PlumberSurplus.com Ecommerce and Entrepreneurship Blog | About | Contact | PlumberSurplus.com Store

Tips for Managing eCommerce Development

Posted on June 30, 2010 by josh

I have the fortunate duty of building some amazing solutions for our sites and systems. Being honest and up front in your position, with yourself and others, can play a key role in your success as an IT or Development manager. Here is a short list, not comprehensive, on some things you must do as an IT or Development manager:

Have thick skin

You can't make everyone happy... and you won't. The needs of the organization frequently do not meet the perceived needs of all individuals. But your team has to be able to critique you. Listen, and be honest with yourself. Also, you aren't perfect. You will screw something up. How you respond is likely as important to evaluation of your performance as the initial task. So, don't take criticism personally. Take it in, measure it against the organizational needs, discuss it with your management team, and build on it.

Let your management team know, in advance, if you're...

    • going to be making changes that could affect their teams ability to do their job: If you’re up front, chances are they'll be willing to help you meet a deadline or do some testing if it means that their team will get new tools or increased productivity.

 

    • going to make changes that may affect how your site gets indexed by search engines: If you make major infrastructural changes to your backend architecture, make it clear that it could have short term drawbacks and make the long terms gains that you're shooting for equally clear. Your team will appreciate your candor.

 

    • going to make changes that may affect conversion: If you're in eCommerce and you're working on, say, your shopping cart, chances are you're going to see some numbers change on whatever reports you and your team pay attention to. Aside from taking a page from Amazon and making smaller, more easily measured, incremental changes, if you are making changes that you think may have an impact, even slight, mention it to the team.

 

    • going to be releasing something that is 80% tested: In development, there are lots of good reasons for doing this. On some projects 80% tested or 80% complete, yields 98% of the desired functionality. Frequently, the other 20% is easier to address in the wild with real users. Be honest with your team about this and help them to understand why the additional cost of testing or completing the final 20% may not be as cost effective as releasing. Of course, I am NOT making a recommendation to do this on every project. This technique should only be applied when justified and appropriate and when it meets the needs of your organization (and probably when it doesn't display to the public in some embarrassing way).

 

  • going to do something that affects their work life... {this list goes on forever}

Understand that everything is a priority, even if it isn't

You don't get to make every decision, but you must be sensitive to other's needs. Do your best to make clear what is prioritized and why. Also, know that the members of your management team are, at least in part, judging your work based on what you've done for them. Toss in a quick feature, or fix an easy bug every now and again. Even if it's not next on your priority list, the human element here can be powerful. It can help you to build a better relationship with others, increase morale for an individual or a team, it can even help to make them look better if it helps them to be more productive. Besides, it may buy you some grace the next time you need it (and you will). These things can't always be measured in dollars and cents, but they can be felt in quality of life.

Be vulnerable, you can't solve every problem and you can't do everything all the time

I know you're amazing. You have tremendous problem-solving skills and you have pulled some rabbits out of some hats in your career. But people don't want to hear about how you're going to get everything done perfectly. It's a lie. You can't. Be honest with yourself and others about how well you'll do with the tasks that lie ahead and the resources you've been given. They need this from you and you need this from them.

Don't speak over people

There are two things to pay attention to here. The first thing is that you need to listen. Before many people finish their sentences you've got it more than half worked out in your head. But, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Even if you disagree with someone because they are requesting something that you believe is technically infeasible, stop coming up with ways to rebut and force yourself to listen. Don't immediately fire off a "NO". Try to understand the need and let them know that you want to understand the need before you help them by working together to design a solution. The second thing you need is to learn to speak to your audience. It's easy for you to say to another techie that a system update caused a legacy service to crash, causing dependent services to also fail. But not everyone is going to understand what you're talking about. It sounds really simple to you. But you have to help them understand why and how it happened. You don't have to use elementary words, but you do have to use words that your audience will understand. Know your audience.

I'd love to hear some additional thoughts from other IT and Development managers out there...

 

blog comments powered by Disqus