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Red Cross Project: Lessons Learned

Steve Susina • June 18, 2013

At the IRCE 2013 show, Craig Oldham, American Red Cross’ Vice President of Digital Engagement, provided great insight into the monumental task of implementing a single eCommerce platform to meet the growing needs of 500+ local chapters.


Craig presented some key takeaways that are useful to anybody implementing an eCommerce project:

The Power of Testing

The Red Cross development team spends 21% of their time on Testing and Optimization.   The result of this testing was a direct 22% increase in the amount of donations collected from the site!  This is a great factoid that demonstrates the power of proper testing.  Many times people want to short-cut the amount of time on testing and this is the worst thing they can do.   While testing is essential for producing a bug-free eCommerce platform, that is only half the story.  Just as important, Optimization is vital as a method to maximize the potential of the eCommerce investment.   Take the time to understand what is working and not working for the customer.  Embrace testing and optimization of the website, the knowledge learned will more than offset the cost and time. 

Quantifiable Requirements Needed for Success  

Take the time to understand and quantify the requirements that define success.  People have a tendency to complain, water down requirements, instead of providing solutions.  The project team must focus on positive requirements that are clear and attainable.   While this seems obvious, it is harder than it looks.  For example, a requirement may say:  Better Site Navigation.   The word “Better” needs to be quantified.  A more accurate requirement is:   Multiple Attribute Selection Needed for Left Hand Navigation.   The more clearly the requirement:  the better Engineers can achieve the feature, QA can build better test cases, and Project Managers can manage time and costs better. 

Mobile Strategy

In case you haven’t noticed, the Mobile wave has crashed in a very big way.   By Mobile, we are talking about smartphones, tablets, mini-tablets, interactive TVs, etc.  People enjoy the freedom these devices afford them.  Companies must have a strategy to address the needs of people on these devices.  If they don’t, then significant revenue and customer opportunities will be lost.   Taking the time upfront to architect a viable solution, will dramatically cut costs and time to market.   Don’t make the mistake of trying to “shoe-horn” in a solution that will burn money and only provide a limited return.  Regardless of device, give customers the capabilities they need.  In return, they will reward you for your efforts.


During Craig’s presentation, these points resonated because every day at Lyons we deal with them.   And while projects have a lot more facets to them, these ones stand out as common areas where customers need education.   Because when the Requirements are clear, the Testing is done properly, and paired with a rock-solid Mobile Strategy:  the results are truly amazing.


Steve Susina

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Steve Susina

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