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ecommerce platform in-house development Should a commerce solution be an in-house development?

Most companies undergoing digital transformation are very solution oriented, so usually sooner or later, the evaluation of developing an e-commerce solution in-house comes up. This article points out why that approach is easier said than done.

Unless a company plans to become a new Amazon, it is very inefficient to develop “commodity” functions in-house, and almost all the time it becomes more costly than opting for a ready-to-go enterprise solution. 

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Creating basic commerce functionality might not be that big of a deal, but building a platform from scratch that is stable and scalable at the same time is very complicated - and has been solved many times already.
Most of the infrastructure and generic business requirements are already coming out-of-the-box by many of the most mature platforms. ic_functionalities-outofbox

 

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Where time should be spent is where the unique proposition of the company lies: special processes, special type of information, the right and unique features that will set you apart from your competitors.
Your new commerce platform should not become a cage that limits your growth! A commerce platform should however take care of the mundane and let you focus on what makes your customers happy. Special features that meet their needs and increase their loyalty to you. ic_creativity

 

ic_innovation

 

If you opt for a SaaS commerce solution as basis, it is the vendor who constantly improves the core functions, makes fundamental security and technological upgrades, and even expands in directions that may be overseen by an internal team (i.e. AI, Reporting/Analytics, new frameworks, integration with CPQ) - all this while your internal team of DevOps and architects is free to develop special features for you!
If you are responsible for developing everything yourself, you eventually need to overcome the challenge where the competence of your team has to be spread thinner and thinner on many different areas: infrastructure, db, frontend technologies, new standards, tools and paradigms. Naturally, you could also find new tech specialists regularly to keep your platform up to date; or keep your team trained and motivated to understand the value of new technology. ic_king

 

 

But in general, the more specialized technicians are, the more difficult it is for them to remain close to the needs of sales, support and marketing.

"If I wasn’t “forced” by a vendor to embrace Continuous Delivery or Microservice Architecture, I probably would have never understood their value. Same for decoupled Storefront, JS frameworks like Angular/React/Vue/Node.js, containerization, and much more."

(Leo, Senior Developer in IT department)

It is important that the platform, exactly as any other framework, supports - and not limits you.

The cost of operations for an enterprise commerce solution is a common argument for developing an e-commerce platform in-house, but be sure to run a total cost of ownership (TCO)! Internal hosting and especially internal operations teams that are up-to date to all technologies and choices are not necessarily cheaper!

If you are looking for a commerce solution that will serve you well for the next years - no matter if developed in-house or from a vendor, these 4 aspects are important from a technology perspective:

  • It should support or provide a modern PWA  frontend – this gives you the freedom to expand it or develop it yourself, if needed.
  • It needs to be expandable via microservices, so that you can have teams focusing on your own specific domain, selecting the best language and tools for it, and not having to negotiate, compromise or even put at risk the rest of the project! Also, it could allow the “fail fast” approach.
  • It should run in a cloud architecture, for providing the perfect hardware is a problem of the past! A cloud already provides ready-to-use subcomponents (Docker, API GW, SSO, Messaging/queuing, storage…).
  • It should provide APIs for everything, but not be limited to them! APIs and a stable core platform are a great way to put an MVP online in just a few weeks.

If you are currently within the process of evaluating the in-house development of an e-commerce platform, please read my article on platform migration- it points out in detail the hassle a “lift-and-shift” approach brings and what you can do to work it out much smarter:

Read: A Reasonable Approach to Platform Migration