Pilot Purgatory

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So, you started a pilot program to investigate new technology to help your business become more productive and eliminate inefficiencies. To reduce the risk of disruption, you allowed a group of staff to learn and use the product. When the pilot ended, you gathered your results and are now ready to implement it across your business. Now what?

Unfortunately, this is where many pilot programs fail. The energy quickly fades, employees forget about the potential of the new technology, and all the time invested seems like a waste. Taking the next step can seem daunting, but you can build a strategy to guide this transition before you have to implement.

Gather Lessons Learned

Some of the most valuable insight you’ll get into how to launch your new program is by collecting lessons learned from the pilot. Feedback collected may be different depending on the type of technology and its use. These could include:

  • Self-assessment reports
  • Qualitative data collection (i.e., cost analysis, time/resource savings)
  • Surveys
  • Group discussions
  • Informal conversations throughout the program

Review the successes and challenges the participants reported when using the program. Scale that feedback to determine where there may be snags throughout the organization during implementation. Go department by department and review their unique needs and make a plan for easier streamlining. Define what success looks like to set a benchmark for later analysis.

Assemble a Team

Those who participated in the pilot program will be the most knowledgeable about it and should help you guide the implementation process. They become your internal advocates, assisting colleagues, answering questions, and demonstrating the technology’s value to stakeholders. Ask pilot program participants to design an onboarding process for new users throughout the organization. Put instruction in writing and in graphics to support multiple learning styles.

When launching a new initiative, it is important to know who your influencers are within the organization. Survey employees’ leadership and personality styles to determine who is best suited to be a cheerleader for the program. Enthusiastic, open-minded employees can help get more reluctant employees on board and using the product more readily. You are likely to face some resistance to change, especially if individuals fear their position will become irrelevant or unnecessary. Some also prefer the traditional way of doing things and may be intimidated by the addition of technology. Allow time for both group and self-led learning on the new tool to increase comfort. Regularly assess implementation to see where there is opposition and reduce risks through review processes.

Provide a Plan

Generally, there is an increase in time spent when staff are beginning to use a new program. Account for this when planning for the roll-out and include daily tasks in your calculation. Employees may show resistance if they feel they do not have adequate time to learn a new program while completing their routine requirements. Consider the size of your organization and the type of technology you seek to implement to backwards plan the roll-out.

These new processes should be documented prior to execution. Instructions must be clear, easy to understand, and relevant to your employees. Though you and your pilot program users may be knowledgeable about how to use the product, remember to write the process for brand new users. Make the process simple and repeatable. Train employees on the product and allow time for learning. Don’t forget to train those who may not work on-site regularly, such as seasonal, temp, or PRN employees.

Make the Transition

Transition times are a challenge for any business, sometimes resulting in frustration or reduction in productivity. You may encounter resistance to adaptation of the new product. There may also be issues as both new and old methods are being used at the same time, increasing the risk of errors and lost information. The transition to full-time use of the product should be strategic and planned with ample time to help employees blend the new technology into their day-to-day processes. Provide opportunities for continued learning and gather feedback on what is or isn’t working. Make adjustments as needed until the process is streamlined across the organization.

Measure, Analyze, and Report

When the program is implemented and employees are using it as part of their daily operations, survey employees the same way you did in the pilot program. Gather feedback from all parts of the organization to test effectiveness. Stakeholders will be seeking evidence of the cost-savings and efficiency of this program. Compare present results to past indicators to demonstrate the value of the new product. This is especially important when there is a large shift in results, or a new process replaces an old one permanently. Continue to fine-tune the process and report the results to your team.

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