A Pilot Project is a small-scale version of your larger project that helps you catch potential errors before the full implementation.
What Is a Pilot Project
Pilot projects verify new functionalities or applications under real-time operating conditions implemented in a sample of clients. It is a small-scale version of your larger project that helps you catch potential errors before the full implementation.
The sample of clients is specifically selected - the clients cannot be involved in the product development so they do not know the product very well. They also have to be able to report the errors and the technical details well. Monitoring can be a part of the report.
This technique is very popular in the gaming industry - gamers are excited to play a game even though it is not finished yet. Companies select groups of people (pilot testers) who can play a game that has not been released yet. This pilot testing is not only good for catching mistakes but also to avoid any reputational risks. It is important that the pilot testers are loyal so there is no risk of information leakage.
Why You Might Want the Pilot Project
- Pilot tests confirm if you are ready for a full-scale implementation. The testing can be considered as a trial run.
- You can measure the success of your project.
- The testing is a great opportunity to get feedback from your clients (or a group of people close to your target population).
- You can build a core group of pilot testers to test other products.
Problems the Pilot Project Solves
- Poor code quality
- Increased cost
- Demotivated team
- Meaningless work
- Unhappy clients
- Disconnect Between Business and IT
How to Implement the Pilot Project
- Define Goals How does the success of your Pilot Project look like? For some companies, it can be defined as a saved time or saved money. It is necessary to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish.
- Choose Pilot Testers You need a big enough group to get useful feedback, and small enough to not be overwhelmed. The participants should be open to use a new tool. It is also a good idea to pick the participants from the people who are going to use the tool regularly in the future. Set up an implementation infrastructure and a timetable. Explain the goals thoroughly and answer questions. Provide support during the testing.
- Create an Onboarding Plan Onboarding plan for the pilot testers can be used for the rest of the organization when you implement the final product.
- Get Feedback Collect the feedback and try to find out what worked and what did not work. This feedback is really important for evaluating the new technology - you can decide if you want to move forward or try to find a different solution. Collect the feedback during the testing as well as after the testing. Discuss with the participants and create surveys, questionnaires, or self-evaluations. The participants have to feel free to speak about their experience.
- Address and Fix Challenges Ensure that the changes and implementation of the new product are beneficial and outweigh the cost of the implementation.
Common Pitfalls of the Pilot Project
- Big Bang The company makes a "big bang" release instead of a careful and slow implementation with the Pilot Project.
- Inconsistent communication The pilot testers are not informed. They should know what to focus on.
- The cost is escalating This is probably a problem of development.
- Conflicting software Conflict software interferes with the pilot software.
- Lack of software The pilot testers do not have necessary supporting software.
- Changes Changes in goals complicate the development.
Resources for the Pilot Project
- AmpliFund: How To Execute a Technology Pilot Program
- Device Magic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Running a Successful Pilot Program
- Techwalla: Definition of a Software Pilot Project