Using a commerce architecture effectively
Many of my recent posts have been centred around making sure ecommerce businesses are using the right commerce architecture for their unique business model. So, what about the businesses that are already using the architecture that suits them best? There are many of them out there, no doubt. Some utilize SaaS platforms in a commerce-led approach, others using a combination of ecommerce coupled with a CMS in an experience-led approach, while others yet may be pioneering a headless, API-led architecture solution. Kudos to all of these businesses for grasping the bigger picture!
Of course, just because a business has settled on an architecture and is working it into their overall way of thinking doesn’t mean that the grass is green. Businesses still need a strategy in place for utilizing their architecture effectively. Here are some tips to get on track.
Be proactive, not reactive
Being proactive is to take steps to fix an issue before that issue happens or to stop it from happening in the future. Being reactive is living in the moment and dealing with issues as they arise. Reactive actions are an easy trap to fall into because these immediate issues tend to capture our attention and focus. We like to think that once the issue is dealt with, it’s done. This, however, isn’t always the case.
Many issues keep coming back, again taking our attention and focus away from something else. It’s important to recognize these issues and take a step back from them. Notice if the same issue happens continuously and what the root cause is. Is it a specific process, piece of functionality or software component, or something else causing the issue? Gather as much detail as you can and look at your commerce architecture to see where its issue fits within the bigger picture. It may be worthwhile to fix the issue now, but it may also be one issue of many that can all be fixed by swapping components or building an integration. If it’s the ladder, swapping components or building an integration could be a better plan and the investment made now will pay for itself over time.
Develop a roadmap
A commerce architecture strategy is what is used to help make decisions on where to focus time and energy to enhance your architecture. It outlines tasks that will have the greatest impact and prioritize them. A roadmap is the steps needed to complete each task. Each task may be quite large so a roadmap can help quickly break it down into manageable tasks. Include realistic and actionable steps, making it as detailed as it needs to be so that anyone involved can quickly understand what needs to be done. After all, chances are there will be multiple people from multiple departments (and even multiple companies) working on any given task.
It goes without saying that the sooner a business can implement its strategy the sooner it will benefit from it. It’s important to make sure that it doesn’t fall by the wayside, especially in the beginning. The first items within a business's commerce architecture strategy will probably be identified because they have the largest impact. Prioritize those items and get them done! This not only benefits the company but will also show the importance of the strategy. The results will be noticeable and should help carry the momentum forward to the next series of tasks.
Implementing a strategy isn’t always going to be smooth sailing. There will be tasks that will challenge staff and leadership in many ways. Even developing the strategy and roadmaps themselves can be difficult. Whether help is internal or comes from an external source such as a consultant or development firm, make sure to seek help when help is needed. This is all part of prioritizing the implementation of your strategy.
Some examples that come to mind where help is often needed are technical tasks and software changes.
Integrating and automating tasks will require a high degree of technical understanding. Some software may connect with the installation of a module or extension, but others might need to be built from scratch. A competent IT department may only be able to get so far before further expertise or specialization is needed. Don’t let this stop you! Keep pushing forward and seek help, even if it comes at a financial cost. Remember, once it’s done you’ll start to see the benefits. All of these improvements should pay off in time.
Significant changes in software (i.e. swapping out one platform for another) can be disruptive to the staff who use it, especially if the software has been used for a long time. Staff with a deep understanding will likely find change difficult as they try to adapt and learn a new system that could be significantly different from what they’re used to. Recognize this and make sure staff knows they have support. I would encourage involving these staff members when reviewing new software since they have an intimate understanding of the pros and cons of the current system since they use it on a daily basis. Furthermore, provide training resources and time to learn, bring in outside trainers if needed, and foster an environment of positive change. Make sure these people know why change is needed so that they can get behind it.
Improvement is continuous and changing
The software landscape of online business is always changing. New tools and ways of conducting business are always being developed. A business's commerce architecture strategy should stay fluid, ready and willing to adapt when a better tool is available. This doesn’t mean a business needs to change its components often, but know that better solutions may come available as the business evolves.
A commerce architecture strategy isn’t something that gets completed. It’s an operational guideline to follow and refer back to. This gets to the root of why commerce architecture is important. Commerce architecture is all about enabling businesses to perform the best that they can, to be efficient and to promote effective scaling. If a better tool is available to achieve this, a commerce architecture strategy allows this adoption to take place with minimal impact on operations. It encourages meaningful change.