Hiring an external team vs. training your own: Which approach is right for your SAP composable storefront implementation?

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When you’re looking for a composable storefront for your eCommerce, SAP composable storefront, formerly known as SAP Spartacus, is often suggested as one of the best choices. The library can support your business in reaching new highs with its lean open-source architecture, progressive web app (PWA) features, and vast customization options. But choosing the right storefront is just half of the work: you also need to properly implement it into your eCommerce architecture. 

There are two ways you can go about this. First, you can hire an external team of experts to handle the implementation for you. Second, you can train your internal developer team to be able to handle the implementation on their own. Each of those approaches has benefits and drawbacks, and the choice between them might not be easy. 

If you’re on the verge of such a decision, this article is for you. We’ll go over what the two approaches mean in detail and suggest realistic scenarios that favor one over the other. Read on to discover which direction you should take your SAP composable storefront implementation.

When to go for an external implementation

Hiring a team of external experts to handle your eCommerce implementation tends to be the safer choice in the sense that your responsibilities are pretty much limited to paying invoices. You don’t need to worry about recruiting the right people for the job and training them, project management, meeting the timeline, and staying within your budget. That’s all on your contractor, and all you need to do is approve the finished product. Here are a few scenarios where those factors come into play the most. 

You’re pressed for time

Hiring a team of external experts will always be the quicker, more effective way to handle an SAP composable storefront implementation project. There’s no setting up your internal structures and no learning curve for the developers. External specialists will be able to work at their full efficiency from day one. This also means a more precise timeline for the project. It won’t be the first time the team works on such an implementation, so they’ll know what to expect and appropriately estimate the time needed. 

Your internal team or current contractor lacks expertise

SAP composable storefront is an open-source storefront, making it accessible to a large number of developers. But you’ll need a bit more than just the framework. To get the most out of your implementation, you’ll need experts in headless development, composable solutions, and PWAs. We covered all the different technologies and skills you should be ready to use in “The ultimate guide to getting started with SAP composable storefront” eBook.

This is the only SAP composable storefront project you’re planning

If you’re not planning any more SAP composable storefront-based projects beyond this one, training your own team might not make much sense from a time and financial perspective. Of course, your team will need some basic training to maintain the implementation once the core project is finished. But it’s a much quicker, simpler process than learning to build the entire product from the ground up.

You’re planning a highly customized implementation

This might mean you’re thinking of customizing SAP composable storefront itself to a large degree or that you’re considering integrating other advanced tech and services with your headless eCommerce. Another common challenging requirement is integrating your new implementation with legacy systems. Even with a capable team and proper training, those scenarios might prove to be too much for your first implementation since many extra variables come into play. Because of this, it might be a good idea to delegate this kind of project to external experts. If you’re interested in all the different directions that you can take your implementation, make sure to check our Spartacus Cookbook

When to go for team training

Training your own team in SAP composable storefront implementations is a long-term investment rather than a quick one-time project. You should consider this approach if keeping such skills within your company makes sense in terms of your future plans. Training your developers and then implementing the storefront on your own will be a more involved, demanding project than simply hiring a team of experts. However, the initial investment will keep paying off every time you put those skills to use in the future. Here are a few scenarios that favor this approach.

You can take time to tackle the learning curve

It goes without saying that the process of learning the tech and building the first SAP composable storefront-based project with your team will take longer than hiring external experts. It will be less predictable too. There will be trial and error, things not going according to plan, and surprises along the way. Because of this, the training approach might be a good choice for an internal, ideally side, project or when you have resources to spare, such as developers sitting “on the bench” between projects. In those cases, budgets and timelines tend to be more flexible and leave room for experimentation. You can find a list of what factors to take into account when planning this kind of project with ballpark time estimates in the next section of this article.

You’re looking for full control over your front end

If you’re running a dynamic business and expect changes that will need to be reflected in your front end, training your own team might be the way to go. Implementing the storefront on your own means that your developers will have a deeper understanding of how everything works than in the case of “inheriting” a finished product. This will make modifying the storefront in the future a much simpler process.

You’re planning on using SAP composable storefront in more projects

Training your team can also be the right choice if you see the potential for repeated use of SAP composable storefront. Say you’re running an agency with a steady stream of eCommerce front-end projects. In this case, the initial investment will keep paying off more and more with every project you’ll use the storefront in. 

You have the right training environment

As I’ve mentioned before, to get the most of SAP composable storefront, you’ll need a team with strong Angular foundations and a good understanding of headless and composable architecture. But it’s not just the hard skills you’ll need to consider. Establishing the right environment, meaning the general willingness to learn and openness to change, is just as important. 

It needs to be accompanied by strong tech leadership too. Those are the people who will oversee and coordinate the initial learning process and make sure that the skills are properly preserved and maintained later on. For instance, the tech leaders will need to arrange that you’re not overly reliant on single key individuals, who can always part ways with the company and take all the expertise with them.

How to calculate the cost of training

As with all business-related decisions, the financial aspect often plays a large part when choosing your approach. The matter is fairly straightforward when you go with the implementation route. You usually get a time and materials estimation that either works for you and the project goes ahead or it doesn't. That’s pretty much it. There’s nothing more that comes into play. 

Things get more complicated when it comes to training. There are more variables and moving parts that factor into how much the process will cost and how long it will take. So, what should you take into account while budgeting for this option?

Key assumptions

For this ballpark rundown, we’re making three key assumptions. Based on our experience, these are the conditions you should meet to ensure that the SAP composable storefront training process is successful:

  • First, we’re expecting that you’ll be training a new hire who’s already proficient in Angular. This is the way it typically happens in projects we take part in. Because of that, we’ll be including the initial recruitment and onboarding process as part of the total time and resources you need to budget for the project. 
  • On a related note, we’re assuming that you have the appropriate recruitment structures and processes ready to go. 
  • Finally, we’re making the assumption that you have access to someone knowledgeable enough to lead the training. This might be your own developer who you’re previously trained or an external expert.

Step 1: recruitment

As I’ve mentioned above, in most cases, the training process starts with the recruitment itself. Finding a skilled Angular developer likely won’t be a walk in the park, and you should expect the process to take around three months on average. When budgeting for this part, you need to keep in mind that it’s not only the HR/recruiters’ time that comes into play. At some point in the process, you will also need to involve one or more of your senior developers for technical interviews or to verify take-home tasks. 

Step 2: onboarding and training

After you have recruited the perfect candidate for the job, there’s still some onboarding and “ramping up” that needs to happen before you can realistically begin the SAP composable storefront training. Different companies have different onboarding processes and internal structures, but a one or two week window should cover this part in most cases. Then, at last, your developer will be ready to start learning the storefront itself. Based on the training and workshops that we’ve conducted, historically, it takes a well-versed Angular developer about a month to get comfortable with the key features. After this time, they’ll be knowledgeable enough to handle a standard implementation on their own.

Step 3: learning by doing

You could say that when the “official” structured training ends, the real one is just starting. Even the most talented and well-trained developers won’t be able to work with full efficiency the very first time they’re given new tasks. There’s a natural learning curve, trial and error, and unexpected situations that are almost guaranteed to happen. 

When working on such a project for the first time, you can expect your developers to be about 50% efficient at the start. What I mean by this is the actual time they need to complete their tasks will be twice as much as what they estimated at the beginning. Over time, they’ll be getting more and more comfortable in the environment and their efficiency will rise. A 10% increase over one month is realistic, so you can expect them to reach 100% efficiency after about half a year. These, of course, are just ballpark figures. Your results will vary depending on many factors, such as the instructor’s expertise, the developer’s learning predispositions, and your project management style.

Summing up: which approach is right for you?

When planning an SAP composable storefront implementation, you’ll be choosing between two very different approaches. Hiring an external team will be simpler, quicker, and require less involvement from you and other departments within your company. It will also make it possible to accomplish more in terms of product complexity and customization. But in the end, you’re left with the finished product and not much more. For any similar project in the future, you’ll need to repeat the entire process. 

Training your own developers and then implementing the product on your own tends to be the right choice for those who look further into the future. The project will take longer and require more effort on your part, but in the end, you’re left with skills and experience you can reuse any number of times. Because of this, it should be considered as much a long-term investment as a single implementation, and it will pay off more and more with every next SAP composable storefront-related project.

Cost considerations, of course, also come into play. As you might imagine, a full implementation done by external specialists will almost always cost you more than training services. However, when you factor in all the extra work and time mentioned in the section above, you might come to the conclusion that the final amounts, all things considered, might not be so far apart. 

It’s also worth keeping in mind that it’s not necessarily a binary choice. There’s a middle ground you can take. For instance, you can arrange for your developers to assist the external specialists throughout the project, picking up on their experience along the way. The learning won’t be as full and structured as in the case of formal training, but it might prove enough to maintain the implementation in the future. Many options are possible, so definitely take the time to talk them over with your SAP composable storefront experts. 

Published June 28, 2023