Christian von Schassen
Christian von Schassen Director Enabling Services
25. September 2018 in

Insider English

Part 2: The 10 most frequent problems and solutions in e-commerce project management

After Part 1, featuring the five classics of known flaws and weaknesses in e-commerce project management, these five aspects are completely overlooked by the majority of companies. Risks and side effects include headaches for those involved in the project, as well as a lot of additional expenses and lack of profits for the company. 


What Pitfalls are Often not Taken Seriously?

6. Clueless...

Especially medium-sized companies or B2B companies often have specialized teams that manage their own processes, but no project management team that supports them in task accomplishment, timeline and budget management. Product owners are also often missing, who bear a technical responsibility for the projects. Usually, people from other departments are then assigned to project management. This is particularly common in the IT department because this is obvious in software development.
What many ignore is that project management is a specialist discipline in its own right. The skills for this must be learned. It is therefore not surprising that these types of companies are often helpless when there are suddenly larger projects, such as a re-launch or system change, that require more comprehensive management.

But the solution can be so simple. External support can provide either operational or initial strategic help. Especially when it comes to managing teams and defining requirements, experts can share knowledge that many companies lack.

7. Standardization as the enemy of customer orientation

The customer is king... or what was that again? What is generally known and taken for granted is nevertheless regularly disregarded. Functions and processes are often designed according to one's own needs instead of having the customer's needs in mind or even understood them.

Fortunately, at Spryker we are seeing more and more companies wanting to test their ideas - often developed with their customers - first. They proceed iteratively: first functional versions are published, information about customer behavior is collected, and adapted variants are developed. Thus, as a provider, you continue to approach the needs of the customer.

But there is one thing that doesn't fit: the strategy of standard software providers. They offer a great deal of functionality, which is, however, subject to strong standardization. What is good for one retailer can't be bad for another, can it?

But how can you as a provider still stand out from the competition? How can one carry out the described iterative procedure, and thus the ever more purposeful address of the customers - if nevertheless the selected software sets on the fact that one uses standard functions out-of-the-box? Uniformity is not rewarded by customers. It seems arbitrary and boring. Consequently, the customer turns to competitors who better meet his needs.

Many companies bet on the wrong horse before projects have even started. What then follows is tragic: Standard functions are removed at great expense and replaced by their own functionality. The supposed advantage of standard software is thus reversed: existing functionality does not save money, but destroys it.

Instead of adapting customer processes to standard software, you should therefore start with the customer and define customer-oriented requirements and processes as the basis for software selection. This allows you to generate customer benefits right from the start of the project.

8. Missing laser focus

We are all familiar with this problem. You plan the week, concentrate on prioritizing and ticking off your to-do's and something comes up: an incident in productive operations, a sudden request from colleagues or a staff shortage that doubles the amount of work at once. In the worst case, these "sideline projects" lead to nothing being done right.

Although this is so detrimental to quality and employee motivation, companies usually turn a blind eye. If these distractions turn into constant overload, the situation quickly manifests itself in a loss of quality, which can result in high costs. Even worse: If the product owner is deterred in this way from his actual task - namely the description of requirements - the productivity of the entire project team suffers.

Important: insist on laser focus, avoid distractions! Measure the velocity of the team and talk regularly to the team members. Pay attention to their nuances and rigorously eliminate any sideline activity. If you can afford it: Take the most important people out of the day-to-day business. You will be rewarded by higher quality and adherence to delivery dates.

9. Wandering aimlessly through the jungle of tasks

This applies both to departments that concentrate only on their own KPIs and to a centrally controlled prioritization of resources, which makes it difficult to provide cross-departmental input promptly. This type of silo mentality often goes hand in hand with a lack of management support. This can manifest itself in the fact that targets or impulses are set from above, but no support is provided for operational obstacles and problems.

The catch at the thing: without support from above this deficiency can be actually eliminated rarely, because only a purposeful way of thinking, which concentrates on the product as a whole and not individual partial goals, can cause a reorientation here. Constant communication is the be-all and end-all.

How can middle management be convinced? As a rule, a constructive sharing of knowledge and resources quickly leads to a stronger ability to implement, i.e. one moves forward faster and improves output quality significantly. 

10. No risk (management), no fun

Let's close the circle with a review of the first part of this list: Projects are meant to make a difference. By definition, projects are therefore fraught with risk. With the right tools and initial experience, junior project managers can also assume responsibility - as long as everything goes well. What can happen, however, and how do I deal with it if problems arise? Not infrequently, an unprepared worst-case scenario leads to wrong decisions, which are made under one or the other outbreak of sweat and cause even greater damage than one would ever have imagined - if one had done it before.

I say: "Risk management is project management for adults".

Anchor consistent risk management in your everyday project work! It's actually very simple: consult with experienced colleagues from the various specialist departments and together consider which pitfalls are possible - including worst-case scenarios.

With a formula for the probability of occurrence and the effects, you can determine relatively quickly what could burn and which scenarios don't require you to lose sleep. To do this, you define a value between one and ten for each - 10 is the highest - and multiply both factors by each other, so that the result is a value between one and 100. All factors with more than 50 points should definitely be looked at more closely. The same applies to scenarios with a high probability of occurrence. If possible solutions have been developed and communicated for these scenarios, you can counter the project risks much more relaxed.

Have you discovered more construction sites in project management that could be solved easily- or do you have any questions? Let us know!


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