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Managing Interdepartmental eCommerce Functions

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Cooperation among departments is crucial to getting your electronic storefront up and running. As your company's eCommerce manager, it's your job to facilitate all this "let's get together" strategy. How can you get everyone on the same page? Frank Fiore explains the issues and shows where you need to focus your attention.
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Let's suppose you read the first article in this series, and, when your boss or a company executive gave you the responsibility of managing the company's eCommerce initiative, you eagerly agreed. After all, you now know what a company eCommerce initiative is and the role and responsibility of the eCommerce manager. More important, you know the players and departments in your company that you must now approach to create and/or manage that initiative.

So you set up a meeting with the IT, production, and marketing departments or individual personnel, and perhaps your company legal counsel. You make notes on pieces of paper for follow-up exchanges with the same people over the next week, and perhaps you casually banter ideas for the eCommerce initiative with your boss or supervisor over lunch.

You're ready to proceed, right? BUZZ—wrong!

Buying Some Buy-in

As an eCommerce manager, you're among a rare breed of managers who have lots of responsibility, but, more often than not, little authority. eCommerce managers rarely run the departments or oversee the personnel with whom they must work.

Let me explain.

It isn't enough for an eCommerce manager to get informal agreement from the personnel in the various departments that will do the actual work to create and manage the company's digital presence. The eCommerce manager must get formal agreement and signoffs on every step of the process.

Why? Look at it this way. One or two department meetings, brief conversations over the water cooler, or discussions over coffee will not protect you if your solution to the company's eCommerce initiative doesn't finally jive with your boss's notion of an eCommerce storefront. Or perhaps you and your boss have a good working relationship and you intuitively know what he or she wants, but halfway through the project the boss is replaced for some reason. If you haven't documented the goals and objectives of the project, your new boss may disagree with your solution and want to know who gave you the authority to execute the company eCommerce initiative the way you did.

You can avoid such situations by creating a formal agreement—put down in clear and concise writing and subsequently signed—with each of the three main departments or individual persons who will build the eCommerce storefront. To fully protect yourself and manage the expectations of your boss, you need to detail—in writing—exactly what you are to do, and an agreed-upon process on how to do it.

Here's what you want from all involved in the eCommerce initiative:

  • What are the obligations of all parties on the project?
  • By what time should those obligations be met?
  • What is the process to fulfill those obligations?
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