ERP Project Management: Doing Discovery Right

An ERP project’s discovery process sets the stage for success, and the importance of devoting the right kind of attention and expertise to the exercise can’t be overstated. While execution often gets the bulk of the limelight due to its duration and visible effects on the various business units, those tangible actions can only move your project forward once you’ve completed the discovery process.

A thorough discovery effort ensures your project team, sponsors, executives, internal support departments, and outside technology implementation partners know what’s involved in setting up, launching, and using a new ERP system.

But before you begin this foundational process, consider some of the core elements that go into a successful discovery phase.

Tapping into the knowledge of the right stakeholder groups

ERP projects require the support of a wide array of teams. To anyone who isn’t familiar with the powerful suite of features and capabilities in an ERP system and how much they often change the way business teams carry out their work, it may not be obvious that an ERP implementation isn’t just about standing up a new technology. From operational activities and strategic planning efforts to day-to-day tasks, a lot could change once the platform goes live.

For this reason, your team should leverage the intelligence and observations of the right people to ensure the project has the correct parameters, that the new solution will function well alongside other technology systems, that it’s properly designed to address known issues in the current structure, and that opportunities for improvement don’t inadvertently become chokepoints or introduce new friction into the environment. Input from the right stakeholders about today’s obstacles, their advice on the best ways to overcome current challenges, and their perspectives about how to optimize the firm’s processes and practices are all vital components that contribute to the development of a realistic and successful ERP project plan. 

Uncovering affected workflows and processes

Because ERP implementations touch so many different functional areas, workflows, and processes that may be within the organization or external to it, your team must understand the full scope of expected impacts across the business. An assumption that a certain department won’t interact with the ERP system may not be correct, for example, and that mistake could create significant problems down the line. As part of your discussions around the current lay of the land, encourage stakeholders to think of all possible repercussions that could occur if their workflows change.

  • Can existing workflows transition as-is to the new ERP system or should they be updated in ways you haven’t yet explored?
  • Will downstream processes experience changes that your sponsors hadn’t considered?
  • Should additional departments participate in the discovery process that you may have overlooked?
  • Will external business partners need to make changes? These could encompass anything from workflows to data formats, retention schedules, the cadence of information sharing or system updates, etc. 

Identify resource constraints

This is the time to find and explore potential conflicts around your ERP project. Choosing a time slot for cutover activities that coincides with your internal technology team’s window to support another strategic project, for instance, could result in a lack of critical personnel resources just when you need them most. Some of these conflicts may not ultimately affect your project’s plan or schedule development—time pressures may mean that you still need to move ahead with the original schedule—but you’ll at least have the necessary information on hand to proactively counteract any potential constraints by contracting for extra help from external partners or finding other ways to fill the gaps and keep the project headed toward success.

PMAlliance, Inc uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project portfolio management.

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