SMEs. I’ll bet they are discussed often, but do you use your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as often as you should? The participation and buy-in of strong SMEs will be a critical factor in the success of your ERP or Business Transformation project. With this discussion I am concluding the topic internal resources as a critical part of an ERP modernization. You can read the full series of posts beginning here.

SMEs are the resources who possess deep knowledge of the day-to-day operation of each business process and are the resources best positioned to understand what both the weaknesses and the opportunities are within these processes. Your SMEs should be identified early and be immersed in the project from start to finish.

Functional and project managers must be comfortable with giving SMEs the ability to be fully involved with designing the future state processes. The SMEs must be willing to accept this responsibility and know the boundaries of decisions that they can make themselves versus what should be escalated to a higher authority. Therefore, a high degree of trust must exist between the SME and his/her management hierarchy.

Some of the responsibilities for the SME’s are:

  • Ensure the team responsibilities and deliverables as outlined in the project charter and/or team charter are met:
    • Includes documentation and analysis of current and future processes/systems
  • Provide subject matter expertise and day-to-day planning and implementation for the respective functional area(s):
    • Provide functional expertise in an administrative process
    • Identification and mapping of information needs
    • Defining business requirements for reporting and interfacing
  • Attend and actively participate in the planning process and in all regularly scheduled functional team meetings:
    • Work with users to ensure the project meets business needs
  • Complete individual project tasks as assigned
  • Serve as communication conduit between the project team, functional management, and the functional area being represented
  • Resolve issues and escalates when required
  • Develop process test scripts as they relate to their area of expertise
  • Assist in the development of user training; may also conduct user training
  • Work with the outside professional consulting team to clearly convey their role, challenges, and goals for the company

Please keep in mind this is a partial list. The actual responsibility of each SME will depend on his/her role, the parameters of the project, and also the need within the company.

Time Commitment:

Your SMEs are going to be the second most time-committed resources on your project. The Project Manager will be the first. During the evaluation phase you can expect SMEs to be spending 15-20% of their overall time helping the team map out existing processes and documenting opportunities for improvement. But the real commitment comes once the solution is selected and the implementation work gets underway.

Most agree that the SMEs will need to be available for up to 50% of their time during the detailed design phase. This is the phase of the project they are working directly with the system configuration/development team to design the new processes. Depending on the scope of the project this commitment may be limited to shorter periods of time as the implementation partner works with the various teams to redesign the impacted processes.

Generally, implementation teams will tell you that during the actual system design work the involvement of the SMEs should be limited to addressing specific questions as they configure the system. I agree with this assessment but also feel that this is the time when the SME’s should be documenting the testing scenarios and helping to develop training materials. As they perform their daily work in the existing system, they should develop and record step by step test scripts based on their expectation for how the process is planned to flow in the new system. Test scripts should also be developed for any exceptions to the normal flow that they encounter during their normal workday. The statement that ‘this only happens occasionally or rarely’ is the perfect reason to develop a test case. Avoid the trap of just testing the “happy path,” where everything works as expected. Again, your SMEs may need to commit 15-20% of their time to the project during this phase to recording test scripts and training material.

During the actual testing phase, you should expect your SMEs to be 75 – 100% involved with the project. They will be walking through each test script and recording actual outcomes vs. expected results. Any test script that fails will need to be retested after corrective action is taken. Some corrective actions may be impactful enough that the entire process needs to be retested, and there may be changes in other processes that impact the process they are testing which will require retesting. Again, avoid only testing the “happy path.” SMEs should also finalize training material during this time.

Finally, your SMEs will be completely involved during the actual implementation and go-live cutover. Prior to this event, they should be leading user training sessions, unless other training resources are being utilized, and they will perform initial confirmation testing once the system is turned on. They are responsible for providing the necessary input to management that the system is ready to go.


Hopefully this post has served to help solidify that the knowledge your SMEs possess are extremely important to the success of your ERP Project. These experts need to be committed to the project and fully supported by their functional leaders and the project management team. Don’t be afraid to recognize small accomplishments along the way to encourage them and keep them engaged. Be sure to communicate your trust in their decisions. In the coming weeks we will compile the responsibilities and expected time commitment for all of the internal resources we have discussed in the KPC blog over the past weeks. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for notifications, so you can download your copy of this guide.

Dennis Reader, PMP, ITIL, CSM

Dennis brings his ERP and project management expertise to every project. He delivers value to clients across a variety of business verticals including HR, Finance, Operations, eCommerce, Marketing, Web, and Order Management. He was recognized as PMO top performer of 2014 for his ability to direct effective teams that consistently meet or exceed project goals and objectives.