Trialling a resource before officially launching it gives the project team the opportunity to see what they’ve built in its natural environment with users that don’t have the same mindset as the team that built it. As much as we try to put ourselves in the shoes of others, it can be difficult to get it right. This is why software companies do beta testing, hotels do soft opens before the big opening day and consumer product testing and review sites are so popular.
If you’re not doing it already, here are two big reasons why this step in the implementation process should not be skipped.
1. Pilot testing helps with buy-in
Humans love a “sneak peek”; there’s just something about seeing it before everyone else that appeals to our base instincts. Add to that the ability to give real feedback and feel heard by the organization and it’s easy to see the power of a pilot group. If you’re thinking about who to pick, the answer might surprise you.
While it might be tempting to select your pilot group from a range of “friendly” faces, adding a few tough cookies to the mix will really help you get more get buy-in. Think of it this way; they’re going to experience it anyway, so doing it in a controlled setting gives you the chance to engage them and get honest feedback. Often the hardest people to win over have the longest tenure; if they know the organization so well, their feedback is probably quite valuable, let alone the influence they’ll have if you can win them over by acting on it.
In addition, as diversity has been shown to lead to enhanced performance and innovation in outcomes, it’s worth ensuring your pilot testing group has representation across departments, level of seniority, as well as demographic characteristics.
2. Pilot testing helps identify issues and feel confident
Just the same as a restaurant’s soft opening gives staff the opportunity to iron out any kinks in the process before they start serving paying customers, pilot testing software is a vital final step that helps to surface gaps in the processes, things that don’t work quite as expected, navigation challenges with devices or for people not involved in the original construction and much more.
Knowing about these issues early allows them to be rectified before the software is used at scale, helping to deliver a smooth “grand opening”. It also helps identify any additional training resources needed instead of playing catch up.
As well as identifying issues, pilot testing also allows for confirmation of success; seeing users getting the desired experience gives the project team confidence to roll it out to the wider population, which is the ultimate goal.
It can feel vulnerable, exposing something that you’ve worked so hard on to what might be a tough crowd and asking them what they think. It’s an important step though. Trialing with real users reveals whether you’re ready (or not) for launch and helps you get there with feedback from the people it was ultimately built to support. Who will you put in your pilot group team?