UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2020
This downloadable ecommerce replatforming checklist is a step-by-step guide for ecommerce platform vendor selection and implementation agency (systems integrator) RFP process. Benefit from 16+ years’ experience in delivering ecommerce projects.
In this replatforming checklist you’ll get:
This checklist gives you a set of standards against which to evaluate your own project set-up and delivery, helping you ensure you've applied the right discipline and attention to detail to help drive a successful outcome.
For practical ‘how to’ advice, you can use my 10 part ecommerce replatforming video masterclass series.
It pays to have an over-arching set of principles for your replatforming project and capabilities that need to be satisfied within the project team. To help ecommerce teams plan for a business critical project, I've translated my multi-project experience into a structured checklist to cover 10 sequential stages for project delivery.
For each stage, you'll find a checklist and a summary explanation of what is required. Each stage has an accompanying masterclass video, which is free to watch. Use the quick links if you want to fast track.
Put essential controls in place from the outset. It's important to ensure your project has a clear structure, with a board-level sponsor appointed to ensure it gets the buy-in needed from across the business, as well as ensuring external providers take it seriously.
The age-old saying, 'Act in haste, repent at leisure' applies here. Think carefully about the guiding principles for your project, and ensure that decisions made at this stage are agreed unanimously, are realistic and achievable.
|1||Appoint board level Project Sponsor.|
|2||Appoint senior stakeholder with ecommerce experience as Project Owner.|
|3||Define and agree the project goals and objectives.|
|4||Define success outcomes and how they will be measured.|
|5||Define KPIs to measure success and benchmark where applicable.|
|6||Define the project stakeholder groups and individual stakeholders.|
|7||Define the project governance structure and process.|
|8||Agree if Steering is required and which stakeholders will be on the Steering Group.|
|9||Define reporting mechanisms and frequency.|
|10||Define escalation path and responsibilities.|
|11||Define communication requirements, processes and tools.|
|12||Create a governance charter for the project and distribute to stakeholders.|
With a clear structure in place, you now need to define the parameters for the project.
Start with budget. Identify all the cost streams applicable to the project, get the maximum amount signed off with the Project Sponsor and Finance Director, and communicate this to the project team. Ensure you build-in contingency to cover unforeseen expenses or minor scope creep; even with smart planning projects can incur additional cost.
Next define the scope of the project. Think about what must be delivered for phase 1, and what else you want to be included in scope but which can be deployed in later releases. This will be your reference point to help stakeholders focus on what’s most important.
|1||Define project cost streams e.g. initial build, licensing, hosting etc.|
|2||Agree and sign-off realistic budget for each stream with Sponsor and Finance Director.|
|3||Document which budget pots each cost stream is allocated to, and who owns the pot.|
|4||Agree a contingency budget to cover project scope creep or unforeseen issues.|
|5||Create a high-level definition of the project scope.|
|6||Agree prioritisation criteria for scope items e.g. MoSCoW.|
|7||Review scope with key stakeholders and refine to create an approved scoping document based on the agreed prioritisation criteria.|
|8||Get scoping document approved and signed-off by Project Sponsor.|
|9||Review project phasing and define your MVP (minimal viable proposition) version of the project scope.|
|10||Use prioritisation criteria to define priority order for non-MVP scope items.|
|11||Flag high-level requirements in the scope that need further business case justification.|
|12||Work with appropriate stakeholders to assess business case for each requirement.|
|13||Make recommendation to Steering and Project Sponsor based on the outcome of business case assessment.|
Project management discipline will make or break your project. The most successful projects I've worked on have had brilliant, experienced project managers in control of delivery.
Appoint an internal project manager with experience in complex technology projects and who has a track record of working with stakeholders at all levels, right up to board level. The project manager will be responsible for the project charter and setting up your project office to ensure there is a clear process for getting you from set-up to go-live as efficiently as possible. If you don’t have/can’t afford this resource, then either bring in an experienced external PM or appoint someone internally who’s highly organised and who can be seconded to this project so they have sufficient time to run it.
|1||Appoint an experienced project manager.|
|2||Set-up the Project Office (physical or virtual, the people and tech that the PM needs to deliver the project).|
|3||Create the project stakeholder RACI matrix.|
|4||Define the decision-making paths and stakeholders responsibilities.|
|5||Create a PID (project initiation document) and distribute to all stakeholders (internal and external).|
|6||Create a RAID log (Risks, Actions, Issues & Decisions).|
|7||Define and approve the project collaboration toolkit (systems, processes, people etc.).|
|8||Set-up and test all systems and processes that will be used for project collaboration.|
|9||Brief all stakeholders on their roles and responsibilities.|
|10||Set-up project reporting tools and distribute draft reports for review and approval by Steering Group.|
|11||Set-up key project meetings and invite required attendees.|
|12||12 Agree process for on-boarding new project stakeholders with senior stakeholders and Project Sponsor. |
In my experience, trying to select your platform by evaluating a full list of all functional requirements is fools gold. It adds unnecessary time and effort.
Most requirements are hygiene factors for ecommerce platforms e.g. Wishlists; they can all do them, to varying degrees. A sensible approach is to identify your business and technology principles (e.g. we require a SaaS solution that supports a fully headless ecommerce set-up), then define business critical requirements and make these the focus for your platform analysis e.g. integration with your ERP, alignment with your RMA process.
|1||Agree with Project Sponsor and Project Manager the stakeholder interview set.|
|2||Create stakeholder interview guides and pre-planning briefs.|
|3||Brief stakeholders on interview requirements and format/style.|
|4||Book all interviews into diaries and add a clear agenda.|
|5||Run interviews and document key insights as meeting minutes.|
|6||Ensure any risks, actions, issues & decisions identified during the interviews are flagged to the Project Manager to add to the RAID log.|
|7||Prioritise documented requirements using the agreed prioritisation criteria.|
|8||Circulate captured interview notes to relevant stakeholders for review and comment.|
|9||Update interview notes and submit draft set to Project Steering for review.|
|10||Update interview notes based on Steering feedback.|
|11||Submit signed off business critical requirements to the Project Manager to add to DMS (document management system).|
With your business critical set of requirements defined, you can now evaluate the market and shortlist ecommerce platforms.
I typically advise to shortlist a maximum of 3 platforms for detailed analysis. Based on your scope, budget and requirements, it's usually relatively straightforward to exclude some platforms. For example, if your initial build budget is less than £100k, then you can rule out enterprise platforms like Hybris. If you don’t want to pay a license fee, then you narrow down the field very quickly to open source solutions like Magento Open Source or WooCommerce.
Focus your efforts on the platforms that are best aligned with your project needs, budget and scope.
|1||Review license costs for leading ecommerce platforms.|
|2||Speak to vendors/system integrators for indicative project build costs.|
|3||Run gap analysis for business critical requirements vs. native platform functionality e.g. if B2B is critical, focus on platforms with proven native B2B capabilities.|
|4||Shortlist to a maximum of 3 viable platforms.|
|5||Create a weighted scorecard for the detailed comparison of shortlist platforms (you can download my template here).|
|6||Define and agree scoring criteria for the weighted scorecard.|
|7||Review all available documentation and professional reviews on each platform.|
|8||Arrange focused product demos with vendors to deep dive into how they satisfy business critical requirements.|
|9||Speak to industry contacts to validate platform assumptions e.g. speak to another company using the platform.|
|10||Rate and score each vendor for each component of the weighted scorecard.|
|11||Flag components where deeper analysis and due diligence is required.|
|12||Carry out due diligence (research, calls, meetings etc.) and update the scorecard with notes.|
|13||Identify your preferred platform based on the weighted scoring*.|
|14||Present preferred platform rationale to Steering Group for approval.|
|15||Approval for preferred platform from Steering Group.|
Now you have selected your preferred platform based on fit with business needs, it's essential to compare lifetime costs vs. the other shortlisted platforms.
A common mistake is to focus on upfront development and licensing costs only, and not factor in how costs evolve as you grow the business. I recommend creating a 3 to 5-year cost model that maps all Capex and Opex costs over the project lifetime and then calculates the annual cost as a % of the total GMV (Gross Merchandise Value).
By doing this you can compare the cost impact and affordability of each platform.
|1||Define all cost streams associated with the project; flag which are Capex and which are Opex.|
|2||Identify which budget pot each cost stream is associated with.|
|3||Define your GMV revenue targets (recommended over 3-5 years).|
|4||Create a TCO cost model template (Excel is ideal).|
|5||Add in a provision for a detailed Discovery phase (to create functional specifications).|
|6||Add in Year 1 upfront costs – project build, licenses, hosting etc.|
|7||Add in licensing and hosting fees for year 2 onwards based on GMV growth targets.|
|8||Add in Support & Maintenance costs for each year.|
|9||Add in 3rd party tool costs^.|
|10||Add in a cost allocation for BAU enhancements (small/medium post launch development) e.g. provision for 10 days’ development per month.|
|11||Run a sensitivity analysis on the cost model for under and over performance e.g. growth is -10%, -20% of GMV targets and +10%, +20%.|
|12||Calculate the % cost of GMV for each platform for each scenario and create a summary table.|
|13||Present TCO cost model to Finance for review and approval.|
|14||Present approved TCO model to Steering Group for review.|
|15||Update TCO model based on feedback and submit approved version.|
|16||Review preferred platform decision in light of TCO cost model – Green Light / Further analysis / Change decision?|
You have already selected your preferred platform based on its fit-for-purpose against business critical requirements and cost of ownership.
Before you sign any contracts, it's important to do due diligence to iron out any concerns or uncertainties because no platform is ever a 100% perfect fit. There is always compromise, so make sure the business understands and accepts this compromise.
Platform investment isn't to be taken lightly; it pays to be cautious and do additional validation before signing contracts. What are your biggest concerns for your preferred vendor? How can you mitigate them? Are you comfortable with this level of risk?
|1||Identify platform functional areas that scored lower than alternative platforms.|
|2||Create a demo brief for the vendor/SI to address these concern areas.|
|3||Run detailed demos for all the scenarios to learn how the platform will work in practise to achieve your needs.|
|4||Get a written response from the vendor/SI detailing what is OOTB (out of the box), what requires configuration and what would be bespoke development.|
|5||Get a written estimation from the vendor/SI of the projected added cost to the project of enabling these functional areas and any risks they have identified.|
|6||Request additional technical documentation from the vendor/SI if required.|
|7||Review additional documentation with a qualified technical specialist (internal or consultant).|
|8||Identify and contact other Clients already using the platform.|
|9||Interview other Clients on platform implementation, performance post go-live and quality of support & maintenance service.|
|10||Summarise key findings into a report and present to Steering.|
|11||Follow-up any red flags with the vendor/SI to get assurances.|
|12||Revisit platform decision in light of findings: Green Light / Further analysis / Change decision?|
Now the platform investment decision has been signed-off, you need to go to market to identify relevant systems integrators who can implement the platform for you.
Running an RFP requires a clear definition of goals and evaluation criteria for the agencies. It pays to pause for a moment and plan your RFP approach carefully before speaking to any external agencies.
Finding the right partner is just as important as selecting the best-fit ecommerce platform.
|1||Establish selection criteria for SI partners.|
|2||Review systems integrator landscape for your chosen platform.|
|3||Request SI recommendations from your chosen vendor based on your project size & complexity.|
|4||Review options and present shortlist recommendation to Steering.|
|5||Steering approves SI partner shortlist.|
|6||Create detailed project brief for SI shortlist partners.|
|7||Distribute brief to SI partners.|
|8||Run phone briefings to answer questions and educate SIs on the project scope and deliverables.|
|9||Set-up SI partner presentation meetings with key stakeholders.|
|10||Create a weighted scorecard to evaluate SIs (reuse vendor scorecard format).|
|11||Run SI presentations and capture notes.|
|12||Request formal project proposal from SIs outlining methodology and costs.|
|13||Update the scorecard with notes and create a baseline score.|
|14||Review scorecard with project team.|
|15||Agree a preferred SI partner.|
|16||Create a business case for the recommendation and present to Steering.|
|17||Steering approve SI partner recommendation.|
As with platform due diligence, before you sign any contracts, it's important to do due diligence to iron out any concerns or uncertainties because no SI (systems integrator) partner is ever a 100% perfect fit. There is always compromise, so make sure the business understands and accepts this compromise.
Investment in a business critical partnership isn't to be taken lightly; it pays to be cautious and do additional validation before signing contracts.
|1||Document outstanding areas of concern and brief into partner for a final response.|
|2||Carry out extended interviews with testimonial clients.|
|3||Canvass market through your networks to speak to other clients (past and present).|
|4||Flag any concerns to the partner for response.|
|5||Provide a high-level final statement of project scope and deliverable to the partner.|
|6||Request formal project proposal including cost model and high-level project plan from partner.|
|7||Request all documentation including SLAs and MSAs.|
|8||Arrange legal review of documentation.|
|9||Carry out negotiation with partner on agreements until both parties are happy to sign.|
Ecommerce replatforming projects are complex, involving a wide range of stakeholders, business processes and technology systems. Risk is an inherent part of any project of this scale.
By approaching risk in a proactive manner, you can minimise the potential disruption to your project. It's essential that you ensure identified risks are properly defined and a plan put in place to mitigate this risk.
|1||Solicit input from all stakeholders on potential project risks; collate information.|
|2||Run a risk workshop with senior stakeholders.|
|3||Prioritise risks based on likely project impact.|
|4||Appoint owners for each risk & task them with creating risk mitigation plans.|
|5||Create a Risk Charter (document summarising risks, owners & mitigation plan).|
|6||Submit Risk Charter to Steering Group for review and approval.|
|7||Add approved risks to the project RAID log.|
|8||Monitor impact of risks and provide updates via agreed project reports.|
|9||Escalate risks to Steering Group when the mitigation plan isn’t working on the risk impact is increased.|
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'James helped me with our vendor selection process for a new ecommerce platform. From start to finish he offered sound advice & demonstrated great market knowledge.'Mike Burnett, Ecommerce Director, Linley London
Free 10-part video series on ecommerce replatforming. Watch the introduction to learn why your ecommerce teams should put the right level of detail, effort and investment into project planning.
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