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Behind-the-Scenes: The New DotNetNuke Store

Everyone at DotNetNuke Corp and in the ecosystem knew Snowcovered. It had been a key component of DotNetNuke Corp. and part of our pitch to customers, vendors, the community, press/analysts, and investors. However, there was another reality… that Snowcovered was antiquated, difficult to shop, painful for vendors, and overloaded with manual processes. It was also built upon an ancient version of DotNetNuke (v2.1) and .NET (v1.1), written in a programming language (VB) that was discarded when DotNetNuke advanced to version 6.0, and originally hosted in an environment where its founders hoped for 90% uptime (since then being relocated and now delivering 99.9% uptime).

The Store project began as an effort to update our e-commerce site using the latest DotNetNuke and C#, while fixing issues and improving usability along the way. Unfortunately, that open-ended direction was also fraught with challenges because business objectives and necessary operations were not well defined. Worse still, there was no upfront architectural analysis to deeply understand Snowcovered's structure and internals, thereby making it extremely difficult to assess the overall work required and the time it would take to complete. Whether one thought that Bryce Snow did a good or poor job constructing the site, it was clear that Snowcovered was more than a trivial effort to convert.

Thankfully, after much frustration and more than a few missed deadlines, the Store team gelled and business objectives coalesced. The company hired Nathan ("Red Bull") Rover as the senior e-commerce engineer and over time added Cristian Vintala to help develop code. Eventually, Robert Cui came on board to QA the Store while Bill Walker (Marketing) became an even more critical member of the team. It's somewhat hard to fathom what these guys actually did because, on the surface, they appeared to simply do their jobs. However, reality was far different…  

Nathan, for example, who also happens to be a long distance runner, evidenced the same intensity used to complete a marathon. Indeed, doing the Store project was akin to sprinting a marathon because each day had deadlines and dependencies, and these were met by working almost 7 days per week for more than a year, spending 12+ hours per day in front of his quintuple-screened setup. Similarly, not many people realized that Bill had been the "automation behind the automation" that users experienced with Snowcovered. 

The core Store team members eventually received additional support from Brennan Gleason and Ryan Martinez in the form of user interface improvements. There was also some code and bug fixes contributed by R2i, while twice the entire Langley Engineering team participated in  QA activities. We even enlisted Rob Chartier's coding skills to fix bugs, in addition to managing the project, and without Konstantine's able skills the Store today would still not be live. 

I'll spare everyone the gory details of what it actually took to bring the Store online once the team was confident that the code was good. Suffice it to say that NASA's space shuttle team would have been pleased with the level of diligence evidenced by the Store team's checklist. Even still, Murphy managed to show up at some inopportune moments and repeatedly had to be put back in his place. Lesson learned: in the future, allocate double the amount of time I think necessary to execute checklists. 

In closing, I'd like to say that I'm very proud of what the Store team accomplished. The new Store is an order of magnitude better than Snowcovered! Having said that, we also know that much work lies ahead… that the new Store going live is really the tip of the iceberg. We anticipate the need to fine tune operations over the next couple of weeks and do expect some issues as people use the site. But, having now introduced the new foundation (running atop DotNetNuke 6.1.3) and improved operations (which are well understood), we have the opportunity to further advance the shopping, selling, and purchasing experience in an orderly, timely way. Fortunately, the entire Store team is super committed to delivering these advancements and we all look forward to seeing what the Store can really become.


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