(This is Part I of a two-part series. You can read Part II here)
A few years back we were contacted by a company that was selling their product online but were having trouble with the third party service they were using to get their orders. They weren’t sure on how to start because they hadn’t worked with a company like ours before. We advised them that they should decide what they want from their new system and present it to us; based on that, we would be able to help them with a design and estimate.
We helped them with their process free of charge on several occasions, until it became clear that they had two important business problems to solve:
The first was that it simply took too long to load up their data each time they wanted to make changes to their product line. It took the entire staff a whole week to load up the system because the third party’s system wasn’t built for their use case. The second problem was that they didn’t have the ability to offer promotions.
Because purchasing the code for the existing solution or convincing their service provider to better support them were not viable options, they decided to rebuild. Rebuilding an existing product can be risky. You need to deal with an entrenched user base that is used to doing things a certain way. There’s also a risk that the first version of the new system may not satisfy the user’s needs. Finally, the process of rebuilding can take several months, and their productivity is already under serious pressure.
To solve the first problem, we proposed to build a script to automate loading the existing site as a first step. The principle was that while we’d like to build a whole new system, doing so would take time and cause their productivity to suffer. So we built a script that could be run by a single user with a day’s work rather than take up the entire staff for a week. What the script did was to screen scrape the existing site and load up the items.
For the second problem we also looked for an immediate solution but unfortunately no level of automation on the old site was going to give them what they needed. However, we were glad that with a couple of weeks effort to build and test a script we were able to dramatically improve their productivity and “pay our way” with the company.
For an outsourcing relationship to succeed it is important that both parties understand each other. Taking the time to get to the key problem and finding creative ways to produce immediate value for clients is what makes a relationship successful. In this case we frankly explored all options together and found a quick and original way to immediately stop the client’s pain. Now we were ready to address the more permanent problem: redeveloping their existing system.
What followed next was the beginning of a great relationship that culminated a few months later in building a site that won a prize for “Most Innovative e-Commerce Site.” Read Part II to see how we got there.
A few years back we were contacted by a company that was selling their product online but were having trouble with the third party service they were using to get their orders.
July 13, 2015