InsureMyTrip.com: Lessons from relaunching
By Kerri Lemoie
Kerri Lemoie is VP of Technology at IMT Services (parent company of InsureMyTrip.com). She is a 10+ year e-commerce veteran with five of those years in the travel insurance industry. Kerri and other IMT team members, including CEO Jim Grace, will be presenting at the April Providence Geeks Dinner. Their presentation will include the first public demo of their new site. Wed. the 15th 5:30-8:30pm. Get details and RSVP here.
At IMT, we have been working for some time on revamping our primary website InsureMyTrip.com. Along the way, we hit some bumps in the road and learned some solid lessons that in the long run have made us a stronger company. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of what we've learned and hopefully offer some helpful advice.
First: Plan for scalability and don't be confined by scope or what you do not know - When we started planning the redesign, a group of us sat in a room and filled a wall with post-it notes full of ideas for what we would like to see in the new website. We brainstormed, took some breaks, and brainstormed some more. By the end of the day we were pretty confident that we had hit every idea. We were, after all, running out of post-its. But as the project progressed, we had more ideas.
We engaged our entire company staff and asked them what they would like to see. We asked our customers. We asked our families and friends. We wanted to garner as much input as we could. What we learned, eventually, was that we wouldn't get every good idea into the first release. We also learned that we couldn't possibly plan for everything. We assessed and reassessed our business goals, made some decisions about the scope and then developed a framework and back-end that is very scalable. Scalability is one of the biggest wins with the redesign. The site that our founder originally developed was written procedurally and, as a result, proved confining. It was successful in getting us where we are today, but it limited how we could expand our business tomorrow and improve the functionality of the site efficiently. The new framework is nimble enough to adapt to our changing business needs. Now we're ready take on those new ideas.
Second: Engage Project Management at the first baby step - This way, you'll get to the finish line sooner. IMT was a much smaller company when we first envisioned this project. The Web Development team ran the redesign project on our own. We were a group of young, ambitious programmers tackling a complex business problem. We were cowboys (and a cowgirl). We could code anything but we weren't doing so well when it came to keeping to a schedule or documenting business decisions. We needed a driver to keep us on the road. Project Management is the glue that holds a project together. No matter how small or how complex your team is, you will find it more effective and efficient to follow a serious project management methodology.
And finally: Be Willing to Say No - We're fortunate to be awash with new ideas and opportunities. We'd love to explore all of them and do our best to investigate each one that comes our way. But (and this is key) there are times when you need to step away from a good idea, at least temporarily. IMT's ongoing operations support the business, including new projects, and we balance our business needs with our resources. It's impossible to do everything. It is far better to make a strategic decision and tackle the opportunities that fit in with your business goals.
There's no doubt that hindsight makes us wiser. It's very easy to get blinded by enthusiasm in the thick of a major project. Its helpful to take a few steps back every so often and re-examine from a new perspective. We learn new lessons every day and in our industry (insurance and dot com), changes happen very quickly. At IMT, we embrace a learning culture, we continue to seek feedback and also continue to adapt our processes. As a result, we hope to become better people working to make a better company.