Once you’ve surpassed proof of concept, tested your minimum viable product, and created a prototype, it’s time to pilot your product. This is your opportunity to test assumptions, evaluate feasibility, and gain valuable insights that will either help improve your design or inform alternative solutions. A pilot typically involves rolling out the solution to a small test group, in order to get feedback and smoke-test your technical capabilities in real-world scenarios.

It’s a critical stage in your product development, yet many pilots are doomed before they’ve even begun. Poor planning and a lack of dedicated resources are among the many reasons pilots fail and when they do, it’s a waste of time and energy for all involved.

How can you do a better job of piloting? In this post, we’ll walk through 6 questions you should ask as you plan the various components of your pilot, so you can set your next pilot up for success.

1. Who is responsible for the pilot?

This is the number one reason we see pilots fail: limited bandwidth. When running a pilot is just another task on a team member’s already-overloaded plate, your test is set up to fail.

A pilot can’t be a side-job run on top of your existing workload. Consider what’s at stake: the challenge of winning buy-in for unsatisfying technology or possibly even investing a substantial amount of money in a completely wrong solution. A solution worthy of being piloted is worth doing it right.

2. What’s the purpose of our pilot?

Pilots can fail by not being allowed to fail. If the assumption at the onset is that you’re moving forward and this is just a necessary step, it can’t prove value to your business. You’re sabotaging your own pilot before it even gets off the ground.

At this stage in your product development, the investment shouldn’t be so large that you can’t turn back. Make sure that all stakeholders understand the purpose of your pilot. At its core, a pilot’s purpose is to evaluate, uncover knowledge and useful insights, and result in either design improvements or alternative solutions.

3. What are our key performance metrics and measures of success?

Allow the right analytics to guide your future decision making. Your pilot’s success metrics should align with your company’s core values and measure the achievement of relevant business goals like operational efficiency, revenue generation, etc.

But business value only captures the actual value of the initiative. You’ll need to measure user satisfaction -- the value of the solution itself -- as well.

4. How can we accurately measure user satisfaction?

This is an area where pilots often fail, as you can’t just give a group of people a piece of technology and ask them how they feel about it. Ask yourself:

  • Do we have team members available to sit with the people piloting the product?
  • Are we recording outside influences such as wi-fi speed or other environmental factors that might impact the results of the test?
  • Are we recording and analyzing the right user satisfaction metrics?
  • How can we capture the words and feelings of pilot participants, to help compel management buy-in?

For best results, you’ll need to work alongside and monitor your pilot testers. Test in small markets to get user feedback before deploying to the entire user base. Try incentivizing feedback, as well.

5. How can we demonstrate the value of the pilot to our organization and management?

Define which specific shareholders you should involve and focus on generating excitement about your pilot findings. Remember, keep it short and sweet--visuals, videos and presentations in a shareable format are great ways to share your pilot results.

Don’t start out with boring process notes; begin with the “why.” What was the value of the pilot? Why do the findings matter? Show the value to your business, employees and customers. Touch on key metrics and share whether the pilot failed or succeeded in achieving specific goals.

Keep it short and sweet, and stay out of the weeds. Share key learnings that could inform improvements or even different solutions.

6. Should we enlist the help of a pilot partner?

If you lack the expertise, experience or dedicated resources in-house to run your pilot properly, you should absolutely seek out a partner. A poorly run pilot is a waste of everyone’s time.

We assist companies from conceptualization through POC, MVP and piloting on through to implementation, to maximize the value of new and enhanced technologies. A pilot partner like Skookum can also help you introduce scaled-back versions of the exchange with a handful of partners, to stress-test the integrations. We help companies not only plan and perform pilots but distill your data and learnings to get to the heart of what matters. We’ll ensure you’re measuring what matters, and help demonstrate the value and impact of the pilot to your organization.

Don’t let your limited bandwidth risk the learnings and outcomes of a pilot. Contact us and see how Skookum can help make your next pilot a success.