It’s been almost two weeks since I facilitated our Project Initiation Workshop at the Oakland, CA HQ of Office Relief. It was an intense and exhilarating two days where we demonstrated a live B2B eCommerce website integrated to their SAP QA system. We “threatened” to put the website into production the following Monday and asked the simple question of “why can’t we?”. (This is how our standard Agile Implementation Methodology, that I’ve written about over the years, works.)
Turns out (not unexpectedly) that there were close to 120 reasons why we couldn’t, but “accessing our SAP system in real time” wasn’t one of them. In fact, it’s exactly because our b2b2dot0 service was integrated to Office Relief’s SAP on day one, that several of the 120 reasons became obvious to everyone. For instance, Ship To data was clean enough for internal CSR’s use but could never be displayed on the web “as is” for end users. Same was true for the Payer information and for a large number of products that were no longer available for sale.
We also uncovered many areas for business process improvement that would yield a friendlier experience for Office Relief’s website customers and efficiencies for their internal employees. A few examples of these are:
- annotate orders at the header and line item level – enable Office Relief customers to breakdown internal deliveries of Office Relief shipments more quickly.
- real time freight calculations – we often see “freight will be calculated at time of shipment” disclaimers on order confirmations. Increasingly, that becomes a competitive disadvantage for merchants. It also adds a lot of order “handling” to the order to cash lifecylce.
- disallow the use of generic website ids – every user should have their own id. This is not only a traceability issue, but a security issue. Empower customer B2B adminsitrators to administer ids to their own users.
- bundle service products in catalog – currently customers have to call if they want installation services delivered with a product they ordered.
- update supplier’s shipment status in SAP – letting the web provide all up to date delivery tracking information necessitates getting updated inbound to Office Relief delivery status.
There is plenty to do in the coming weeks. No doubt about it! However, what’s really exciting is that the team came together on the front end, got on the same page quickly and now gets to login to the evolving website everyday to monitor progress…or not :-).
Here are my key takeaways (yet again) from our get together a few weeks back:
- People and process first, technology second – While building SAP Integrated eCommerce websites has many technical components, the most important ingredient to success is the people. The owners of Office Relief are pragmatic, passionate and committed individuals. The fact that they are “betting their business” on making this happen is inspirational for everyone. Mike H. and Jason E., who are the key resources on the project, will be the primary reason that we succeed.
- This is fun. Yes this is a business, but if we didn’t have expenses to cover, we’d do it for free :-). We love it. We love bringing our technology and expertise to people who appreciate it. We love bringing our partners like Magento and Paymetric to the party and have them contribute their expertise. We love healing the psyche of organizations that have been burnt in the past. Companies like ours…that are honest, competent and passionate about what they do…really do exist!
- Real software, real data, real scenarios. There is nothing like having a real system in front of you to discuss requirements and guage progress. Talk is cheap and documentation is comforting. But in the end, its all about working software! And when you know that companies like Apple, Sun and Twitter will be using our b2b2dot0 service to buy from officerelief.com, it has to be great.
Two weeks from now, we’re going to have another Focus Group on the evolved officerelief.com website. That will give all of us a chance to step back and see how many of the 120 or so “obstacles to going live” have been dealt with. We already know that not all of them will be (otherwise this would have been a 30 day project instead of a 90 day project), but a lot will be. I’ll report back after that event.