October 9, 2008, 12:00 AM

Forrester offers tips on selling execs on an e-commerce platform upgrade

Keep the business case simple, focus on customer value and educate management about e-commerce. Those are some of the tips the research and consulting firm suggests when pitching an e-commerce technology upgrade. And the time to make that pitch is now.

Nearly one in four web business managers is considering a major e-commerce platform upgrade, and now is the time to make the pitch for funds to management, says analyst Brian K. Walker of research and consulting firm Forrester Research Inc. His advice includes: Keep the business case simple, focus on customer value and educate senior management about e-commerce.

The time for selling senior executives is now because a major e-commerce platform upgrade typically takes nine to 12 months, Walker writes in a report entitled “How to pitch eCommerce Replatforming.” For the new platform to be ready by the 2009 holiday season, he says, a company must select its vendor by December and be ready to launch the project in January.

Walker advises assembling a cross-functional team to develop the business case for an upgrade. “Create a team of strong players from finance, IT, network operations, business operations and marketing who can help you identify opportunities and head off many of the challenges you may face in the executive suite-even if you fear they may be critical of your needs,” he says.

He suggests justifying the project by focusing on one or two important metrics, such as improved conversion rate and sales, or lower costs. Include best-case, worst-case and in-between forecasts, and don’t oversell the project, he says.

At the same time, he urges managers to keep in mind the emotional appeal of e-commerce projects. “E-commerce sites are unique as technology investments,” Walker says. “They reflect the core aspirations, goals and strategic imperatives of companies. Many eBusiness leaders have been surprised during platform pitches by how quickly the pitch has evolved away from a discussion of ROI and into a conversation about the meaning of the channel and the project.”

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