The Advantages of a Pilot Project

By Debra Kraft; Updated July 05, 2017
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Projects represent change. Whether a project involves introducing new products, equipment, computer software or process methodologies, something in the workplace is changing -- and change represents risk. Pilot projects help companies envision the results of a change on a small scale -- and avoid wasting time and money on massive changes with undesirable effects.

Run a Test Drive

Pilot projects make it possible to run a test-drive before making a firm investment. A company can use a pilot project to test a vendor’s solution, such as software, specialized equipment or new computer technology, in a limited scope. The pilot might involve a single business unit, building or project team. If the results of the pilot are good, company leaders are more apt to approve the full investment. If the results don’t represent a good investment in the long run, financial losses are minimized.

Manage Risks

Pilot projects help companies to manage and minimize risk. Testing something in a controlled manner allows project team members to examine the effects and to discover unexpected results. An examination of known and unknown risks helps project teams to make adjustments to prevent company-wide failure. Information technology projects that involve data flows are often piloted to validate that business data won’t be lost once the change is implemented across an entire company.

Evaluate Options

Some pilot projects help companies evaluate many options, such as products and services from different vendors. The project team establishes testing criteria, then examines how each option performs against those criteria. The team compares the results to determine which option represents the best value, based on meeting business needs and introducing the desired benefits. This type of pilot project helps a team to make informed investment decisions. A pilot project that compares vendors also helps a team make preferred partnership decisions.

Confirm Benefits

Pilot projects help project leaders "sell" the benefits of a proposed change. Management teams are responsible for making a profit, not spending money foolishly. Few executives will agree to funding projects based on promises. They expect proof of a project's anticipated value before they'll willingly back it. A pilot project allows project leaders to gather the information and provide that proof.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.