During COVID-19, we’ve experienced a massive growth spurt in the eCommerce space with many of our clients wanting to take their businesses online. They want to get up and running as quickly as possible without taking the time to understand the various factors that come into play when launching such a project.
In my role as a Strategy and Operations Manager at Vectra Business Technologies, I’ve found that clearly communicating two key elements of project management is crucial for managing expectations and helping clients make smart decisions – especially during a stressful time. With every new project we start, I make sure to discuss what a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ – or ‘MVP’ – is and how ‘The Triple Constraint’ can affect budget, timeline and scope. Here’s what I communicate about these things, and why I think it’s important.
Because my role requires me to meet with clients to discuss their project goals, I’ve realised that this knowledge gap needed to be breached and that our team could play a role in helping clients understand what the difference is between an ‘MVP’ and a ‘complete’ solution that ticks all the boxes, so that they can make informed decisions about starting an online product offering.
As experts in the field of eCommerce, I believe that it’s our responsibility to invest the time in properly communicating these topics with our clients so that we can set the right expectations that will help them succeed.
To do this, I’ve found that I need to make two things clear when working with clients on any project:
- The real meaning of MVP in my opinion
- The Triple Constraint in project management and how this affects budget and turnaround times
Here’s why I believe this information is important and how I communicate it with our clients.
The real meaning of an MVP
From what I’ve seen, the term ‘MVP’ is causing more confusion than adding value, especially during the world wide pandemic that we are living through. The term ‘MVP’ is used a lot in the tech world, and many people have interpreted it as meaning a solution that can be delivered fast. While this is true, what many businesses don’t understand is that an MVP is only an initial solution that does not come with all the bells and whistles they want.
There are so many different definitions on what an MVP is, but this is what I think about it: MVP doesn’t mean incomplete EVER! What it really means is a product that works and can serve the purpose that you need it to.
I often use the analogy of a car to help make this clear: The car is your product that can solve your problem of moving from point A to B. The car is in a good and stable condition – it doesn’t have all the flashy components, like the leather seats, the tinted windows, the alloy wheels, the mags, the flashy paint job, the sound system or the dropped suspension just yet – but it can drive.
Getting up and running fast is not the only benefit that comes with taking the MVP approach. I also make sure to point out the following to clients:
- An MVP done well can save you time and resources, which is helpful when you’re looking to start building your customer base and online presence.
- It allows you to focus on core functionality first.
- It gives you an early testing opportunity in the market.
- It reduces your implementation cost.
Once clients understand what an MVP really is and what purpose it serves, I move on to describe what is known as ‘The Triple Constraint’, which is another factor that comes into play when managing a project – whether it is an MVP build or not.
‘The Triple Constraint’ in project management
The Triple Constraint of project management is not a new term, but unknown to many or not well understood. Making sure that our clients understand the key components and how they gel together can be the difference between project success or failure. There are many more factors that can impact your decision making in how you want your project delivered, but the basis of that starts here.
The three main constraints with any project are:
I always encourage our clients to keep these three elements of the Triple Constraint in mind as we start – and ongoingly manage – a project. Making sure that everyone is aware of these factors – for whatever project it is that we’re working on – helps us adapt to changing conditions while still delivering projects on time within budget and within scope.
From what I’ve learned, change is a given in project management, and being prepared ensures that changes don’t jeopardise the entire project. This is why it’s critical to understand and effectively manage it.
By having this conversation upfront with our clients, I’ve found that it makes it so much easier to manage expectations throughout the project journey.
Here’s a closer look at what these constraints are and why they’re important to communicate.
This refers to the pressure to meet a deadline. As the saying goes ‘time is money’ – a commodity that slips away too easily and, now more than ever where everyone has to act fast to stay afloat – you have to use your time effectively. That being said, when you reduce the project’s time, you will either have to increase its cost or reduce its scope.
The scope of a project defines specific activities, deliverables, functions, features and elements needed to complete the project. Many projects fail on this constraint because the scope of the project is either not fully defined or understood from the start. When you increase a project’s scope, you will either have to increase its cost or time.
The project’s budget comprises all of the financial resources and other elements required to complete the project on time, and within its agreed scope. If you reduce the project’s cost, you will either have to reduce its scope or increase its time.
To put this simply, these are the basic equations I share with clients:
- Good + Cheap = Slow
- Good + Quick = Expensive
- Quick + Cheap = Low Quality
Once a client is aware of these factors, I’ve found that it’s much easier to get on the same page and kick off a project that will meet their needs and deliver the results that they’re looking for.
So, in summary, from everything that I have learned this year – and throughout my career – my key take-away is this: eCommerce is more about the journey than the destination. Building an eCommerce site is not just about getting a website live – it’s about understanding your options and making smart decisions that will help serve you both in the short and the long-term.
Working with a partner who has experience with this can really help you build a solid base. This is important because moving your product offering online is essentially starting a new business from the ground up: A business that needs a plan, a vision, a goal and it will require time and dedication to make it successful.
Caroline Van Dyk is looking after eCommerce Strategy and Operations at Vectra Business Technologies. She has a good understanding and background in Project Management with a burning passion for customer satisfaction, open and frank conversations about life, and empowering women in the workplace. Away from work, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking and gardening.