Why Have a Project Definition Phase?

Matt Trimmer

why have definition phase.pngWhether our team is implementing a new eCommerce platform or helping a client upgrade their current site, we always start an eCommerce project with the Define Phase. The purpose of the Define Phase is for the client to establish their project vision for our team. Sometimes, however, clients can see the Define Phase as unimportant or a waste of time. We heartily disagree with that; we think that the Define Phase is crucial to the project. Read on to learn why.

For the Client Team

Some clients see the Define Phase as just rehashing what they have already expressed to our Sales Team: why they want to do the project and what they want to see happen. In practice, however, the Define Phase goes so much deeper than that. In this step all front-end design, functional, and tech requirements of the project are identified. 

We have found that when it comes to eCommerce, our clients don’t truly know what they want until everything has been talked through. What you think you need for a site may end up being different from what you actually need once you get into the details. In fact, no project we have ever done has been exactly the same from the start of the Define Phase to the implementation. We expect those changes along the way, but sometimes clients need to be persuaded.

A lot of the time, a client doesn’t know what they want until they see it. We have had clients who thought they knew exactly what they wanted their new site to look like, but upon planning realized it wasn’t quite what they had imagined. That’s ok; it’s all part of the Define Phase process. As you get more information and details of the project laid out, changes may have to be made to the original idea, and you should make those changes. There is no value in keeping things the same for the sake of keeping them the same.

We have found that working through the entire site and establishing a project vision document in the Define Phase helps our clients realize what they actually want and need out of their new implementation.

For Our Team

The Define Phase is also important because it gives our team the chance to learn more about our clients. We may be experts in eCommerce technology, but we’re not experts in our client’s business. We need to learn about our client’s business processes so that we can then apply eCommerce best practices to them. In order to get that business knowledge, we need to go through the Define Phase.

This process helps prepare our team for the upcoming iterations and designs of our client’s site. It also helps us design an experience and technical implementation that caters to both our client’s business and their customers. Before spending a lot of time and resources on creating a UI, our team can focus on the user experience and what is need there, which can then be worked into the design in future phases.

The Define Phase allows both our team and our client to find out what the client truly wants and needs. It gets our team acquainted with how the client’s business works, how their other technologies play in, and what they want out of the project, and it helps our client nail down what their dream site actually looks like. With all of this information squared away, both teams can confidently move forward in the project.

Download 5 Questions to ask yourself before starting an eCommerce project.

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