In October 2017, the Project Management Institute conducted a study to observe program and portfolio management professionals and interviewed about 4455 project management professionals, 800 project management office directors and 447 company executives from different sectors, including IT. The study that they created showed results that were not quite surprising, but in dire need of measures to improve the numbers.
On an average, only 56% of projects run by IT companies are completed on time and that 60% of them respect the budget allocated to them. 14% of these projects are considered complete failures while 70% reach the objectives set, according to the professionals interviewed.
According to the institute, of the $100 million invested in projects by IT organizations, $9 million is lost as a result of the unfortunate focus of inefficiency.
And the fact that these numbers reduce even more when it comes to ecommerce projects, shows the ineffective ways that projects are handled.
How do we explain these results??
The Ecommerce Way
Ecommerce projects are one of the most challenging of all kinds of software projects, owning to the nature of the project itself. With integrated and inter-organisational nature, ecommerce projects have a faster development cycle time and a pressing need for an effective strategy at every phase of the project to deal with the problems.
However, the success in implementing ecommerce projects depends a lot on the way an organization handles implementation with factors such as organisational attitudes & business contexts being recognized as key for the implementation process, it is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary and is dependent on the dynamic changes in the technology. This dynamic approach for project management is in contrast with the traditional methods that often consists of tasks in sequential order, to be finished consecutively.
Is Project Management an Illusion?
Trying To Manage a Project Without Project Management is Like Trying To Play a Football Game Without a Gameplan.
As quoted by Rory Burke, Project Management can be defined as a way of developing structure in a complex project, where the independent variables of time, cost, resources and human behaviour come together.
Someone who is involved in an ecommerce project management, has to take care of, and needs to be connected with the following fields :
- Package Selection- The hardest challenge of picking the right software vendor and the package solution from a plethora of options.
- Business Intelligence- Techniques and procedures to obtain the required information about the company' s competitors, customers, their requirements and all the other internal business processess.
- Customer Relationship Management The ability to learn how to treat each customer and his requirement as an important individual.
- Process Improvement- Aligining the organization's operations with its strategic objectives with a goal to improve products and services.
- Human-Resource Management- Hiring and managing the skilled people and do the best to avoid any kinds conflict & project obstacles.
Ecommerce Project Framework
With an emphasis on addressing high risk-areas, stabilizing the basic architecture and refining the driving requirements, the primary challenge of every ecommerce project is to achieve all the project goals and objectives while staying well within the preconceived constraints. This is where process frameworks come into the picture. There are a variety of process frameworks, but all of them contain briefly the following knowledge areas which a project manager should be aware of.
Ecommerce projects tend to have continuous scope changes and the only way to manage the uninterrupted changes the client tries to incorporate with more & more functionalities, is to build the portal in iterations. All the functional changes or additions can be grouped together & introduced in the next release.
As most of the clients in ecommerce space rarely have a well-defined business model in place, the inception phase of the project is always spent in guiding the clients in discovering their requirements. With most of the clients having an abstract idea of what they want, they should be exposed to ideas that help them in building a strong business case for the project. By helping them focus on a strong business model, rather than on a fancy technology, you can build the macro framework for ecommerce project to operate on.
"Time-To-Market" is the most talked about in an ecommerce project than any other type of project management. With the market brimming with more competitors each day, any extra time you take to enter the market will be a grave mistake as it spells nothing but disaster. An interesting study by McKinsey and Company reveals that “Products that come to market six months late, but on budget will earn 33% less profit over five years. In contrast, coming out on time and 50% over budget cuts profits by only 4%.
In ecommerce projects, a component based architecture, portals with dynamic content & functionality & frequent maintenance, would aid quick development & decrease construction and maintenance time without compromising on the quality.
The most important aspect of an ecommerce project is to ensure that you maximize the value delivered at the end of the project. With superior features, the portal needs to deliver with minimum drawbacks & minimal maintenance cost. While estimating a cost of the project, it should be noted that rework is a fact of software development.
Bugs need to be fixed, design flaws and bad coding have to be taken care of, to reduce the amount of rework required. Taking everything into account when the cost is estimated, you might have to face a cost overrun as well. A successfull plan will see the cost of rework decrease steadily with every successive iteration.
Every ecommerce project has to be aware of its major issues such as response time at various loads, scalability and responsiveness, which are quite critical for the success rate. Since the project involves custom-developed components, it is necessary that all the performance criteria are met. By doing a structural prototype at the early stages, gives an early feedback on performance levels.
Also, by focusing on driving requirements & use cases and the balance between requirements evolution, early in the life cycle helps in achieving an overall software quality.
Ecommerce Project Management Methodologies
There are plenty of places to look for inspiration, popular methods that can help you start improving your internal processes. However, let us talk about two of the most popular methodolgies used. Also, note that for any ecommerce project, it is not possible to adapt a specific methodology, and you might have to tweak certain aspects of the methodology for your business.
Agile Project Management
Started in 2001 with the Agile Manifesto, a varient of iterative methods, the agile methodology follows a principle where small portions of the final project are created in each cycle, modifying the project course based on the feedback to the smaller pieces of the project. Widely used by individuals, the Agile practices create an organizational culture that gives importance to customers.
Lean Project Management
The basic idea of Lean methodology is to get rid of all the inessentials in the process, cut out useless meetings, wasteful deliverables, and focus on the deliverables that move the ecommerce business forward, like a new product prototype or improved shopping experience. The methods are iterative and involve creating a verion of the final deliverable in each cycle.
Agile or lean for improvement? Application of lean and agile
Based on a common set of principles of collaboration, iterative delivery, continuous improvement & transparency, Agile & lean have a set of practices that are focused on delivering customer values. Instead of focusing on which one of the two is better, when we combine both the methodologies, the operational efficiency, project excellence, product's service quality and a great working culture, gives a competitive advantage.
While Agile was introduced to improve software development process models, lean was more focused on improving the production system operations. However, over the years, people realised that agile methods need improvement, while the others argued that "lean is a necessary progression for organizations planning to scale their organizational level", which the agile methods failed to address. As a result the agile community started moving towards lean software development. The lean thinking was introduced into practice through integration of a set of principles and practices. The result of which has seen that while agile methodologies have improved software development with some of the best programming practices, lean principles do a great job in improving "agile practices."
Devops – Transforming The Ecommerce Industry
While Agile and Lean methodologies improve software development through extreme programming, when it comes to improving IT performance in order to give organizations a competitive advantage, there is a need for a new way of thinking, a new way of approach to improve production, operations and management processess for a quality driven faster delivery of the project.
This is the reason why, businessess are opting for a new culture, which integrates agile methods, principles of lean, and includes social psychological beliefs for motivating workers, continuous integration and improvement of services to satisfy the clients as well as the development team. This corporate philosophy and way of working is known as Devops.
Trying To Manage a Project Without Project Management is Like Trying To Play a Football Game Without a Gameplan.
What is this Devops?
As Gartner defines, "Devops is a culture shift designed to improve quality of solutions that are business oriented and rapidly evolving and can be eaily molded to today's needs"
More of an integration of different ways of working with the different ways of thinking, thus improving the relationship between business units by promoting better collaboration and communication.
The influence that this model has on the performance is much more profound and the benefits concern all the areas of an organization.
Reforming Traditional Thinking
Driving a cultural change with a purpose to automate & optimise delivery of software, while encouraging teamwork across various professionals,Devops helps organizations focus on a shared objective : To Deliver Great Software, Fast.
By removing barriers, complexities, bottlenecks and unplanned work, Devops allows the team to deliver small pieces of software very quickly, and to a high standard. With automation being the central approach, it ensures that the features that have been written and added, are delivered on time. With Devops, constant software updates, addition of new features and achieving continuous process improvement are quite easy as all members of the teams constantly receive a feedback from each-other, thus driving a continuous integration.
Sustained Software Development
By reducing silos between the development and the operational teams, Devops helps in maintaining the continuity of a software development process. This approach enables non-stop delivery, deployment and integration by minimizing delays and gaps between software creation and releasing, encouraging a seamless software delivery.
Faster Issue Addressing
Based on a common set of principles of collaboration, iterative delivery, continuous improvement & transparency, Agile & lean have a set of practices that are focused on delivering customer values. Instead of focusing on which one of the two is better, when we combine both the methodologies, the operational efficiency, project excellence, producr & service quality and a great working culture, gives a competitive advantage.
Today, more than ever before, the development teams need to break down the inter-departmental silos in order to collaborate in a dynamic environment. Devops paves the way to improve business effeciency by improving transperancy required for effective decision making. It provides an atmosphere of mutual collaboration, communication and integration across all teams.
Improved Customer Experience
With a primary goal to provide high-quality software to end users, Devops encourages teams to strive to meet project requirements. A continuous collaboration of the teams on the same piece of software prevents a error ridden code from being released, thus driving top-line benefits around improved customer experience and increased revenue opportunity.
Stability & Security
With continuous delivery, comes reduction in the severity of potential problems. This in turn results in a more stable & a secure operating environment. A survery also found that organizations that use Devops recovered from a down-time 96 times faster than the ones that did not implement Devops.
When an organization thinks about quality and cost, there is a common notion that they are opposing forces. However, with Devops, great results can be achieved while reducing the costs. The entire perception of quality is transformed because results are more clear, adding new features is easy and quick and the secret behind maintaining high quality all the time is Devops. Most of the industries around the world hgave known this for sometime now, but IT has by far taken a long time to catch up.