After weeks of research followed by countless rounds of brain storming, you have finally decided to build your online store in Magento. You have made a decision that thousands of other retailers have also made. Magento is officially the #1 ecommerce platform provider to the world’s leading online retailers.

Before you begin the search

Ask yourself these questions

  1. Magento community or Magento Enterprise. Why?
  2. What is my budget?
  3. Do I have a dedicated person to coordinate with the agency?
  4. Do I have high level requirements in hand? (Providing another eCommerce site link as a requirement is a recipe for disaster)
  5. Am I providing the design?
  6. What is the expected delivery date? Is there a business deadline?
  7. What is my budget for hosting?

These are some of the questions that the agency may ask in the initial call and you have to be ready with answers.

Now it is time to choose a solution partner who can transform your dream of building an online store to a reality.

But how do you do it? How do you identify the right Magento agency that fits your needs and budget? Relying on Google search is like trying to look for a needle in a haystack.

Checklist for choosing your Magento agency

Magento Partnership

Magento has various levels of partnership – Gold, Silver and Magento Associate. It is important that the agency you choose for development is a partner of Magento at any one of these levels. Partnership with Magento is a sign of commitment of the Magento agency to the Magento platform. It is similar to the comfort you get when purchasing an auto part from an ‘authorized dealer’ of an automobile company – you are assured of the genuineness.

Domain Knowledge

A person can be judged by the kind of questions that he/she asks. This is true for an agency too. Like a forest guide, the agency must know the Magento terrain, the lay of the land, the ups and downs and the challenges in traversing the same. Even if you are not prepared, the agency must ask appropriate questions and gently nudge the answers from you.  This needs experience and knowledge of the business. These questions are born out of working with other clients and previous Implementation experience. They show the path. If this discussion does not happen in the couple of initial calls it is not a good sign.

Technical Expertise

If it is a retainer project with a named resource you get to interview and talk to the resource. What if it is an unnamed resource? How do you measure his/her expertise? Find out if the agency resources are Magento certified. You can easily find the status of their certification from the following link…

https://www.magentocommerce.com/certification/directory

This again is a fair indicator of their technical expertise and their continued investment in Magento platform.

Client References

As an idiom goes – The proof of the pudding is in eating. The proof of successful delivery lies in successful client implementations. Ask for at least 2-3 client references. Talk to them. Ask not just about the technical expertise but also about their overall experience journey as a customer. You may also look for the client list in their website. This should give you a good idea about the kind of clients they serve.

Blogs/Newsletters/Webinars

With readymade templates available, it is easy even for an individual to develop an attractive website. How do you get to know the people behind the website? Agencies who are thought leaders regularly publish blogs/newsletters and other media content on the latest happenings. Their blogs are original and serve to educate the community as a whole. Well written and informative blogs are good indicators of the quality of the resources in the agency.

Processes & Tools

Process brings discipline. Discipline leads to delivery. There are many models of software development and are called by different names – Waterfall, Agile, RAD etc. Talk to the agency to understand the model and processes they follow.

Processes need tools to succeed. Find out about their tools of project management, development, testing etc. Tools like JIRA, Base Camp, Eclipse, GIT hub, Bug Net, Bugzilla are pointers that processes exist.

Communication

Very long ago, a project called ‘Tower of Babel’ was hindered due to communication barrier.  Communication is still a challenge in spite of advances in communication technology. What matters is not the technology, which is just a means of communication but the attitude and willingness to communicate, ensure gaps are filled, needs met and queries answered.

How do you measure communication?

Even during the course of your discussions, if right questions were asked, if responses were prompt, if required documents/information were shared on time, if the language used in conversation and mails were professional etc. then you are talking to the right agency.

Confucius – a Chinese teacher and philosopher said – “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone…” .It is true today as it was centuries ago.

Choosing an Agency – An Art and a Science

This is a partial list. There are other indicators like the awards the agency has won, blogs and articles by the agency’s thought leaders and key note addresses in conferences. You will see the agency’s name popping up in conferences, community gatherings, industry news etc.

The checklist above is measurable – Are they Magento partners? Do they have certified developers? Do they write blogs regularly? But it is not all science. It is art too. How well do they communicate? Are they responsive? Can they be entrusted with my site? It is here your experience and judgment comes in.

Hope this blog was able to throw some light on intricacies of choosing a Magento agency. Have a  great time building an successful online store.

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