An e-commerce challenge for a supply chain professional

Inspired-Talent | 11 November 2020

“Hey Carola, would you like to be our e-commerce project manager?” That’s how a phone call started during one of the many homeworking days in the spring of 2020. It was Martin Joosen, the director of LION EMEA, a customer of us, Inspired-Talent. LION has been passionately manufacturing training products for fire & emergency response organizations in the Netherlands for 25 years. Since the beginning of the year, due to COVID-19, they were forced to keep their team of traveling account managers at home. What had been a project on the list for years, had now become a no-brainer: a web shop to serve the B2B market online. Add to this the fact that the entire sales team has taught themselves to give webinars and online product presentations, and you understand that this is an organization that doesn’t sit back and relax.

Unique opportunity

For me, this project was a unique opportunity because the project was moving in a fast pace: in the first week I had arranged 3 suppliers who gave a presentation about their e-commerce solution. After we received the last quotation, Martin asked me “and… which one will it be?” From that moment on, I knew that he trusted me to bring this project to a successful conclusion on my own. How nice to have so much freedom! Armed with a MoSCoW model to select the supplier and a deadline 3 months later, I started working with my project team. This was a project which for me, as a supply chain interim professional, was not directly in my area of expertise. I was still hoping for integration of the web shop with the ERP package, but no, that was ‘not in scope’. My supply chain heart was shouting “Are you sure?!”, “Yes, Carola, we are sure. First let’s see if we can generate extra turnover with this shop”. Okay, too bad, but we are all adapting in COVID time. And I liked to take up this new challenge, so I got to work.

Structuring data

Soon I noticed that the competencies you need in an ERP implementation, are not at all that different from an e-commerce project. I have benefited a lot from the fact that I can easily structure data. A web shop brings a lot of data with it, which all must come to the right place. In addition, the job of every project manager is to monitor the overview and progress. Given the deadline, this was a challenge sometimes and it was not easy for me to motivate all team members at every moment in the process: “we are going in the right direction, but we really should not waste too much time, so can you please take a look at this”? Asking the right questions often helps, but not always. It has taught me that you don’t have to go any faster than the team wants in order to deliver the quality we stand for.

What helped me enormously is the structured approach of our e-commerce supplier Experius. We had chosen them because they deliver a standardized B2B package for Magento software and were the only ones who didn’t think the deadline was unrealistic. They did indicate that it was going to be tight, but they were also willing to help us to make quick steps. The advantage of such a package and their approach is that after the kick-off day we already knew what we had to arrange ourselves, what options the shop would provide and what the next steps would be. For me, that meant getting the master data in order together with the product manager and leaving the design to the marketing manager.

Slow down to speed up

According to my plan I had to update director Martin on a weekly basis, but he removed it from his agenda with the explanation: “if you need anything, let me know!”. A while later I told him that we made appointments at two online marketing agencies and within two weeks we signed a contract with online partner MvH Media. They take care of the promotion and online visibility of the web shop. It is nice to get a lot done is a short time. However… you can also want too much.

A week or two in advance, I had to bring the message that we were not going to meet the deadline. It was known in advance that it was going to be tight, but I really wanted to give it a try. In this process I learned that even if you do a lot yourself, you are still dependent on capacity in the IT team, the supplier, and your own project team. A combination of these three factors ultimately meant that we had to postpone the deadline for a week. On the one hand it’s a pity, but it’s better to go live a little later with a shop your team believes in 100%, than having the feeling that it could have been better. The nice thing about dwelling on the details was that in the meantime I was able to deliver the dates for 4 different languages on the web shop. This shortened the original schedule of 6 months for delivery in 4 languages by 2 months. Slow down to speed up: isn’t that what it’s called?!

“Google is a kind of robot walking around your web shop”

The last milestone was the presentation of the shop to the entire company. Entirely in COVID-style Martin and I did this in an interactive webinar. Meanwhile, there was also a multi-media room equipped with professional cameras, microphones, and a smartboard. It was nice to present an online project this way. We ended the afternoon with a lot of positive reactions, compliments, and a lot of new ideas from the whole organization. For me, the months flew by and I went to the (home) office every morning with energy. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Thanks again to Martin for the trust, my project team for everything they taught me, Experius for their relentless service and MvH Media for the explanation I will never forget in my life; “Google is a kind of robot that walks over your web shop and you have to give it a roadmap so he knows what he can do with the info on your web shop”. I could not have learned this in an ERP implementation!

Also curious about the result and cannot wait to have a look? Then visit LION’s web shop here.

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By Carola Irvine

Are you also looking for a project manager for your e-commerce process? Please get in touch to discuss the possibilities.