Some organizations define a solution “pilot” as a “limited deployment” for the purpose of managing risk. That can be covered in a Risk Management Plan in lieu of a Pilot Plan. The definition we will use in this post is to use a Pilot to gather information about the solution that can only be discovered by “going live”. The intent of the Pilot is to obtain the information and then pull the solution out of the live environment for additional work.
The Pilot Plan describes what aspect of the solution will be delivered as a pilot and provides the details necessary to conduct the pilot successfully. This includes details on how to evaluate the pilot, the results of which will facilitate a decision whether or not to move the solution to production. Projects often create one or more “pilot” solutions for the purpose of proving the feasibility of solution approaches, experimenting with different solutions, and obtaining user feedback and acceptance on proposed solutions. Pilot solutions usually implement only those subsets or segments of requirements or functional specifications necessary to validate a solution.
The Pilot Plan provides the means to validate business requirements and technical specifications prior to deploying the solution into production. Planning the details of the pilot ensures that the participating project teams identify their roles and responsibilities and resource requirements specific to pilot development, testing, and deployment activities.
A pilot can provide key information on development processes, end-user validation, and production environment usage. It also provides feedback to stakeholders regarding the success of the solution once it is formally released.
Note that Pilot Plans are not just for IT projects. For example, fast food chains will often test new menu items for a limited time in a small number of locations to gauge consumer interest and test the store’s ability to deliver the product successfully.
Here is a list of some things to consider documenting as part of the Pilot Plan (this is not necessarily the complete list of considerations; your project may have more):
- Overview – Scope (what part of the solution will be demonstrated as part of the pilot, and the target user profile used to select which users will participate)
- Success Criteria and Metrics – The success criteria may fall into the following categories:
- System performance
- Operations cost
- Stability –down time
- User performance
- User satisfaction
- Business goals
- User Preparation and training
- Marketing Plan – how users will become aware of the pilot and the value to them
- Conditions for adding additional users
- Rollback – conditions for rolling back the pilot to pre-deployment state
- Pilot Evaluation – describes how the pilot results will be evaluated