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3.6 The E-Retailer site development process and project management

 

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The E-Business, the E-Customer, their Relationship and Interactivity

 

 

KunnskapskildenE-Business –
E-Business, E-Customer, Relationship and Interactivity

 

Dissertation
The E-Business, the E-Customer,
their Relationship and Interactivity 

Jan Vig 

Dissertation  av Jan Vig om E.Business, E-Customer, Relationship and Interactivity  (286 sider) i forbindelse med Masterstudie i Information Technology and Communication Juni 2000.

 

The E-Retailer Business, the E-Customer,
their Relationship and Interactivity

Table of Contents

Chapter One Introduction to the study

Chapter Two Business in Cyberspace

Chapter Three E- Retailer Commerce

Chapter Four E-Customer, Relationship and Interactivity

Chapter Five A Successful Case study – Amazon.com

Chapter Six The Future, Critical Success Factors, E-Business Strategy, Results and Conclusion

Appendix

 

 

Chapter 3

The E-Retailer Commerce 

 

 

Chapter Three E- Retailer Commerce

3.1 Introduction
3.2 The E-Commerce Opportunities, Barriers and Challenges
3.2.1 SWOT
3.2.2 Opportunities and benefits
3.2.3 Barriers and Treats
3.2.4 Challenges
3.3 E-Retailing
3.3.1 Online Retailing
3.3.2 Requirements and elements for E-Retailer commerce
3.4 Agents, intelligence agents and technology
3.5 The Customer led E-Business
3.6 The E-Retailer site development process and project management
3.6.1 The E-Retailer Web development process
3.6.2 Team and skills
3.7 The E-Retailer and Promotion
3.8 Competitive Intelligence and Market Research on the Internet
3.9 Summary

 

 

3.6

The Customer led E-Business

 

 

3.6.1 The E-Retailer Web development process

 

The 21st century is here, along with tighter budgets, less time, and fewer resources. To compete in the new century the E-Retailer will need to do more with less. Competition will continue to pressure the E-Retailer to come up with better ideas. To succeed with the Web development process the E-Retailer will need to develop faster, cheaper and better. And the E-Retailer will need to get things done right the first time. Using project management techniques to control a project saves time and money in the long run.

 

Web-site development in today’s demanding environment typically doesn’t follow any clearly defined methods
or standards or practice.
This may be due to the fact that the development of Web sites is perceived as an entirely new venture.
(Holzschlag, 2000)

 

Hodgen and Griffith University (1996, 1999 CIT 2182) define a project in the following way:

 

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.

  • Temporary means that every project has a definite beginning and a definite end.
  • Unique means that the product or service is different in some distinguishing way from all similar products or services.

 

 

Senn (1998:556-557) define system development as “the process of examining a business situation, designing a system solution, to improve that situation and acquiring the human, financial, and information technology resources needed to develop and implement the solution.”

Further he define Project Management as…”the process of planning, organizing, integrating, and overseeing the development of an IT application to ensure that the project’s objectives are achieved and that the system is implemented according to expectations.”

 

England (1999: 8) writes:

Because multimedia uses many skills, and because its people come from a variety of backgrounds,
the multimedia environment does not have a single, defined way of working.
New media companies tend to have a bias according to their origin and backgrounds of their management.
This bias will usually reflect journalism, advertising, video production, computing, publishing,
or interactive training/education.
Each of these disciplines has different role names, phases of production, methods
for documenting production, ways of working, organizational structures and cultures.

 

“IT departments are having to come to grips with a new sort of development project that breaks with most of the ways of working they have set up to deliver quality IT systems. Web application and Web sites differ from conventional IT systems. Web development is not done in the same way a company would develop a new administration systems or a new component for its general ledger.” (The Australian 4/8-99)

IT research and market analyst GartnerGroup puts Web applications into a category it calls opportunistic applications to sharply distinguish them from traditional It developments.

As many as 80 per cent of all applications being developed today may fall into this category, according to Gartner.

 

Why is Web development so different are the question.

IT Methods:

  • Take a long time to produce results
  • They are expensive and require a lot of time from those seeking the new application.
  • The users and the developers have to work together on the planning, the testing and the deployment.

Web development:

  • Can produce results in a few months.
  • It is much quicker it costs less and
  • Doesn’t require such a commitment of human resources from the area developing the application.
  • In some cases, the IT department is not involved.
  • The development is outsourced to a specialist web development company.
    Many of these web development companies wouldn’t have the resources to develop in the traditional way. They often don’t have much understanding of traditional IT development.
  • Don’t follow a proven methodology

 

 

 

That means that there are lots of areas for conflict between the two approaches.

 

The conlusion is:

The IT department needs to understand that the Web forces modular development and a rapid approach development approach. It needs to give the web team some openings in development methodologies and its choice of tools. On the other hand the web team needs to recognise that the IT department has a lot of concerns. The web team must fit in with the underlying IT framework.

As well, the web team needs to take onboard concerns about a lack of testing and quality assurance in its development approach.

The IT department needs to come up with a minimum set of conditions that it can live with.

The web team needs to understand the cost of ignoring these conditions.

 

Burdman (1999: 4-5) describes typical web project characteristics in the following way:

  • Project managers are not always client managers
  • Development schedules are dramatically short
  • New, often beta, technologies are used, often without technical support.
  • Scope changes occur during the implementation phase.
  • A pricing model for Web projects does not exist.
  • Standards for Web production do not exist.
  • Team roles are less specialised.
  • Clients are often unwilling to bear the cost of Web development, especially during the planning phase.
  • The project manager’s responsibility is very broad.

 

 

Holzslag (2000) point out that Web-site project management can be refined using the wisdom of existing methodologies, and be brought up to standard with a modicum of practices.

 

She presents in the table below web development activities as they occur when following media production techniques:

 

Media Development Technique Corresponding Web Development Activities
Preproduction ·      Brainstorm the approach·      Gather and generate content·      Construct the site map·      Develop and approve an interface·      Determine technological needs
Production ·      Develop and refine content·      Get graphics production underway·      Produce HTML and scripts·      Deploy database and server-side programming·      Organize server administration and hosting
Publication ·      Aggressively test site for cross-platform,·      cross-browser compatibility·      Review code for consistency and functionality·      Check all links·      Review site for spelling and grammar concerns·      Upload site to the live server where it will reside
Post-Publication ·      Perform routine maintenance·      Add regular updates·      and additional content to the site as needed Promote site to the public (or within the·      organisation in the case of intranet development) Discuss future expansions and redesign

 

 Table 3.7 Web development activities as they occur when following media production techniques

 

She suggest also to use the Software Development Concepts RAD (rapid application development) methodology.  This technique or methods derived from it are often put into place during the production and deployment of software products.

 

 

Another approach suggested from Holzschlag (2000) is integrating software application development techniques into the Web design process as shown below:

 

Software Development Technique Corresponding web development technique
Feedback and focus groups are organized and queried. Employees of the Web shop can be organised into groups and asked to provide feedback about what their management and organization needs are. Focus groups should also comprise people from outside of the organization. These groups can be reconvened throughout the process to check on the site’s efficacy.  
Feedback and focus groups are organized and queried. Employees of the Web shop can be organised into groups and asked to provide feedback about what their management and organization needs are. Focus groups should also comprise people from outside of the organization. These groups can be reconvened throughout the process to check on the site’s efficacy.  
Existing technology should be reused wherever sensible and possible An inventory of all existing content (brochures, photos, and interactive media) will help developers instantly see what they can recycle or update. This step will be especially useful for those managing a site redesign, helping determine which information can be used in the new version. 
Scheduling and risk management are imperative for quick yet efficient application development. Development and adherence to a schedule is critical to deploy a quality Web site in step with the evolution of the project and company goals. 
The project is managed by a project manager Assigning a single individual to manage a team for the lifetime of the project ensures that milestone goals are met.
For projects spearheaded by a single individual, using management software is routine. 

 


Table 3.8 Integrating software application development techniques into the Web design process

 

 

According to Lynch (1999: 4-10) a web project generally follow six major stages:

  • Site definition and planning
  • Information architecture
  • Site design
  • Site construction
  • Site marketing
  • Tracking, evaluation, and maintenance

 

 

 

 

Sherwood, Hodgen , Rout and Crock (1998) has described a development methodology for interactive multimedia and online products in 6 phases.

These phases are:

  • Initiation
  • Specification
  • Design
  • Production
  • Review and Evaluation
  • Delivery and Implementation

 

 

 

Burdman (1999: xvi) suggest the following phases in the what she call collaborative Web development:

 

  • Phase I Planning and Strategy
  • Phase II Design and Specification Prototyping
  • Phase III Production
  • Phase IV Testing
  • Launch
  • Feedback and Results

 

 

 

By comparing the different methodologies and advises which are mentioned in the literature the dissertation is of the opinion that certain steps in the process either is undervalued or not integrated in the ‘complete’ process which a retailer need to go through to succeed with his/her E-Business initiative. The dissertation presents its own model in 4 phases in the Chapter 6.4 Recommendation.

 

In the project management process of a web site Nielsen (1997) mention some classic mistakes:

 

  • Not Knowing Why.
    Most companies should start their web design project by finding out ways in which they can provide true customer value on their site. Give users benefits from spending time on your site allow them to do business with you, and their money will follow.
  • Designing for Your Own VPs.
    The site should be designed with customers’ needs in mind and not to promote grandiose ideas of self-importance.
  • Letting the Site Structure Mirror Your Orgchart.
    The site structure should be determined by the tasks users want to perform on your site.
  • Outsourcing to Multiple Agencies.
    The best way to ensure consistency is to have a single department that is responsible for the design of the entire site
  • Forgetting to Budget for Maintenance.
    As a rule of thumb, the annual maintenance budget for a web site should be about the same as the initial cost of building the site, with 50 percent as an absolute minimum.
  • Treating the Web as a Secondary Medium.
    The Web is a new medium. It’s different from television, it’s different from printed newspapers, and it’s different from glossy brochures, so you cannot create a good website out of content optimized for any of these older media.
  • Wasting Linking Opportunities.
    The Web is a linking medium: the hypertext links are what ties it together and allow users to discover new and useful sites.
  • Treating Internet and Intranet Sites the Same.
    Internal intranet Web sites need to be managed very differently from public Internet sites.
  • Confusing Market Research and Usability Engineering.
    A Web design is an interactive product, and therefore usability engineering methods are necessary to study what happens during the user’s interaction with the site.
  • Underestimating the Strategic Impact of the Web.
    It is a huge mistake to treat the Web as if it were an online brochure and manage it out of the marketing department.

 

 

 

An interesting fact is that more than half of all IT projects fail to deliver their expected benefits. Large projects are notorious for ending up late and over budget. Other industries have a better record of implementing large, complex projects. Most of the reasons IT projects fail are management related, rather than technical issues.

 

That mean the E-Retailers have to take the following aspects very serious in the ‘complete’ development process:

  • Business focus
  • Project management
  • Methodology
  • Change control
  • Clear and regular deliverables
  • Project reviews

 

 

 

According to IBM (1999) some valuable lessons could be learned in the development process

 

  1. E-Business solutions are created by connecting and integrating business processes, information and people. E-Business solutions reflect the style of the Internet and the World Wide Web.
  • They are built from existing assets.
  • New function can be added quickly as long as it’s based on standards.
  1. E-Business solutions continue to evolve over time.
  • New devices can be supported on a plug-and- play basis.
  • Information can be leveraged to continuously improve the user experience.
  1. E-Business solutions must grow quickly in multiple dimensions.
  • They must support many new users, even if they appear overnight.
  • They must handle frequent changes and additions to content and creative design.
  1. Finally, E-Business solutions must work. They must offer:
  • Reliability that builds trust.
  • Security that builds confidence.
  • Manageability that ensures performance.

 

To build successful E-Business and to meet the E-Customers need, the E-Retailer should build applications that are standards-based, server-centric, scalable, manageable, quick to deploy and improve productivity and leverage the customer’s core systems and information.

 

 

3.6.2 Team and skills

 

To produce and build an efficient commercial Web Site a lot of skills and team abilities are involved. It requires technical skills. The site needs hardware and software set up and installed. It needs databases, programs and networking. It needs HTML and Java script. It needs domain names and IP addresses. But as well as all that, a good Web site needs graphic design and information architecture. It needs illustrators and photographers. It needs writers and editors. It needs testers and trainers and usability experts. It needs project managers and producers.
The only other process that needs such a wide range of skills is moving-making.

 

One of the team members could be a consultant. What could here be required?
An Internet consultant is equal parts graphic designer, copywriter, and a programmer. To be an Internet consultant he/she must understand the medium of the Internet and the diversity of consulting assignment that he/she may be able to wrest from it, possess a set of superior skills, and finally, he/she must understand how to get into business and stay in business.

 

A successful Internet consultant must be able to operate in all of the following areas:

  • Building sites for clients
  • Advertisement
  • Catalogs
  • Ordering online
  • Marketing
  • Customer service
  • Building Intranets
  • Hosting client Web sites on your server
  • Become an Internet Service Provider
  • Creating an Internet marketing specialty company

 

 

According to Schmidt (1997: 3-4) the skills involved in developing a web site is broad. All of the following capabilities may come into play in the development:

 

Content Development Site Hosting
  • Copywriting
  • Art direction
  • Graphic design
  •  Illustration
  • Photography
  • HTML coding
  • Computer programming including
    – CGI scripts
    – server side executables written in C
    – database development
    – Java , Java script
    – Visual Basic, VB Script, Active X
  • Multlimedia development including:
    – Shockwave
    – VRML
    – streaming audio/video
  • Domain name registration/site hosting·      Systems administration
  • E-mail services
  • Mailing list administration
Site Promotion
  • Search engine registration·      Traditional public relations·      Internet public relations
  • ·Media buying including:
    – banner ads
    – print and television ads

 

 

Bringing together the different parts of a Web development team is difficult. The designers and the technical people think in quite different ways.  Then all the other groups in the middle each have their own perspective. Somehow the producer and/or the project manager must find a way to talk to each group so they understand the project in the same way, and are motivated to contribute.

 

Burdman (1999: 5) require the following skills from a project managers for the Web:

 

  • Software or film project management experience
  • Rigorous understanding of scheduling, budgeting, and resource allocation
  • Superior written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to lead effective meetings
  • Detail oriented
  • Pragmatic
  • Good sense of humor
  • Ability to stay calm during disasters
  • Development or production experience in Web, multimedia, software, or film 

 

 

 

 

Holzschlag (2000) suggest that a web project manager have the following responsibilities and skills:

  • Responsible for a given web project from start to finish.
  • Assigns tasks, runs meetings, sets the tone course of a project.
  • Is a visionary, able to see both logistical details and long-term results.
  • Understands the technology and design of Web development with enough breadth to make appropriate decisions regarding a given project.
  • Is able to delegate responsibilities and trusts team members to get the job done.
  • In some cases, is responsible for aspects of client relations, legal issues, and fiscal concerns.
  • Is diplomatic and understands corporate organisational politics.

 

 

 

One of the most important decisions in the project development process is what kind of skills and team roles are necessary for success of a commercial web site.

 

Burdman (1999: 27-31) are dividing the roles in Core (C), Extended (E), Specialist (S)

She is coming up with the following suggestions:

Project manager/producer (C) Account manager (E) Technical lead (C)
Programmer (E) Network engineer (E) Security expert (S)
Web production specialist (C) Creative lead (C) Designers (C)
Information architect (E) Copywriter (E) Production artist (C)
Quality assurance lead (C) Tester (E) Audio engineer (S)
Video engineer (S) 3D-modeler (S) Web Cast specialist (S)
Media Buyer (S) Strategic Planer (S)

 

 


Table 3.10 Different Roles in a project team

Different projects require different mix.

England (1999: 202-203) writes that the core team for an online project will probably comprise the following:

 

  • One or more graphics artists
  • One or more HTML authors
  • Producer/project manager

 

The extended team include:

  • CGI programmer·      Video personal
  • Sound personal
  • General support
    Personal assistant, secretarial support
  • Specialists support
    technical support, scriptwriters, a training specialist, and instructional designers/ interactive designer. Subject matter experts

 

 


Table 3.11 Core team and extended team

 

Burdman (1999: 31) suggest that a common team composition for E-Commerce is as follows:

 

Project manager Technical lead Information architect
Creativelead/designer Database programmer System integrator/server-side developer
Security expert Network engineer Quality assurance lead/tester
Third-part vendors for customer service and shipping

 Table 3.12 A common team composition for E-Commerce

 

 

For the development of an E-Business it is quite interesting to see that the literature is not mentioning the necessity to integrate people with the following skills:

  • Customer relationship managers
  • People with skills in Business Intelligence
  • Online marketer or
  • People with survey experience

 

 

 

That shows the literature is neglecting skills and knowledge in a customer-led world, which is a necessity for developing an effective E-Business for the future.

 

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