Why Do Enterprise 2.0 Pilot Projects Succeed or Fail?

Airbus 380 cockpitIn an excellent new blog post (8 Guiding Principles for Pilot Projects), Ross Dawson takes a look at pilot projects for enterprise 2.0 tools, and provides an overview on how to build and assess effective pilots. The pilot project is just one of the elements in Dawson’s useful Enterprise 2.0 Implementation Framework (shown below).

I’d like to humbly add a few practical notes to Dawson’s concepts, based on my experience building out collaboration systems for quite a few companies. I agree with most of Dawson’s approach, but would emphasize three points:

  • First, I think it’s important to be more explicit about the role that power plays in the success or failure of a pilot project. Dawson correctly identifies the people involved as “perhaps the single most important success factor in Enterprise 2.0 pilots”, but doesn’t mention where these people fit into the corporate power hierarchy. Yes, it’s important that the people implementing the pilot be enthusiastic about social media, but I’ve found that it’s even more crucial to have senior execs on board, because they have the power to light a fire under the people running the pilots! And note I’m referring to “execs”, plural, because countless pilots (and enterprise implementations) have foundered when the internal champion got re-assigned, went on maternity leave, or left the organization. Avoid “single point of failure” pilots.
  • Second, Dawson says it’s important to “provide training and guidance”, but doesn’t mention that pilot projects will often live or die based simply on whether users have ready access to templates for common use cases. The customer launching a new collaboration tool shouldn’t have to start from scratch, when the software vendor, systems integrator or consultant installing the software has already built systems that effectively address popular use cases. Don’t force your customer to reinvent the wheel.
  • Third, as my colleague Michael Idinopulos observes in his provocative blog post Skip the Pilot, size matters – there are significant benefits to pilot projects in most enterprise software implementations (i.e.: controlling risk and costs), but social software is different. “By constraining the size of your pilot, you significantly alter the way your company can and will use the tools.” Traditional IT systems are based around transactions, but social software mediates interactions, and the potential value of interactions grows exponentially with the size of your network. Or, as Idinopulos puts it, “Scale is the oxygen that feeds collaboration.”


Ross Dawson's Enterprise 2.0 Implementation Framework

Ross Dawson's Enterprise 2.0 Implementation Framework

image of Airbus 380 cockpit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billypalooza/134960911/ / CC BY 2.0