Project management is a long game. It can take time to see the results. But one way to test things out on a small scale before knowing if it will be a success is to run a pilot project. A pilot project enables you to manage the risk of a new idea and identify any issues before you fully commit resources.
Take launching a product in a new market, for example. A pilot project would identify and address any key issues – including resources, product-market fit, and customer feedback – before rolling it out to a larger audience.
But what exactly is a pilot project? How do you successfully run one? And what tools do you need? This guide covers exactly that. Read on to find out more or start your first pilot project now. We’ll also show you how to manage and collaborate on pilot projects with ease using a project management tool like the monday.com Work OS.Get started
What is a pilot project?
A pilot project is designed to test things out on a small scale before knowing if it will be a viable option for a team or business. Businesses use pilot projects for things like testing new software releases, soft launching new products, and trialing new working hours.
Oftentimes, pilot projects will confirm viability and scalability and enable processes and procedures to be tested.
Pilot projects can be used throughout various industries, and examples of pilot projects include:
- B2B SaaS: Testing a new product or service in a small market or with a limited group of customers before a full-scale launch.
- Financial Services: A FinTech might run a pilot project to test a new app feature with a small group of users before rolling it out to all users.
- Data agency: A data management agency might test a new AI tool with a small subset of customer data, to test if the algorithm has any bias, before rolling it out to a larger data set.
So what are the benefits?
Key benefits of a pilot project
Essentially, pilot projects are a great way to assess the viability of an idea, test the process, and ultimately see if a full-scale project is viable.
Pilot projects help you:
- Fully assess the viability of an idea
- Identify any risks and issues before committing more resources
- Enables an accurate budget and investment appraisal
Now, we’ll go into how to plan one.
How to plan a pilot project
Now that we know what pilot projects are and why they’re so important, it’s time to start planning one.
Below, we’ll take you through a simple four-step process to develop your own.
Step 1: Identify the pilot project
It may sound obvious, but if you want to plan a pilot project, you first need to know what it will cover.
First, start with a brainstorming session to identify pilot project ideas. You can get ideas from:
- Your customers: What common themes have been mentioned in reviews or to your customer support teams? What about social mentions?
- Employees: What pain points does your team come up against? What would help make them more effective?
- The competition: What is the competition doing differently? Are they using certain tools or tech to get ahead?
Once you’ve identified your first pilot project, you’re ready to move to step two.
Step 2: Set objectives
Now that you’ve identified your first pilot, it must have set goals. Because there’s no point in starting a project if you don’t know what you want to achieve with it.
Some examples of pilot project objectives are:
- Test the viability of 50% of the workforce working from home.
- Reduce churn by 5% during Q3 by implementing a new online checkout process.
- Increasing sales by 25% by testing new order management software in Q2.
Once you’ve set your objectives, the next step is to identify resources and collaborate.
Step 3: Allocate resources and collaborate
Unless you’re a one-person team, you’ll need to identify resources and assign tasks to organize the pilot project process. Collaboration is made easy with monday.com as you can share your board with your entire team, making information accessible to anyone involved. That way, when you start assigning tasks, team members can understand if they’ll have the capacity to complete them, and allocate the proper amount of time to doing so. Use the Timeline Column, so everyone can be on board with the tasks they need to complete and their impact on the project’s timeline.
If you’re using a spreadsheet or Google Doc, you can tag users by typing “@” plus their email address into a cell – but you can do this on monday.com and monday workdocs as well!
Pro tip: Remember to factor in additional days to compensate for any delay when setting deadlines.
Once you’ve done all this, you should have a pretty good idea of how this might map out across a timeline.
Step 4: Develop a timeline
There’s no right or wrong way to organize your timeline. Just make sure you:
- Ensure each project stage has a specific due date
- Make sure you assign each task to a designated team member
- Share your timeline with your team and project managers
As long as you follow those principles, you have a lot of freedom and flexibility in how you choose to accomplish it.With monday.com’s Timeline View feature, each stage of your pilot project can be detailed and laid out in a visual timetable, so you understand what steps to take and when they’re taken.
With just a glance at the Timeline View on your board, anyone can gain quick access to a visual representation of the timelines, deadlines, and dependencies within any project. This means everyone can see an item’s start and end dates and know what they have to do and when it needs to be completed.
So how do you ensure everything stays on track?
6 best practices for implementing a pilot project
Below we’ll explore the six most popular best practices used when implementing pilot projects – and why you might want to use each one.
- #1: Develop a plan: Planning is the cornerstone of any project. Start by creating an end goal and ask yourself what you need to accomplish by the end of the project. Be realistic about how much time you need to complete each part of the project. Use of the pre-built planning templates on monday.com to get started.
- #2: Monitor progress: An excellent way to measure performance is to check if you’re hitting your objectives and milestones along the way. Regularly check the status of each task and prompt team members if you need any updates. Add a timeline column to display the timeline for any item.
- #3: Gather feedback: Once the pilot project is over, ask all team members involved in the pilot project about any major risks or problems encountered. Ask team members to share feedback within the updates section. They can even tag you into any specific notes.
- #4: Analyze results: Pilot projects are designed to test the viability of an idea. So it’s key to analyze results. Use Gantt charts to track the entire project process and review milestones and goals.
- #5: Identify opportunities for improvement: After reviewing team feedback and analyzing results, draw up a list of areas for improvement. You can then share these with all project members through a Board update.
- #6: Draw up your report: Finally, it’s time to create your report and recommendations. Consider key questions, such as: Was the pilot project a success? What were the key risks? How could you mitigate those risks? What budget is required?
Following these steps will help your projects go ahead like clockwork.
Plan an effective, collaborative pilot project with monday.com
Better still, lean on a tool like the monday.com Work OS to make the entire process a breeze. You will love how monday embeds flexibility and control into your projects.
Plus, sharing information with your team is quick and easy by adding them to the plan and assigning them tasks. From tracking progress to collaborating on tasks, as you move through your pilot project, your whole team will feel guided and at ease.
You can even create a board with our ready-to-go project timeline template – and customize it to your needs.
Get started now or read on to see the most commonly asked questions.Get template
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of a pilot project?
The purpose of a pilot project is to test the feasibility of an idea on a small scale in order to evaluate the potential for a future full-scale project.
What is meant by a pilot project?
Pilot projects also called a ‘feasibility study’ help to identify any issues, and evaluate feasibility, resources, time, and cost.
What is a pilot project in project management?
A pilot project is used in project management to reduce the risk of failure by testing the idea in a small controlled setting so that you can further refine your project before you roll it out.
Optimize your pilot project with the right tool
If you are ready to get started, you can start building your board and timeline now to ensure everything stays on schedule.
Or you can use one of our ready-made templates to get up and running quicker.
Looking for more?
Check out our relevant resources around the planning phase of the project lifecycle: