IT Best PracticesProject Leadership

4 Pilot Project Best Practices for IT Leaders

Everyone knows at least something about the World Wars. Apparently, the IT world also has its “wartimes.” ‘Old’-timers talk about massive hardware and software overhauls where multiple managers are fired over the course of a devastating project. But these days, IT leaders aren’t so quick to do battle. In an article for TechRepublic, Mary Shacklett discusses the benefits of a diplomatic approach to project management called the proof of concept, or pilot project.

The Pilot – Identified

The pilot project is an essential component of any IT leader’s repertoire, if for no other reason than to give stakeholders an early warning about possible project failure. The pilot is a smaller, more manageable version of the typical project that is easy to nix if the need arises. It’s also a great way to work out the bugs in advance of the real deal.

4 Ways to Pilot Appropriately

Shacklett lists four crucial points to hold dear when running a pilot:

  1. Remember people.
  2. Limit enhancement scope creep.
  3. Aim for a 5:1 success rate.
  4. Do post-mortems on unsuccessful pilots.

Keep in mind that although you’re running a project that requires less commitment from management and stakeholders, employees will find too many cancelled pilots discouraging. To retain your credibility, it’s always a good rule to keep the team’s emotional status in mind.

Second, pilot projects can, like large projects, accumulate unnecessary enhancements that contribute to scope creep. Try to limit this phenomenon as it is badly self-defeating. Third, your “win rate” on a given pilot should top a ratio of five to one. Anything less and you’ll need to switch methodologies.

Last of all, never leave a dead project unexamined. There’s something that killed that pilot and you’ve got to find out what did it, soldier!

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