Choosing the Vendor
It's not possible to make an omelet without eggs and impossible to get eggs without chickens or other fowl regardless of which came first. Most people don't raise chickens in modern society to ensure a steady supply of eggs for omelets; they just buy them from an egg vendor such as a supermarket, farmer's market or neighborhood grocer. Building an eCommerce platform can be done with the right internal team of specialists, but most companies go to an outside vendor to buy software and customize it for their unique business needs and infrastructure.
Unfortunately, that's where many companies fall short by choosing out-of-the-box software or vendors that are more familiar with B2C operations. Thousands of companies offer website design services, CRM and ERP software, SaaS models, custom software integrations and choices of operating software, eCommerce store builders, Web development, marketing consultations and endless combinations. Building a B2B eCommerce platform, however, requires a vendor that can wear many hats. The vendor should specialize in B2B implementations and have a full staff that can fill any holes in the development team. Requisite skills include experience in marketing, design, eCommerce, business consulting, project management, agile software development and customizing software successfully for today's high-performance B2B eCommerce platforms.
Choosing the best fit depends on many factors, but keys to look for in potential vendors include whether they work well with internal teams and are willing to involve them deeply in the development process. This will ensure that the staff can take over after the platform build with a good working knowledge of how everything works. The vendor should specialize in customizations and integrations because these are critical in today's rapidly evolving business markets where small conveniences and better user experiences more often determine where customers go to buy products than the traditional B2B monitors like pricing, brand loyalty and personal relationships with a company or members of its sales staff.
Regardless of vendor choice, it's important to stress that the development project is a proprietary company effort and that the vendor works for the company. Insist on taking part in the development process, but don't forget to follow through during the actual planning and building of the platform. Some leaders establish control and retreat to their offices while the technical matters are resolved, but this is a short-sighted attitude that everyone will notice. Maintain high visibility during the project even if managed remotely. Ask questions, review progress and read the technical documents that the development team produces. Decision-makers and company officers don't need to understand every technical detail to monitor the process, ask questions, request examples for clarification and stay heavily involved throughout the development process.