Process was also a challenge. Ever-changing business requirements and new requests were pouring into the e-commerce department and flooding them with tasks for their weekly releases, but there was little process in place to handle the requests. Business users were accustomed to handing off thin requirements at the last minute and developers were working at a frantic pace with a QA process that consisted only of rushed peer reviews that were little more than a rubber stamp. Customer satisfaction and code quality were low, as was developers' morale.
Following an extremely aggressive development schedule and successful launch of the Gilly Hicks e-commerce site in July 2010, we saw significant increases in organic search engine traffic and much improved app server and front end performance. With the front end framework in place, we needed some breathing room to handle the deluge of maintenance requests while maintaining the new framework we'd built, so my next priority was to establish a firm process for handling weekly release tasks.
The biggest process challenge facing the e-commerce team was a failure to control and schedule incoming business requests. As long as the request came in by Wednesday, it was almost always expected to be in that week's Thursday morning release. I introduced a simple process involving cut-off times for various stages of the release schedule and established defined roles and expectations for everyone involved in the process. Put simply, all development, feedback, and iterations had to occur on Thursday, Friday, and Monday, and all business reviews and approvals had to be received by Tuesday, allowing us one full day for internal QA and performance testing prior to the Thursday morning release. Business users were required to be more engaged in the development process and take ownership of their requests, and developers became more aware of the quality control issues caused by rushed development and QA. The success of this simple process change helped alleviate mounting frustrations and QA problems and set us on the road to implementing further process improvements to come.
Today, Abercrombie's various brands are in a much better position to tackle future e-commerce challenges thanks to the work performed by the front end team under my leadership.