The eCommerce Model and the Agile Approach
Just as there are projects that dictate you use a Waterfall approach to managing them, such as building a bridge or a high rise, where the design parameters have to be nailed down early on in the project, there are also projects and tasks that mandate you use a more flexible approach, such as Agile or a hybrid thereof. That said, the most important thing to consider is always planning, goal setting, and what success means in tangible and measurable ways. The latter refers to your key performance indicators (KPIs,) which are critical to achieving success.
Even if you use traditional waterfall to plan out how your business develops in the next 5 to 10 years, Agile and Scrum are the ideal approach to eCommerce for the simple fact that commerce, in and of itself, is a rapidly changing set of activities that need to be managed with utmost flexibility and speed, which is something that an agile framework like Scrum provides, such as:
- The ability to handle changing priorities: in a Scrum environment, the team, including the client, can provide spot input and feedback that can be addressed quickly and effectively. Whether it is a matter of branding, a product presentation, or a target audience, changes can be defined, tested, and addressed swiftly to ensure that they meet or exceed the product or service KPIs.
- Enhanced clarity and insight into the project activities: since the project requirements and objectives are addressed frequently during the Scrum sessions; the associated activities can be adjusted, as required, to ensure that the project is on track. This is accomplished because Agile teams can react, as needed, to any challenge quickly because they work cross-functionally, not just in specific roles that are not allowed to change.
- Allows for better alignment of your organization’s governance and IT: having a product owner, which is typically a business representative, on the team provides constant insight and feedback on whether the work is adhering to organizational goals. This approach reduces any misconceptions and re-do work at the end of the project since the organization’s business goals are addressed in the activities of the product or service being marketed.
- Quicker delivery of your products and services into the marketplace: studies have shown that using Scrum can improve delivery time to end-users by 30-40%. This is achieved by having the product owner progressively elaborate the product and/or service requirements “just in time” and present them clearly and eliminate ambiguity. The products and/or services delivered are in line with the stakeholders’ expectations.
- Improved team efficiency and adeptness: as mentioned above, the preferred Scrum team is where its members work cross-functionally and not just in a specific work item nor in a segregated manner. Scrum teams are typically self-managing and self-governing, which allows them to be more innovative, creative, and easily adaptable. The Scrum masterworks as a servant leader to help bring out the best that team members can offer. In highly functioning teams, the members can make decisions that help improve the balance between their professional and personal lives.
As a PMI Agile Certified Professional (PMI-ACP), I strive to employ my managerial capabilities in every facet of my work, but it is crucially important in the eCommerce environment, not only because of the framework components listed above but also because Agile allows us to address and prioritize risk quickly and effectively. And, as we all have learned this year, minimizing the impact of negative risk (threats) while trying to exploit positive risks (opportunities) has been key to succeeding in business during these “uncertain” times.
Michael P. Doherty, PMI–ACP, is a business consultant specializing in eCommerce. He has over 15 years of experience in Digital Media Marketing.