No one decides to purchase commercetools to replicate the technology they already have in place. When the company launched in 2013 and introduced headless commerce, it was to provide an alternative that could solve the problems brands began to have with their legacy platforms as digital commerce evolved.
Since commercetools composable MACH® solutions are so different, the way you approach planning and implementation has to be different as well. And, while we’ve published a lot of content about how to approach implementation from a technology standpoint, we haven’t shared much information on how to approach the management of your project. This is mainly because most of our customers partner with a consultant or systems integrator (SI) (which we highly recommend), to act as a guide and ensure a smooth transition from a legacy platform to a composable system.
That said, whether you’re launching your first commercetools project (or your fifth), advance preparation is critical. Here are 5 tips that will help ensure success every time.
1. Assemble the Avengers
Prepare for your commercetools project the same way you would for any modified agile commerce project — assemble the Avengers! While the Marvel superhero team has some pretty amazing powers, I’m not sure building technology is one of them. Your avengers are your project manager, product owner and enterprise/solution architect.
You choose each of these leaders for their domain experience and connection to the teams they lead; ultimately, they will drive the success of your project. This is why it’s important to bring them together as a team and empower them to take ownership of the project.
Your Avengers will prepare you for Week Zero by aligning on the governance process, briefing their team members and securing buy-in from stakeholders.
2. Sketch out Week Zero
Every project team has a sense of their Sprints. Sprint driven by Epics; Epics driven by themes. However, not every project team spends enough time asking questions about Week Zero. Leverage the five days before your first Sprint by answering the following questions:
What needs to be done before the Sprint starts?
What preparatory steps do we need to take around Infrastructure?
Are current state architecture and other documents prepared?
Is there full documentation of the current platform, including a list of existing integrations?
Is there a documented “strawman” plan for future integrations?
Is leadership comfortable with the planned MVP?
3. Keep your leadership team in the loop
This may sound backward, but remember, your team is on the ground doing the work, so it makes sense that you report up. Ask yourself the question, “What would I want to know if I was the executive sponsor of the project?” so you can give your leadership team the information they need to know. Make sure to have specific notes or callouts on dependencies that will impact the commercetools parts of your overall effort.
Continually providing updates on your progress and milestones met, as well as issues you’ve resolved, will help increase the confidence leadership has in you and your team.
4. Involve the entire organization
You may not think every department needs to know what you are building, especially not early on in the project. However, you’ll find multiple benefits of continually sharing information from concept to completion. Invite one representative from each department to attend weekly or monthly meetings and make it their responsibility to give updates to their teams. Not only does this make everyone feel they have a voice, but it also helps ensure the technology you deliver fits the way different teams work. This way, you don’t have to backpedal to make changes. Overall, it just makes the transition easier.
As Taher Khaliq, CTO of Trinny London, explained in his presentation, The Evolution of an eCommerce Start-up, “Headless is not a tech platform – it can’t be tech-led.” He pointed out that this is the main difference between MACH-driven platforms and off-the-shelf platforms. “With black-box platforms, all the decisions are made for you. You just need to fit into their workflow and their journey. Whereas tools like commercetools allow you to really build a business that fits your model. What that means is IT needs to be far more aware...it needs to be owned by the business as a whole.”
5. Capitalize on the expertise and feedback of your customers
Your customers are the ones who will use your commerce technology — plus, they shop online with other brands every day. It only makes sense that they’d have an opinion of what they want from your experience.
When you implemented your legacy platform, asking your customers what they wanted was a crazy suggestion because you were limited in what you could deliver. However, today with composable commerce quickly becoming the standard for eCommerce, you can create customized experiences that fit your business needs as well as the expectations of your customers.
In fact, as Jason Thomstatter, Head of Digital Commerce at Mars, shared at Modern Commerce Day 2022 that his team decided to talk to their customers early in planning their new B2B commerce site. “We knew we needed to take action to address the experience our customers were having…but we knew the only way to build a successful platform was to design it based on customer feedback.”
Alcon’s Jozef Stawarz echoed his opinion, explaining when the company was creating its first B2C site, his team “completed many interviews with many stakeholders including eye care professionals (ECPs) and consumers.” This approach helped ensure they developed a convenient, easy-to-use commerce experience that supported the needs of both target audiences.
While I’ve collected a plethora of “best practices” after years of being involved in numerous implementation projects, you don’t need advice you’ve already heard multiple times. Technology projects are hard and often complicated, but if you build a strong team, communicate consistently and stay focused on the end goal, the end result will undoubtedly deliver tangible results — and give your business superpowers.
To read about major brands who have successfully implemented commercetools projects and get additional tips to help you on your journey, download our white paper, How to Compose your Commerce in 2023.