversation should be about asking deeper, organic questions as you talk with your colleague.
- Fill a whiteboard. Starting with a blank slate and sketching, diagramming, and generally exploring different options can be a really energizing way to collaborate and work through a few ideas. Hand your team member the marker and ask them to unpack their idea more.
- Timebox the process. You don’t want to stay in this phase too long, so look at your calendar and give yourself a date to shoot for. A few weeks should be enough to get through these early conversations and to create your lightweight documentation.
As I said earlier, there are many details to follow after you have some fun dreaming with your team, but take your time and enjoy this process.
Ready to Replatform?
Looking for similar advice and ideas on all things replatforming? Read through our definitive Replatforming Guide!