So your organization is finally ready to go ahead with that enterprise collaborative initiative its been talking about doing for around a year, great! Do you try implementing with a pilot program or put all your cards on the table and go all in with an organization wide implementation?

Pilot projects are usually the standard way to go for most implementations, but then again, most implementations don’t depend on scaling interactions for success. So, it might be easy to pilot the use of something like a printer whose success depends on use by individuals that don’t have to interact with one another, but would you be able to pilot the use of something like a telephone system that depends on other people having the same system in order to communicate?

Perhaps, but chances are you’re not going to see the same value. We’re going to use this post as a starting point to discuss pilot projects or enterprise implementations in more depth in future posts. For now, let’s start with an overview.

The Collaboration Mindset

While enterprise collaboration projects do depend on technology, ultimately they are business projects whose success also heavily depends on change management, corporate culture and value propositions. Without these things (and others) the technology doesn’t stand a chance of success.

As you can imagine, these business decisions shouldn’t be made without serious consideration. However, as an organization, if you feel that enterprise collaboration is an evolution of your business and something that is inevitable then it might make sense to go all in.

Truth be told, there are companies that have approached this from a pilot project standpoint and from an enterprise wide implementation. Both cases have successes and failures. This post isn’t about convincing you to go one way or the other, it’s about getting you to think critically about asking the right questions, which in turn will help you make the best decision.

The Pilot Project

The first thing to understand is that a pilot project can be limited by either timeframe or by concentration/department. As with anything else, before undertaking a pilot project, there must be some sort of business case or objective that is going to be met, simply piloting a project just for fun is probably not the best way to get this going. Vistaprint is an example of a company that approaches enterprise collaboration from a pilot standpoint. So, having said that, here are a few things to consider about a pilot project:

  • You will have the benefit of understanding the problems and obstacles before rolling this out across the enterprise.
  • Risk and cost will be minimized with this approach.
  • Should be treated just as any other project but on a smaller scale. Meaning -- treat this seriously, offer support, education and training and whatever resources are required for your pilot team.
  • Make sure to understand your measures for success, since the pilot is limited by users, success shouldn’t necessarily be measured around adoption but around the ability to solve business problems.

With all that in mind, a couple of things to be aware of if you choose the pilot route:

  • A lack of network or user base might be a hindrance since collaboration implementations depend on users to collaborate.
  • You may end up scrapping an implementation that realistically may have worked had there been a network to interact with one another.

The Enterprise Implementation

Booz Allen Hamilton is an organization that took the enterprise implementation approach. They viewed this as an evolution of how their organization is going to conduct business on a day-to-day level, so for them, the pilot project wasn’t really a consideration. They made up their mind that this was something they wanted to do and they did it. At the last count, I believe they were around 70% adoption within their organization. Some things to consider for enterprise roll-outs:

  • They are much more costly then pilot projects.
  • The problem of scale isn’t there since the user bases exists.
  • The new problem of adoption exists, you have the users, now how do you get them to use it?
  • The value focus needs to be on the individual users and how it is going to improve their job/life and not on what this means for the organization.
  • The same focus on solving business problems should be prevalent, however, looking at adoption numbers becomes more crucial here than it does in the pilot phase.
  • Guidance and frameworks are also crucial, not necessarily from a structured or rule standpoint but from the standpoint of not making users start from scratch, giving them a starting ground.
  • User feedback needs to be management on a large scale and incorporated into product updates.
  • Senior management buy-in is crucial as is change management.
  • Time-frames for successful enterprise adoption is easily between 1-3+ years depending on the size of the organization.

Now while this isn’t a comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of pilot projects or enterprise implementations, hopefully it guides you on asking some more relevant questions to help you make the right decisions. We will explore these in more depth in subsequent posts.

If you have deployed/implemented a collaborative initiative from either an enterprise wide or pilot project standpoint I’d love to hear from you!