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Why we should kill E2.0 pilots

To pilot, or not to pilot. That is the question.

Discussions around whether to do a pilot before deploying E2.0 technology enterprise wide have taken off lately. (See posts from Andrew McAfee and Christy Schoon.) And I think it's time for everyone to land the plane.

First, let's reframe the question. In my humble opinion, companies do not give a $&%# about pilots. (Pardon my French!) They care about achieving business objectives and finding answers to the problems they are experiencing, including growing sales, reducing costs, speeding product innovation cycles, accelerating time to market, and so on.

The real question is this: Is a pilot the best way to prove the value of E2.0 solutions within your organization? The unequivocal answer is, IT IS NOT. So I agree with McAfee's premise to "drop the pilot," but for very different reasons. (I submitted this as a comment on his blog, but it hasn't appeared yet, so I'm posting here. Apologies if it appears, I'm not trying to duplicate content! :-))

Lack of focus is the #1 reason pilots and/or E2.0 rollouts fail. Let me give you an example. I was speaking to a prospect last week and they mentioned that they went through an exhaustive selection process, purchased an E2.0 collaboration platform, and launched it with great fanfare.

The immediate result was massive usage for the first month, and then a very rapid decline in usage, so much so that the system was scrapped.

When we asked who the system was targeted at, the answer was "everyone." When we asked what the focus of the system was, the answer was "everything." Let's get down to brass tacks. The question employees face every day is, does this tool help me do my job better? If the answer is yes, then they will use it. If not, they won't.

So while the system initially generated a lot of usage, the tool did not result in employees doing their jobs any better. Did they just ask the wrong questions? Did they follow the wrong people? And if they did, whose fault is that? Without focus and direction, employees are more than likely to do something that you did not expect.

So the question still remains, does a pilot solve this problem? Stephen Jordan hit the nail on the head when he commented on Andrew McAfee's post, saying, " ... the lack of context in these 'pilot' rollouts is the real reason they seemed doom to fail." So, no, the pilot, per se, does not help this problem.

Is there an alternative? I would unequivocally say YES. It is called an initial "targeted project." The targeted project has a lot in common with a pilot. Initial cost is low, it is usually focused on a smaller set of users, it allows the organization to vet the technology and IT infrastructure issues, and the organization can learn a ton.

But here's what makes it so much better than a pilot. Rather than entering into a short-lived pilot where expectations are set for an over 50-percent failure rate, a targeted project gets much deeper commitment because a) it is not a test, it is a real implementation, and b) it is focused.

The E2.0 solution is tasked to solve a real problem and make it easier for a group of employees to do their jobs. The focus also means the implementation team knows where to invest its time and effort. If it helps the business objective, do it. Otherwise the feedback and other ideas can be attended to later.

At Inmagic we love to work with clients on targeted projects. Targeted projects fuel focus, which provides another key outcome: an objective. Meeting an objective allows you to then generate ROI, or at the very least, a metric for success, which is a lot more concrete than blanket statements like "I think we are collaborating more effectively."

So in short, I say, pilots, off with your heads! Targeted projects, take the throne!


Anonymous said...

This gets my "yeah for the day". Peter Smee, Trimagic, Australia

Phil Green said...

Thanks, Peter. Glad you enjoyed the post. As always, if you have thoughts on the topic, feel free to let us know!

Phil Simon said...

Great points, Phil.

My own response/thoughts with a link to your original post.


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