Critical tasks for ATG Merchandising implementation

Of all the things that you should consider when planning an implementation of ATG Merchandising, there are a few critical tasks that rise to the top.  I've broken them down into three categories; implementation, technical, and process / organization / usability.

Implementation

The items below represent the most important things to consider when planning for your implementation:

  • Engage with ATG PS - This is by far, the most important item of all.  ATG Professional Services can provide the expert skills and advice that will help to ensure that your implementation is a success.
  • Leverage ATG training (business and technical) - ATG offers education for both business and technical people for both Merchandising and Content Administration (the important underlying framework of Merchandising).  In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of these products, education is essential.
  • Plan on this being a ‘real’ project - Do not underestimate the complexity and importance of this implementation.  While implementing Merchandising is not something your customers will see, it will have an impact on your e-commerce operations.
  • Engage business users very early (requirements, most common use cases, testing, etc) - This is not just a new tool, but most likely, a new process for managing the site(s) as well.  The business users who will use this system every day must be involved from the beginning and should receive guidance on how to present their most important needs (see other posts in the Requirements category).

Technical

The items below represent the most important technical recommendations (from ATG) with respect to running Merchandising:

  • Read the CA best practices guide - ATG has created a CA (Content Administration) best practices guide, which contains essential advice on implementing CA.  It's important to note that best practices evolve over time so make sure you're looking at the latest version (available here).  The bullets below are discussed in this best practices guide, but they are worth mentioning again.
  • Use the latest version, patches, and hotfixes - There is no reason to run into the same issues that other customers have run into (which have been fixed in the form of a patch or hotifx).  Make sure you have all of those fixes in place so you don't waste valuable time debugging known and resolved issues.
  • Use the late staged workflow - This is the workflow recommended for all implementations of CA.  ATG offers other workflows out of the box, but best practices suggest that late staged is very likely the best one to use.
  • Use switching data sources in your production environment - This is something all ATG customers should do regardless of whether they are using Merchandising or not, but it becomes especially important when you are using Merchandising.  The idea here is that using switching datasources allows CA to update the catalog / content of your site without having an impact on your customers in the unlikely case that a deployment should fail.  In short, it's the safest approach.
  • Establish application security - Security is something that needs to be designed from the beginning, not something to add on later.  You should map your organization and roles to the appropriate application permissions.

Process / Organization / Usability

The items below represent the most important things to consider in order for the business users to successfully use Merchandising most efficiently:

  • Users work in different projects - We have found that when users create and work in their own project (as opposed to multiple users working in a single project), there is much better visibility into who changed what (less confusion).
  • Users should log in using their own login - We highly recommend that business users do not share a single / common login (such as the default 'publishing' login).  This will always lead to confusion over who changed what, it's much better for users have (and use) their own logins.
  • Avoid working in same category at the same time as other users - The ATG catalog structure is highly flexible in that it allows you to link the same product to multiple categories, link the same sub-category to multiple categories, etc.  With this flexibility comes some complexity in how to manage that structure.  The 'linking' capabilities can make things confusing when two business users are making changes in the same category, so we suggest that users avoid doing that.
  • Leverage the multi-edit capabilities as much as possible - Multi-edit is a excellent way to reduce the redundant 'clicks' to get a set of work done.  In an effort to optimize the business users use cases, it's important to understand and leverage Multi-edit as much as possible.
  • Create a map for business user (when I change XYZ, it has this affect on the site) - We've heard many business users say something like '... I have no idea what happens when I change the XYZ attribute of the product...'.  We recommend that a document be created that clearly shows what happens to the site when the business user changes a field in Merchandising.  This should be a large part of a custom training manual for business users.
  • Document the roles and responsibilities in your organization - Business users will need to understand who is responsible for what tasks in order to function properly.  This will separate tasks such as authoring and reviewing (so the business users will understand which task they are supposed to complete).  It will also help to get new hires up to speed faster.
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