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Increasing Complexity of Managing a Global e-Commerce Function

  
  
  

In the last couple of months I attended several meetings with partners and clients where we discussed trends and experiences in the e-commerce market. One of the topics mentioned during almost every meeting was the increasing complexity to properly manage the growing e-commerce environment. As e-commerce solutions are becoming more and more global, and have several internal clients with country- or brand-specific needs, the complexity to support all of the requirements is increasing. Two drivers can be distinguished that create this complexity:

  1. Increasing demands from diverse parts of the organization 
  2. Managing the integration/relationship with “legacy” systems

Three areas that should be considered when thinking about the complexity of global e-commerce are demand, technical integration and responsibility.

Demand

The demand on e-Business teams is coming from multiple parts of the organization. These demands need to be channeled to avoid conflicting directions which will jeopardize the ability to manage the e-Business platform effectively.  In addition, the e-commerce role in CRM continues to expand as organizations adopt elements of social, community and emerging mobile shopping capabilities. Therefore, questions are arising on how to centralize these requests.

Technical integration

Due to the fact that e-commerce services are integrating more and more with “normal” business services and processes, the need for clear organizational structure becomes stronger. This need is the result of more departments going online to sell products and services. To be able to keep track of the amount of changes and the technical integration requirements, organizations must create a governing structure that will regulate the process.

Three distinct functions that will help to structure this are:

  • Direct:
    This function manages the e-commerce strategy/roadmap that is in line with the overall business vision. The direct function is also responsible for managing the coherence between the ‘adjust’ function (e-Business IT demand) and ‘cooperate’ function (e-Business IT supply). To be able to perform this function there are three overall processes/roles present: architecture and IT strategy, IT portfolio and IT program management.
  • Adjust:
    This function channels e-commerce demands (programs/changes/projects) into a cohesive plan. The adjust function is crucial in order to filter the incoming requests for services and truly understand the client’s requirements. In the case of sourcing, this role is vital to prevent an uninhibited stream of requests to the internal or external sourcing partners.
  • Cooperate:
    This function manages the stability and availability of e-commerce services. The cooperate function focuses on IT operation and delivery activities. The direction/guidance is provided by the direct function, the input for new functionality is provided by the adjust function.

Each of these three functions is dependent on the others. In the picture below, the relationships are visualized.

global e-commerce function diagram
 
Responsibilities and ownership

Once responsibilities have been defined, each function will require an outlined ownership. This may involve remodeling of the former traditional IT organization structure. In the conversations that I have had, it appeared that there is no “golden rule” that will fit for every organization.  Some subjects on responsibilities that we discussed were:

  • Which department should be leading the direct function? This includes processes like: architecture & IT strategy, IT portfolio/roadmap and IT program management. Does this function need to be a part of the CIO department, or can it be managed in a more decentralized department?
  • The adjust function is focused on managing the client’s service requests in several formats. Is this function part of the IT organization? Can standard models like business information services library (BiSL) and application services library (ASL) be used to structure these processes? How to manage if a part of your IT knowledge is acquired via sourcing partners or is only available in different time zones?
  • The cooperate function represents a set of core processes and functions to effectively support the IT supply organization’s services through day to day IT operations. Will complexity increase if a broad variety of (multi-regional) vendors is being used for support?

How does your organization manage the integration of the dynamic e-commerce IT environment and the more traditional IT legacy environment? What is your solution for managing this increasing complexity?

 

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