B2B eCommerce Project Management: Making the Case to Overseas IT
In B2B eCommerce project management, making the case for a B2B eCommerce solution comes with unique challenges. For global companies running SAP ERP, that equation is especially complex. How can a US-based subsidiary make the case for eCommerce to an IT organization that’s based on the other side of the globe?
We often see our clients and prospects grappling with the complexities of this scenario. The key is for US-based subsidiaries to communicate the right message to the right people in IT. In this article, we’ll give you 5 tips to ensure that you’re sending the right message to the right people.
1. Engage your IT organization early
What’s the most powerful decision you can make in B2B eCommerce project management? The decision to engage IT early. Wherever your subsidiary is based, wherever headquarters is based, this is the #1 rule of B2B eCommerce projects. Engage IT early!
Why do we harp on this so much? Because we’ve seen the results of not engaging IT early. Those results are painful. They usually take one of two forms:
- IT doesn’t support the solution. An SAP eCommerce deal that develops too far without the involvement of IT. Once IT comes in to look over the specs, they reject the project because their concerns weren’t considered from the start.
- Marketing builds a non-scalable solution. A Marketing team that doesn’t talk to IT and builds a non-SAP-integrated solution instead. (Read: data maintenance nightmare)
Both scenarios miss the mark. Either the organization doesn’t get eCommerce at all, or they wind up with an eCommerce solution that doesn’t integrate to SAP.
When it’s done right, eCommerce makes you easier to do business with. That’s good for growing revenue (new customers, existing customers buy more) and becoming more efficient (less human intervention for conducting most of the routine business).
Without e-commerce, you simply don’t become easier to do business with. And if you build e-commerce but don’t integrate it to SAP with some amount of real-time data, the burden on your IT organization grows as they have to manage batch synchronization of data between two platforms (e-commerce and SAP).
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? A solution that makes everyone happy?
Absolutely. It starts with a mindset change. It’s important to recognize that, as a subsidiary, you’re part of a large, multinational organization. That means that the way you approach the project is crucial. Start out by understanding the interests of global HQ. Understand their planning and decision-making process. Engage them early, well before you have a solution to present to them.
When the time is right, The key is to find a low-impact e-commerce solution that you can bring to IT. Even better, let IT think the solution was their idea. In the end, it will be their decision. Make them partners in the journey and work as a team.
2. Bring a low-impact solution to IT
If you work in Marketing, your mindset is necessarily far different from that of IT. You think “new business” all day long. You want to go out and get the bacon. The more bacon you can bring home, the better, right?
That’s not how IT thinks. They have to cook the bacon.
IT is one of the most overworked departments in any organization. Their unofficial job description is usually something like, “keep things from breaking, then fix things when they break anyway.” Although IT ultimately depends on Marketing and Sales for their jobs, their focus isn’t the same. They will prioritize projects based on projected ROI, but they also have to worry about making the technology work.
If you want the support of your IT organization, do your research and find a low-impact e-commerce solution. They’ll be impressed. (Hint: 1/3 of Corevist clients have no IT staff dedicated to supporting their SAP-integrated e-commerce solution. That’s a powerful statistic to bring to your CIO.)
3. Understand the importance of centralized ERP data management
You need e-commerce—that’s a given. But as you make the case for this new sales channel, you need to understand IT’s position and the concerns that they’ll have even when you bring them a low-impact, no-staff e-commerce solution.
Because your company runs on SAP ERP, they’ve made a clear commitment to centralized data management for all information related to the business. ERP data isn’t sexy, like a new marketing-oriented e-commerce site, but it does all the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Because your organization has made such a large investment in their ERP system, they want to eliminate data duplication as much as possible. Any e-commerce solution that requires constant data duplication and maintenance between e-commerce and ERP will be met with a big, fat NO. IT won’t introduce data duplication—it makes their jobs harder, and they are the boss when it comes to SAP.
If you can demonstrate to IT that you understand the importance of ERP data integrity, and that you’ve found a solution that doesn’t duplicate any ERP data, your case for e-commerce will fall on more receptive ears.
4. Understand that eCommerce may still force mini IT projects
Even the best SAP e-commerce solution may still force IT to make some changes to SAP. For example, if SAP wasn’t initially configured with e-commerce in mind, IT may have to tweak things like Material Master or Customer Master to prepare that data for exposure to the web.
However, we find that e-commerce exerts an “improving influence” on SAP maintenance. When companies decide to clean up their ERP data for web exposure, they end up with a more efficient SAP configuration that requires less maintenance. We call this the Kimono Effect, and we’ve been observing it for years.
5. Engage an industrial-strength trusted advisor
9+ years in SAP e-commerce have taught us one thing: it’s hard for SAP companies to find a partner who speaks both SAP and e-commerce/web. These circles simply don’t overlap. Consequently, Marketing and IT each focus on their own non-overlapping domains, and B2B e-commerce projects languish in approval hell or, worse, get built the wrong way and cost the organization in time, money, and headaches.
But what if you could engage an industrial-strength trusted advisor who knows B2B, knows SAP, and knows e-commerce web development?
At Corevist, this is our sweet spot. We’re Magento Technology Partners, which means we speak e-commerce fluently. We’re also SAP certified on NetWeaver, which means we speak SAP fluently. We can help bridge the gap between these two worlds and ensure that the final solution works for Marketing, works for IT, and grows sales without growing the data maintenance burden.
Moving forward: Case study
Want to learn more about SAP-integrated eCommerce and how it satisfies the needs of Marketing and IT? Download this case study on Blount International. You’ll learn how Blount engaged a solution that satisfied their customers and distributors while integrating fully to SAP.
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