30 October 2023

How to avoid rework and time waste in e-commerce development

Written byAurelija Vyčaitė

It's Monday morning, the coffee is warm, and you open the inbox. There's an email from your development team about that recent upgrade you requested. Exciting! You're expecting some good news about the progress, of course.

But as you read through, it's clear that that progress is non-existant. The development team hasn’t even started the actual work; instead, they've been busy coming up with a list of questions for you, questions that are crucial to kickstart the engineering work.

Your heart sinks a bit as you realize that meeting the deadline might now be a tall order. Had you laid out the requirements more thoroughly from the get-go, this morning wouldn't be so messy. 

In continuous e-commerce platform development, the scenario above is far from uncommon.  

The pathway from inception to deployment is often troubled with unexpected detours that extend timelines and require rework. It's stressful, unpleasant, and disappointing, but it can be avoided. 

And what triggers that? Let’s dissect that and discuss how to sidestep these traps.

In brief: triggers that breed rework or avoidable fixes

1. Insufficient input
2. Unclear project ownership
3. Missing out on the edge cases
4. Unrealistic timelines and expectations
5. Long feedback loops


1. Insufficient input

Development work largely depends on the clarity and quality of your input and direction.
If the input is insufficient, it either leads to a lot of back-and-forths for clarification or, worse, misinterpretation and incorrect implementation.

Screenshot 2023-10-30 at 15.15.17

Some tips:

1. For each feature request, project, or bug ticket always define the objective and acceptance criteria

2. Do not forget to include all the supporting information: design mockups, documentation, data files, error logs, screenshots or screen recordings (in the case of bug tickets) and so on.  

3. Make sure you understand the priority level of this initiative. Do you want your development team to pick this task ASAP or do you want to plan it for later? Are all stakeholders aligned on the purpose and design of your project?

2. Unclear priorities & project ownership

When multiple captains try to steer the ship, the trip might be endless. The priorities change sporadically, and the internal disagreements among the backlog owners end up confusing the development team. And your whole strategy. 

To stay on track and have a direction, a single dedicated Product Owner (PO) is 90% of the time a better solution than a committee. The PO owns the backlog, constantly refines it, and ensures that development work and each ticket submitted are calibrated for achieving strategic business objectives. 

Screenshot 2023-10-30 at 12.30.22"Urgency without clarity". A cartoon by Tom Fishbourne.

3. Missing out on the edge cases 


An edge case in web development refers to a scenario that occurs only at extreme operating parameters. Imagine a website designed to handle 100 users at a time. What happens when user 101 tries to log in? That's an edge case.

Edge cases often elude the standard requirement gathering process. Their oversight can usher in a barrage of issues post-deployment, each demanding urgent attention and rework and stretching the development timelines.

The more novel and complex the project is, the bigger is the risk of overlooking an important edge case. To help yourself structure all the possible scenarios, involve important stakeholders (operations, finance, technology, marketing) who know the processes well and map out the user stories in a workshop. 

4. Unrealistic timelines and expectations

A lot of development is a bit of a black box for many non-technical people. It might appear as a small update but suddenly the estimate is much higher than anticipated. Why? There is a lot of "invisible" work, such as different types of testing, peer reviews of code quality, system integration, compliance and security assurance, and monitoring.

This work, although not directly visible on the web page, is crucial. Without completing it, you are running a risk of accumulating technical debt, unprecedented errors, and poor web page performance. 

Recognizing and planning for all the development phases can keep expectations realistic and prevent the rush towards unfeasible deadlines and disappointed stakeholders. In technology development, a good mantra to repeat for yourself is "underpromise and overdeliver". 

5. Long feedback loops

In web development, there are so many details that you want the conversations to be short, direct, consistent, and frequent.

Long feedback loops negatively impact efficiency and quality of output. When feedback stacks up, it extends not only the duration but also the density of review meetings, overwhelming the development team with a deluge of information to process all at once.

Imagine this process:

Screenshot 2023-10-30 at 13.38.55

Once started, this faulty cycle is very difficult to end. Eventually, you and your team will need to manage a wide range of projects all at the same time. The progress will be slow because, without focus, the work on each project will only be incremental. This is why the feedback loops should always be short. Schedule time on your calendar in advance for reviews. 

To conclude:

In wrapping up, managing the challenges of e-commerce development is more about early planning and clear communication than just responding to issues as they come up. The issues are predictable, and with a proactive approach, they can be avoided, saving both time and resources. As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

By tackling the right issues from the beginning, we create a smoother path for our projects, saving our Mondays from unexpected emails and our projects from extra rework.

To learn more about efficiency in e-commerce website development, sign up for our upcoming webinar "Reducing dependencies on development teams in e-commerce", which will take place on November 15th, 4PM CET

Screenshot 2023-10-23 at 13.09.37


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