Put your technology to the test: Steps for achieving a successful pilot program:
Are you ready to paint the picture of innovation?

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Deciding on a paint color can be an overwhelming task when decorating a home. The last thing you want is to make a bulk purchase of paint only for the result to cause you to stand back and think to yourself, “That wasn’t the outcome I was looking for.” Paint sampling allows you to purchase and test out different pigments in your home before applying the color on a larger scale. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do the same with your technology?

Organizations want to leverage the latest innovations, ideas, and insights to develop strategic products and services, improve their existing processes and methodologies, and uncover new growth opportunities. But before diving in headfirst, organizations want to test technology out on a small scale to determine its level of success. One way to do this is through a pilot.

This initial system rollout into simulated production targets a limited scope of the intended final solution. Over the course of several days to multiple weeks, pilots test whether the system is working as it was designed and can meet a given set of business requirements. By quickly identifying whether an idea, technology, or solution is a viable option, pilots allow organizations to manage risk, save time and money, and define the best path forward. That is, if they’re conducted correctly.

Why was my pilot unsuccessful?

Although pilots offer businesses a great opportunity to test assumptions, evaluate feasibility, and gain valuable insights, many are destined for failure. But why do so many pilots flop?

  • They’re bound by an unrealistic schedule.
  • They’re too narrow in scope.
  • They lack stakeholder support.
  • There’s insufficient collaboration among the participants.

Other problems with pilot programs include internal workplace politics, poor communication, lack of proper training, no visibility, inadequate user involvement, bad documentation, and failure to monitor progress. Outside influences, such as regulatory requirements and vendor support issues, can also derail a pilot.

Pilots often fail without proper direction. But if conducted correctly, you’re likely to attain your desired result.

How do I achieve a successful pilot?

There are no hard and fast rules for conducting a pilot. However, you can improve your chances of success by following these best practices:

Define the scope

Make a list of the features, functions, and services you plan to include and how you expect them to perform in the environment. Identify any applications and tools that will interface with the solution to be piloted and test as many situations as possible. Include a contingency plan if a testing scenario fails, and be sure to describe how you expect to proceed after the pilot is complete.

Develop objectives

Use objectives to identify the criteria for measuring a pilot’s success. Consider including common benchmarks like:

  • Ensuring the design meets your requirements.
  • Certifying the system works properly within your environment.
  • Testing the deployment process.
  • Gathering information for estimating actual hardware and supportability requirements.
  • Confirming the system adds value to your organization.

Document the requirements

Make note of the necessary hardware, software licensing, networking, cables, rack space, power, cooling, and testing tools. Provide the bill of materials and cabling diagrams as appropriate.

List all key resources

Incorporate all business, technical, support, and vendor personnel, including their roles and responsibilities.

Provide a breakdown of the pilot costs

Identify who will be responsible for funding the project.

Generate a schedule that outlines key activities

For each activity, specify the party responsible, expected completion date, and actual completion date.

Describe the success criteria and metrics

Stipulate individual criteria across a variety of categories, such as system performance, operations costs, user performance and satisfaction, and business goals. Each measurement description should include a target metric and an acceptable range of values.

Define how the results will be evaluated

Include the processes by which lessons learned will be incorporated into the final solution deployment. Assess the quality of the pilot deployment process and the procedures for identifying, assigning, and following up on action items related to deployment or product issues.

Identify the risks for the proposed pilot

Include risk rating, how likely each risk is, potential consequences, and mitigating actions that can be taken to control them.

To ensure your pilot goes off without a hitch, draft a list of common pilot questions and answers, as well as your requirements definition, training plan, supportability matrix, vendor evaluation and selection results, and communication strategy.

Solve what’s next with SHI Labs

Organizations choose to embark on pilot expeditions for a variety of reasons. Yet, they usually all have the same goals in mind.

Pilots can help you define best practices for using the new solution, identify concerns and onboarding issues, and document lessons learned before full implementation.

Whether you’re time or resource constrained, limited on data center space, or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting up infrastructure in house, look no further than SHI Labs. You can choose to run the pilot on your own or offload the entire project to us. Our team of certified engineers can perform a variety of testing on your behalf, including functional, performance, and end-to-end testing. This will help streamline your solution evaluation and selection process, mitigate risk, save money, and speed up service delivery.

Discover how to test products in a real-world environment. Schedule your first interactive workshop today.