With HCL’s acquisition of several IBM products, including Websphere Commerce, many are wondering how those platforms will be affected. HCL has asserted that they are not setting out to change the strategic direction of WebSphere Commerce, but rather they aspire to add to it. This acquisition isn’t going to fundamentally change the architectural direction that Websphere Commerce Version 9 (V9) introduces, but rather it will expand upon it to deliver more features, faster.
Version 9 is more than a typical software update, it is a refresh of the platform that has evolved over the past 20 years. It’s a fresh look on how eCommerce systems are developed, deployed, and maintained. When upgrading your B2B eCommerce platform to WebSphere Commerce V9, there are three key areas that require evaluation.
1. Business and Technical Knowledge
Start by understanding your current business and technology environment. It’s important to maintain a deep knowledge of the latest best practices for your industry. In this case, B2B organizations are seeing a shift in the digital and technology expectations of their customers.
The modern buyer is no longer exclusively using a telephone to place orders or a desktop to do research. Mobile devices are changing the way business is being conducted, and this new model is forcing many B2B organizations to evaluate their strategies and be more proactive in their digital evolution. Another trend that B2B businesses are observing is minimizing their distribution network. More and more, these businesses are wanting to directly reach their end consumer rather than relying solely on the middlemen and distributors to survive.
In addition, B2B best practices are transitioning to emphasize differentiated experiences. Providing great digital commerce experiences is becoming the rule rather than the exception, and B2B organizations are recognizing the need to provide experiences that are unique rather than similar to the competition. If you and your competitors are all operating on the same systems with the same capabilities, how can you possibly create an experience that stands out? Knowing what capabilities you require to do that is crucial when upgrading. Even though B2B businesses aren’t selling directly to their customers, it’s still important to create a more compelling value proposition than their competitors have.
2. Business Strategy and Readiness
Once you have clearly identified the gaps in your knowledge and determined areas that require attention, you need to assess your B2B business’ ability and readiness to adopt a new system. Take a look at your capacity across marketing, merchandising, digital content, branding, and other critical aspects. You should assess the maturity of your customer experience, branding, digital marketing, and content creation, as well as your ability to react to change and growth.
Historically, B2B organizations lack a sense of urgency when it comes to evolving technology. As a result, they often start to feel pressure to evolve their digital experiences only when those who are more technically enabled arrive on the scene. But adopting a mobile-centric strategy or expanding your selling channels beyond your distribution network will only enable you to catch up when you’re already falling behind your competition. It’s far more effective to use your eCommerce platform to stay ahead of these trends and know where your shortcomings are.
Another common issue B2B businesses face when evolving their eCommerce strategy and platform is a lack of marketing experience. Due to their maturity, many B2B entities have failed to dig deep into the world of marketing and content creation. Knowing how to effectively create content, manage it, and perform other functions such as automating campaigns is an area that V9 can help with.
3. Existing Platform Footprint and Compatibility
As digital commerce platforms evolve to meet the needs of businesses and the digital commerce landscape, it’s imperative that B2B organizations understand how to best embrace the newest iterations of these platforms. Know how the existing and mature platform has served your business over the years.
Many B2B entities that have implemented the WebSphere Commerce platform have failed to stay up to date on the latest features, fixes, and capabilities as IBM rolled them out. These systems have been built, deployed on the back-end, and left to run for years without continual maintenance and upgrades. A significant number of retrofit migrations, outdated paradigms, obsolete code, and archaic processes (aka, “technical debt”) have made these systems more of a burden to these businesses and their budgets than a resource.
The problem arises when failure to make these enhancements comes to a head. Billions of dollars in revenue are flowing through these systems and all of a sudden, one day it’s announced that the current system version is progressing to end of life and will no longer be a supported platform. At this point, upgrading is no longer a choice, but rather a requirement. Changing, replacing, or upgrading a system is not a process for the faint of heart. When billions of dollars in revenue stream are flowing through this system, it’s risky to implement changes without proper technical knowledge and strategic planning. Those B2B businesses that haven’t upgraded their WebSphere Commerce platform for an extended period of time will also likely face issues when it comes to legacy hardware and data storage migration moving to the cloud.
WebSphere Commerce V9 is an exceptional opportunity for B2B businesses to assess their technical debt and plans to eliminate such debt, all the while embracing more modern and agile solutions. You need to assess your current business and technical knowledge, and understand how your business strategy and readiness plays into your upgrade plan. You must know your existing platform and what areas will be affected by your upgrade. While you need to consider the state of your existing solution before your migration, it’s also important to note the benefits that this type of migration will provide. The features on the new V9 architecture will change the way you approach eCommerce, and will ultimately deliver a better, faster, and more dynamic customer experience.
To learn more about the process and preparations required before migrating, download our guide on Upgrading to WebSphere Commerce V9.