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Miele X works with Miele local market teams across the world, supporting and enabling them to give their customers the best possible online shopping experience. To ensure consistent quality across all markets, our team of project managers face a wide range of complex challenges on a daily basis. We caught up with one of our Project Managers, Noreen Ahmed-Garcia, who recently managed an eCommerce upgrade to our biggest local market in Germany. No mean feat. We asked her to tell us about her experience on the project and how she approached it.
Moving into eCommerce
Noreen joined Miele X in 2022 after working as a project manager in the food and cosmetics industries in the US for 10 years. “My project management background was on the supply chain side,” she explains. “While eCommerce was new to me, I could definitely see that the world was moving in that direction.” This exciting new horizon and the possibility of dealing with new and unknown challenges sparked her interest and appealed to what she refers to as her “firefighting spirit”.
Being new to eCommerce meant that when she started her role, she was asking a lot of questions. But fortunately, the team was always friendly and understanding while she was learning the ropes. “Everyone was more than happy to take the time to help me. And since I was new to Amsterdam, some even gave recommendations for restaurants and weekend activities in the city,” she says. And she’s quick to point out that when she meets someone new to the company, now she’s the one reaching out to support them.
Hitting the ground running
As well as learning about eCommerce, Noreen was also interested in finding out about the relationship between Miele X and Miele. She admits that she didn’t know a lot about Miele X before she joined. “I obviously knew about the link to Miele,” she says. “But Miele X definitely has its own identity.”
She soon got a first-hand opportunity to see how Miele X and Miele work together, when she took the lead on a major project for Miele’s German market. This was part of a global programme, working towards the delivery of a common, scalable, eCommerce solution for all of Miele’s markets around the world. “The aim was to migrate all Miele’s online web shops to a common strategic platform,” she explains. “So, if you’re a customer in Germany or Spain or the US, you experience the same look, feel and customer journey, no matter which website you’re looking at.”
This is a key project, designed to give their customers a more enjoyable experience whenever they go online to buy a Miele product. As Noreen points out, a premium appliance is a big purchase - it isn’t something you buy every day. So, Miele X was aiming to give customers an online experience that matched what they’d expect if they walked into a Miele experience centre or a store.
Soon after joining, Noreen took over managing the roll-out of the new platform in Miele’s biggest market – their home market of Germany. It was a very complex project, not just in terms of the scope and volume, but also because of the nuances of working in the German market, such as the legal requirements when you’re selling online. “In an ideal situation, we can roll out projects like this in a few months,” claims Noreen. “But for Germany, we were working on it for a little over a year.”
Noreen’s role as project manager meant that she was in constant contact with a lot of different stakeholders, from the local market team to legal and technical experts, as well as product and sales teams. Joining mid-way through the project meant that she had to quickly establish trust with all these people. Which she achieved by taking time to get to know them, understanding their objectives and establishing how they each liked to work.
She explains that being a project manager at Miele X means she has some freedom to develop her own approaches. “You have a little bit of ownership in how you want to manage projects, which in my experience is unique. As project managers we share our experiences if we try something new. We’re always learning off each other.” In the end, she felt that the best way to establish strong relationships with the different stakeholders and to understand what they wanted from the project was to meet people in person.
Her first task was to pull all their different requirements together. So, she ran a series of lengthy workshops with the local teams in Germany to identify a wishlist and establish the legal requirements for the new platform. Then she worked closely with the product teams to see what they could realistically achieve to meet that wishlist. “It was about creating a line of communication between the different teams,” she explains, “and managing all the stakeholders, so we quickly got to a place where everyone was happy.”
Miele X works in an agile delivery environment, and she admits that having project managers may be seen as a contradiction. But she explains that they play a vital role in everything from initial planning to roll-out. “Ultimately, as project managers, we support every stage of the project, so we add a lot of value, particularly for the product teams. We're involved in helping to define and document the scoping. We facilitate planning with relevant product managers and ensure it's aligned with dependencies. We'll also communicate with all the teams, providing project updates, as well as identifying and documenting any risks. We might help to plan and run user acceptance testing. And then we'll plan and execute all the roll-out activities to ensure they run smoothly and successfully. That’s really where our role comes into play in an agile environment.”
One of the things that most impressed Noreen about the project was how everyone pulled together to deliver it. With such a complex project, she says there were always new challenges to overcome, but the team always worked together to create a solution. She describes it as “an all-hands-on-deck kind of project. Everyone had a sense of personal pride attached to it, because they wanted it to be a success. So, if someone had a problem, everyone got on a quick call to figure out what our options were, what we could do and who we needed to get involved. I think the way we handled it all was very strong.”
Because the project had an impact on so many different groups, Noreen says it gave her a great introduction to the wider business, because she got to meet a lot of people. As they approached the go-live date, the number of stakeholders increased. And on go-live day, she and the rest of her team were on-site at Miele’s headquarters in Germany. “We were all sitting in a room together, which was nice because we got to meet some people we hadn’t met before,” she explains. “There was lots of camaraderie in that room.”
She says the way everyone worked together to successfully deliver her first major project after joining Miele X was a real high point. But she was also excited about being able to see the end results of her work. “You don’t always see projects go all the way to fruition. So, I get a lot of pride out of seeing people buying from the new website and hearing from the local team that they’re happy with it.”
Taking it all forward
Now the project’s been successfully delivered, Noreen’s moved on to a new project for Miele’s German business, integrating the backend software that sits behind the online shopping experience. This involves working with a lot of the same teams that she worked with on the previous project, so she’s already applying some of the things she learned.
“We had a review at the end of the first project to look at what we did well and what we could do better, which gave us a lot of good feedback,” she says. “I think having that open, trusting dialogue definitely helps. I’ve been able to implement some of the things we learned quite quickly.” And she’s keen to point out that she’s shared her findings with the rest of the project management team, too. “For me, being part of a team is very important. I like working together towards a particular goal. So, I’m really looking forward to seeing what other magic we can do next.”