eCommerce Operations

How to switch eCommerce software without disrupting your business

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. 

Step #1: Before you do anything, bring all decision makers together 

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: 

  • Critical functions of the current software that each team uses 
  • Frustrations with the current solutions
  • Must-haves for the new solution
  • Nice-to-haves for the new solutions
  • Dream wish list items (while it’s unlikely you’ll get this last one, if at least one team can get something they really want, it gives you negotiating power for future software switches)

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. 

Step #2. Set up demos for the top solutions

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:

  • Allow for ample time in the process for demos to be completed for multiple scenarios of the business needs
  • Have a real examples of business-related scenarios to demo with the software and discuss with the sales or solution manager
  • Allow all business teams affected by the software to attend the demos, even if they’re just there to observe

Bonus step: Bring in an expert consultant to go through the process with you

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. 

Step #3: Do your due diligence 

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.  

  • Thoroughly examine the negative reviews. Negative reviews can reveal what’s not working. These things don’t have to be a deal breaker, but it’s a great place to start building a solid idea of potential limitations. 
  • Discuss speed of set up. Vendors sometimes underestimate how long it takes to get up and running. 
  • Contact references provided by the software company.  Even if the reference is positive, ask for hurdles that occurred and things they wish could have gone better with implementation and set up.  

Step #4: Once you’ve made your choice, negotiate a phased approach

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?

  • Setting up phased implementations. This essentially means splitting adoption into stages so you can test each one and experience how it works.
  • Set up exit points. These are predetermined points where —if the software doesn’t fit your needs as expected— you can exit the agreement. 

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.  

And finally, most important: Allow enough time to restructure and switch everything over

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.  

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