How To Keep Your eCommerce Project From Running Over Budget

It’s a story we hear frequently from prospective customers. Your eCommerce site project has not been completed. The project is running months late. It is now slated to cost 2-3x what they originally quoted you. What happened? Why is delivering an eCommerce project on-time and on-budget so hard? While you probably have some ideas of what you want, most likely you don’t have enough detail to enable your development team to give you a precise estimate. You probably have some sites that you can point to as examples of what you like and things you want to include. Those example sites are probably companies like Amazon, Grainger, and Home Depot – companies with much larger eCommerce budgets than yours.

Budgeting It’s a story we hear frequently from prospective customers. Your eCommerce site project has not been completed. The project is running months late. It is now slated to cost 2-3x what they originally quoted you. What happened? Why is delivering an eCommerce project on-time and on-budget so hard?

Budgeting is Difficult

While you probably have some ideas of what you want, most likely you don’t have enough detail to enable your development team to give you a precise estimate. You probably have some sites that you can point to as examples of what you like and things you want to include. Those example sites are probably companies like Amazon, Grainger, and Home Depot – companies with much larger eCommerce budgets than yours.

It is really hard for you to have any concept of what your budget should be. There are eCommerce platforms like Shopify that cost less than $100/month to get started. On the top end, there are platforms like SAP hybris, Oracle WebSphere and IBM ATG that require millions to implement. What should you expect your website to cost?

Because of this, you go out and get quotes from different vendors trying to nail down what the project may cost. The quotes you get back may be all over the map. Often, the estimates are hard to compare because they each have a different understanding of your requirements.

Change is Expected

You decide on a vendor and move forward with a commitment to minimizing any changes to keep the project on budget. The challenge is that it is natural for the project to change as it progresses. You realize more of what is possible as the project moves forward. You get clearer on what you want as you see early versions of what you asked for.

So how do you keep your project from running up a bigger tab? Here are 4 recommendations for keeping your project on budget.

1. Upfront Planning Process

The best way to start your project off on the right foot is a paid engagement to lead you through a thorough planning process of your B2B eCommerce website. Why a paid engagement? Because this shouldn’t be rushed, and you want top resources allocated to this effort. We know what questions to ask (and there are a lot of them). We bring knowledge of what is possible, what can be problematic, and what things cost. During this process, a document is created that provides an outline of the functional requirements of the eCommerce site that is written in a way that can be clearly quoted. You will get an estimate back that addresses specific features and what they will cost. Then you can determine which features will offer the best return on investment. Do you want to move forward with your entire list of features, or enter into a phased approach?

2. Clear Stages and Communication

The process is important when building your eCommerce site. It is important to communicate regularly and approve each phase of the project before moving on to the next phase. One of the processes that help to keep the project on track is wireframing. A wireframe is a sketch of how pages will appear on desktop and mobile. This will enable everyone to get on the same page about what content will be displayed before significant development time is invested in building those pages.

Too often, developers are more interested in programming a site than communicating with their clients. You don’t hear from them for weeks or even months, and when they emerge you don’t have a clear expectation of what you will see. Communication is critical for keeping projects on the right track.

3. Tracking and Benchmarking

As the project progresses, the stakeholders need ongoing information on how the development team is doing against the original estimates. There may be some tasks going faster than expected and others taking longer. This is only possible if there are very clear benchmarks laid out in the initial planning phase. At Brilliance, it is something we review every week and communicate exactly where the project stands.

4. Dealing with Changes

As you see things that you want that you didn’t recognize before, these items can be added to a backlog. Your development team can give you estimates on how much time it would take to do the work and you can prioritize the change. Do you want to remove a feature to add this new request in, make this a part of a later project, or approve an additional investment based on the expected ROI of this change?

At the end of the day, your ability to keep your project on a budget is about working with a development team that has experience in this type of work, that communicates well, and that you can trust. At Brilliance, we enjoy making this a painless experience for our customers. We even offer customers an on-time, on-budget guarantee, if they are willing to enter into a commitment to work towards our mutual success.

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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