Online businesses have variously been described as the future of global enterprise and for many good reasons. As a project manager you will be tasked with ensuring the success of the online business and while it may seem like an easy task, you are in for one of the most grueling tasks of your life. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reckons there will be more than 3.2 billion internet users by the end of 2015 which is a clear indicator that your company can no longer ignore the potential of the internet platform.
However there is still more to deal with when it comes to contemporary business transformation. You have to deal with increased mobile internet users meaning your business website will have to be optimized for mobile devices. A Smart Insight study in 2014 correctly predicted that by 2015 mobile media will be greater than desktop and this has come to pass.
That is not all, Pew Research Center says 64% of all Americans for instance own smartphones which means access to your online business will no longer be PC based but on mobile and other hand held devices. The question then becomes; are you able to close the obvious gap that will emerge when these realities hit your online business? Does your business have human resources with the prerequisite skill sets and resources to make online business a feasible reality?
It Boils Down to Project Management
Well, this is a phenomenal task that you have to handle but luckily, you just need to leverage your project management skills to actualize it. From the conception stages, design, implementation, evaluation and optimization, your website must be understood as a step-by-step process which is the core of every successful project management project.
Like every other project there are multiple tasks to be worked on by your team. For instance, your team will be working on different aspects of actualizing the online business including:
- Market research
- Domain name registration
- Web hosting management
- Web design and architecture
- Website optimization for search engines (SEO) and other marketing tools
- Merchant account creation and monetization
These are just some of the project management aspects your team will have to handle and there is still more. In essence, as the project leader you have a huge task ahead but with an able team and the right skills you can easily chart a path to success. Is this easier said than done? You will get an idea in a moment.
Challenges That Lay Ahead
So, is the path ahead all smooth? If anyone tells you so, then they will be lying. Online business is exciting but only when you have a grip on the reins. Myriad challenges will crop up and they will all call on your project management skills. Some of these include:
- Meager resources: With fewer resources to spare across industries you will have to bear with limited resources. The fact that the 2007/2008 recession aftershocks are still being felt even as the economy recovers means most businesses, big and small, are not willing to commit resources to new projects. According to an Oracle White Paper, every project manager will have to optimize available resources, manage risks more closely and budget innovatively.
- Outdated infrastructure: There is nothing as irritating to the modern shopper as an outage when they visit your website. This means your online business has to leverage the best technology and expertise to stay ahead but with limited resources this again becomes a challenge.
- Privacy and security issues: You will have to contend with increasing privacy concerns over the Internet especially when dealing with customer data.
- Search engine optimization: Unlike the traditional business marketing you will be dealing with an entirely new phenomenon when it comes to advertising your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a specialized field to help improve your site’s ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs) for your target search terms. Your marketing team will have to learn fast how to go about it or you can use external expertise.
- Increased competition: With thousands of other similar businesses in your niche, you have your work cut out for you. It is a cut throat environment and the rules of the jungle apply.
Gearing Up for the Challenge
There are other challenges you will face including self-doubt in the face of consistent competition from recognized brands, fear of starting and unrealistic expectations. Can they be overcome? Of course many online startups are doing well.
So, how do you leverage your project management skills to run a successful online business? Here are some ideas:
1. It’s all about a Clear Vision
Where will your business be in five years from now? What do you envision for this business? These are questions you need to ponder every waking minute because they will help you have a solid vision for your business. A good project manager leverages a solid vision to mobilize the team into action. With a vision it becomes possible to make progress towards set goals.
2. Communication is Still Key
In project management review, Timothy R. Barry writing on a study by ESI International says that a project leader must communicate goals and ideas regularly. When it comes to an online business communication becomes even more critical things happen in real-time. You need to regularly monitor your online business through different analytics tools and communicate the same to the team. In addition, good communication on other platforms such as social media networks helps increase your brand visibility which again helps grow your site’s traffic.
Online businesses are all about planning and not reflex action. Things will change rapidly but you can’t keep jumping onto every bandwagon because you will end up nowhere. You need to have a schedule on what you will do when. For instance, you can’t go live when you haven’t fully dealt with issues like proper design and layout, order processing systems, merchant accounts, etc. however pressing the deadline is.
Online business leverages on innovation and this is one quality every successful project manager possesses. Take for instance when a creative meme goes viral; you have to gather your team and come up with a way of using such visibility to your advantage.
Many businesses for instance used the Volvo Split clip featuring Van Damme, the movie star, to their advantage by creating spoof videos. As a project manager you need to be on the lookout for such creative content that will lead to more brand mentions.
If you know your niche, then you are in good stead because internet users love quality content. You can oversee creation of content, guest posts, articles that will be published on your blog or other authority blogs to help you build authority in your industry which in turn aids in new customer acquisition.
Setting up an online business is a herculean task no doubt but as a project manager you possess the flexibility, innovativeness, organizational skills and prerequisite market knowledge to go all the way. There are challenges on the way but with the adequate preparation, market research, and willingness to learn you will be in a good position to succeed. In essence, your online business success hinges on your project management skills.
Image: VFS Digital Design