How To Run A Pilot Program To Test Technology

ideas to test technology with pilot program
There are many warning signs that a new technology will fail at your company that you should watch out for—but one way to reduce the risk is by testing any new technology with a pilot program.

What is a pilot program?

A pilot program, also called a feasibility study or experimental trial, is a small-scale, short-term experiment that helps an organization learn how a large-scale project might work in practice. Depending on company size, a pilot program might involve a single team or it might involve just a single employee.

There are two primary advantages to doing this:

  • It proves technical feasibility to top management (aka decision makers)
  • It serves as a credible model for other teams within your company.

By the end of your pilot program, you should be able to demonstrate the value of the new technology to both upper level decision makers and end users.

This should help to minimize resistance to change while also creating a blueprint for how you can implement the new technology successfully on a much wider scale.

How To Choose Goals for Your Pilot Program

Before you can test technology, you need to know what it is you’re testing.

What do you want this new app or system to accomplish? Why are you even trying it in the first place?

Many people are susceptible to “shiny new thing” syndrome—they see something new and want to have it, so they spend time and money to test it out and see how it works.

But they never stop to think about what they want it to do.

As a result, there’s no way to decide if it was worth it… so they often post-pone making a decision, continuing to put out money or continuing to waste time long after that shiny new thing has lost its luster.

Therefore, before establishing a pilot program you should sit down and write out in a few sentences or even just a few bullet points what you want it to accomplish.

For example, if you were testing out mobile forms, you might write…

  • Eliminate paperwork backlog & save time on data entry
  • More accurate data collection & no more illegible forms
  • Automate customer followup and invoicing with pdf outputs

Once you know what it is you’re hoping to accomplish, you can begin to set up a pilot program to test your hypothesis and see if that new technology actually accomplishes what you’re hoping it will.

3 Tips To Choosing The Right People To Test Technology

Choosing testers for a pilot program
So, who gets to try things out? Choosing the right team or employee to test out new technology is more complicated than it might seem.

Don’t Choose Your Most Tech Savvy User(s)

Choose someone generally viewed as tech-savvy, and your less tech-savvy teams and team members might be discouraged; choose someone not tech-savvy enough, and they won’t be able to get over any initial hurdles that come with implementing new tools.

Instead, you’ll want to choose someone who is not afraid of new technology but who is also a good representative for the rest of your team.

…But Do Choose A Champion

At least one person in your pilot program should be someone who can champion the new technology with other users.

They need to be well respected by their peers, not just by upper management, and they need to understand what benefits the new tools they’re testing can offer.

That combination will allow that user to serve as a champion for the new technology, working as salesperson, diplomat, and problem solver from within the company once you’ve decided to roll out the new tool to other users.

And Make Sure To Balance Risk Vs. Reward

It’s also important to make sure your pilot program takes into consideration what the risks and rewards are of testing technology.

If you implement the new tool and it’s a bust, who suffers? If it provides a high level of value, who benefits?

Testing technology with the team or employee who has the most room for improvement might make it appear as if the technology offers a greater benefit than it actually does; but testing it with the team who has the least room for improvement might lead it to underperform.

Make sure to consider this when establishing your pilot program so you can get an accurate picture of the benefits and risks of the new technology you’re testing.

Reviewing Your Pilot Program & Determining Success (Or Failure)

The results are in… should you implement the new technology company-wide?

After successfully completing a pilot program, it’s time to go back to those goals you set out before you began. Talk to the users you included in your pilot program about each goal and see how well they feel the new tool performed.

You should also be sure to ask if about any unexpected challenges that they faced during the testing process and any benefits that they realized that you might not have anticipated.

Compile all the information you collected into two lists.

The first list will be distributed in a report to key decision makers within the company, and should focus on the benefits the new technology provides for the company as a whole and to them specifically.

The second list should be selling points to convince team members who may be resistant to change of the benefits this new tool offers for them and will be shared either before or during the process of training these additional employees on how to use the new technology.

Setting up a pilot program or had success with them in the past? Share a tip or a tool you’ve tried in the comments!

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