Your Ecommerce Company Project Management Guide – Guest Post by E-commerce Expert Patrick Foster

Project management can be an extremely frustrating process, which is why OrangeScrum exists. Without access to a convenient hub keeping all the important elements, items and resources in one place, the best-laid plan can fall apart over time— but vice versa, even OrangeScrum won’t save you if your project is lacking at the managerial level.

And when you add in the complexities that e-commerce companies must contend with—fluctuating business, hectic daily schedules, a major reliance on external factors—you must conclude that managing a project in the e-commerce world is a tricky prospect indeed.

In this piece, I’m going to detail an e-commerce-flavored approach to high-level project management that you can consider whether you’re developing software, creating content, or doing something entirely different. Let’s get started.

Painstakingly Identify your Specific Goals

99 times out of 100, the ultimate goal for an e-commerce project will be to make more sales, but the difference will be found in the route and time needed to achieve that result. That’s the key for identifying the specific goals for a project.

After all, using a far-away goal just ensures that your project will drag on for years and lose any semblance of structural integrity, oversight or iteration in the process. There are many reasons why agile methodology has become the dominant approach to project management, and one of them is that gives you opportunities to cut failures or invest further in successes.

Determine how long you would like the project to run for and what you would like to have achieved by then.E-commerce is an industry of granular analytics, so leave the vanity metrics aside and focus on ROI; when the time comes to review the campaign, you’ll need to know exactly how well it performed so you can decide whether to continue in that direction.

Plan for Minimal Disruption

Online retail can be extremely profitable, but it’s also arduous work, and its everyday practical demands can be difficult to handle at the best of times. Throw in a further project and you have immediate concerns. How should things be prioritized? Smooth operation must be maintained, but time must be found and committed to fulfilling the demands of the project.

This is something that must be plotted at the planning stage through considering the basic requirements of the typical workweek, allowing for emergency situations that could cause massive damage if not addressed, and carving out enough space to work on the project without causing any major interference with the basic company dealings. It’s a real challenge, but it comes down to knowing the long-term value of a project and knowing that following through with it might justify making things somewhat tougher in the short term.

If you can’t envision a scenario in which you’ll be able to protect your main business while working on a new project, then you’ll need to either put the idea aside for now or start breaking up the work to be distributed accordingly (as we’ll see next).

Decide What to Outsource

Easier than ever before due to worldwide internet availability and technological developments, outsourcing is a hyper-flexible weapon in a project manager’s arsenal. At the lowest level, you have the option of something like Fiverr, though you’re not likely go get the best quality— a website like Upwork is much more viable for finding high-quality freelance workers.

When you outsource a piece of work, you don’t even need to grant access to sensitive documents, files, or data. Through the use of permission tiers and smart segmenting, you can provide information on a need-to-know basis and minimize the risk of working with people you don’t know.

Take finances, for example: instead of providing a financial analyst with an internal login, you can simply export the relevant data. If your store CMS lacks an export function, you should be able to find an add-on, plugin, extension or widget to provide it (Shopify’s storefront software has Data Export, Magento 2’s open-source platform has Import/Export Orders, etc.). And of course you can configure permissions and generate invoices through OrangeScrum, so it shouldn’t be too awkward to handle an expanding worldwide team.

Make Sure the Whole Team Knows What’s Expected

Whether you’re dealing with everything in-house or outsourcing things to freelancers, you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page, understanding not only what they are expected to achieved and how they must go about it but also what to do in the event of a problem. The project manager should be the unifying point of contact, but what happens if/when they are unavailable?

By clearly assigning each member of your team a level of responsibility and a procedure to follow when an issue arises, you can prevent minor mistakes or unexpected events from snowballing into project-endangering hazards. You can also eliminate the various inefficiencies that result from workers who rely on each other for input working at cross-purposes, frequently needing to slow down and wait for each other to clarify or finish a deliverable.

This also factors into the many unplannable elements of the work— anything with a degree of creativity or relying on ad-hoc assessments. Not every part of a campaign can be given careful oversight, and to some extent a project manager will always end up trusting to hope that the workers will self-manage effectively. Instead of trusting that briefs will be correctly interpreted, do everything possible to set the right course before work begins.

Maintain Maximum Flexibility

E-commerce and agile development are similar in that they require you to be quick on your feet. You may set out with project methods in mind but discover within months that they don’t work as you expected them to, for instance, leaving you with two options:

  • Continue with your planned course regardless
  • Pivot on the fly and adapt your approach

The first option is easiest, and the most self-defeating. If you know something isn’t working, there’s no sense in moving ahead with it solely because that’s how the project was agreed. At any point during your project, you should be ready and willing to radically alter your tactics.

This also applies to the roles filled by all the workers involved. If you have two copywriters struggling with the topics assigned to them, consider swapping their workloads. The plan you lay out before starting an agile project isn’t a rigid set of rigid parameters— it’s a collection of the best ideas you have at that time, and must, therefore, be subject to revision and alteration when you get more relevant data.

For more on project management, there’s plenty to read here. Project management in the e-commerce sector is very difficult to get right, but it can be done effectively if you approach it in the right way: creating a smart plan, building the right team, and knowing when to deviate from the plan.

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About the author

Patrick Foster
Patrick Foster

Patrick Foster is a writer and e-commerce expert from E-commerce Tips — an industry-leading e-commerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.