eCommerce is a beautiful thing.
Less than three decades ago, if you told someone they could make money from the comfort of their own home using nothing more than a computer, they’d probably think you were crazy.
And “making money from a computer” is really just the tip of the iceberg.
You can generate cash, make enough of it to support yourself and your family, and even become genuinely wealthy through eCommerce. But you can also establish businesses that go on to change the world forever and have a meaningful impact beyond the goalpost of profit.
All of this can be done with a laptop and a steady internet connection.
But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves — after all, it’s no easy task.
You could fill libraries with instructional content produced around the notion of eCommerce best practices. It’s a complex, multi-faceted, and significant endeavor.
Not only this, there is a plethora of tools available to make shopping experiences better every time. From credit card rewards to checkout assistants, users have more and more options each day.
As with everything, though, it’s easier if you take it one step at a time.
A solid place to start in steering your eCommerce journey toward success is project management. Yep, that boring concept about organizing tasks and sub-tasks, creating deadlines, and delegating work. Far superior to a ‘to-do’ list, too.
Here’s the thing, though. If you do it right, eCommerce project management has serious multiplying effects.
What is Project Management?
Let’s start at the beginning. What even is project management, anyway?
Is it a system, a skill, an occupation?
All of the above is probably the correct answer, but let’s go back in time to the roots of project management to get a better understanding.
In the olden-days, projects were generally arranged and organized by the practitioners of whatever the project related to — be it war, engineering, or trade.
But that changed around the turn of the 19th century when certain figures introduced tools, techniques, and systems to bring order to the chaos of extremely challenging and complicated projects.
Among them included Henry Gantt, now recognizable for his ubiquitously-used Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a bar chart that visually illustrates the overall process of a project.
Dedicating time and resources to the active management of projects in isolation quickly became standard practice due to its effectiveness. That’s how the field of project management was born.
Fast forward half a century to when project management had become a serious intellectual endeavor and discipline. A few years later, project management’s principles, tools, and techniques had been distilled into the exciting and evolving field of project management software.
Most project management software, from the simplistic to the ultra complex, will feature some form of Gantt chart. It was so effective that it became universally accepted, standing the test of time. At the end of the day, while project management has evolved greatly over the years, its foundations contain some tried-and-true methods from years gone by.
What is Project Management Software?
Project management software (PMS) utilizes computing power to enhance the practice of project management in several meaningful ways.
Not only does it serve as a powerful visual overview of project progress and completion, but it also allows the user to conduct and manage both the broad scope of projects and the more granular day-to-day tasks.
Simply put, project management software makes what should be an arduous and taxing process into a simple and mostly automated experience that will add to the overall effectiveness and efficiency of your company. Effectiveness and efficiency are the key to generating profits, so project management software is a tool that you can use to improve your profits by doing less work.
Among its many features include budget management and estimation, task scheduling, team management, resource sharing, communication, analysis, and plenty more.
As project management software evolved over time, it started to perform more complex tasks using automation. This offered users serious time and resource-saving benefits.
For example, you could instruct a project management software system to produce a budget report that’s sent to company directors every month.
These features are ideal for eCommerce SMEs with limited team members, as allowing software to perform some managerial heavy-lifting perfectly suits the Lean model of eCommerce project management.
But that’s not all. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of project management software.
Benefits of project management software
- Better productivity — As mentioned, PMS saves you time by taking care of tedious administrative tasks so you can focus more on what you do best: delivering awesome products and services to your customers.
- Risk minimization — Winging it just doesn’t produce the same results as thorough planning and organization. With each task and subtask in place and every cent accounted for, you actively lower the risk of doing business.
- Streamlined workflows — There’s many moving parts to an eCommerce business. Illustrating that machine in PMS allows each part to move easily and in sequence, streamlining workflows.
- Gives a project a home — As well as offering a place to see your tasks and collaborate with teammates, PMS gives a home to the many resources an eCommerce business needs to share across its departmental functions.
- Level playing field — Chances are, your competition is already using PMS and experiencing its many benefits. Don’t give them the upper hand by doing things the old-school way.
A 21st century eCommerce business essentially needs a good project management solution to compete effectively.
But why eCommerce, specifically? In such an ultra competitive space, you’re going to need increased efficiency if you want to be able to stand up to your roughest competitors. In the next section, we’re going to break down specific reasons why the eCommerce industry needs to implement project management software tools into daily operations.
Why eCommerce Businesses need PM Software
It’s no accident that project management software fits so neatly into the eCommerce business model.
In fact, many of the most important project management software features cater to eCommerce business needs specifically.
Order processing, customer management, customer profiling, customer service email management, and lead generation are all supported by the creation and maintenance of databases. That’s the raw material of project management software.
Think of it this way — eCommerce is, by definition, digital. Naturally, it makes sense to manage all that data digitally, as well.
But as we said at the top, it’s not that easy.
So, allow us to make it easier. We’ve gathered the most relevant, practical project management tips specifically for eCommerce businesses to improve productivity, free up your time, and grow your digital storefront to the next level.
Best eCommerce Project Management Tips
Start with SMART goal-setting
Those of you who went to business school probably expected this first important tip.
There’s a reason why SMART goals (and goal-setting more broadly) are talked about with such reverence by those in business circles.
It really is the most foundational starting point for any project.
A project is something we set up to achieve a certain outcome. If you don’t have a clear idea of what those outcomes are, you can’t expect to set up a workflow that makes any practical sense or serves the purpose of achieving your desired outcomes.
Start by clearly defining and setting goals. But these aren’t just any goals — they’re SMART goals.
For the uninitiated, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. These are the five elements that every one of your goals needs to adhere to in order to be effective in leading your activities.
An example of a goal that many eCommerce businesses might have is “increase our sales revenue.”
It’s a reasonable goal to have, but it does nothing to inform the actions you need to set in your project to achieve it.
You have to SMART-en it up.
A better goal might be to “reach 1,000 units sold by Q4 of this year.”
We’ve set a timescale (time-based) that’s based on historical sales figures (attainable) for a revenue-related achievement (relevant) with an exact benchmark of 1,000 units (specific and measurable).
From here, we know that we have to focus on marketing efforts for the additional sales and the period we need to complete the related activities in (Q1-Q3). That’s project information we wouldn’t have realized without the goal-setting.
Develop a Minimum Viable Product
You may have heard of an MVP in the context of sports. In that world it stands for “most valuable player.”
In business, however, it relates to the “minimum viable product,” but it is still a valuable player in your push toward profitability.
An MVP is a Lean Startup business concept that encourages people to invest less in product development and more in a minimum offering you can deliver that will still generate sales.
The idea is that, with a less-developed product launched sooner, you can gain real insights from customers about product viability. This is information you would not have gained if you’d been stuck in the theory stage.
MVP is a powerful concept for eCommerce businesses, as it complements the financially lean nature of the model, using the internet as its testing ground.
Additionally, this scientific approach to product development can be defined and carried out efficiently and fully within a project management system, as they often integrate customer management databases.
The customers will typically be early adopters, and therefore less demanding when it comes to product value. They can offer feedback that can also be processed and analyzed within the PMS, offering valuable and actionable insights about how to structure your eCommerce projects to offer the highest value at the lowest cost.
Outline your Project’s Financial Constraints
You need to have every element of your project budget clearly outlined, down to the last cent. There are many reasons for this, but it all boils down to one all-important word that we’ve mentioned more than once up to this point.
Project management software is a gift from the heavens when it comes to this, as there isn’t a single operational area that isn’t dependent on the flow of finances. You can connect all the pieces to create one beautiful, smoothly functioning machine.
Get a budget estimation by outlining all the trackable components.
In a new product launch project, examples of trackable budget components might include the cost of the products, graphic design subcontractor costs, advertising placement costs, and more.
Design dependent workflows that notify the relevant managers so they can approve purchases before funds are issued. They can refer to the project home to verify whether the purchase is allowable based on the current spend.
Depending on the project management system you use, it’s even possible to integrate things like an invoice OCR solution, bookkeeping software, and other financial tools to take more work off your hands.
Keep relevant team members informed and engaged
So many competent eCommerce business managers miss this crucial point.
Having most likely started the business themselves from not much more than a laptop and a few hundred bucks, it’s all-too-easy to maintain a closed, independent mindset as it continues to grow.
But collaboration is the name of the game when you’re dealing with a growing business. It’s therefore an operational priority for you to craft opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration at every level.
You might imagine that a Q1 state-of-play report for the business is only relevant for you and your co-founders. Instead, you should share these insights with your team. It will serve to create a sense of shared progress and achievement, as well as offer them jumping-off points for their work.
Create a home for you and your team members to share resources and communicate freely — a place the whole company can see. You can do this quite easily on any PMS worth its salt.
Additionally, this allows for unified and streamlined business communication that could eliminate the teething issues of task completion.
Select a relevant project management visualization
The great thing about PMSs is that they are flexible according to your project’s specific demands.
And since every project is different, laying the workflows out under the same system every time just doesn’t make sense.
Remember our friend Henry Gantt and his Gantt chart from earlier? That’s one way of doing it. But there are others that might be more suitable for your project.
The Swimlane view is one such example. It intersects project milestones with multiple relevant teams or departments. This way, at a glance, everyone can quickly see their own responsibilities compared to others in a common project, offering clarity and accountability.
The right workflow for your team will depend heavily on the project, company size, and complexity.
Some learning and experimentation will go a long way here.
Design, assign, and monitor every project task
And we mean every project task, from big to small.
This is the beauty (and, to be fair, the tedium) of project management. Every piece of every project your business will ever complete has a bearing on the efficiency of your organization.
You don’t have to rely on the goodwill and professionalism of your team members to get their stuff done correctly and on time. It should be fully outlined in the project management space. Let’s say you want to design and launch a new product. The product development team needs to start brainstorming ideas, the design team will have to come up with prototypes, and the creative team will need to come up with copy and supporting visual assets.
Instead of jumping on a zoom call with each respective team member, create a clear picture of what needs to be done and commit it to the project management system.
The clarity this offers is really something.
When the copyrights have a clear and well-defined brief, a deadline, project dependencies, and a number of subtasks related to the production of copy, your job is done. You can sit back and plan the next move.
It might be a lot of work (and not super fun) in the early stages, but the time it saves down the line is really invaluable.
Successful eCommerce Project Management
Successful eCommerce project management is as easy as having the right tools with the right knowledge. You’re competing in an ultra-competitive space with thousands of competitors from all over the world. The right tools can make or break your entire company.
Luckily, you have a lot to draw on.
We’ve been developing project management philosophies and systems for the past 100 years, and the advent of project management software has only made that endeavor easier by taking the most boring tasks off our hands.
Pairing these tools with your eCommerce business makes all the sense in the world, as you can keep it digital and enjoy the benefits that come with it.
A good project manager can also be a good project manager in eCommerce, as the foundational principles remain the same.
We would suggest tripling down on learning everything you can about the incredible efficiency-enhancing features of these systems and crafting a digital space that’s right for your business.