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Wednesday 6.26.2013

GiftCards.com Gets Grilled! – Ryan Dew

The Most Important Factor in the Success of a Project

 

Who’s on the grill today? Ryan Dew, Project/Product Manager at GiftCards.com.

GiftCards.com is the highest ranking and most trafficked gift card website on the Internet, boasting over one million gift and reward cards sold in 2012. Today, Gift Card Girlfriend pulls up alongside Ryan Dew, the project/product manager at GiftCards.com who never stops. In this drive-by interview, Dew reveals one of the most important factors in determining the success of a project.

GCG: What projects are under construction at GiftCards.com and can you give us a description of each?

RD: I am currently involved in six projects all under our parent company, Wolfe, LLC. The projects vary in size, scope and complexity. We are making a big push to upgrade the look and feel of all of our properties including OmniCard.com, GiftCards.com, MyCoupons.com, SwapAGift and GiftYa.

In addition to making the sites look more current, the redesigns promote enhanced usability for our customers and are responsive, meaning customers will have a great experience regardless of the type of device they are using.

GCG: I am particularly excited about the GiftCards.com redesign. We have cool gift card products already, but the new website makes it easier to see what’s available and has an updated look which I think customers will really enjoy. So how do you decide what projects to take on and what the priority will be for each?

RD: Projects are set by the Product Team made up of myself, senior executives, and the CEO. As a team, we look at four main criteria or questions to gauge the priority level of a project as follows:

  1. User Experience. How will the project impact overall consumer experience on our site(s)? Are we adding enhanced functionality to make the experience better or fixing a problem that makes the current experience less than it should be? We are an online business so site usability is of utmost importance. We want to make our users happy.
  2. Social Engagement. How will the proposed project impact our social engagement? One of the biggest points of emphasis this year is to raise our profile in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. As such, we have been making changes to get consumers more engaged with us as well as to spread the word of who we are and what we offer to new consumers.
  3. Scalability and Efficiency. How will the project allow us to further grow the business and make internal processes more efficient? Though customers may not see the impact of these changes, improving our infrastructure or reducing operating costs helps us keep our prices lower than our competitors.
  4. Revenue. Will the project lead to increased revenue? This is the ever-important question for any new project initiative. We always want to ensure there will be a return on the investment made—whether it’s a cost-saving change or a new product or service being offered.

If the project scores highly in each of the categories above, there is a good chance it will be allocated resources by the Product Team. Then the projects are prioritized according to the resources available and how big of an impact each project can make.

GCG: I think that’s a good point to make. Given that we are an online company, it would be easy to get caught up in adding technology for the sake of trying something new or copying what a competitor is doing. But if the product or project isn’t profitable, then it shouldn’t be done.

So what project has had the biggest impact at GiftCards.com?

RD: In the past year, the project that has had the biggest impact internally for GiftCards.com would be the migration to the new printing processor technology we built, Omniprint. Because we place a premium on adapting quickly to changes required by our banking partners, regulators, and marketing team, we launched an update to our internal systems to manage this process. The commitment has made it much easier to adapt to changes and to be more operationally efficient.

This year, we also have some customer-facing projects rolling out which should improve the overall user experience on our site(s) primarily by updating the gift card customization process.

GCG: So do you have a pet project that you are particularly proud of?

RD: I have a particular affinity for GiftLocal as I have been a part of the project from the ground up. GiftLocal gives consumers the ability to buy a local gift card  to a favorite restaurant or other small business even if that business doesn’t have a gift card program of its own. It’s a great way to support local business while still having the convenience of gift cards. Like GiftLocal, the projects I enjoy most are the ones that are consumer-facing. It is much more fun to work on things you can see rather than behind-the-scenes projects.

GCG: How important is buy-in on a project? People get assigned to projects based on the criteria above, but what is the impact of being (or not being) committed to the project?

RD: Commitment is probably the most important factor in the overall success of a project. It is needed top down and vice versa. Without team and individual commitment, the project will ultimately fail.  For example, if the Product Team isn’t fully convinced of the necessity of a project that programmers in IT believe will be an improvement to the system, other projects and tasks will always take precedence. But in reverse, IT must be committed to making the changes that the Product Team decides are a higher priority. At that point, commitment is registered on an individual level by doing your best work regardless of your opinions. In the end, commitment from everybody is the key to success.

GCG: I get that. Once a decision has been made, it’s up to each of us to dig in and get to work. So speaking of digging in, what’s ahead for GiftCards.com?

RD: I see us getting more involved with the mobile and digital worlds as the days go by. We recently committed to acquiring Giftly and are working on our own digital gifting app as well.

GCG: Wonderful. So last question and then I’ll let you get back to your projects. What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

RD: Without question, being adopted. As a child I was adopted by the two coolest parents ever. Without their help and guidance I wouldn’t be where I am today. This, of course, is followed by surprise Ohio State vs. Michigan football tickets a few years back….lol.

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