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Complete Guide to Pilot Implementation Strategy

A pilot implementation allows an organization to validate its approach for full application deployment. Executing an application pilot can uncover operability issues associated with production-like conditions and provide an opportunity to address these issues before full application roll out. To effectively prepare for a pilot implementation, an organization should develop a detailed pilot approach, identify appropriate participants, plan the pilot environment, and determine how to monitor the pilot.

What is pilot implementation strategy?

Pilot implementation strategy is the approach that an organization should apply for developing and executing an application pilot. For many organizations, pilot implementation is the first time that they have considered the work and skills involved with full-scale application implementation. Consequently, failing to develop a strong pilot implementation strategy can result in several costly and time-consuming problems.

Why is this? For one thing, pilot implementation is not only the first step in the overall application implementation process, but it is also an opportunity to evaluate the application infrastructure and determine the feasibility of full implementation. The first part of this article will outline strategies and thought processes involved with pilot implementation. The second part discusses planning for and performing a pilot implementation.

Low usage data – If an organization is considering an application pilot for low-usage applications, such as travel expense reporting, it should expect to achieve only marginal benefits in terms of business process and system operability validation. While a pilot for a low-usage application is still valid, it may not be cost effective due to the limited amount of data available.

With a strong pilot implementation approach in place, organizations can more-effectively validate their application infrastructure and processes, while minimizing preparation time and full implementation risk. Successful pilot implementation relies upon an organization’s ability to determine requirements, plan for the pilot, determine application responsibilities, develop a pilot strategy and plan, and monitor the pilot.

1: Determine Requirements for Pilot Implementation

Determining requirements for an application pilot is a critical activity that involves the development of a pilot approach, participant criteria, and pilot deliverables. Identifying these requirements is a basic project management function that requires balancing pilot goals with other requirements that must be incorporated into the organization’s existing process. A primary focal point of these activities is to determine how much effort should go into preparing for the pilot.

2: Plan for the Pilot

Planning for the pilot involves analyzing the organization’s pilot approach, arranging for pilot deliverables (such as pilot plans or test designs), and making determinations regarding the pilot participant group, pilot timing requirements, and pilot environment. Many of these decisions will depend on the organization’s pilot requirements. Planning for the pilot often begins with the analysis of pilot requirements, taking into consideration factors such as the application scope, the desired timeframe, and the resource requirements. Planning for the pilot is also an opportunity for the organization to determine the pilot participant group. The participant group is comprised of individuals who will be responsible for development, implementation, testing, and training concerning the application.

3: Determine Application Responsibilities

It is also necessary for the organization to determine application responsibilities for the pilot. These responsibilities should be based on the application complexity and the maturity of the functional and technical business processes, as well as the pilot deliverables. In many cases, application responsibilities are defined by selecting the organization component(s) that will be responsible for developing, implementing, testing, and training the application. More often than not, these organizational components are the business functions or business units that will be using the application. For instance, in a multi-site business, the piloting will likely be performed at one site first before the application is implemented at all sites.

4: Develop Pilot Strategy and Plan

The pilot strategy is a blueprint that defines how the business will develop, implement, and test the application. The plan should define who will do what, when it will be done, where it will be done, and how it will be done. For the pilot implementation timeline, one to six months from planning to go-live is standard. The primary factors determining the length of the pilot planning period are the characteristics of the application and the amount of time required to develop and test the business processes and user interfaces. It may also be necessary to schedule time for some participants to prepare for the pilot rather than perform tasks. During this time, the organization should identify the various pilot activities that it will perform, prepare the test environment, and test the application documentation. For instance, the organization must develop a test plan that defines the level of detail that will be employed when testing the functional aspects of the application. This includes identifying the various test scripts that will be used and determining the application’s testing dependencies. The test plan must also include a determination of any application functionality that will support the generation of test scripts. In addition to pilot testing, the organization may also need to schedule pilot training for both the application and the associated user training.

Examples of pre-trial activities could include training the test team on how to use the test tools and test data for the pilot, developing test scripts, collaborating with the project team to review the test scripts, training the pilot participants on the functionality under test, and preparing trial scripts.

5: Review and Monitor the Pilot

The review and monitoring of the pilot includes comparing the performance metrics from the pilot to those that are defined for the full implementation. This is an important step that can be leveraged to identify any issues that may be present, such as issues with performance or data. Reviewing the pilot can also provide a glimpse at future issues that may arise. The organization should consider what issues may be encountered when the application is fully implemented.

When should a pilot be considered in information systems()?

Pilot implementation is suitable for all application rollout phases and is particularly applicable for complex applications that contain complicated business processes or high user interaction levels. Organizations that have already rolled out other applications within the organization can sometimes re-use the lessons learned from previous implementations. Organizations should consider pilot implementation when the application:

The Best Practices Framework for Information Systems Management (Information Technology Best Practices[R]) has identified 15 factors that it recommends organizations consider when making decisions about a pilot implementation. This list includes:

Applications that fall into the following category are particularly suited for pilot implementation because they are perceived as difficult to implement by an organization. Organizations may consider a pilot for applications that:

Pilot planning involves creating a plan that includes pilot acquisition, pilot analysis, and pilot analysis. There are several primary issues that an organization should consider when planning a pilot.

1: Organization Requirements

Organization requirements is one of the factors that govern the size and scope of a pilot. Some of the factors to consider are:

2: Pilot Requirements

3: Pilot Strategy Collision

One of the most difficult decisions to make during the pilot is determining what components of the pilot should be separate from the overall application rollout. In addition, the organization must make a decision regarding what business process components should be included in the pilot implementation. This can involve a great deal of complexity. It is important to remember that factors such as application complexity and organization structure can have a major impact on whether the organization can implement all components during the pilot.

4: Pilot Deliverables

5: Pilot Monitoring

While a pilot project is being rolled out, the organization is actively monitoring its results. The data regarding the pilot can be queried against the alternative methods and help the organization to determine which option is more competitive. It should also be noted that the data can be projected over the long term to make forecasts about the financial implications and the organization’s ability to meet expectations.

6: Pilot Analysis

7: Post-Pilot Analysis

How will pilot testing differ from overall testing for the overall application rollout?

There are some key differences between pilot testing and overall testing. Pilot testing has the advantage of providing an organization with the opportunity to uncover a larger number of issues before rolling out the overall application. In addition, because it is testing a smaller number of users, the organization can allow the pilot testing to be accomplished in a significantly shorter timeframe than the overall rollout.

What are the benefits of pilot testing?

There are many benefits associated with pilot testing. Some of the benefits include:

  • Modifying the processes will be less costly and time-consuming if detected and corrected within the pilot.
  • In a pilot, the basic flow of the processes can be tested without any (or minimal) interface arrangements.
  • For a pilot, the organization is able to review the compiled business requirements and the processes in detail can help to identify and resolve any contradictions.
  • The pilot activity can also yield a good set of test scripts that can be utilized in the overall application rollout.
  • The pilot can often take advantage of any previous application rollout training that has been completed and leverage any existing test scripts.

What should an organization consider when developing a prototype?

Some standard practices for developing prototypes are:

1: Planning

One of the best ways for an organization to ensure that a prototype will be successful is to make sure that they have a solid plan in place before they begin. This includes:

Work Closely With Applications Area Leads and the Project Team

Before the prototype is developed, the applications area lead and the project team must be heavily involved in the design of the prototype and establishing the overall concept. It will ensure greater buy-in for the implementation within the organization.

2: The Concept

The concept of the prototype must be easily understood by all parties. Furthermore, the concept must address the issues that are associated with the project, including:

  • The project’s goals
  • The data definitions that will be required
  • The functions that must be included
  • The information from the prototype that may be applicable to the actual rollout
  • The formatting of the prototype

3: Development

Developing a prototype will typically be the responsibility of the information technology (IT) department. However, the organization should encourage the involvement of the business end users throughout the development process. This will enable them to create a more accurate representation of the final product. In the development of the prototype, the IT department will need to:

Provide High-Level Data

The IT department will need to provide high-level data that is representative of what will be included in the final rollout. This data will be used to confirm that the focus areas of the prototype are properly representing the core processes.

4: Execution

When rolling out the application, the IT department will need to execute the exact methods of the live solution. The data that is included in the prototype will be used to confirm that the implementation of the application is accurate and that the user training is properly focused. It should also be noted that the IT department will want to track the exact types of data that are being input into the application. It will help to determine how individuals and groups are using the applications.

What should an organization consider when developing a prototype?

Some standard practices for developing prototypes are:

• Planning

• The Concept

• Development

• Execution

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