Last week we discussed the importance of taking a step back to fully understand your processes prior to making productivity improvements. Just as critical to the process—and perhaps more critical to your success—is the pilot group. Who better to put new software or hardware to the test than your in-house office geek, the internal tinkerer who is forever offering up suggestions of what you can do to work better, faster and more efficiently? You know who I’m talking about… every office has one!
Many times in our haste to get straight to the promised land of results, we skip over the ever-important stop to testing-land. Testing software in a small, controlled environment is not only a necessary part of the process but a critical step that ensures you don’t create more work for everyone down the road.
When putting a pilot group together, be sure to clearly define your objectives and desired results. Just as important, allow flexibility within your timeline to achieve those results. Often when one puts technology to the test, unexpected things come up. Knowing this is the case, build in time for your team to do some rework along the way. If you give your pilot group breathing room to figure it all out, your entire team will benefit down the road.
Seemingly simple processes may be put to the test as your pilot group comes to a consensus on best practices—and frankly, no detail is too small. Details like standardizing naming conventions for files and file folders help streamline your workflow by taking the guesswork out of accessing project documentation. Also, be prepared to document, document, document. It’s important to know what works and what doesn’t so that higher-level stake holders can clearly see what guided your path to success. Likewise, a clearly documented path will aid training efforts downstream.
Too many times I’ve seen decision makers skip over the critical step of a pilot process in their zeal to realize the return on their investment. And, in the end, they miss the mark on their objectives, lose valuable time in failed attempts to implement change and dampen morale in the process. Lesson learned? If you build the pilot process into your implementation timeline, allow your office tinkerers to do what they do best and provide clear objectives for desired results, you will not only see the effects on your bottom line but also stronger employee buy-in. And that, my friends, may be the best ROI of all.