Resourcing & team structure for replatforming projects

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An ecommerce replatforming guide

What’s the best team structure for ecommerce replatforming? This is determined by:

  • Size of your organization and number of departments impacted.
  • Complexity of your replatforming project e.g. pureplay vs. omni-channel.
  • Project scope and the extent of integration into other systems.
  • In-house skills coverage & capability.
  • Existing partnerships with external subject matter experts e.g. consultants and agencies.

To help answer this question, focus on defining the skills needed to effectively deliver a complex ecommerce project, and then align people to these skills. You will quickly identify gaps and can then decide how to fill them.

No two projects have the same stakeholder set and division of responsibilities. For example, big organisations typically have a large stakeholder set, each fulfilling a specific role, whereas smaller organizations will have some stakeholders fulfilling multiple roles as they have fewer resources.

If you have key skills for which there is no obvious stakeholder and owner, you then need to consider one or more of the following options:

  1. Recruit a full-time employee (suits skills that are persistent, like a Product Owner).
  2. Recruit a contractor for a specific timeframe and set of deliverables e.g. Change Manager.
  3. Appoint freelancers/consultants for specific deliverables e.g. SEO specialist as a subject matter expert.
  4. Appoint an agency partner e.g. UX/UI design agency.

See Creating a team structure appropriate to your project below for more information.

Understanding project roles & responsibilities

Below is a table of the most common project roles & responsibilities. Check where you have existing subject matter experts and where there is an internal skills gap.

RoleExample responsibilitiesTypically owned by...
Business Project Manager
• Set up PMO (Project Management Office).
• Create and manage project plan.
• Project reporting.

Client
Technical Project Manager• Define development schedule.
• Oversee development teams.
• Ensure technical principles are adhered to.
SI partner
Project Sponsor• Executive decision maker.
• Define project scope and budget.
• Escalation point for issues and actions.
Client
IT Sponsor
(sometimes this is the Project Sponsor).
• Adherence to Client IT standards and principles.
• Ensure project adheres to legal/compliance requirements of the business.
Client
Project Steering Group• Oversee project progress against plan.
• Sounding board for issues & actions.
• Maintain veto over project decisions to ensure project principles are adhered to.
Client
Project Owner• Business lead, represent business stakeholders at project meetings.
• Ensure project delivers against business requirements.
Client
Product Manager
(in smaller organisations, this is the Project Owner).
• Ensure ecommerce best practice is adhered to.
• Define the product roadmap and phasing based on business priorities.
Client
Client Lead
(large/complex projects only).
• Liaison for business stakeholders to input into project.
• Provide ecommerce expertise to improve business requirements definition.
• Core project admin to reduce resource demands on other stakeholders.
Client or freelancer/ contractor
Senior Stakeholder• Departmental manager responsible for sign off on business requirements.
• Ensure team resource is made available when required.
• Escalation point for issues involving their team members.
Client
Subject Matter Expert• Ownership of subsets of business requirements catalogue.
• Provide thought leadership for specific topics.
• Review relevant business requirements.
Client
Change Manager• Impact assessment for new platform.
• Define new ways of working.
• Support stakeholders through training and development.
Client
Procurement Manager• Ownership of contract negotiation.
• Gatekeeper for signing agreements.
Client
Business Analyst• Map business process flows.
• Document business process flows.
• Capture and document business requirements as use case models.
Client and/or SI partner
Solution Architect• Define the ‘to be’ systems architecture landscape.
• Define integration specifications and standards.
• Sense check releases for adherence to architectural requirements.
SI partner.
(often there is an SA on the Client team as well).
Scrum Master
(for agile projects).
• Manage development process.
• Lead daily stand-up meetings.
• Escalate issues to the Technical PM.
SI partner
Lead Developer• Day-to-day leadership of one or more development pods.
• Establishment of coding standards.
• Peer review of submitted coded.
SI partner
Developer• Responsible for delivering code to satisfy one or more user stories/use cases.
• Deliver code according to sprint release plan.
SI partner
Test Lead• Produce test scripts.
• Lead test cycles.
• Provide test reports.
SI partner
User Acceptance Tester• Carry out UAT tasks according to test scripts.
• Provide test results to Test Lead.
Client

Creating a team structure appropriate to your project

Don’t overcomplicate this!

Your team structure should be appropriate to your project size and complexity. For example, if you’re upgrading from Shopify to Shopify Plus with a new SI partner, then you’re highly unlikely to need a Change Manager, as the business is already used to the Shopify interface.

Key considerations:

#ConsiderationImpact
1Do you have significant gaps in documentation of business processes and current ecommerce functionality?You need a Business Analyst to map and document.
2Are you fundamentally changing business processes?You need a Business Analyst to map and document.
3Are you changing your operational model and core ways of working e.g. new admin systems?You need a Change Management Plan* and a Change Manager.
4Does the scope of your project risk that disrupting BAU** work streams due to resource demands on business stakeholders?You should consider a Client Lead to minimise the demands on stakeholders and support the Business PM.
5Do you have a large ecommerce and digital team where the senior manager (Project Owner) is responsible for multiple teams?You should consider appointing a senior ecommerce stakeholder as a Product Manager to reduce the demands on the Project Owner.
6Does the scope of project mean there will be multiple development teams working across epics and user stories?You will most likely need a Scrum Master to ensure sprints are well managed and everyone is working towards the same goals.

* Change Management Plan defines the work streams that are required to ensure the business and its stakeholders are operationally ready to support the new ecommerce platform.

** Business As Usual = common daily tasks required to keep an ecommerce site operational e.g. uploading and removing content. Ecommerce replatforming projects are complex and time consuming, so you’ve got to evaluate the impact and risk to existing work streams.

Top tip:

Start with the minimum project team structure and then extend as required – see below for example structures of simple and complex projects.

Example team structures

  1. Large organization, complex project.

Here are some basic definitions of the type of project this relates to:

  • Enterprise organisation.
  • Bespoke ecommerce needs e.g. integration with custom apps.
  • Complex business processes e.g. split orders, split payment flows, multiple payment gateways.
  • Likely to be working with a decoupled or headless architecture, with extensive use of APIs/micro services.
  • Extensive stakeholder set across multiple departments e.g. retail stores, finance, operations, supply chain, marketing, CRM, PR, brand etc.
  • Multiple marketing channels that rely on two-way data exchanges with ecommerce e.g. programmatic advertising, affiliate network, marketplaces.
  • MVP build at least £500,000.

Complex team structure for ecommerce replatforming

  1. SME, non-complex scope and smaller budget.

Here are some basic definitions of the type of project this relates to:

  • SME organisation.
  • Standard ecommerce requirements e.g. no endless aisle or single customer view needs.
  • Using an established COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) ecommerce platform to maximise use of native functionality.
  • Small stakeholder set e.g. no physical store teams or CRM.
  • MVP build less than £250,000.

Please note for this size of project I’d expect:

  • Project Owner and Product Manager to be the same stakeholder, typically a Head of Ecommerce or Ecommerce Manager within an SME.
  • Essential change management to be integrated into the core project plan by the Business PM.

Simple team structure for ecommerce replatforming

Summary and take-aways

The size and structure of the team you need for your replatforming project depends upon a few key factors:

  • Size of organization and number of stakeholders.
  • Complexity of the project, including number and type of integrations.
  • In-house skills coverage & capability.
  • Existing partnerships with external subject matter experts.

If you don’t have experience setting up a project team for a complex ecommerce project, ensure you work with an experienced project manager who does.

It’s essential you define a team structure appropriate to your project scope and complexity, and have a clearly defined RACI matrix that maps specific roles and responsibilities to individual stakeholders.

Learn more about enterprise ecommerce replatforming by reading my other guides:

If you have any questions, please contact me using the online form, by LinkedIn or Twitter.