Critical Me  framework –  e-commerce done right

Today we’re gonna’ to tell you the story about how we used our experience to create a functional framework that prepares startups for a successful launch, accelerates the growth of existing e-businesses and walks offline retailers through digital transformation.

It all started when we realized there’s a strong connection between the reasons why a company drops its performance and the fact that the owners are lacking a macro view of the entire business.

Having 24/7 control on every department can be very challenging (if not impossible) and the decision-makers are usually prone to putting out isolated fires rather than resorting to more drastic solutions, such as reshaping the business from scratch.

While the first practice can serve as a quick fix, it perpetuates the belief that it’s OK to wait until the last moment to solve a problem. This pushes the team members to resort to unfit solutions and this will eventually endanger the entire business.

On the other hand, reinventing your business requires a massive effort. It implies stopping some processes from running, changing the activity of your team, replacing systems and procedures and maybe even your physical location if you’re one of those big players who own a warehouse & all. This is a huge leap that takes time and you also need to afford to lose some money before you start making more money.

We created Critical me to prevent either of the two from happening. It’s like an X-ray machine for your business, that helps you spot the current flaws and gives you the chance to plan for new, efficient growth strategies.

The definition

Critical Me is a complex e-commerce framework designed to help our clients launch, grow or transform their business with minimum of risk and maximum of results.

What lays behind this framework is over 11 years of experience in the e-commerce industry, along with a series of technologies and practices that we learned to master in time. Our main idea was partly inspired from the affinity diagram and was then transformed and adapted to meet both the global and particular needs of an e-commerce organization.

We named it like that because we use it to define all the critical divisions that a business needs in order to function properly. Combined with our critical analysis of all the flows and processes in your company, you will be able to create an accurate and realistic development plan.

The target auditory

We apply Critical Me on three main categories of e-commerce businesses:

  • startups, before they enter the online market
  • ongoing online businesses, anytime the company is ready for growth
  • offline retail players who want to go take their brand to the online area

We recommend Critical Me to people with a strong understanding of the business, who are usually also the key roles in any organization:

  • business owners
  • C-level executives
  • heads of departments (middle management)
  • project managers
  • product owners

The structure – how it works

Depending on the size of the company and the business needs, it takes around 4–6 weeks to apply the Critical Me framework. During this time, we gather all the key roles in your company and run a detailed analysis that will help us create the final picture of your business.

Critical Me is built from 7 essential steps:

1. Defining the business pillars. Even if you are convinced you know what your departments should look like, we strongly recommend you don’t skip this step. This is when you might discover that some services are better to be outsourced rather than developed in-house. Whatever “EXTRAs” your company might contain, now is the best time to conclude what are the divisions you absolutely cannot live without.

2. Setting the tasks. Good, so now that the business pillars are clear, we can start filling them with the required tasks for each department. We use a step-by-step approach, adding the tasks in a chronological, logic-based order. They can be single tasks that are only necessary once for the initial setup, or they can be recurrent tasks, in which case we will also establish the terms for repetition.

3. & 4. Deciding on the systems & tools. This one is distinctive for each business, given some important factors we need to consider: the size of your company, the amount of technical support you have access to, your budget, your needs & requirements and the level of scalability you plan on reaching in the next few years. In any case, trust us on having enough experience as to recommend you the technological elements that are most suitable for your business.

5. Assigning the people in charge. The fourth step of our framework is to allocate the team members who will be responsible for the delivery of each task. If you’re new in the industry or your company works on cross-functional roles, it’s best if we review the organigram before completing this step, in order to be sure all roles are clear and the designated people are fit for the tasks they are assigned on.

6. Determining the timeframes for development. As soon as all the flows and processes are agreed on and connected, we can determine the period of time it’s going to take for every feature to be developed and/ or implemented. It’s important that you understand from the beginning that this step cannot be estimated prior to analyzing your business needs, requirements and budget.

7. Extracting the KPIs. We already wrote about the importance of following your business indicators. We always advise our clients to implement a monitoring solution for their KPIs, because it’s the best way to keep your business under control in a timely manner, thus being able to spot and fix any issue as it occurs. During this last step of Critical Me, we will work closely with the decision-makers to help them identify and extract the crucial indicators from each department.

The benefits

The utmost importance of applying the Critical Me framework is that it gives you a macro view on your business and this is the only way you can create an achievable development plan. Here’s what else is does:

  • it helps you cut costs by highlighting the unprofitable processes in your organization;
  • it gives you full control on your budget because once you have the complete roadmap for development you’ll know exactly when, where, why and how much you need to invest next;
  • it helps you define, implement and connect all your processes and operations correctly, in order to ensure a flawless functioning of your business;
  • it aligns your business with the online market, giving you the chance to earn your fair place among competitors;
  • it gives you the chance to work with the latest tools and technologies, re-enforcing the structure of your business and ensuring a guided, accelerated growth;
  • it helps you differentiate the “must-have” from the “nice-to-have”, so you can start with the smart investments and save the required time & money you need in order to plan for new improvements, without affecting the activity of your company;
  • it sets your business on the right track for growth and, if the plan is followed precisely as agreed, the numbers will start going up almost immediately.

Sneak-peak through the making-of and final result

The Critical Me framework is a laborious and complex process, but you must know there’s also fun in it, too. It brings people closer, it generates impressive brainstorming sessions, it creates a load of “AHA!” moments and, when the process is over, the satisfaction goes through the roof  🙂

Here’s a preview on our “writings on the walls”:

Creating Critical Me for an e-commerce business
DND, creator at work!
Sketch of Critical Me in progress
Setting the environment for some magic

Once the workspace is set, the colorful post-its and connection lines kick in:

Connecting processes during a Critical Me session
Amateur shots of connected processes

The final result, however, is delivered in a professional manner:

Overview on an e-commerce business
Overview of an e-commerce business

Due to privacy concerns, we won’t be able to show you images of our happy customers, but if you can imagine some large smiles and strong handshakes, you get the picture 🙂

We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on our framework and also to tell us what areas of your business you believe could use some improvement. Best of luck!

Authors: Vlad Diaconu, Andreea Mares