Executives pursuing a company-wide ERP initiative need plans, and lots of them. Software evaluation plans, project plans, data migration plans. All are required to ensure an effective transition from a legacy application to a modern cloud solution such as NetSuite or Acumatica. Many executives we interact with who are at the beginning of their ERP decision journey find the process overwhelming. Fortunately, in over thirty years of experience, we’ve developed a tool to help buyers make sense of licensing a new ERP and transitioning a business onto the new system: a system diagnostic.

A system diagnosticis a comprehensive analysis and design of a company’s business order management, inventory control, and accounting processes, with a defined deliverable in the form of a project scope and delivery plan. The key element is that instead of licensing the software and engaging with a consulting firm upfront, a system diagnostic allows a buyer to engage a consultant up front to determine the exact game plan necessary to meet the project objectives.

For example, in a conventional sale of an ERP system, a buyer might spend months evaluating a piece of software, sign up for several modules and dozens of user licenses, and engage with a consulting firm for a substantial labor investment to configure, migrate data, train users, and deploy the application. This process is dependent, however, upon the client knowing exactly what they need in an application up front, to articulate and contract for the correct mix of services to meet those requirements.

This is, however, an unrealistic expectation, as client’s often do not know up front exactly what they need in an ERP application, since the software comes with upgraded features from their legacy application, and often is implemented with best practices fashioned by a consulting firm with decades of experience implementing this software in related businesses. Furthermore, a buyer might not know the capabilities of his or her team in adopting the User Interface of the new application, or the limitations his or her data have cutting over to the new system.

A system diagnosticturns this paradigm on its head. It allows a buyer to engage with a consulting firm upfront, to perform a comprehensive and holistic review of a business, with the specific goal of ensuring a successful ERP implementation on a platform. Instead of purchasing licenses and consulting up front, with little visibility into the underlying needs of each users, the nuanced capabilities of the software, or the limitations of starting data, a buyer who engages in a diagnostic is empowered and informed, armed with a project plan, use case diagrams, a process flow, and well-considered budgets and timelines.

How does a diagnosticwork?

A diagnostic engagement begins with a consulting firm landing on-site at a client’s operation, to review each business process in detail with a team from the client and ensure a throughout understanding of the goals for processing in the new ERP. This phase is called the analysis phase, or requirements gathering phase, as the consulting team is trying to ensure they know all the nuance to each process. A good consultant at this point knows the right questions to asks, where to prod, and ensures each question is asked within the context of how that might work in the new system

After meeting with all the relevant players, and taking copious notes, the consultant then goes home “to the ranch”, where they meet with the necessary players internally to map out a process for the client. This is called the designphase. This phase can sometimes take some time, as each use case is considered holistically, and each process flow is mapped out in a demo or test environment of the ERP application under consideration.

After the analysis and design phase, the consulting firm prepares a written deliverable, including process flow maps, use case outlines, project budgets, and timelines. The goal is to prepare a realistic project plan that works to meet the client’s operating requirements. Oftentimes, the consultant will outline the work that a client or third-party solution provider will do as well, to clearly define the responsibilities of the project.

Finally, the consulting firm and the client meet to discuss the diagnostic proposal. The client is provided with visibility into the functioning of the solution, the budgets and timeframes involved, and any third party solutions required. The client is now able to make an informed decision, confident he or she is working with the right solution and right partner to meet his or her business objectives.