Today is the second day of the Hybris partner conference. Yesterday was about changes at a company level and the commercial roadmap for partners.
Today has been split into three streams – commercial, delivery and technical. I joined the delivery stream because a colleague is attending the commercial, and delivery is kind of in the middle of the other two streams.
Apologies for grammatical and spelling mistakes as I’m releasing this post as quickly as possible throughout the day:
Setting up for success
Hybris are often called in to problematic implementations (emergency help), which is affecting growth of Hybris because it requires significant Hybris professional services. One of the problems Hybris face is when they work on Agile projects, they ask for documentation to get started, and the implementation teams will say “We don’t have any documentation because we’re Agile”. This means it takes longer for Hybris to help with the project, and besides, Agile doesn’t mean no documentation!
5.1 Product Update
The latest version of Hybris includes a Chinese accelerator, which supports Chinese payment systems, social networks and provides a more culturally aligned front end design. This demonstrates how important China is to the organisation.
Search (supported by Solr) has a dynamic feature which lists results as the customer starts typing their keyword (like Google), and the results can be ordered, or ranked, by a number of factors. It also supports “hero products” where results can feature any number of products even if they don’t completely match the initial search. This also includes filtered, or categorised search results.
Hero products are administered by simply clicking a star, exactly the same as Twitter favourites.
Order Management Services updates include a unified User Interface (UI) for different back office administration views such as content, order management and sourcing.
The UI now uses Cockpit NG across more of the administrative applications.
The Subscription Billing Gateway has been extended to support publishing and Telco customers. It supports subscription products with multidimensional, complex offers.
— Cecile Dorvault (@CecileAD) January 23, 2014
Unsurprisingly some new 5.1 features includes support for Hana, also owned by SAP.
Hybris and Agile
Hybris gave a short presentation on the advantages of iterative development, especially Agile. They also recommended automated testing and continuous integration, techniques for reducing technical debt and improving quality through peer reviews. Release frequently rather than big bang releases.
We already do this at Endava and it always surprises me how many other companies don’t.
Hybris have a reference implementation which includes best practice for ecommerce projects. This includes design patterns and documentation for partners to understand and emulate for our own projects.
Hybris gave a presentation about being ready to go live:
- Configuration and architectural review
- Monitoring is in place, both hardware, application (database, web server, etc.) and specifics, implementation monitoring
- Performance testing is considered mandatory, with real data, on an exact replication of the production environment.
Hybris went through some horror stories of real launch problems. A bigger problem is that a number of partners repeat those horror stories, so Hybris promoted a shared best practice across partners. Hybris already has a document listing these best practices. Clearly this document isn’t enough though, or partners wouldn’t be repeating the mistakes.
Performance Case Studies
The most common implementation issues are:
- Inadequate NFRs (Non-Functional Requirements)
- Testing too late. Not testing enough due to lack of automated testing and the inefficiency the business views manual testing.
- Partial testing, such as the customer view and not the administration side, or application testing without testing the production network and hardware
- Not using production data
Many of these issues apply to more general web implementations, not just ecommerce.
Finally, Hybris strongly recommend partners inform them of go live dates to have consultants ready. And even better, using some Hybris professional services in the implementation rather than waiting for the emergency call.
Toll Gates (consulting best practices)
In order for s successful ecommerce implementation, customers will need a level of commerce maturity.
Before implementation begins, it’s important to define the business strategy, identify key roles and responsibilities, priorities (high level business concepts rather than project deliverables) and a Plan B. All are obvious project management deliverables, but are often ignored and starts an implementation incorrectly.
Hybris showed a typical organisational structure for a new customer, with IT and business leads.
Hybris have a number of toll gates in an ecommerce implementation to avoid the common pitfalls and emergency calls later on.
Hybris recommend the partner and customer build a project on boarding process for new people coming into the project – both technical and business users. This also highlights the need for clients to step up, mature and defy their own processes.
After go live, the project needs a release management process, with Plan B and the other points listed above. Again, we do this at Endava, but I suspect many other partners don’t.
Measuring success is critical. “The difference between a good partner and a great partner is how the partner plans for and handles issues, at both a business level and technical”.
Red to Green
The reason for many clients calling Hybris is that something unexpected has occurred on a project and the partner didn’t have a plan to handle this anomaly. Hybris don’t just jump into the project and handle the current situation, they will do a complete project audit, from overall project management (roles and responsibilities, methodology) first. They will reaffirm success criteria, scope prioritisation and then do a complete (people, plan, tools, code) review on the target area(s).
In the event of an emergency call to Hybris, they create a rescue, or go forward plan. This doesn’t always have an optimistic outlook and may involve moving timelines and increased costs (more resources based on an artificially low quote to win the business).
This was all common sense, and is what gave me my grey hairs in my early days. For partners on the audience with a full head of non-grey hair, these tips were useful.
The new partner programme is multitiered, with Contractor partners and basic level (hyOn). New self-service training will ramp up the number of developers (and other functional roles) more quickly. There will also be a specific Busyness Analyst training course, and unusually for a product company, they will provide a train-the-trainer course for larger SI’s (with over 100 developers to train) such as Endava.
Hybris already has some CMS capabilities, however some clients still need to use an external CMS (Content Management System) to handle complex workflow, personalised content paths including multiple languages, job roles, authentication and approvals, and promotional microsites. Best of breed, modern CMS products (e.g. Adobe CQ5 and Sitecore) can still handle content more efficiently than ecommerce platforms.
To integrate Hybris with a CMS, you need to consider:
- The product taxonomy, and where the content will be entered
- Where customer user data will be stored, for both the checkout process and marketing purposes.
As a generalisation, data that changes frequently (more regularly than every few minutes) and is time sensitive needs to be stored in Hybris.