Discovery Phase – the start of a successful Workforce Management (WFM) implementation

October 25, 2016

Written by: Erica Niesse

A successful workforce management system implementation is built on the premise that you know your organization’s requirements from a business process, procedure and policy perspective. In the beginning of a typical implementation, a Business Analyst or Implementation Consultant will work with you to gather your company’s requirements and ask questions to gain a better understanding of your organization.  You may be asked questions that you are unsure of the answer, or you may need to discuss with others to ensure you are answering accurately and comprehensively.

For example, you may be asked questions such as, “What are your organization’s policies regarding working on a holiday?”  “Would you like your time and attendance rule to standardize this process and track working on a holiday the same for all employees, or should different employee groups be handled differently?”  If you would like to handle groups differently, there is likely additional configuration work required in most systems.  That is why it is best practice that prior to an implementation you run through a discovery phase and document all of your organization’s current policies, procedures and any changes that you’d like in the future state of your software.

Many organizations have divisions that work completely different from the others.  These differences need to be addressed and documented with your business analyst or implementation consultant to streamline the future state of your software.  It is important to unify processes as much as possible.  In the world of workforce management, it is essential to think about your current business processes, and not about the future state of the software.  Documenting these processes will require synergy between the subject matter experts from your whole organization, including your HR, Payroll and Operation teams.

Here are the key items that should be focused on during a Discovery phase:

  •  Goals of the Implementation

Before beginning a software implementation, you will want to list out the goals that you would like to accomplish, whether it is to stop using paper processes, track costing information, streamline processes, or resolve current system pain points.   It is best to list these out so that your implementation team moves forward with your top goals.

  •  Needs Assessment

Prioritize the needs for your organization’s future system.  List out which system modules and features are vitally important, and which modules are of secondary importance and could be implemented during a later phase.  Eliminate modules that are not needed in the future system.

  •  List out all states and countries that your organization currently operates in for compliance purposes

The implementation consultant will need to know each country and individual state you have locations or employees working, so that they can verify that all rules are set up in compliance with U.S. State and Federal, and local country laws.

  •  Current process diagrams

Before beginning an implementation, it is best practice to create a chart or graph of your current business processes. Using the example of a time and attendance system, this would include processes regarding timekeeping, payroll processing, current systems of record, approval workflow, and time off request workflows.

  •  Policy agreements

Generally, an organization will have company-wide policies that are provided to your employees.  These policy agreements need to be documented and provided to your implementation team to avoid confusion amongst employees and ensure your new system is configured accurately.  For example, when implementing a time and attendance system, some of these agreements to keep in mind may include additional time off, grandfathered accrual rules, inclement weather days, comp time, overtime pay, and shift differentials.

  •  Union Agreements

Union agreements or Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) are extremely important to factor in when documenting your current business processes, as they often lead to adjustments in system configuration for groups in specific unions.  Most software implementers are familiar with these, and will want to make sure each of the policies are documented that pertain to Time and Attendance, Leave Management and any policy that pertains to pay calculations.

  •  System data models

Interfaces are a key part of a time and attendance implementation.  The important questions are:

  • What systems are you currently using?
  • Are there any future systems that the implementation team needs to be aware of?
  • Are you currently having any difficulties with your integrations with other systems?
  • Will any of these systems be going away?

The system data models could include Employee data from your HRIS system, Payroll export data, Costing info (i.e. Dept., Task, Location), Bank Balance data (Current balances of Time off- Vacation, Sick time), and any additional systems.

  •  SWOT Analysis

This is a technique for documenting and understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses, and for identifying both the Opportunities open to you and the Threats your organization faces.

  •  Clock Analysis for Time and Attendance Discovery phase

Clocks are an important part of a Time and Attendance implementation.  Here are some of the key questions you need to answer and document surrounding clocks:

  • Are you currently using clocks within your organization?
  • What data are your clocks monitoring?
  • Meals, Breaks, Costing information?
  • Are you able to request time off directly from the clocks?
  • Do your current clocks need updating, or are they meeting the needs or your organization?
  • Where are your current clocks placed?
  • Do you feel it would be beneficial to your employees to add more clocks?
  • What other clock functionality could your organization utilize besides wall mounted clocks; i.e. WebClocks, Mobile punches, Phone call punching (call a number and clock in/out), or direct entry to a timesheet?


  •  Identify key stakeholders and resources, who need to be involved with each phase of the project

It is important to determine the key roles and responsibilities each of your team members will hold during an implementation.  Each phase of the implementation will require members of your team to be present and available to answer any questions from the software implementation team.  Typically, a software vendor will provide a list of the key roles that are involved during an implementation.  This will include a subject matter expert from the client (Functional Expert), an IT resource, Project Manager, Testing Lead, Project Sponsor (escalation and accountability for the project), Training staff, and Change Management coordinator.

HRchitect has the skills and expertise to assist your company in all of its workforce solution technology needs.  We provide services from strategic planning, technology evaluation and selection, Change Management, Project Management, and implementation services. In addition, the Discovery services talked about in this article is another area in which HRchitect specializes. If your current processes and current state are not well documented, it is highly advisable that you go through the Discovery Phase before beginning the implementation. These services are applicable to any kind of Human Capital Management technology implementation. Talk to the experts at HRchitect to ensure a smooth implementation and to help you get the most from your investment.

Erica Niesse

About Erica Niesse

Erica Niesse is the Director of Workforce Management Consulting Services at HRchitect. Erica has over 9 years of experience guiding clients through successful Workforce Management system implementations.