The ERP Discovery Study – A Simple Bare Necessity!

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Years of experience in implementing ERPs across multiple verticals have taught implementation partners the value of a comprehensive discovery phase – they make implementing ERP simpler. Why? Statistics tell us that 75% of all ERP implementations fail and a primary reason for failure is not knowing exactly what you will get before you start your ERP implementation. The Discovery study sets out to correct just that and tell you exactly what you are getting, before you get started.

The Discovery study or pre-fit study aims to create a detailed system design requirement and identify potential gaps between operational realities and management expectations, whilst giving the customer an understanding of the changes that will occur, prior to an implementation. Simply put it’s a reality check of what a business can expect before taking the ERP dive.

The decision to go ahead with a new ERP system or replacement, represents significant investments – and an understanding of how to get the best out of the investment is key at the outset. The Discovery study is a fundamental first step in understanding a customers’ business needs, expectations, anticipated benefits and any constraints within which the solution must fit.

At the end of a Discovery study a complete and accurate design of the system is produced, and any specific automation or integration services are suggested to ensure the best fit for the client. Having a detailed design also helps detail cost and time estimates, which are approximately 90% accurate. This addresses two other key reasons for ERP implementation failures, primarily extensions to timelines and unrealistic budgets.

Here are a few critical items we have been able to identify through our customers’ Discovery studies over the years. Discovery studies help to;

Improve Business Processes: Provide an in-depth understanding of operations at a granular level – most of what may not be seen by senior management. A typical discovery study aims to collate all this information by providing management with a view of what processes will change and what are the best practices. During a Discovery study, we define several areas that would offer a customer the opportunity to improve their business and becoming more competitive and profitable.

Ensure that you Don’t Compromise the Customer’s Edge: While we aim to work towards best practices, many customers have their own ‘secret sauce’ – something that makes them the preferred vendor or gives them an edge over competition. The Discovery study helps the implementation team navigate in the best way to ensure that the processes that give them an edge are retained through the implementation.

Enhance Efficiency: Often what a Discovery study brings to light is the ability to reduce manual processes and improve efficiency. This in turn will help reduce operational cost.

Knowing the customers operating requirements will help us always detail specific functionality which would greatly enhance efficiency.

Identify KPIs: Identify the KPIs that will be used to measure the success of the implementation from day one. Go beyond a simple ‘save costs’ KPI and have more defined and tangible KPIs like “Save inventory holding costs by X% by improving stock holding at the warehouse” or “reduce shipping costs by Y % by advance planning of material and manufacturing requirements.”

Ascertain Potential Cost of Implementation More Accurately: With a detailed Discovery study, the estimated cost of the scope, project timelines, integration requirements, different plug-ins etc. will be more accurate. This would ensure that the customer and implementation partner have much more certainty about the required investment.

For a Discovery study to be successful, the customer must ensure that the right people are involved from the business. ERP implementations are not IT events. They are opportunities to change business paradigms leveraging technology, so key business users and leaders need to be involved.

From our experience, Discovery studies enable both implementation partners and customers to develop a common understanding of project scope, system design, key deliverables, resource requirements and financial investment to ensure that a potential ERP implementation is a success.