June 15, 2011, 1:01 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: Organize your organization

Online retailers must assess, educate and promote e-commerce technology projects.

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You can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been, the old saying goes, and it works as a rule for e-retailers to follow when assessing and improving their e-commerce technology, two retailing executives said this week during the Technology Workshop at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session titled “Organizing your management for technology success”.

When Kristen Celko joined David’s Bridal, No. 332 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, two years ago, one of her first acts as vice president of e-commerce was to draw up what she called a road map of the company’s e-commerce technology. Her goal was to create the baseline for the bridal product and registry retailer to help the company set priorities for the future.

There are tools available to set baseline measures and the one Celko uses was created by Forrester Research Inc. The eBusiness Maturity Model helps assess four key areas of a business:

• People, organization and culture.

• Business and technology processes.

• Channel integration.

• Measurements and metrics.

The model helps Celko establish resource needs and involves a cross-section of executives in information technology, marketing, finance and any other groups affected by e-commerce. As a result of the assessment process Celko set up an e-commerce steering committee that meets monthly or quarterly as needed. The group creates a forum for major web technology requests and works to set e-commerce priorities for the entire organization.

Celko says she believes in what she calls rigorous prioritization. “I’m fanatical about it. There are so many opportunities in e-commerce and ways to bring in incremental revenue,” she says. She also set up an internal PR plan to educate colleagues about the plans.

Building understanding across departments and other channels also was high on Steve Jones’ list of things to do when he joined Sport Haley as general manager. Like Celko, Jones set up an information technology steering committee to evaluate technology investment.

The steering committee at the golf apparel brand manufacturer and web retailing company serves as a forum for strategic assessment of Sport Haley’s I.T. needs, deficiencies, and also works on the development and maintenance of an I.T. road map, Jones said. Involving other department heads in the committee helps ensure that everyone follows the same plan.

Whether investing in new tools, or making better use of existing technology, Jones recommends assessing top managers’ skills and making changes if necessary to put the right people in a position to better ensure e-commerce technology success. “It starts with people, then you build a road map and then execute the plan,” Jones said. “You need to define requirements and communicate them to everyone. Don’t assume others understand what you are doing. The burden to be understood is yours.”

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