Want to Participate in a Technology Pilot Program? Read This First

There are pros and cons to participating in technology pilots. Be sure to understand the benefits and challenges before getting involved.

Want to Participate in a Technology Pilot Program? Read This First

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For years now, schools, institutions of higher education, and healthcare facilities have participated in or at least considered getting involved in pilot programs for a wide variety of emerging security, safety, emergency management, and facilities management technologies. There are some clear advantages to doing so.

Most pilot projects are small in scale, so you can learn about the technology without fully committing to it. It’s also easier to get permission from campus stakeholders because of the project’s smaller size. This could also pave the way for approval of full-scale deployment should the pilot program work out. Additionally, the cost is usually minimal to the campus end user.

But there are some downsides too. The pilot program could fail or have significant issues that make it inappropriate for your organization, so be sure not to jump the gun and rely too heavily on the technology that’s going through the test run on your campus. Additionally, if the program succeeds, is there the option to cost-effectively deploy it on a wider scale at your facility? If not, what’s the point of getting involved in the pilot project in the first place if you won’t be able to afford it in the long run?

To delve a bit more into the pros and cons of pilot programs, Campus Safety’s sister publication Security Sales & Integration ran the following article by Paul Boucherle CPP, who is a principal of Matterhorn Consulting. The following advice, written with security systems integrators and product manufacturers in mind, should also help you and your campus stakeholders determine if participating in a pilot program is right for your organization.

End-User Tolerance for Risk Varies

From my experience, there are several types of end users who have variable averseness to risk versus reward. Early adopters are not averse to risk as long as there’s a clear path to gain results and monitor business goals. You can recognize these types of end users by how interested they are in new and emerging technologies and what those technologies might be able to do for their organizations. It’s important to recognize early-adopter customers who have the horsepower and authority to engage in new emerging technology pilot programs or proof-of-concept implementations.

You will find some end user customers fascinated with emerging technology but will wait to take a calculated risk based on other customer experiences before trying a new technology. We call these early (but not first) adopters.

Next are late adopters, who typically wait on the sidelines to see how a new technology is playing out within vertical markets. Risk averse and very cautious, they will talk to their early adopter peers and associates to gain input and thoughts on that technology. Based on that input, they may be willing to take the risk and try the emerging technology.

Finally, there are the laggards within the end-user community. They wait for an emerging technology to be fully implemented for several years before they’re ready. Extremely risk averse, they will also wait for pricing to become more affordable – primarily because it will disrupt their current processes, create change disruption within their organization, and could damage their retirement plans.

It’s important from system integrators’ and manufacturers’ perspectives to understand an end user’s tolerance for risk when considering pilot programs to vet a product and gain traction within the market.

As a consultant, I have found it better to have frank dialogue with product manufacturers, system integrators, and end users when discussing a pilot program with an emerging technology. Frank dialogue will deliver clarity in expectations among all parties, how success metrics will be established/shared, and commitments upon a successful pilot program. Discuss the upsides and the downsides of a new emerging technology that has great promise but does not yet have a track record in the industry.

3 Primary Factors When Considering a Pilot Program

What’s the key to making this work? Clearly communicate the pilot program plan, its timing, the metrics to measure success, and the feedback loop from the end user every step of the way. These are necessary to adjust/correct issues to accomplish expected metrics for return on investment (ROI).

The most frequent failure point I have seen with emerging technologies in pilot programs is the tactic of “fire and forget.” Never assume the pilot program is proceeding as planned. All parties must be fully engaged through every phase of the pilot program to make it successful and referrable.

The challenges with adoption by end users of emerging technologies are based on three factors:

  1. Having confidence in the system integrator and the product supplier to hold up their end of the bargain and not embarrass an early adopter, or you will risk blemishing someone’s career.
  2. Reduce the friction points early with a pilot program. This can impact security operational processes, and humans typically resist change at all costs.
  3. The integrator and supplier must be easy and flexible to work with. Adjustments for improvements midstream in a pilot program can be a blessing – they teach us how to improve, implement and sell solutions more effectively.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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