A pilot allows an organization to prove or disprove a hypothesis. It can also help an organization understand what changes are necessary before a full-scale implementation. Applying lessons from a pilot program increases the chances of being successful when a new process or technology is implemented or when resources are added on a larger scale.

Three Types Of Demand Initiatives To Pilot

  • Process. For example, creating a new service-level agreement (SLA) between two functions, designing a new program play for acquisition targets, or changing existing treatment rule criteria to test latest content
  • Technology. An example could be testing a new technology platform for implementation or migrating from one platform to another.
  • Resource allocation. This could include adding a function to the organization, adding headcount to the team, outsourcing resources to an agency, and bringing a currently outsourced resource or function into the company as a full-time employee.

How To Plan And Design A Pilot

A pilot requires the same amount of planning as any other project a team would typically implement. Use the following eight steps to create a plan that addresses the pilot’s objectives, scope, tools, implementation or execution plan, team member responsibilities, budget, and timeline: 

  1. State the goal.
  2. Set expectations.
  3. Control the variables.
  4. Review assumptions.
  5. Define test scenarios.
  6. Collect and track the data.
  7. Identify the participants.
  8. Define the duration.

Conduct The Pilot, And Review Results

When the pilot reaches its agreed-upon end date as defined in the pilot’s duration, the team must collect the findings, evaluate, and socialize the results to determine next steps. 

  • Conduct the pilot. During the pilot phase, the support of management, stakeholders, and participants is required.
  • Evaluate the results, and determine the next steps. In addition to the results, the communications and knowledge transfer that occur throughout the pilot provide valuable feedback that informs the next steps. Although a successful pilot does not automatically mean the project should move forward to full-scale implementation, it does give the organization the information required to make a well-informed decision. This mitigates the level of risk the organization faces when choosing whether to invest in the proposed change.

Best Practices For Piloting A Demand Initiative

Pilots should be established as a standard process. Any meaningful change in demand resource allocation, processes, or technology should be evaluated for the level of uncertainty in its anticipated outcomes, as well as evaluated for suitability for a limited-scale, experimental implementation.

  • Cultivate a testing culture. Culturally, the organization must cultivate a mindset that failing quickly is acceptable if insights are gained and a path to course correction exists.
  • Embrace experimentation. Pilots allow program owners to test big ideas in a controlled environment and compare results from the pilot test group against a control group.
  • Leverage advocates. Whether through informal focus groups or online feedback within a friendly community, leveraging advocates can be a fantastic way to get timely and relevant feedback and new ideas.
  • Share learning broadly. Many organizations that are trying to build a testing culture bring together multiple program owners and stakeholders for a monthly review of key optimization findings to socialize.

Forrester clients can find more specific guidance in my new report, How To Effectively Pilot A Demand Initiative.