5 questions to ask a potential ecommerce implementation partner
If you’ve ever worked on an ecommerce project, then you’ll know they can be complex and multifaceted, involving many different stakeholders.
I’ve been involved in ecommerce implementation for 12 years, both within Adobe and in previous organizations, and I’ve come to be comfortable with their intricacies. But I’ve also seen what drives these projects to fail — I’ve seen what happens when a business pushes on without a proper plan or without the most qualified partner.
Failure can take many shapes in an ecommerce implementation project. For example, a functioning system can quickly become overwhelmed by sale season demand, customers can end up being double charged for each purchase, and the business can suffer added costs and time delays on top of what’s already been a very involved process. These are just a few examples of the issues that a great plan and a qualified partner help you avoid.
At Adobe, we want your ecommerce innovation to be a success. That’s why we recommend you ask the following five questions of any potential implementation partner — whether that’s Adobe Professional Services or someone else.
1. Who is accountable?
Successful implementations require a true program owner or sponsor at your end and from the supplier side, too. When too many people with too little accountability get involved, you can have too many cooks in the kitchen. By this I mean that everything is happening either all at once or not at all, in silos, or with little strategic direction.
So ask your potential implementation partner who will lead the project internally and make sure each person involved has the same answer. How many other projects are they leading right now? Can you be assured that they have the bandwidth required for your build?
Ask this for both the technical team and the person or people required for achieving your business requirements. A flat dev team with no leadership risks running at full speed without a roadmap — and the outcome risks being disparate at best and broken at worst.
Ask this of your own team as well. Does your internal project lead or sponsor have the time and headspace needed to make the project a success? Have they been able to produce a clear list of requirements to share with the implementation partner? Has that list been produced in collaboration with other stakeholders but with a clear agreement as to who is responsible for delivering them?
These questions may not seem important initially, but establishing the hierarchy of the teams on both sides will be incredibly important once the project begins. Having this defined up front dictates proper ownership so that if or when a problem occurs, it will be handled accordingly. Having undefined or flat structures can lead to things getting lost by the wayside, which then can end up with missed expectations upon delivery.
2. Do you understand the list of requirements?
Speaking of requirements, this has to be one of the most essential questions to ask yourself before an ecommerce implementation project kicks off.
Your implementation partner should push relentlessly to know what your must-haves versus your nice-to-haves are, but it’s worth preparing for this question so you’re not caught off guard. Here’s how I pose this challenge to my customers:
Describe the entire user experience you want customers to have in as much detail as possible, from the moment they enter your site to the moment they receive your product.
Doing so gives me a clearer idea of what must be built into the platform (the ability to filter products by category, for example) versus what would be a neat feature (an on-site pricing calculator). I appreciate that moving from a legacy system to a new platform feels like a great opportunity to realize the best possible version of your store, but it’s also an opportunity to clean house — to get rid of the clutter and focus on high-impact capabilities.
The more single-minded and strategic we can be at this stage, the easier it will be to build upon that solid foundation and optimize in the future. Too much customization at the core of your platform can take you off the upgrade path while slightly modifying your business requirements to match native functionality can help you stay nimble. So ask yourself — and make sure your partner asks you — which features and functionalities are essential today and which can be built in the future.
3. Can you take us through a demo or share a case study?
The first test of a potential implementation partner is whether they ask to understand your requirements — and you should be cautious of a partner who says “yes” to all of them. You should also check within your network to see if anyone else has worked with them before, read their testimonials and case studies, and ask to see them in action as well.
Our ecommerce implementation teams are more than happy to align strategically with you — to share our vision of success and determine whether you agree. We did this with Alshaya Group by laying out our plan for their massive project across 30 sites and 2 mobile apps to ensure that what was developed would result in a fruitful ecommerce build. Coming together in this way before a single line of code is written not only sets the scene for the rest of the build and implementation, but it also provides a valuable moment of alignment — saving time and costs in the long run and getting you ready for launch as quickly as possible.
4. What is your methodology?
Process is essential for implementation, of course. But when we talk about process here, we’re talking about much more than the way the product is built and handed over. It’s a proven methodology, where we consider process, technology, and people.
We use Agile processes to mitigate risk. And that agility and flexibility are echoed in the way we partner with clients too. Customers can engage Adobe Professional Services as the implementation partner (building and delivering the final outcome), the platform provider (engaging a third-party supplier to use Adobe software), or a bit of both. This hybrid setup may involve a customer purchasing Adobe technology, commissioning a third-party implementation partner, and having Adobe Professional Services assist and provide oversight.
No one knows Adobe technology like our team — and that’s important when technology plays such a foundational role in your ecommerce platform build. With Adobe Professional Services as your implementation partner, you’ve got a direct line to the internal product team. Your sponsor can walk over to the product department and ask for their support or find out how far off they are from a certain future add-in or feature. But we’re also happy to add value and support in any workflow that makes sense for the customer and the people involved.
The other questions we’ve covered so far will all be helpful in defining the process, technology, and people needs of each implementation:
- Does your team have knowledge gaps that need filling? Would you or your implementation partner benefit from having an Adobe expert present?
- What are your requirements (and what do you need to build)?
- Who will lead the project (and what are they most skilled and least skilled in)?
- What do you know about the work your implementation partner has done to date (and do you need any additional support to make your ecommerce implementation a success)?
5. How will you deliver value once the implementation is complete?
The right partner for an ecommerce implementation project will be clear on the opportunities for adding value once the initial build is over. They should offer training for your teams as part of a robust handover. And if you’re launching with a minimum viable product (MVP), they should proactively discuss optimizations once the MVP is in development.
Adobe University is a great option for all Adobe customers, providing easy access to training resources when your team needs them. The fact that we advocate for as few customizations as required means you’re already comfortable with the tech by the time you launch. Our Professional Services team will also do a thorough handover to in-house talent, and they can also stay actively involved with the platform and next steps if you’d prefer.
Choosing the right partner
Choosing the right implementation partner is the first step toward a successful ecommerce platform — one with a great user experience that ticks all your commercial and strategic boxes. And the process of selecting a partner starts with knowing the right questions to ask.
If you have more questions about ecommerce implementation, Adobe, or finding a platform partner , reach out to Adobe Professional Services. You can also browse our resources to get a bit more information on Adobe Commerce.
Trevor has been an Adobe certified expert commerce business practitioner since 2017 and has more than 10 years of experience in commerce platform implementations. He wants to share his insights to empower customers to achieve success and reach their digital transformation goals.