Why is the technical specification the most important project in the development cycle of your online store?

29.01.2023

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Категории: Ecommerce tips
Why is the technical specification the most important project in the development cycle of your online store?

This article is valuable for all traders who are involved in the development of an eCommerce project, whether it's a new or existing business, a completely new project, or the migration of an old online store to a new and improved platform.

Why is the topic of the technical specification important?

To answer this question, we need to look at a longer period of development involving participants (traders and developers) in the Bulgarian eCommerce (online trading) scene.

Let's divide this period into three parts. The first part covers the time before 2010 when no merchant had a technical specification for their eCommerce project, and the concept of it was not clear either. This prompted us to create our first Stenik series, and the most viewed video from it for a long time was the first episode "How to prepare a website specification?"

As a second part, we look at the period between 2010 and 2020 when businesses began making attempts to provide briefs and technical specifications, and in many cases, it was successful. Traders already had personnel with some experience who could formulate requirements and needs.

Now, we arrive at the third part, which is the current period, where project complexity is higher than ever. The digital transformations that many businesses underwent (including those triggered by the pandemic), while others are still trying to implement, have made the task of realizing an eCommerce business and development more complex, which directly affects the technical specifications themselves. Evidence for this lies in the figures we share below, drawn from our practice, namely: [Please provide the specific figures or data from the article here].

The reality is such, and it will be difficult to find anyone who would dispute it, whether it concerns our company or other colleague developers. To avoid merely treating the symptoms but also the root cause, we need to look beneath the surface, where we find something troubling:

"8 out of 10 clients share that they have received price proposals from developer companies without providing almost any specific information about their project."

Therefore, we need to go back to the beginning...

Is it really that complicated to create a specification?

In practice, there are three scenarios that any business focused on developing an eCommerce project may find themselves in:

  • No specification;
  • Thinks they have a specification;
  • Has a specification.

To be sure about the scenario a business is in, we first need to clarify what a "specification" is.

What is a 'specification' for eCommerce project development?

We will examine and explain three concepts that exist in our practice:

1. Brief

  • Always comes from the client.
  • Includes: "I want a new store that includes this and that. We are currently 'here,' and we want to reach 'there,' and we believe it will happen this way."
  • Length: 2-3 pages.

2. Client assignment

  • Comes from the client.
  • Includes: Specific goals, detailed description of needs, current situation, constraints, opportunities, etc.
  • Length: 5-10 pages.
  • Important! An established specification often follows the de-brief with the developer.
    ! De-brief is the process of discussing the brief, where the developer actively asks questions about the document, and the client starts to specify their requests. It may involve live meetings and remote discussions.

! De-brief is the process of discussing the brief, where the developer actively asks questions about the document, and the client starts to specify their requests. It may involve live meetings and remote discussions.

3. Technical specification

  • Includes: Mockups, in-depth details of functionalities, integrations with third parties, etc.

  • Length: 15-100 pages.\

  • Developed by: to be explained below in the article.

After looking at the main types of specifications we encounter, let's also examine where they are applied, i.e., what are they actually used for and what changes they bring about.

How does the development of an eCommerce project proceed?

We will give an example of a typical Stenik project:

  • Project Type: Development of an online store;

  • Subtype: Migration of an existing e-store and synchronization with ERP;

  • Duration: 6 months;

  • Methodology: Waterfall.

In the two separate graphics below, we have shown how the development of a similar project can unfold in the two different scenarios. One is when the work starts based on a client assignment (or just a brief), which is a common practice in our industry. The other is when a technical specification is drafted, based on which an offer is made, and work begins.

Work process based on a client assignment (or just a brief)

 

As we can see in the graph, by directly initiating the development based on a client assignment or brief, there is a likelihood of unexpected functionalities arising during the development, leading to delays and changes in the project budget. It is also characteristic that this process occurs cyclically, meaning it can happen an unlimited number of times during the development period, and often at different stages.

 

The purpose of the technical specification is precisely to avoid these moments. The second graph illustrates the sequence of stages when working with a technical specification, and as we can see, unexpected moments are absent.

 

Work process after drafting a detailed technical specification.

 

Once it becomes clear that the technical specification is a prerequisite for good planning and anticipating issues at an early stage, we arrive at the most important question:

Who should prepare the specification?

Before determining who should prepare the technical specification, let's first look at the activities that need to be executed before and during the creation of a comprehensive and complete specification:

  • Business needs analysis;
  • Description of current business processes and proposals for optimization;
  • Description of existing functionalities (in the case of an existing project), desired changes, and new functionalities;
  • Description of necessary integrations with external systems;
  • Preparation of sample user interface mockups;
  • Drafting a specification for SEO activities and marketing tools;
  • Setting deadlines, priorities, and resources for implementation;
  • Budgeting.

From the aforementioned list of activities, it becomes evident that the participants in the specification should, at a minimum, include:

  • Product owner (CEO, eCommerce manager, owner);
  • Business analyst;
  • UX/UI designer;
  • Software engineer (or architect for more complex projects).

It is desirable to also include:

  • Project/delivery manager (for proper staging);
  • Sales manager (for proper budgeting);
  • Internal IT specialist (usually a system administrator);
  • Operations manager (in larger companies, this may be a different person from the product owner).

In certain projects (an increasing trend), the involvement of the following third parties is also required:

  • ERP integrator/developer;
  • SEO marketing agency.

Our experience shows that with such a list of specialties, in 100% of cases, the merchant who has decided to conquer new heights with their new online store (or B2B platform) is in a situation where they cannot even secure half of these specialists and perform the necessary activities.

Hiring an external consultant sometimes appears to be a good option for task delegation, but experience once again shows that consultants cannot be seen as "saviors" in these situations. In reality, they can only combine one or two of the activities we described, and this should be taken into account when seeking their assistance.

That's why our advice and methodology for medium and large eCommerce projects state that the most suitable person to create a brief for a new online store... is not actually a single person. It is a collaborative team that includes representatives from the merchant, the developer, and the relevant third parties involved in the success of this project.

And if there is still a hint of doubt and you are asking yourself the question:

"What do we gain from the technical specification?"

We will end with one of our favorite sayings, which goes:

A good technical specification can achieve both.

Key conclusion:

Without a technical specification, you significantly reduce the chances of your eCommerce project being completed on time, within the allocated budget, and meeting the expected goals. The technical specification is the first and most crucial stage of the development of any serious eCommerce project and involves participants from both the merchant's and developer's side. Creating the technical specification gives you the unique opportunity, for just a part of the overall development budget, to conduct a full 360-degree review of your project in advance and ensure its success, leaving nothing to chance.

The owners of some of the most successful projects in our portfolio have entrusted us not only with the entire development, support, and growth, but also with the collaborative preparation of the technical specification following the model described in the article. If you also want to ensure the success of the development or migration of your eCommerce project, do not hesitate to contact us right away!

About the author:

Dimitar Dimitar Dimitrov

Dimitar Dimitrov has been a partner and Commercial Director at STENIK since 2006.

Over the years he has gained valuable experience as a web consultant, successfully finding new clients and maintaining relationships with existing clients. He has also participated in the development of a number of major projects ranging from Douglas, Ozone, AIKO, Tehnomix and more. Dimitar's strength is advising clients to integrate online stores with various ERP systems and warehouse software.

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Коментари:

  • Пано Кондоянис

    24.02.2023

    Не ми продавай нищо което не ми увеличава прихода или не ми намаля разхода е идеалното. В повечето случаи разход и приход вървят ръка за ръка и оптимизацията на процесите е по-важна.

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