So, firstly I have to apologize to my PebblePad colleagues for even mentioning the ‘P word’, for it is a strictly prohibited word for PPP (PebblePad People). However, I wanted to write a short piece on the topic as I seem to be surrounded by chatter about it.
So, why is Pilot such an ugly word?
To answer this question, I first considered my perception of a pilot. I originally thought of a pilot as being the trial of something, prior to full-scale implementation. I thought of a pilot as being a positive. I mean why would anyone invest a fortune into a new software solution before even trying it out?
In the spirit of this, there is a saying which I have heard a few times recently “Fail fast, fail cheap.” I somewhat agree, Pilots are cheap to set up, can be cheap to run and are relatively risk-free. However, this perception may be where the root of the problem lies- for in today’s society, cheap can be seen as having no value, as being disposable. Easy come easy go. This has lead many organization’s to pilot multiple software solutions over a number of years, often more than one at a time. I have spoken with institutions who have ran four pilots at a time, only for all four systems to be scrapped and another one adopted. All four could have been successful, but none were ever given the chance. I wonder how cheap these multiple pilots turned out to be.
Your institution announces it is piloting another software solution, lets say an ePortfolio platform. Are you excited, or confused as you have piloted three others in as many years? You have students/members using multiple platforms, all trying to produce the same output. They are bombarded with new technologies, assignments and deadlines. You now have to break the news to them that you have another thing for them to try out. How do you think they will react? Do you think they will be jumping for joy that the institution they are part of has purchased another pilot of a tool for their benefit? Unlikely.
So, back to the question, why is pilot such an ugly word?
Simply – because if you are serious about success and serious about the software solution you have chosen, it’s the wrong one! There are just too many negative connotations from start to finish. On that note, maybe institutions could consider a different approach. At this point I offer up an alternative, forget pilots and conduct a 'staged implementation.'
However, changing the name is simply not enough. A Staged Implementation is a different attitude, has different goals and is not something to be taken lightly. A Staged Implementation takes planning, investment of time, resources and minds. A Staged Implementation tells people in your organization that you are serious about this software, you have done your research, sets expectations and suggests a level of commitment required by all. Sure, this sounds like hard work- and it might not be cheap but should those really be your main concerns?