Monday Aug 01, 2011

Thoughts on organizational structure to support an ATG commerce implementation

 While interviewing organizations that have implemented ATG, it is apparent that there is not a significant change in staff and that typically, just a re-training of staff occurs.  This varies with different scenarios such as those organizations that are new to online commerce or are moving from a fully hosted solution to one that they must be responsible for.  As organizations expand to greater international markets, thought should be given to current centralized strategies of site design and local campaigns.  It will be critical to empower those local offices to respond quickly to their markets.  This type of approach may increase expected headcount.  This post details an example of typical staffing requirements and FTE estimates based on a medium sized eCommerce organization which would have the following attributes:

  • Catalog: approximately 10,000 products with 18,000 SKUs
  • Site Traffic: 1.5 million page views
  • Unique Visitors: approximately 250,000/day
  • Annual Growth: 20

Business Groups

Merchandisers: ⁞ This group will be utilizing Oracle ATG Web Commerce Merchandising.  Most people re-train their existing content management team on ATG Merchandising through Oracle education (www.education.oracle.com).  It has been noted that ATG automates a majority of tasks that the merchant performed with old system(s) manually.  This automation has allowed merchants to focus more time on strategic campaigns and less time on daily maintenance tasks.  Headcount: 2 to 5 people per brand or unique catalog.  At least 2 people should be trained to cover for holidays, vacation and sick time.  The number depends on the size of the catalog and the number of changes made to the catalog per day.

Marketers: There are many personalization aspects of ATG that a marketer may want to drive including creating segments, content groups, content targeters and promotional campaigns to target those specific segments.  Headcount: 1 to 2 per brand or unique catalog.

eCommerce Service Agents: This group would be utilizing Oracle ATG Web Commerce Service Center. The staff in the contact center will also not change.  Again, the automation of the tasks in the call center that were previously manual or involved access to multiple systems greatly reduces call handle times.  Headcount should remain the same if a call center is in place.

Business Analyst: This role liaises between IT and the Business.  They may sit on the business or IT side and help to translate the business functionality use cases and needs to the technical development team.   In an ATG environment,, they are also typically assisting the business with merchandising and promotional tasks, including scenario design and maintenance.  This role can also act as the overall liaison across all ATG products implemented to assure streamlined work flow and processes cross product and business lines.  We find this role is most often overlooked but the role is critical to the success of post launch business process.  This person would be utilizing Oracle ATG Web Commerce Merchandising, Search Merchandising, Personalization, and ATG Control Center.  Headcount: typically 1

IT Groups

These support number should also remain the same, if a full service IT group was in place.  Oracle provides ATG Administrative courses at various levels across the platform to provide a foundation of understanding.  An ATG recommendation would be to take a channel approach if focused B2C and B2B while having an Operations Team manage the ATG infrastructure.  We have found that a 2 to 1 technician to manager ratio is ideal.  This allows for proper focus on the strategic issues of utilization and resources (server/memory) planning, but the Operations Team can also be used for spear heading business requirement specifications.The Operations Team can also help drive the technical review and requirements for PCI compliance.

Note on scaling the IT organization: While it might seem logical that the supporting IT organization of an eCommerce business has to scale in direct proportion to the growth of the business (as measured in revenue), that is not always the case across the organization.  The number of Development FTEs is greatly dependent on the volume of functionality change and maintenance and is not tied to the volume of transactions.  The exception to this rule might be in Deployment and QA, as the supporting infrastructure will certainly scale with revenue and could require more resources to efficiently support that task.  The key factor that drives scale in most eCommerce businesses is supporting multi-site and/or multi-brand implementations within the same organization.

IT management staff should be a team of developers, testers and a project manger/technical lead.  At  minimum, there is 1 person running applications, 1 person running infrastructure, but other layers will be needed if in a larger organization: Application Operations (monitoring, troubleshooting, ops), System Management, Security, Database Management, Network, Backup.  Headcount 4 to 8 depending on level of development and management.

VP/Director Level: This is typically a director level position which is aligned with peer-level IT management functions (project office, infrastructure, systems, etc) outside of the eCommerce business unit, although, larger organizations may find that the level of responsibility is such that it requires a VP-level position.  This position has overall responsibility for all IT functions related to the Commerce business, including development, QA, data migration and deployment.  Infrastructure and DBA may be an area of responsibility but could also be assumed by other internal organizations.

Development Management: This will most likely be a manager position, although the size of the organization could dictate it as a director-level position if reporting through a VP.  The responsibilities for this position would include managing the development staff and all relevant development projects, including code maintenance.

eCommerce Development (Senior): This developers have object-oriented programming background and at least 5+ years of Java, with preferably 2+ years of prior ATG experience and/or some other commerce framework. These developers do the majority of the heavy lifting on new functionality and site enhancements.  The actual number of development FTEs will greatly depend on the volume of new site functionality being developed, but a typical organization will have anywhere from 3-5 minimum.  This team may also be responsible for third party integrations to outlying systems (data feeds to fulfillment PkMS, payment processing, corporate legacy systems and reporting data warehouse).

eCommerce Development (Junior): These developers will primarily be working on the presentation layer of the eCommerce site and will not necessarily have a Java background or experience with ATG.  The web developers will have exposure to JavaScript and other scripting languages such as CSS and HTML.  The web developers are also responsible for JSP development and have a solid understanding of ATG so they can work on form handlers to the back end where necessary.  There should also be multi-media developers that have experience with flash, AJAX, video and interactive media.  They are most likely working on modifications to the user experience, content refreshes, product catalog updates, marketing updates to the site, seasonal content refreshes, promotions) and tying front end code to the lower level code that the senior developers are working on.  Exposure to development at this level makes for an ideal transition to Java development and a succession path to a senior development role.  As with the senior role, the FTE level depends on project volume but a typical organization would have 2-3 junior developers.

Deployment Specialist: This role will be responsible for the migration of the data and deployment of code releases tot eh ATG infrastructure and should not have any direct development responsibilities.  The need for an FTE in this role is predicated on the assumption that catalog repositories and search indexes are being refreshed on a daily basis and that there is at least one code release each week.

IT development staff - The variance here depends on where or not the organization is in active development state or not.  If the organization generally runs in maintenance mode, bringing in more bodies periodically, the organic number will be lower.  Another variable to answer is "who is providing operational support?".  Some organizations outsource some or all of these tasks to a systems integrator. Headcount: 2 to 8 range.

eCommerce Development (Senior): This developers have object-oriented programming background and at least 5+ years of Java, with preferably 2+ years of prior ATG experience and/or some other commerce framework. These developers do the majority of the heavy lifting on new functionality and site enhancements.  The actual number of development FTEs will greatly depend on the volume of new site functionality being developed, but a typical organization will have anywhere from 3-5 minimum.  This team may also be responsible for third party integrations to outlying systems (data feeds to fulfillment PkMS, payment processing, corporate legacy systems and reporting data warehouse).

eCommerce Development (Junior): These developers will primarily be working on the presentation layer of the eCommerce site and will not necessarily have a Java background or experience with ATG.  The web developers will have exposure to JavaScript and other scripting languages such as CSS and HTML, Flash, etc. They are most likely working on modifications to the user experience, content refreshes, product catalog updates, marketing updates to the site, seasonal content refreshes, promotions) and tying front end code to the lower level code that the senior developers are working on.  Exposure to development at this level makes for an ideal transition to Java development and a succession path to a senior development role.  As with the senior role, the FTE level depends on project volume but a typical organization would have 2-3 junior developers.

Architect(s): This team is responsible for setting and executing platform and data architecture strategy and road map which would include version control.  Team should include an architect with strong database design skills and a DBA administrator.

Note on the Development Team: The division of Junior/Senior developers and the inclusion of dedicated Deployment and QA specialist are based on what a relatively mature eCommerce IT organization would look like.  Some organizations at post launch may tend to learn towards a pool of development resources, where there is no clear division of specialty, and developers rotate on deployment and QA duties.  As an organization grows and becomes more mature, this separation of responsibilities results in greater efficiencies.

IT QA Staff is usually comprised of one functional tester, one load tester, one swing person who does documentation as well.  Headcount is 1 to 3 depending on IT requirements.  In our larger customers where there is a lot of policy sign off, there will be 3 people consistently.  Most disciplined organizations have QA processes inclusive of performance, load analysis as well as functional analysis.  Smaller organizations will have 1 person or leverage other team members.

QA Specialist:  This role is responsible for the QA cycles on all code releases with the exception of catalog updates.  They would be responsible for testing new functionality against the project charter and scope and regression testing existing functionality as needed.  This role should not report through Development Management as a best practice.

Other Cross Functional Groups

 Business Intelligence Staff: The Business Intelligence team produces and manages web analytics, A/B Testing, customer communications (email/text/twitter) and sets the direction for data management and strategy.  Headcount: 1 to 2.

Project Management Office: In addition tot eh business and IT teams, a program manager should be instituted to manage large strategic projects )like site build outs) and handle executive level project status communication.  Additional project leads could be added who would manage smaller projects.  The Business Analyst could report in through this group as well.  Headcount: 1 to 2.

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