Adopting new technology is a big undertaking, especially the larger the organization. Most companies have an ineffectual approach when selecting a new digital tool or software: they try to gather a consensus from everyone they can before implementation. If you attempt to get a “yes” from too many people, there will always be someone who says no. Following is an inevitable “you asked my opinion but didn’t choose what I wanted” and potential resistance.
We suggest a different approach. Instead of getting everyone involved, don’t try to get company-wide consensus first. Start with a pilot—a software rollout to a small set of people in a controlled environment. The purpose of a pilot is to test and refine the process before rolling out software to the entire company. Use the pilot as a means to create buy-in.
How to Select a Pilot Group
Your pilot group should be carefully selected. These people will be responsible for working out all the bugs and eventually championing the software across the company. They’ll have the most influence on those who will use the software in the future, so don’t make arbitrary decisions.
There are a few main ways to organize your pilot group:
- By geography: If your company is spread out among multiple locations, test the software in a smaller region first. It’s easier to track and manage user feedback and answer questions when everyone’s in the same place.
- By department or function: Maybe you’re looking at a tool that would eventually be used across departments (e.g. HR, accounting, engineering, and IT). Start with one department—HR, for example—and deploy the tool to the other departments when it’s time.
- By product line: Maybe your company has multiple product lines or business units, like General Mills, which owns Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Cheerios, etc. Pick one product line/brand in which to test the software, and if it works, roll it out from there.
Characteristics of a Successful Pilot Group
You pilot group should include people who are:
- Positive about change. Choose people who are eager to improve the company and approach change with a positive attitude. If your Chicago office is generally negative about change, but the Boston office is always excited about new prospects, Boston is a better choice for your pilot. Remember, these people will be championing new software across the company, so their outlook on change is crucial. If they’re negative, the rest of the company will be too.
- Willing to change. Make sure your pilot group is willing to give up outdated, ineffective software when something better comes along. It’s one thing to like the idea of change when it’s intangible, but when it comes time to actually adapt, will those same people be willing? How have your team members responded to change in the past? Who’s all talk and who will take action?
- Respected in the company. Choose those who are respected in the company as innovators. Do other divisions and departments trust them and view them in a positive light? These people should have an established presence at the company (i.e. don’t pick someone who was hired yesterday). This is key for future buy-in.
Digital transformation starts with the right approach to technology adoption. Gathering a consensus and trying to get everyone on board at once is exhausting and a big time investment. A pilot, however, can set the stage for better buy-in and have a lasting impact on your company.