March 16, 2022 · 3 min read
No matter how well any solution performs in a pilot project, it’s not a success until it scales. And an alarming number of projects never do. This is the first part of our series on successful rollouts: an introduction to the problem and the conditions for success.
Whether talking about rolling out AI, industrial internet of things, or any other digitization project, there’s a far-too-common story in every case. Someone in a company decides to adopt a solution. They launch a pilot project. The end.
According to this study from McKinsey, only about 30% of companies that launch IIoT pilot projects are able to scale them. The projects that don’t scale are either dropped or languish in so-called pilot purgatory, their potential never realized.
As makers of an IIoT solution, this is a nightmarish outcome. We want people to scale our solution! At the same time, projects that never scale do nothing for the companies running them. Nobody benefits from a failed rollout.
Back in October, 2021, we hosted a webinar, Implementing AI projects - How to Overcome “Pilot Purgatory”, to discuss this problem and propose the conditions necessary for successful rollouts. We encourage you to watch the webinar—it's available with English subtitles. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share the insights from that conversation in this series of articles. Check each following issue for real-world examples and an in-depth look at each condition introduced here.
Given the odds against successful rollouts, how do we avoid the purgatorial fate of the majority? In a word: clarity. Of course, achieving that clarity means a lot of work. It means having a clear use case, a clear strategy, clear understanding between stakeholders, a clear value contribution, and a clear path toward broader integration.
We can satisfy these conditions step by step. Here are the five steps to successfully implement a digitization project.
The tragedy of pilot purgatory is that pilots are supposed to lead the way to more. But without a clear understanding of where a pilot project is going, we can hardly expect it to lead to anything. The groundwork for a successful digitization project, therefore, starts before the pilot project even begins, during onboarding.
Before we even attempt to validate a solution, we have to understand our use case. Any solution is only as good as it is applicable to a problem. A well-defined use case is essential to avoid the inappropriate and ineffective application of a solution. The use case, therefore, should come with clear objectives. Added value should be provable, or already proven.
Clear goals for the pilot project itself are important. But meeting goals alone isn’t enough to force a successful rollout. Pilot projects that proceed in isolation are unlikely to proceed to rollout. The goals of the pilot project must nest into a set of broader goals.
Companies are best served to take on projects as part of broader innovation strategies. This works on multiple levels: it’s easier to appreciate the benefits of a project within the context of a larger strategy, it’s easier to integrate a successful project in a system that’s primed to take it on, and it’s easier to get all stakeholders involved if the pilot project isn’t siloized.
Rollouts can be vast undertakings. They involve many stakeholders, from all over a company. It’s critical to keep them all engaged in the entire process, from onboarding on.
Top management sets the broader strategy and will ultimately decide a project’s fate. The people who actually implement a project will have a view to its efficacy and should have a clear understanding of its goals. Meanwhile, the people who actually use the solution will provide important insight on the use case and the success of the project.
Any successful pilot project should demonstrate value contribution. This means benchmarks: KPIs, time to ROI, cost vs savings. It also means showing qualitative value—does the project make the product better? In the end, does it help customers?
Of course, any value contribution is only as good as it is demonstrable. A demonstration requires an audience. The benefits of scaling a project may be clear, but without engaged stakeholders to see that benefit, it’s just another tree falling unheard in the woods.
Once a pilot project is complete, no matter how appropriate its use case, comprehensive its strategy, engaged its stakeholders, or demonstrable its value, the success of scaling still depends on one thing: integration.
The easier a solution is to integrate into existing infrastructure and workflows, the easier it is to scale. This depends on a number of factors, not least of which is the solution itself. But it also depends on a company’s broader innovation strategy and engaged stakeholders.
Over the next five blog posts, we’ll go into each of these steps in depth, providing real-world examples from successful rollouts. You’ll find that success builds upon success—each step follows the last and works because it worked. In the end, every successful rollout starts with success in mind. If you're eager to get started, schedule a demo now.
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