How to Choose the Right Team of Magento Experts
Monday, November 23, 2020Eric Zegarski
Sometimes, hiring the right eCommerce agency can feel like hosting a reality TV show. You interview contestants and have them compete for a relationship with you, and ultimately, have to make a choice. This isn’t a product or commodity, nor is it a short-term experience like a meal. This is a long-term relationship. Even when you only engage an agency for a particular project, their work can have lasting effects on your business.
So, how do you know if you’re making the right choice? It all starts with using the right guidelines to select a team that aligns with your goals and expectations. It’s worth pointing out that expectations are truly key here. Just because someone else is happy with a vendor, doesn’t mean you will be too. Here are some of the top factors to keep in mind:
Experience & Expertise
Establish whether the agency has experience in using the version of Magento that you’re using or planning to use. So, for instance, if they’ve never worked with Magento Open Source version 2.4, or never launched a Progressive Web App (PWA), you should consider if they’ll be at a disadvantage. Of course, there always has to be a first client for everything, but do you want to be that first client?
Similarly, if you’re a manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler, you’re likely to need specific B2B features. If the agency has only worked on B2C eCommerce sites, they’ll have to contend with a learning curve in order to best advise you.
Do you need assistance with your branding and designs? Digital marketing, such as SEO? Creation of custom Magento extensions or integrations? If so, you may find that the generalists that you’ve found don’t have the talent that you’re seeking. While that may not disqualify them - perhaps you’d like to work with an additional vendor for your particular needs - it’s important to understand what an agency’s strengths and weaknesses are.
It’s ok for an eCommerce agency to recognize that they aren’t the only vendor you’ll need to work with. In fact, it’s preferable. Many agencies have built great relationships with Magento hosts, payment processors, and various other solution providers. It’s always a great idea to ask about which companies an agency is partnered with. This not only illustrates their engagement within the Magento community but also gives you an idea of the market segments that they’re aligned with. If they mainly partner with vendors that provide SMB solutions, they may not be as prepared to recommend the right solutions for an enterprise, and vice versa.
Communications & Management
Whether related to account management or project management, communications need to flow effectively. If you’re expecting a dedicated account manager, a ticket system to track your requests, responses within a certain timeframe, or team members to be working within your timezone, discuss those requirements upfront. Similarly, if you think you may need help in a pinch, it’s important to understand what an agency’s hours of availability are, and how they address rushed or urgent requests.
Sometimes, a bespoke agency where everyone knows you and your business is best. Sometimes, a bigger agency may have more resources for round-the-clock support. Either way, it’s important to understand what the makeup of an agency is. You’ll find that many outsource work in order to supplement their staffing, which may be ok, but it’s crucial to understand what their internal core competencies are, and what you should expect from their outsourced team members.
Costs & Billing
Magento expertise is in demand, so if you’re being offered work at a price that seems too good to be true, it very well may be. Since agencies have different billing models, it can be hard to compare them directly. For instance, some charge different hourly rates for each team member’s time, from project managers to designers and developers. Others charge blended hourly rates for technical staff which include “unlimited” account and project management time. In other cases, an agency may offer a flat rate or a rate based upon agile sprints.
What’s most important here is that you understand :
- The billing model
- Estimated total cost for your project
- What happens if there are overages
- What happens if there are bugs or errors in the work
- What happens if your scope of work changes
- What your responsibilities are, from providing content to purchasing extensions
- How they handle long-term maintenance, such as with a use-it-or-lose-it retainer
A good agency will be able to walk you through common issues that can delay your project, add to your cost estimate, or leave you unhappy with the end results. Ultimately, we’re all happier when we know what our risks are and are given the opportunity to make conscientious choices about them.
Certifications & Magento Partnership
Unlike some platforms, developers and other agency team members can earn certifications from Adobe, the owners of the Magento brand. These certifications are a great sign, but having a certification only proves that you were able to pass a test. Just because someone is a licensed realtor or stockbroker doesn’t mean that they’re the best at what they do. While an agency that has several staff members that are certified by Adobe is a big plus, there are thousands of experts that forgo this formality and simply focus on the work at hand. Simply selecting the agency with the most certified individuals would not be recommended.
Similarly, Adobe has different paid levels of partnership. Some agencies forgo this formality, while others invest in it. It’s a choice that often comes down to a cost-benefit analysis on the part of the agency. While being focused enough on Magento projects to spend money to become a paid Adobe partner can certainly be taken as a positive sign, it doesn’t mean that other agencies aren’t just as good or better. It can mean that an agency has more communication with Adobe, and early access to software updates and other resources. When push comes to shove, simply choosing the highest-tiered Adobe partner will not specifically bring you more success, so like certifications, this shouldn’t be seen as a contest.
When you pay an agency for their expertise, you should expect it to come without any strings. For instance, if an agency recommends that you use a paid Magento Commerce license rather than Magento Open Source for your site, they should be able to provide you with a cost-benefit analysis and walk you through how this investment will pay off for you. Similarly, if they’re recommending Magento Commerce Cloud, they should be able to speak to how this is different from more flexible and better supported Magento hosting.
When push comes to shove, finding the right agency isn’t always easy, but when you do, it’s worth it. We’ve always found that the most successful Magento projects include the right Magento agency, an integration team like eBridgeConnections, and a web host that’s dedicated to going the extra mile for you. That’s actually why we created our Magento Agency Matchmaker program. It started as a way to help pair JetRails clients with great Magento developers, and quickly grew into a way to help any and all Magento merchants find the best resources quickly and easily.
Keep in mind that as a leading Magento web host, we see it all. The development teams that do consistently great work, and the agencies that don’t. Our team would be happy to chat with you and recommend a great agency. It’s a free service that we provide to the Magento community.
About the Author:
Director of Partnerships & Alliances, JetRails
Robert Rand is the Director of Partnerships & Alliances at JetRails, a mission-critical ecommerce hosting service. Robert has over a decade of experience in helping merchants benefit from sound ecommerce and digital marketing strategies, assisting organizations of all types and sizes to grow and succeed via digital commerce. Robert is an Adobe Certified Expert in Magento, a frequent author and thought contributor in the ecommerce industry and the host of The JetRails Podcast.
Connect with JetRails:
Twitter: @JetRails @TheRobertRand
LinkedIn: @JetRails @RobertRand