Written by Jase Clamp Friday, 22 July 2011 13:16
The race is on...
You have identified your challenge and presented a well-outlined list of yoru ecommerce requirements in an RFP. That is commendable. But, that does not even get you close to solving your ongoing issues and challenges. Now comes the tricky part. How will you sift through the myriad of proposals that have been delivered for you to evaluate? Who will you trust with this monumental undertaking, this endeavor? As we are sure you are aware, your decision will have potentially immense implications on your organization’s overall structure and workflow.
Open source or proprietary?
One of the key aspects of your decision making process is going to be your selection not only of a vendor but, more importantly, of an ecommerce platform. Your entire ecommerce strategy will be based on your selection of the right platform. As you make this decision you will also knowingly or unknowingly be choosing between proprietary or open source ecommerce platforms.
No one is going to build an entire solution from scratch for you for this project. It will contain a pre-built ecommerce system that includes the majority of functionality that you will need. Then, extra functionality will be added. Again, your choice of the correct system and then the most appropriate vendor to assist with the implementation of the system will ultimately define the success of this project.
Here are some attributes we've observed of going with a proprietary solution:
- Pro: The system may have more features out of the box.
- Con: Your ability to customize to meet your needs may be limited due to a less extensible structure of that system.
- Con: Your only support option may be with one or a small number of companies that are familiar with that product.
- Con: You may not be able to move the system to another provider easily.
- Con: The infrastructure required may also incur ongoing licensing and maintenance needs that need to be factored in.
Here are some of the attributes we've observed of going with an open source solution:
- Con: The system may have less features out of the box.
- Pro: The system is structured in order to be extended to customize your need.
- Pro: There will likely be a large volume of vendors familiar with and capable of supporting your needs with this system.
- Pro: An open source system will likely run on open infrastructure requiring less maintenance and ongoing licensing.
- Pro: It would be easy to move an opensource system if needed.
You may be already familiar with open source vs. proprietary and you may have already decided that you definitely do or do not want your solution to be based on open source.
We leverage open source solutions so if that is your preference then your decision to partner with WinWorld will come with great confidence in our team’s ability and expertise.
Here are the key aspects of how we implement these solutions:
If you consider all of your open source vendors in one pool, please choose one that is going to customize and extend the foundational system in a way that ensures that you will still be able to obtain upgrades from the main open source project as they are released.
Also, please be careful in selecting a vendor that is an expert in the proposed system and who will be able to fully and correctly leverage all the techniques and options that system provides.
The ecommerce platform that we are proposing to – the platform that we work with exclusively – is called Magento.
Magento is a robust, enterprise level ecommerce system. Before Magento the only open source options were shopping carts such as osCommerce. They were limited, difficult to customize, and not viable for heavy commercial use.
One reason we've focused on providing Magento as a solution is because it is so versatile and flexible. It has built in a way that allows for the extension and modification of any aspect to suit your needs, without departing from the core upgrade path of the software itself. It is for this reason that thousands of developers have already built and made available custom extensions for this system that add on many desirable functionalities.
One thing your organization is going to have to think very carefully about when choosing an ecommerce platform is integration. It's very likely that your current business process infrastructure has third party systems that need to send and receive data with your ecommerce hub. Magento has an applications programming interface (API) that provides external access to the internal workings of the system. Due to its flexible database structure, it is also easy to obtain and send data and reporting back out to third party systems on various events that occur within the systems operation.
Magento is also flexible visually. It affords you the option of employing virtually any layout you would prefer from the majority of the views within the customer frontend. What this means is that you can have custom or frequently changing front page views, special layouts for certain products or categories, and you can also modify the whole site design easily to accommodate temporary campaigns.
It has more features than most applications require
When it comes to its feature set, Magento is incredibly robust. It notably has more features out of the box than most organizations will need. After using other more restrictive systems, we were blown away with how Magento can be configured to meet most needs without custom programming.
We do not want to go into too much more detail about this system as information regarding Magentois readily available.
What we really add to the equation
It is obvious that there may be requirements that you have that Magento does not include out-of-the-box. When this is the case, sometimes there are extensions already built that can be added to the system that meet the need. For your situation, however, WinWorld would have to custom build the entire section of the solution relating to fulfillment. Most of the cost for these aspects of the solution would be for the custom programming - however since it is being custom built, it means that it can be tailored specifically to your needs.
That is the way it is with open source. It is therefore crucial for you to find proficient vendors up-front who can setup, customize and install the solution.
We are a web design and custom programming company that has focused its efforts on developing the best practices for leveraging open source technology. If you check out our design you will see our proficiency there but, more importantly, we have experience knowing how to successfully build and launch web applications. Our programming team is the largest part of our business.
Additionally, after your solution launches, we are going to stay involved in the form of a maintenance plan and also ongoing monthly support.