1 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner
2 You ve invested in a Magento ecommerce solution because you know that having a great online store can strengthen your brand, build your customer base, and increase your overall revenue. In addition to providing a technologically-advanced ecommerce platform, Magento helps you maximize that investment further by maintaining a network of system integrator companies (Solution Partners) that can help take your business to the next level. Choosing a Solution Partner is an important part of your ecommerce strategy, and we want to help make the process easier. We put together the following guide to help you choose a Solution Partner for your business and establish a successful working relationship.
3 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 3 Table of Contents THE BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH A SOLUTION PARTNER CHOOSING A SOLUTION PARTNER 7 Introduction 8 Magento Solution Partner Levels 9 Finding and Contacting a Partner ASSESSING YOUR NEEDS 11 Project Requirements 13 Determining Budget and Cost Expectations EVALUATING PROSPECTIVE SOLUTION PARTNERS 15 Key Evaluation Factors WORKING WITH YOUR PARTNER 19 Building a Relationship with Your Partner 21 How Magento Can Help
4 The Benefits of Working with a Solution Partner 4
5 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 5 There are hundreds of companies worldwide that offer Magento design and implementation services. Many of those with proven experience working with Magento Enterprise Edition and implementing successful ecommerce sites have joined our Solution Partner program. Magento Solution Partners have a demonstrated knowledge of Magento solutions and ecommerce best practices; and typically have a broad set of design, development, integration, and marketing skills; and have a history of Magento implementations. Magento Solution Partners have certified Magento developers on staff, which means that their developers have completed Magento training classes and have passed certification exams. Magento Solution Partners also have access to Magento technical support and Magento Expert Consulting Group (ECG) services. Your company will be able to leverage the experience our Solution Partners have had with other Magento Enterprise sites. We recommend that you verify prospective partners on the Magento website to ensure you re working with a company in our Magento Solution Partner program.
6 6 Choosing a Solution Partner 7 Introduction 8 Magento Solution Partner Levels 9 Finding and Contacting a Partner
7 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 7 You have many options when it comes to selecting a Magento Solution Partner, and there are some basic facts you should check before signing on the dotted line. Verify that you are working with a Solution Partner that is a member of our program by checking their status online. However, please understand that our Solution Partner program is provided for your convenience and that we do not make any guarantees that a Solution Partner will be successful. Therefore, it is very important that you do your research prior to selecting a Solution Partner.
8 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 8 Magento Solution Partner Levels Magento Solution Partners are categorized as Gold, Silver, and Magento Associates. We have strict requirements for becoming a partner with Silver or Gold status. Companies can reach the Silver or Gold Solution Partner levels once they have: Proven their ability to develop sites that meet Magento s quality standards Met our specific requirements for having Magento certified developers on staff Demonstrated the ability to represent the Magento platform to merchants Completed a required number of successful implementations Gold and Silver levels are generally indicative of a partner s size, commitment to Magento Enterprise Edition implementations, technical and business development resources and geographic reach. Gold Partners Many of our Gold Solution Partners have multiple locations and serve clients outside their local areas, even nationwide. They tend to have internal resources that enable them to handle the entire scope of a project and they address a range of merchant types and vertical markets. A Gold Partner may be the best choice for you if: Your business has annual online revenue over $10M Your site requires extensive customization or integration with existing back-end operations and multiple third-party applications Your business requires complex business processes You are migrating to Magento Enterprise Edition from a legacy system Silver Partners Silver Partners often work with clients locally or regionally. They tend to have fewer internal resources than a Gold partner and may address specific niche or vertical markets. A Silver Partner may be the best choice for you if: Your business has annual online revenues of $1M to $5M You are new to ecommerce, or you need to upgrade an existing online store (from Magneto Community Edition or a SaaS solution) Your site requires some customization and moderate integration with existing operations and third-party applications Please note: These descriptions are generalities and are provided as a way to help you distinguish between partner levels. If your company has online revenue between $5M - $10M, there are partners of both levels that may fit. For any solution partner evaluation, your budget and project requirements will be the primary indicators of the partner that is best for you.
9 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 9 Magento Associates Magento Associates are companies that have experience working with Magento Community Edition, or companies that are in the process of developing their Magento Enterprise Edition skills and staff so that they can work towards becoming a Silver or Gold level Solution Partner. Magento invests in Magento Associates so that those interested in having a formal, commercial relationship with Magento can better develop the skills they need to become a Magento Enterprise Edition expert and a Magento Solution Partner. A Magento Associate may be the best choice for you if: You have a small business and are new to ecommerce Your site requirements are simple and will not require much in the way of customizations or integrations Your online revenues are less than $1M annually Your budget is quite limited Finding and Contacting a Partner You can find a complete listing of Magento Solution Partners on our website. To find the right partner for your project, search the list based on: Country Language Software integration competency Industry/vertical markets ecommerce specialties From the partner listing, you can link to a simple web form that will initiate timely follow-up by the partner and, if necessary, a Magento Sales Manager.
10 10 Assessing Your Needs 11 Project Requirements 13 Determining Budget and Cost Expectations
11 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 11 Project Requirements Before you begin conversations with prospective Solution Partners, it s a good idea to create a needs assessment document that outlines your project requirements. Think about your immediate ecommerce needs, and also about what you envision for your site in the future. Consider the following as you assess your needs: Site Design What is your overall digital strategy? - Differentiate yourself from your competitors - Address design continuity with your previous site - Establish or update a brand or product line online What is your key design message (e.g. friendly, corporate, fashionable)? What are your design challenges (e.g. points of differentiation from competitors)? What is your brand style (e.g. colors and fonts)? What is your preferred design approach? Standard design: Purchase a theme inexpensively and make small adjustments. The theme you select may limit future development, or may require customizations later. Custom design: Design your website from scratch and have your Solution Partner tailor it to your brand and desired customer experience. Functionality How should the site be navigated? How will you build customer trust and convey credibility? What steps will you take to keep customer information safe and secure? How would you like to promote the website (e.g. SEO, social media, marketing)? Do you need to integrate the site with third-party functionality (e.g. ERP, CRM, PIM)? Performance What are the statistics on your current website performance? What are your performance requirements and desires? - Expected daily visits - Page load speed on high concurrent connections - Transaction volume - Orders, views, and concurrent users per day
12 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 12 What is your hosting environment like? - Server specification - Web server configuration - Database configuration How many products (SKUs) and categories do you have? Are your products and categories complex or simple? How many websites and storefronts will you have? Checkout Experience What is the checkout experience you want to create? How will orders be processed, and what payment providers will you use? How will orders be fulfilled and shipped? Read customer success stories and take a look at other Magento Enterprise Edition store sites for ideas and inspiration. Make a note of design elements and features you might want to replicate on your own site.
13 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 13 Determining Budget and Cost Expectations Understand What Your Needs Will Cost The cost of the project is generally determined by the number of hours it will take to build the website, multiplied by your Solution Partner s hourly rate. There are four areas that affect cost: The Basics: Every partner has a baseline cost for a Magento Enterprise Edition site implementation. This is the number of hours it takes for them to implement Magento Enterprise Edition s basic features. Integrations: Simple integrations (e.g. Quickbooks or MailChimp) can be inexpensive, but complex integrations (e.g. SAP or proprietary software) can be more time consuming and therefore more costly. Customizations: When you create your needs assessment document (as described above), the features and functionality you describe will fall under one of three categories: Native Magento Enterprise Edition functionality An extension or module already built Customization Design: This tends to be one of the most costly parts of a project, depending on your requirements. In some cases, a usable theme or design has already been created but most Magento Enterprise Edition clients desire a site that uniquely reflects their brand.
14 14 Evaluating Prospective Solution Partners 15 Key Evaluation Factors
15 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 15 Key Evaluation Factors Once you ve outlined your needs, expectations and budget, it s time to evaluate Solution Partners. Review your needs with prospective partners and make sure they understand your project goals. The following can help you evaluate their response and determine whether a particular partner is right for you: Agency Effectiveness A Solution Partner s effectiveness is generally determined by the ROI they deliver for their clients. Look for statistics, reviews, and any indication that their implementations have had a positive effect on conversions, average order values, site visits, new customers and repeat customers. Project Management Methodology (Waterfall, Agile, Rapid Application Development) An agency s delivery model is not usually high on potential clients checklists. Yet knowing how a firm runs its projects can often predict your project s success. The project management (PM) methodology is an important indicator of an agency s ability to deliver the project on time and on budget. As tactical priorities change and as various stakeholders weigh in, even the best planned projects will need mid-stream adjustments here and there. A good PM methodology should be flexible enough to accommodate changes as they come, without derailing the overall project. Furthermore, a well-defined and mutually agreeable change-control process is essential. Keep in mind that the more changes you initiate that are out of the project s initial scope, the higher the cost will be. Request a sample project plan to review the types of activities your partner s PM methodology includes. Questions to ask: How and when does the agency plan to communicate with you? Will you get regular updates on your project s status and cost? How often? What is expected of you and your staff? Asking these questions beforehand will help ensure that there are no surprises throughout the project, and that your project will meet all of your targets and deadlines. Project Implementation Timeline If you are not familiar with project implementation, it may be difficult to estimate your project s timeline. While projects are usually billed hourly, opting for the ecommerce agency that proposes the fewest number of hours might not be the best strategy. Collect
16 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 16 proposals from several firms and compare their estimates. The comparison process should give you a rough idea of how many hours your project requires. Customer Focused One of the best reasons to implement a Magento Enterprise Edition site is to improve your customer s user experience. If this is one of your priorities, you ll want a partner with design expertise and a history of improving user experience. An agency with sophisticated design capabilities will be able to show you examples of design progressions, from whiteboard sketches to clickable wireframes to finished graphic designs. They will explain their approach in detail and work with you to develop their designs, including assessing the need for photography and unique artwork. Agency Experience Solution Partners are required to have a minimum number of Magento Certified or Certified Plus Developers on staff, but experience also matters. Ask prospective partners to relate concrete experience they ve had working with projects similar in type and complexity to yours. You can verify how many certified developers a partner has on staff by viewing their Magento Solution Partner listing. Current Projects and Personnel Be sure the partner has enough time and manpower to adequately focus on your project. Having twenty developers and twenty projects is a red flag (they will likely not have time for yours). Look for a good balance of developers and active projects. You should also ask how the Solution Partner will staff your project. At a minimum, a well-staffed ecommerce project should include an analyst, a project manager, a solutions architect, a tech lead, and several certified developers. Post-Launch Support and Maintenance It s vital that you understand how a prospective agency intends to support you in the long run. You will want a professional support organization to maintain your site and provide support if anything goes wrong. Questions to ask: Does the partner have a support team? If so, how will you interact with that team? If there is no dedicated support, how will you receive support? Does the partner have an online ticketing system with 24/7 access, options that include phone support, or guaranteed SLAs (service level agreements)?
17 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 17 A Professional and Thorough Proposal Make sure the project details you want are addressed in the final proposal and agreements with the Solution Partner. Anything that is not in writing is not included in the project scope. Therefore, it s always better to be safe and over-document requirements rather than assume something was implied. Review the proposal with your prospective partner and understand how the project is priced (e.g. number of hours, hourly rate, where the hours are being allocated). Work with the partner to add or remove features so that the end proposal is exactly what you want. Note that a project should be planned in phases: Phase 1: Get the baseline up and running Phase 2: Add the extras and finesse design Phase 3: Continue to expand the website with new functionality that allows you to enhance and improve your site (and your business) Careful evaluation of prospective Solution Partners and choosing the right partner puts your business on the road to success!
18 18 Working With Your Partner 19 Building a Relationship with Your Partner 21 How Magento Can Help
19 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 19 Building a Relationship with Your Partner Preparing to Work with Your Solution Partner Have a pre-approved budget and project sponsorship from the highest levels of your organization. Your understanding and candor about your current ecommerce platform and what works and what doesn t along with alignment within your organization to a set of clearly defined and communicated goals for the project will contribute greatly to your success. Introduce your technical team to your Solution Partner for a review of important details and specifics that will be covered during the onboarding process. Identify third-party capabilities that you have an interest in. Identify any risks or dependencies that may require special resources or could delay the project s delivery. Communicating Objectives Clearly Communication is absolutely critical to the success of any business relationship. Engaging in open and honest communications will help ensure a positive experience. Be clear about your timeframe, budget, goals and objectives, roles, design preferences, and expectations for third-party software and custom features. A comprehensive communications plan will help reduce and even eliminate misalignment throughout the project. Developing a Successful Client/Partner Relationship Tips to help ensure your relationship with your Solution Partner is successful: Establish a project steering committee to provide your Solution Partner with a single point of communication. This will avoid confusion and contradiction and help keep the project moving smoothly. Provide as many reference websites as possible, highlighting specific elements that you like and want for your site. Take ownership of your responsibilities and fully engage in the process. Make the most of your internal team and include them in the project. Those who will be responsible for managing or working with the website should be intimately familiar with any new technology involved. Commit to providing required input to your partner when needed. Check that all areas that may be impacted by the ecommerce project are identified, and take steps to mitigate these impacts within the business. Plan enough time and dedicate enough staff to perform user acceptance testing (UAT) prior to project launch (especially to review content). Plan realistic dates to launch your site (avoid weekends, holidays, and peak sales periods).
20 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 20 Getting to Work The two fundamental phases of the project will be discovery and development. The discovery phase is fluid and exploratory. During this phase, the partner brings together a cross disciplinary team of user interaction designers, ecommerce specialists, business development strategists, technologists, and project managers to create a realistic, actionable blueprint for the project that can be executed within the appropriate timeframe and budget. You and your Solution Partner will need to prepare a Statement of Work, which typically includes the following: Discovery Phase: Solution Partner continues to assess your ecommerce needs (usually onsite) and documents them in a detailed format. Design: Solution Partner works with you to create your website s look and feel. Wireframes: Solution Partner builds out a general outline of the site. Development Phase: Magento Certified Developers address functionality requirements and third-party integrations. Site Review: Review and test the website, provide input, and allow time for your Solution Partner to make adjustments as needed. Final Launch Schedule: Select a launch date that works for your team and your business. Once the curtain is lifted and your site is launched, you will be able to focus on further developing your business and developing programs for revenue growth and customer loyalty. Your Solution Partner can help you with the next update, the next feature deployment, and the next marketing objective.
21 Choosing and Working with a Magento Solution Partner 21 How Magento Can Help While your Solution Partner will be your primary support contact, our Magento Technical Support team is here to help. Our Customer Success Group (CSG) can work with you to help you receive the support and assistance you need on an ongoing basis. Be sure to watch the Magento website, explore our ecommerce Resource Library and the Magento blog, take advantage of our frequent webinars, and find out about meet ups, conferences, tradeshows, and other events where you can learn more about Magento Enterprise Edition and ecommerce in general.