Why Is Discovery Important for Finding the Right ERP?
When a business is looking for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, the first step in their process is usually to do a lot of online research, probably have internal meetings where different departments lobby for the features on their wish list, and possibly people try to balance having input on the project while avoiding actually being on the project team. Sound familiar? All of this is completely valid and we encourage (most of) it, especially the online research and creation of wish lists! After you’ve found out as much as you can from filling out forms for high valued research papers (or simply exploring our website & Resources), you’ll have a lot of information and hopefully a better idea of what your company needs, but you still might not know what you haven’t found yet. This is where a Discovery comes in and why it is essential you make sure your business partner does one before they recommend a solution.
There are several ERPs to potentially choose from, and even more complimentary & industry specific solutions that can turn a ‘good fit’ to an ‘amazing fit’ for your business. You can’t be an expert in all of them, or even really figure out them all online, but a Solutions Partner literally spends all of their time doing just that. There are a lot of business partners as well so asking around for recommendations and reading their case studies will help see if they’re a good fit for your business needs, but the biggest key is if they do a Discovery. We don’t mean an RFP process where they submit a large document or you send them a list of questions, we mean a deep dive, in person, get-to-know-the-nitty-gritty-of-your-business discovery. What should this include? Let’s review.
Why you should require a Discovery
A discovery is when your solutions partner gets to know your business inside and out, even the things you might not realize are important, so they can make an accurate recommendation for an ERP, plus any additional solutions that will help tailor your solution to your business’ unique needs and pain points. Businesses often ask “What solution do you recommend for a company like mine – same size & industry?” but unfortunately the solution that works perfect for one business isn’t necessarily the right fit for yours. It takes more time & meetings yes, BUT a discovery will help you deep dive into factors such as your functional needs, budget, timelines and overall goals, so you can receive an accurate recommendation. The discovery ultimately becomes an encyclopedia to your business, providing everything that’s needed to design an appropriate solution, give you an accurate demo and realistic proposal including price.
From our perspective as that solutions partner, since we carry multiple products and have a multitude of other solutions we can combine for industry & specific needs, a discovery is where we actually figure out which product (or combination of them) is the best fit for your business. As explained by Founder and CEO Shawn Ostheimer, “unlike a partner that only carries one product where that’s going to what they recommend for every need, we carry a number of products and our perspective is that we want to make sure that we understand at a detailed level what our client’s requirements are so that we can ultimately recommend the right product”.
Next to determining that best solution, Ostheimer states that doing a discovery with a partner will help you identify:
What is the value that is going to be delivered by doing this project so that first of all, you can justify doing this project, and secondly, we can actually measure our success later based upon what the value of the project is going to be?
What happens during a Discovery?
Ultimately, you need a solutions partner to understand what you’re hoping to achieve in doing the project, whether it’s eliminating efficiencies, ability to grow, ability to meet needs, ability to eliminate manual processes or something else altogether. Once that is understood, the partner can propose the best combination of options to meet those goals.
While the basis of the discovery is always the same, the actual questions asked vary depending on the business and industry because no two businesses are exactly the same. The following outlines some general examples of the types of questions we ask during our discovery process and why:
- Metrics questions give us a foundational understanding of your business. For example: How many employees do you have? What’s your typical annual revenue? How many users do you expect to have in the ERP? How many vendors do you have?
- Process questions give us a better understanding of how your business works, the complexity of both your current and ideal processes, and what you are trying to achieve with them. For example: What does your sales process look like? What do your manufacturing processes look like? What does your accounting process look like? How do they overlap & interact?
- Tasks and Responsibility questions help us see on a detailed level what you need from your systems. For example: What does the day in the life of a sales person look like? Or a Production Manager? Or an Accountant?
- Qualitative questions help us identify both a functional and cultural fit. For example: What are you looking for in an ERP? What does it need to have in order to get your staff to actually use it? What are you looking for in a solution provider and ongoing relationship?
- Pain Point questions are focused on identifying areas that need to be improved with your new solution, and ways that they can be improved. For example: What are the things that keep you awake at night? What are the things you’re struggling with? What isn’t in your system right now that you wish was? Tell us about some of the spreadsheets you’re using.
- Additional Solutions based questions aim to determine what tasks could be handled by the ERP being proposed, what systems may need to integrate with the new ERP, and also how much is being spent on solutions. For example: What systems are you using for Human Resources? What systems are you using for Payroll? How much do you spend on your current solutions?
The Discovery is Complete – Now what?
When the Discovery is complete, the solutions partner should provide you with a Summary of Findings document that not only does as its name says, but also includes recommendations for a solution and the reasoning surrounding it. This is where you get to make sure everyone is on the same page. Not only do you want to review the document in detail to see if any key component was missed, if maybe you forgot to mention something that should be factored into the project, or if something was seen as a larger priority than it really is, but it’s also where you make sure the solutions partner truly understands all parts of your company and the encompassing solution you need. Equally important – you get insight into why this specific solution is being recommended. This is where you find out the value the solution really holds for your company and the differentiating factors for why that solution is the best fit. Without this information, you can’t truly compare all the options available to you.
The next step is for the solutions partner to do a presentation and demo of the recommended product that is catered to your specific needs. After you’ve been introduced to the entire solution being proposed, it is the perfect time for you to ask any questions that you have, as these questions can also help uncover changes or tailoring to improve the solution before the partner creates the full proposal. Only after you’ve gone through a full detailed discovery and catered demo, and had all your questions answered, about all the solutions you’re considering, should you be looking at price. Without the discovery & demo, not only will a solutions partner not be making an appropriate recommendation but you won’t really know the value of the solution they suggest – and a price isn’t relevant if you don’t know the value of what you’re buying.
Since there is such a wealth of product information available online, broken out based on company size and industry, it’s understandable that you may feel like a discovery is an unnecessary process to go through with a solutions partner, but in reality every business doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the box that solutions are designs for. As in life, there are a lot of grey areas, and a discovery is how to make sure you not only receive a handpicked solution recommendation, but understand why and agree with the selection.