How to build a step-by-step pilot project timeline

This article is part of a series focused on how to introduce, explain, and condense complex thinking into a single-page view so that other people can easily understand you.

Starting A Successful Pilot Program

Here is the final piece in our Loops Canvas range — the Pilot Canvas.

By now, you’ve written a solid brief and defined a relevant concept. Now it’s time to make it real by delivering of a prototype and assessing if true potential exists. A clear pilot plan will help massively when you’re in ‘live’ mode, as it will focus your brainpower on learning and the process as a whole, as opposed to reacting on the fly.

The Pilot Canvas splits your project into six major, easy-to-digest sections. This offers companies the scope to implement more insightful business practises from the get go, keeping customers and their own interests at the centre of the planning process.

Our Pilot Canvas can be a valuable asset during the testing process to any company. This one page tool allows you to define each stage of your pilot project from early planning to final wrap up and analysis, and it can be applied across large and small scale projects.

Breaking down each phase of your pilot program and considering all the resources required to deliver it over time and on time is critical. Think of it like writing a film script, detailing each scene and explaining the actors’ objectives to deliver the required outcome and accomplish the shared goal/vision.

Creating a successful pilot program can be a lengthy process, but the effort is worth it. Having a detailed plan with all the key steps laid out can help meet the set clear goals — who, what, when, why — and avoid failure.

  1. Stage Summary
  2. Required Outcome For Progress
  3. Outputs & Deliverables
  4. User Interactions
  5. Backstage Operations
  6. Watch-outs

Here are our tips for the type of details about your pilot project you should be including in each of the boxes:

This is what it says on the tin. We’ve given you the basic stages, from start to finish, of how to run a pilot, but you can always modify these to suit your needs.

Our example steps for a pilot program are as follows;

  • Defining success
  • Planning
  • Pre-production
  • Execution
  • Winding down
  • Analysis
  • Next steps

Defining the validation event means identifying when the work is finished, ideally with a successful outcome, meaning you can then move to the next stage. Try to quantify the results and be as specific as possible. A simple example for the pre-production stage could be ‘300 downloads of the prototype via Testflight’.

Qualitative or quantitive data — both are extremely valuable.

List out all the tasks and requirements you need to complete before you can move to the next stage.

For example. before you move onto the ‘Defining Success’ stage, you may need to do some desk research to see if you can obtain any data or insights on similar products to understand what ‘good’ looks like. Case studies and surveys are great resources for this.

Or, if you’re moving onto the ‘Winding Down’ stage, you may need to arrange time to interview pilot participants for them to share feedback, or to hold group discussions. This qualitative feedback will be vital for avoiding failure.

Complete this section only when participants are actively involved in a stage of the pilot project.

You want to list every likely touch point you’ll have with them and what they’re expected to do. Here, you really need to put yourself in the user’s shoes and imagine all the steps they’ll take. This is where you usually uncover blindspots you’d not previously considered, such as signing NDAs or how you’re going to pay respondents.

Not doing these self evaluations will waste time later on, and doing so now could open a door to a potential new solution.

Now you are clear on the outputs and what participants are expected to do, you can decide who in your team will own each part of the pilot and what they must contribute to each phase.

You may need to provide training for your team where appropriate, but that shouldn’t be a major concern. If anything, that should be seen as a benefit.

This assignment is one of the most useful tracks of info since each of the key stakeholders can quickly zoom into their job on the Pilot Canvas and see how it ladders up to the pilot project as a whole.

If you feel there are risks (which there will inevitably be), call them out. If you can, suggest a mitigation plan in case they come to pass, and run a test if possible.

Whilst it can be mentally draining thinking through all these test scenarios, you will be glad that you did because you’ll gain insight, uncovering any flaws in the plot. Your task is to apply the missing information so the end-to-end logic holds up and is supported by the data.

In doing so, you’ll minimize the risk, be able to quickly respond, and not fall behind schedule. Watch out for those curveballs, though!

Simplicity And Insight Are Key For A Successful Pilot Program

As with each of the tools we’ve given away, you can create a free account at useloops.com/register, upload your completed Pilot Canvas, and then share via a link to the relevant people for instant visual feedback on your project.

With this new technology, you’ll unlock their expertise to help you unearth blindspots and define improvements, and get a one-up on other companies in terms of how to run a pilot. On the one hand, you’ll align them to the mission, and on the other, you’ll refine the plan. All this means your project will make faster progress while also increasing the likelihood of success.

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