This post is an excerpt from A straightforward approach to navigating the software selection maze. Download your copy to get even more expert advice on navigating the many twists and turns of software selection.
Missed Part 1? Catch up here.
To pilot or not to pilot?
A pilot program is a simplified approach to trying software before buying. If it’s the right method for you depends on the size of the project and your business.
What is a pilot program?
It involves a small-scale, short-term trial of a product to give stakeholders a better idea of how it would work when rolled out across the entire business.
Is it right for me?
Some projects are so big and complex that running a pilot program is as much work as an official rollout. For example, an enterprise resource planning upgrade project, like those Chris Doig often supports, is tied to all a business’s central processes and systems, including sales and transactions. To connect all the moving parts to a new system in real-time and then hope any hiccups don’t affect clients or cost business is too risky. So, it is more important that the right software is chosen during the evaluation process than whether it is trialed during a pilot program.
On the other hand, if the software you are evaluating isn’t transactional – and therefore won’t affect customers – a pilot program is a logical next step. If you’re replacing the application that is used for internal processes like document comparison or PDF editing, for example, you can get a few users to use the new software for a short period of time. If their feedback is positive and the software performs as you expected it to, you can move forward and roll it out to all users.
What do I need to run a successful pilot program?
The software requirements you wrote down for Part 3 are essential to the pilot process, and you should use them when determining the success of the software during the trial period. Did the product meet your requirements as expected? Did it perform differently in your environment compared to when it was demoed by the vendor? Cross-check user feedback and your own experience with the list of requirements to see how many were met.
Who should be involved?
Depending on company size, a pilot program might involve a single team or a single employee. In larger companies, it is best to include both power users and those who would use it in a more basic sense. This will give you a broader spectrum of feedback.
IMPORTANT: To avoid the confusion and costs associated with maintaining two products that do the same thing, set a deadline for when everyone must be using the new application. After that date, you can remove access to the old software entirely.
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