The success of a Magento project depends immensely on whether the proper framework was designed straight from the get-go.
In this article we will, therefore, try and address some of the key ideas which we believe, can be helpful in guiding the design of such a framework.
The CTO at Monsoon Consulting, Daniel Walsh, for instance, agrees with our idea that proper frameworks are essential to success and outlines, what we think is the ultimate path to creating the best Magento products.
Some of his suggestions are as follows:
Align Business Objectives to the Project
Before you even begin working on the task, know what your vision for the project is. Sit down with your team and have a thorough discussion of everything.
While it may be alluring to some, it is quite important to bear in mind that most professional environments work in a top- down manner and so, having everyone on board- especially senior management, is necessary even when the job could, ‘hypothetically’ be handed out to a single department.
But that’s just the beginning.
Each project your company takes on will vary in its nature, which is why, it is important to conduct Stake Holder Workshops. That is, get to know your stakeholder’s demands by scheduling meetings with them in advance.
Trust us, doing so will help you know precisely what their expectations/ requirements are. Thereby, keeping you from wasting precious time on shooting blind arrows through the wind without any mindfulness of the direction they might take the project in.
While doing this may seem like an unnecessary, additional burden to some teams, keeping stakeholders on board is not optional.
Well, because not doing so can mean that there is a huge chance that once the project goes live, heavy disagreements could potentially occur. Especially, if what they had in mind was not delivered the way they wanted it to be delivered.
It is, therefore, going to be far more convenient to keep them in the loop right from the start, rather than having to get to a point where you’ve put in all of your hard work and tried your very best, but at the end of the day, are left with little more than unsatisfied clients.
Another way to align business objectives is by utilizing what Daniel calls, ‘Steering Group Meetings’, that is, having a representative from each department in the meeting sit at different scheduled workshops.
For starters, this mixing of group meetings will allow different departments to co-ordinate better amongst each other.
And secondly, since stakeholders are also going to be included in these, there is greater chance for them to feel more satisfied if they are genuinely kept in the loop and can engage with different department members to address their queries, rather than just getting a namesake for a workshop every now and then- something which does not provide them with any tangible information.
Customer and User Involvement
Understanding what it is the customer wants is critical to the success of a project. This is because the interests of the client are linked, directly, to the interests of their consumers- to say the least.
Customer research can either be done quantitatively via surveys etc. or alternatively, by using more qualitative tools such as going through Customer Safaris etc. to understand customer behavior from a more humanistic perspective.
Prototyping & User Testing of course is of paramount importance when we talk about user involvement. And doing rigorous alpha testing before the product goes live is more than useful.
Once again. Why?
Well firstly, doing so allows you to tackle bug fixes etc. on time.
But in addition to that, provided you are consistent in terms of taking feedback from your clients, you might just be able to pinpoint and narrow down on any discrepancies which may exist between what you provided the client with, versus, what they needed from your side to engage with markets more effectively.
The entire point of prototyping thus is to deal with these challenges head on and ensure that everyone remains on the same page, and at the same time, that the end-product remains useful when it comes to effective market capture.
Agility, in any business environment, is a highly commendable skill. This is simply because the more rigid one is in their approach to things, the less prone they become to being able to remain flexible as client requirements evolve.
So, say you had a particular framework designed in the beginning. But now, you can see that adding one feature could potentially help improve the outlook for your client’s product. Now, instead of sticking to the old plan, why not be flexible and change instead?
However, it is important to note that while agility is highly appreciated, deviating from your vision is not.
Identify the value in different decisions. And be flexible and willing to make decisions that could potentially drive sales, conversion rates etc. upwards and decrease costs. But don’t do so at the cost of marring your initial vision.
Remaining adaptable to change is crucial. Things will go wrong, and no decision should ever be set in stone. But this doesn’t mean that you should warp things up completely and do something that hampers your end goals, rather than achieving them.
Ideally, therefore, the key here is to find balance between what your vision is, and what you’re willing to do to build up on it.
Identify and Tackle Risks Early
Risks can be of many forms and can vary all the way from product readiness (having bugs etc.), to having the right number of employees working on a given task.
Whatever these risks may be for your project, identifying them proactively can really minimize the occurrence of any potential disasters in the future.
To formulate a better risk mitigation strategy, we suggest identifying all the knowns and unknowns of your situation, right from the beginning. Doing so can then allow you to hunt down any loopholes before they become problematic for the project.
And it goes without saying, that once these risks have been identified, be open to re-engineering business processes which lead to the development of these loopholes in the first place.
At any given time, different people will have expertise in different areas. It is, therefore, worth collaborating across different teams.
Who you collaborate with will vary depending on the nature of the project. Regardless, be sure to involve all the people you need; from tech specialists to analysts to strategy experts etc. keep everyone on board to create an effective team.
Once the collaboration is officially set, however, make sure to implement an action plan and keep track of progress using progress reports, reviews etc. to know that everyone is on the same timeline as expected.
Ideally, try having progress reviews every two weeks at least. This is because the longer you take to check in with team members, the higher are the chances that teams might just begin working in a scattered, and disorganized manner.
The backend is a messy place.
And it can get even more troublesome unless some time is spent on sifting through what’s usable and what’s not.
Similarly, if you want to have a quality product, then ideally speaking, rigorous regression testing will always be involved. If done manually, however, this could take upto several weeks or even months; which is why, a smarter business strategy would be to instead automate regression testing- at least partially.
Design for Scale
Magento, by its nature is a very scalable platform. Therefore, when it comes to designing a Magento platform, it is extremely helpful if you design for scale.
That is, while the end product might look a certain way right now, it should, ideally, have the capacity to be improved upon in the future.
Measure and Grow
Finally, it is imperative for you to set a project deadline and follow through on it to the best of your ability.
Not setting up a definite time frame or being too relaxed about it can sometimes mean having the project extend by a far longer period than what is affordable, both in terms of delivery time and literal, actual costs which will be incurred if the delivery date keeps getting pushed farther and farther.
But that’s just about the overall growth- the real question often boils down to how it is you’re going to measure growth and success rate.
Simply put, one of the easiest ways to do this is by taking user feedback. That is, if you follow through on your timeline, and release the product accordingly, then it might be possible for you to use early user data and feedback to weed out any further problems that may still be persisting in your product.
So, yes. This right here, is a long yet tangible list of steps that we believe should be implemented while developing the framework for a successful Magento project.