Definition of a Software Pilot Project

By Heather Wilkins

A software pilot project rolls out new software in real-world conditions to a small area of an organization. This reduces the risk of an unsuccessful organizationwide implementation later, enables the organization to determine if this software is the appropriate solution, and gives personnel and users hands-on experience.


A software pilot project involves outside vendors or an internal software development team that provides the software. An IT team focuses on the network administration for the project, while a training and support team focuses on training participants and gathering data on user problems. Tech-savvy participants with noncritical roles are involved in using the new software.


Before you begin a software pilot, determine the desired outcome. Set the scope of the software and of the pilot and solicit information about available solutions if you haven't already selected a software. Determine how long the pilot project should run to test the software thoroughly. Choose the business group to involve in the project and identify the individuals within that group as participants. Appoint team leaders who can develop their own teams for IT, support and training, and software planning.


Set up a monitoring system to log any problems and their resolutions. This can guide future changes in procedures. Install or modify any hardware or software on the network if it is needed. Set up management tools so the team can document and communicate. Train participants in a group and then one-on-one to familiarize them with the software's concepts, to answer questions and to get a feel for different workstation configurations the project will handle. After the specified time, evaluate how the software pilot has gone and write up a report. Discuss how the installation went, how effective training was, if participants adopted the new software and how easily, the knowledge the team gained and the lessons learned. These factors affect a full implementation of the software.


A pilot project can encounter obstacles to its success. Inaccurate documentation and inconsistent communication within the team and to the participants are factors that the team can control. Escalating costs can indicate that a problem is developing. Conflicting software on participants' workstations can interfere with your pilot software, or the workstations may be missing necessary supporting software. Changes in personnel or organizational goals can hinder the software's development. Not sticking to the scope of the project can introduce feature creep and raise costs.