Headache Free Development: Saving Now, Paying Later (Pt. 2)

Another critical piece to both your ability to generate revenue as well as your big picture costs is the way you approach the development of your site. When you decide to develop a B2B eCommerce site, you have a few choices. You may choose to use an experienced B2B eCommerce development firm, an internal developer or an outside solo-programmer (often a friend, student or personal connection).

In the first article in this series, we talked about how choosing the right software platform can affect the total lifetime costs of your B2B eCommerce site. Another critical piece to both your ability to generate revenue as well as your big picture costs are the way you approach the development of your site.

When you decide to develop a B2B eCommerce site, you have a few choices. You may choose to use an experienced B2B eCommerce development firm, an internal developer or an outside solo-programmer (often a friend, student or personal connection).

We have seen each of these scenarios in action, and what can happen as a result. It’s important for you to think about the risks involved when deciding who will develop your eCommerce Site.

Internal Resources

Using your internal team can be attractive as it limits your external costs for the work, but it can be problematic for a few reasons. While you likely have people in your company who have programming abilities, eCommerce development is a very different skillset than developing software internally for a company or building a pretty website. If your internal programmers don’t have specific experience in developing B2B eCommerce applications, they won’t know what questions to ask or what things to look for.

I met with a Wisconsin manufacturer whose IT team had been tasked with redesigning their website. Two years had gone by and no progress had been made. Their IT team was a capable group but had a lot on their plate, and their expertise was not in web development. After Brilliance engaged in the project, we had their redesigned site launched in under 3 months.

Solo Programmers


Solo programmers offer similar risks due to lack of experience and frequently aren’t around to support your application after a period of time. One of our customers had work done at a great price by someone who was working part-time at a bank and programming on the side. When his career plans changed, he wasn’t around to support the application anymore, and there was little to no documentation around what he had built.

Web development agencies


External development firms can also cause issues for your application’s long-term maintenance if they don’t have the training and experience necessary for your project. More than once we have seen companies who know how to make a nice looking site but don’t understand the best practices involved in eCommerce development.

Recently we engaged on a project where a marketing agency had advised their client to use Wordpress for their site development. They built a site that looked nice, but the software wasn’t a fit for the company’s expansion plans for the site. There were plans for a portal that would enable their customers to log in and run various reports on their services, invoices, and account usage. While you can accomplish this in Wordpress, it’s not the best software choice for this task, and it a story we see commonly from design agencies that don’t’ have experience with eCommerce and complex development.

Situations like this create a real headache, but what are the actual risks and costs inherent in the wrong development choice?

  • Compliance and security vulnerabilities. Inexperienced developers are often unfamiliar with how to handle security issues and may set up your site in a way that puts you at risk of a credit card data breach or make your site vulnerable to a hacker.
  • Availability of long-term support. If a solo developer creates your site and codes custom functionality themselves, how will the site be supported when they are no longer around?
  • Time.Time costs you money. The longer your project takes to deliver, the less time it is making you money and the more time your competition is gaining on you online. We have seen projects by internal teams take over 2 years and still not get done. When we get involved we are able to complete them within 2 months. This is often due to internal employee turnover, lack of bandwidth, and lack of experience.
  • Technical Debt. When developers aren’t experienced in the type of work they are doing, they fail to plan appropriately for the application requirements.  This incurs a cost to you that we call ‘technical debt’. Over time changes are bolted on in a way that is messy and every upgrade increases in cost.

At Brilliance, we believe that B2B eCommerce is work that requires developers who have traveled this path before. We serve as advisors to ensure that you avoid pitfalls and plan well, not just for the immediate situation, but for your lifetime costs.

When customers have an internal development team, we work with them to understand their skill sets and how we can collaborate effectively together, as appropriate.  We work with them to share our experience on platforms and eCommerce.  We create a more effective and efficient team.

Request a free consultation and we can help you understand what options are the best fit for your needs, not just for today, but to save you money and make you money in the long run.

Lori McDonald

President & CEO

About

Lori McDonald

Lori graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer-Electrical Engineering and leads Brilliance Business Solutions with over 20 years of computer engineering and software development experience.  She is an Episerver EMVP, a Microsoft Certified Professional and a regular contributor on Practical eCommerce. Her status as a recognized industry expert has resulted in regular speaking engagements at business conferences.

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