eCommerce businesses run on software. We use it for everything: connecting sales channels, ordering, shipping, fulfillment, management, customer engagement, and more. That’s why switching critical business software platforms can be extremely disruptive if not planned out effectively.
How do you move your eCommerce operations systems and processes over to a new solution without disrupting everyone’s workflow? As a business and legal management consultant, I’ve seen multiple eCommerce businesses struggle through this. In this post, I’ll provide some steps to demonstrate a stress-free (or at least the “stress-reduced”) way to switch.
Software platforms usually affect multiple departments in the business. Different teams are probably using the existing solution in unique ways you might not fully know about. That’s why before doing anything else, you need to find out exactly who’ll be affected by the software switch and what their input on the switch might be.
To start, get all the decision makers together. If you’re switching operations software — an area I know well— you’ll need to involve operations, finance, customer service and anyone in the company that would be affected by the change or need to approve it. Then, when you are together, make sure to discuss the following:
If you haven’t identified the software you’d like to switch to yet, then these lists will help narrow down the potential solutions. And if you do know which vendors deserve a serious look, the lists will help you identify any gaps.
Now that you know what you’re looking for —thanks to the different lists you created— it’s time to set up demos for the tools that fit the bill.
Go into the demo with a list of questions and:
Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective can help you make the best choice. An outside consultant doesn’t have skin in the game of internal politics that’s always playing in the background of decisions. (Yes. Even at great companies.) A third party can observe the company —and each department’s needs— from a fresh perspective and provide input to the decision makers.
But who do you hire? You need a Subject Matter Expert (SME). Someone who knows your industry inside and out. An SME can help you ask better questions in the demo. Because they’re not involved in the day-to-day, they can also go in several layers deeper with the team and hone in on use cases that may not have come up when the initial list was put together.
During the demo, every company will try to wow you. (That’s their job.) But that’s why it’s vital to run your own thorough research.
Try to negotiate a phased-approach when implementing software. Here’s why that’s a great idea: it minimizes the chance you’re making the wrong choice. You don’t want to get three-quarters of the way of setting up only to realize that maybe this isn’t the right software for your needs after all. (This has happened to more than one client.)
So what does a phased approach look like?
This approach definitely benefits you more than the vendor, and might not always be available, but trying to build this into an agreement could be beneficial.
Switching software is a complex, involved process. Designating a project lead, involving team members representing department stake-holders, and setting up a desired timeline with key milestones is critical. This team should commit to regular check-ins and provide updates to relevant team members and company leaders. This will help make the software integration successful.
With more and more software being developed for eCommerce businesses to run more effectively and integrate with more and more aspects of their business online, it is inevitable that a company will go through multiple software switches as their teams grow and needs evolve. Hopefully these steps give some ideas on how to get started with a software switch and make the transitions run smoothly.
Kelly graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, and has spent the vast majority of her legal career working at prominent, top-tier national law firms. Although her practice has primarily been in the area of corporate restructurings and bankruptcy, this practice area has provided her with extensive business, corporate and litigation experience.
On the business side, Kelly represented companies in some of the largest and most complex bankruptcy cases, which enabled her to immerse herself in on-going business operations. She gained wide-ranging exposure to all aspects of her clients’ business and operational needs by providing legal counseling on numerous issues, including lease and contract interpretation and negotiations, supply chain and vendor disputes, IP issues, disclosure obligations, corporate governance, financing and liquidity issues, environmental matters, and employee concerns. Her experience working on the intersection of these various legal matters allowed her to see the big picture in order to mitigate risks for clients and anticipate issues before they arose.
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