I’ve held a number of roles throughout the course of my career and almost all of them included some element of helping a client succeed in their pilot process. Working with everything from revenue-management to marketing platforms and renters insurance, there are some common mistakes that I’ve seen clients make. If you’re considering a pilot, learn from these missteps and rejoice in your victory.
- They didn’t make their project manager their new BFF.
Most project managers will schedule regular calls and many clients will only participate in those calls when there’s an issue. Your project manager knows the hurdles you will likely face at every step in this process and their job is to prepare you for these. They should be sending (and soliciting) agenda items in advance of every scheduled call. Get comfortable with talking to them…a lot.
- They choose a single property.
A good pilot program should include a minimum of three properties. A great pilot would include five properties. This will give you the truest sense of how the product stands up to a variety of teams, asset types, and resident demographics. You won’t get this from a single property.
In addition, none of your chosen properties should be a lease-up. You may think a lease-up will be a great test of the pilot. Or perhaps your goal is to give the lease-up team access to the latest and greatest tools available. I know from on-site experience the tremendous pressure your lease-up teams are under. Every day hiccups become magnified when owners are scrutinizing your daily activity. Add the chaos of dealing with construction schedules to this and you have a recipe for disaster. This is not the best time to introduce change.
- They choose their star manager for their pilot team.
There’s no doubt that you need a manager that understands your business to run your pilot. However, there are two scenarios where I’ve seen this go sideways.
Years ago, when I was consulting for a revenue management product, a great deal of time was spent on property, training the end-user. On frequent occasions, the manager would follow me out of the training and ask me for a job. They were open and capable of learning the new software but they wanted to get something in return. Ensure your pilot doesn’t push your best people out the door by having a conversation with them about what this pilot means for their career development.
In addition, beware the manager that fears change. They are the expert – and they like it this way. Your manager’s willingness to accept change is a bigger indicator of success than their prior product knowledge.
- They sent their teams a training video.
Videos can be a fantastic tool and I’ve utilized them extensively. But, they have a place and it isn’t for introducing a product that you’re piloting. Your pilot properties deserve the benefit of a live training. Not only will this afford them the opportunity to get hands-on instruction but it also emphasizes the importance of the pilot to your staff. Train, train, and train again.
- They defined requirements but didn’t welcome innovation.
We can all agree that there are some fundamental actions that a given solution should perform. However, we’re guilty in this industry of defining change management as a translation of all current settings to equivalent settings in the new solution. If this is truly the goal, why change? Change management should include detailed documentation of new processes and exactly why this is coming. How much money will it save? How much time? What can we do that we couldn’t do before? Give your staff a peek behind the curtain and they’ll be invested in the project.