How to be an effective SME during implementation

March 30, 2023

by Sarah Makahi

Picture shows the acronym SME which means subject matter expert

Your organization is implementing a new HCM or WFM system. You’ve been asked to be a part of the Implementation project team as a SME (Subject Matter Expert) – congratulations! Although this may be a new responsibility, this is an exciting opportunity for you as an HR or IT leader.

Before joining HRchitect, I was an HR practitioner and Payroll Analyst for 15 years. Then I was asked to be the SME implementing a new core HR and payroll system. Is this the situation you find yourself in now? When I was brought into that exciting new opportunity, I asked myself two questions:

  1. How well do I know my company?
  2. How can I ensure I will be a successful SME and HCM implementation team project member?

Start by Gathering Information

In preparation for this SME role, I gathered as much information as possible to understand other team processes and pain points. As a result, I had an exciting opportunity to improve processes or resolve pain points with the new system.

If there was a report or task that I completed in my day-to-day role as a Payroll Analyst for a department or position, I made sure to have a conversation with them to understand the need. Not only did this help me take the time to consider the steps to complete my routine tasks (the “How”), but it also helped me understand the “Why.” As in, what was beyond just executing those steps? Why was that important, and what was the impact on others in your organization?

My Guidelines for Success

I used the following guidelines to review the information from my organization and the current system. These five questions were a great help to me to be successful as an HCM Implementation team member.

  1. How is the current report/information being used?
  2. What is missing?
  3. Is it provided in a usable format, or could it be improved?
  4. How well does the layout work?
  5. What is on our organization’s wish list for this reporting and functionality?

The Role of Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Knowing how to complete the current tasks makes you a SME. Explaining those steps during the fit/gap portion of the project is essential. Remember that those steps are specific to your current systems. Move beyond thinking about how to do the steps and focus on why you do things the way you do. What are the pain points of this current process? Bringing this expertise to share with your Implementation Consultant can help them correctly configure the system. Accurate configuration will allow you to adapt to the new or changed functionality quickly. You will maintain your role as an expert and be able to ensure the current needs are met with your new system. Even more important, you will also champion the needs of others.

A Transition from HR Practitioner

As I transitioned from HR practitioner to SME and HCM Implementation team member, I learned how to work with our Implementation Consultant to describe our organization’s needs. I explained what I needed for my department but also what other departments needed. As a result, we were able to brainstorm best practices and ways to meet all of the different teams’ needs. The Implementation Consultant would ask many questions, then follow-up questions, and then some more clarification questions. Like you, I still had my regular day-to-day responsibilities to consider. This added role sometimes felt overwhelming to take the time to answer these questions.

Configuration is Key

I realized that detailed and complete answers to these questions were instrumental in providing what our Implementation Consultants needed to configure our system. So, I prioritized responding to these questions, which was time well spent. The Implementation Consultant also ensured that configurable items that needed to be frequently updated were easy to update. These configuration solutions turned out to be correct each time, making the new processes as easy and user-friendly as possible. I learned to trust that these questions had a purpose and that my Implementation Consultant was coming up with solutions to meet our needs.

Part of the Team

Understanding that your Implementation Consultant is an expert in the new HCM system that you are implementing is critical. Realizing that they also require your full assistance and detailed explanations on the how and why are what makes you part of this important team. Understanding your company to this level of detail is vital to deliver a finished product that is streamlined and makes improvements for every department, as everyone is affected by a new HCM system.

Going the Extra Mile

Going the extra mile and taking the time to understand what other departments need from a new HR/Payroll system during the implementation will save time and money by reducing or eliminating the need for changes after your system is live. It also increases buy-in from managers and employees by showing them that their needs were considered and accounted for everywhere possible within the system.

Having a capable, willing, flexible, and motivated implementation team that goes the extra mile for the project’s success will significantly impact your organization’s satisfaction with your new system purchase. It was a great learning experience for me, and I was proud of my role on the team.

I hope you found this information helpful, and best of luck in your role as SME and project team member. If HRchitect can help your organization meet your HCM Implementation goals, contact us here to learn more.

Sarah Makahi brings over 17 years of professional payroll and accounting experience to the HRchitect team. Sarah’s experience spans various industries. Including government contractors, professional services, hospitality, retail, and HR Practitioner and Payroll Analyst. Her experience provides Sarah with a unique ability to design and operate highly effective HCM systems.

To learn more about Sarah, find her on LinkedIn here.