Your business will need more than just smart software to achieve a successful omni-channel transformation. Preparing your people, processes and culture is every bit as important as choosing the right technology. Based on personal observation of many such transformation projects, I believe these seven golden rules and habits can lead anyone to success. Some of these points may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how often they get overlooked.

1. Define Proper Goals & Outcomes

Before you do anything else on your project, take time to discuss and write a clear and comprehensive Vision Statement and Impact Statement about your omni-channel plans. At the same time, prepare a Numerical Business Case that justifies the investment you’re about to make, and quantifies exactly what a successful outcome looks like. These assets should then be used to communicate the plan to your wider team: where you want to get to, why you’re doing it, and what’s going to change along the way.

2. Appoint A Product-Owner-In-Chief & A Change-Owner-In-Chief

Many businesses take a lazy approach to assigning project ownership. They simply put their Sales/Marketing team in charge of requirements and their IT team in charge of delivery. This is a mistake, as it fails to break down organisational silos (and in fact, entrenches them). Successful omni-channel transformations take a different approach, working hard to cut through those silo walls from day one. A useful approach is to make the Sales/Marketing leader accountable for end-to-end Product Experience, and the IT leader accountable for overall Change Management. Getting your teams out of their usual comfort zones like this is a great way to encourage the cultural evolution necessary for successful operations.

3. Protect Your Talent

Omni-channel talent is in high demand and short supply these days. It’s painful when your best and brightest people are tempted away after just a few months, so when you recruit good people, make sure you’ve got a strong long-term incentive plan to retain them. Also, try to get ahead of the curve by actively training your existing people to become experts in this new discipline, rather than always hiring from outside.

4. Select Partners For The Right Reasons

Choosing implementation partners solely on the basis of minimized cost is a false economy. Instead, select partners who have the best chance at maximizing your success, even if they are not the cheapest. Look for a good cultural fit, strong experience in your particular sector or industry, and willingness to join you in a long-term partnership (omni-channel implementations do not happen overnight…).

5. Roadmap Should Address Your Own Weaknesses, Not Someone Else’s Strengths

Too many times I’ve heard, “Our product vision simple: we just want to build a website like” Not only is this unimaginative, it’s also sure-fire recipe for disappointment. Instead, inject some realism and humility into your product roadmap. In the early days, try focusing on two key areas: 1) fixing your most fundamental weaknesses (e.g. cleaning up your product data and PIM); and 2) delivering some tangible but bite-sized value-adds (e.g. an appointments booking service). Think of your omni-channel transformation as an ongoing journey rather than a final destination. Build a roadmap that reflects this and allows you to deliver value from the bottom up every step of the way.

6. Architecture Should Define Timelines

Your omni-channel business will fall down if the foundations are shoddy. Before timelines are committed and expectations are set, draw up a Reference Architecture that can feasibly enable your long-term business objectives. Use this to determine delivery timelines. The (all-too common) approach of “Just do whatever it takes to launch my click & collect service by Black Friday!” might possibly deliver a short-term win, but it rarely creates long-term value.

7. Bring Innovation & IP In-House

Sooner or later, most business realize they need some internal coding competence to maintain their omni-channel applications and develop funky new innovations. In my experience, the sooner you get on to this the better. The best approach is to start building your in-house developer team during the initial implementation, and let your coders learn at the elbows of your Implementation partners. This will stop your priceless Intellectual Property from walking out the door with your when your partner leaves.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey!