Why do you need to do a workforce management software pilot?

Mar 31, 2023

A pilot is a useful tool to reduce the risk for an organisation looking to implement a workforce management solutions. Not all software vendors will offer a pilot, but in this article, we discuss how a Pilot works and answer the question of why do you need to do a workforce management software pilot. We will even show you how to calculate the value of a pilot even if it fails.

What is a WFM software pilot?

A pilot is a full-scale dress rehearsal for the rollout of a WFM software application within an organisation. The software is implemented in its expected final configuration in a sub-set of the expected rollout audience. For example, imagine a retailer with 500 shops; before committing to a full rollout, the retailer could install a fully configured version of the WFM software in 20 stores and use the pilot to learn a lot about the software, the vendor and their own organisation. If the software meets its pilot objectives, then the retailer can commit to rolling it out to 500 stores.

A pilot is a way to demonstrate the tangible ROI the workforce management software delivers. Test out how your team like using the software and check out the claims made by the vendor during the sales process.

What is the main reason I would do a pilot for a workforce management system?

A pilot is there to reduce risk to the customer and increase the probability of a successful workforce management implementation.

What is the difference between a free trial and a pilot?

A pilot is a more substantial undertaking. A free trial normally involves accessing some software and using it to see its functionality and how easy it is to use. A pilot is usually not free and involves several people or venues from the customer testing the software in a live environment for a prolonged period. In the case of Workforce Management software, this could be up to 90 days.

the difference between a free trial and a pilot for WFM

What are the stages of a paid pilot?

To understand why do you need to do a workforce management software pilot, you first need to understand how it works and what the stages are. The pilot usually consists of 30 days for a discovery phase and 2 or 3 months for the pilot phase, when your staff will use the Workforce Management software in parallel with your existing tools to measure the actual benefits of using the software. We have written a more detailed blog here on exactly how a pilot works.

Why is a pilot chargeable?

Because the software vendor has considerable costs in supporting a pilot and because it has a real ROI for the customer. Vendors don’t make money on pilots; they use it to share the risk of working out if both parties are a good fit. 

What happens if a pilot is unsuccessful?

The customer normally has the right to terminate the contract and walk away and will just pay the cost of the pilot. Both the vendor and the customer would have had a commercial loss. However, the customer would have avoided being stuck with a long-term contract for the wrong software.

Why do I need to reduce risk on a workforce management implementation?

A three or five-year commitment to using a workforce management vendor’s software is a big commitment to the vendor in terms of costs and your organisation’s internal costs. 

The risks involved are higher than some other software implementations, and a failed project can negatively impact an organisation. That is why risk mitigation needs to be part of your workforce management implementation strategy.

why do you need to do a workforce management software pilot

You will probably be expecting to generate a series of benefits which are likely to include:

  • Increased revenue
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved compliance
  • Employee satisfaction 

These benefits will probably form the basis of an internal business case which is used to justify the project. What happens if the benefits aren’t delivered? Your whole business case could prove invalid, and the project may not make a positive return on investment.

To avoid a failed project which does not generate the benefits you expect for the cost and effort, you will need to assess the most significant risks of failure and mitigate them

A strong purchasing process can go a long way to reducing the risk however, a pilot project can reduce the risk by around 90%

How does a pilot reduce the risk for my company?

There are several ways a paid pilot reduces your risk for a WFM implementation project, here are the key ones:

  • Test Return on Investment assumptions: As mentioned above, your business case will be built on some assumptions around the value of the benefits when implementing a workforce management system. These will have been partly provided by the vendor, who, let’s face it, has an incentive to quote the best possible numbers. What happens if these assumptions prove to be over-optimistic? Does your project still make financial sense? A paid pilot will help you test and measure these assumptions and re-work your ROI calculations before you commit to a long-term project. That way, you only go ahead if you believe in the assumptions and they add up to a positive ROI.
  • Test all of the objectives: the project will have lots of softer objectives such as staff satisfaction, shift equality, ease of use, and better communication. You can test and measure these during a pilot and be sure that you can deliver most, if not all, before committing long-term.
  • You get to see the vendor in action: Working with the vendor during the pilot will help you understand if they are a good fit for your organisation, and if they aren’t, you can avoid an unhappy marriage at the end of the pilot.
  • You collect feedback from end users: The planning pre the pilot is nearly always done by head office staff. A pilot gets the end users involved and encourages their feedback, and it is very powerful in terms of overall success.
  • It increases the chances of a successful project: Implementations with a pilot are more likely to succeed (and therefore less likely to fail) whilst delivering a quicker Time to Value.
WFM risk reduction

Why does the pilot increase the chances of a successful implementation?

The reduced risk and chances of successful implementation are two sides of the same coin. But it is worth focussing on why implementations have a higher success rate:

  • The pilot is a test run for the full rollout: you learn from the pilot and adjust your plan accordingly.
  • You get team buy-in: If you explain to your test venues in the pilot that they are helping the organisation test a software product, you will get more buy-in, better feedback and create a base of advocates who can support the main rollout.
  • It incentivises the software vendor: As mentioned above, the software vendor won’t profit from the pilot only if they get a long-term customer. Therefore they are incentivised to fully support the pilot and solve all of the issues before you sign off on a rollout, giving a solid basis for a successful long-term partnership.
  • The software vendor learns about you: no two implementations are the same, and so the vendor learns about you, and that will ensure they better support the main rollout.
WFM successful implementation

What is the ROI from a Pilot?

We have written a number of articles covering how to write a business case for workforce management implementation and how to calculate the ROI. We recommend you read these, but below is a summary.

An ROI calculation is the benefits, minus the costs, divided by the costs. So if the total benefit from a project is £1,000,000 and the costs are £220,000 (let’s say £200k for the full project and £20k for the pilot).

Then the ROI for a successful project is 354% or £1m less £220k, divided by £220k.

Now let’s consider the ROI benefits of the pilot for two outcomes; a successful pilot and a failure. In our example, if the benefits are proven, you can expect a healthy 354% ROI if you commit to a further £200,000 in costs. If the pilot fails, you will have to write off your £20,000, but you will save a £200,000 expenditure on a project doomed to failure. So let’s calculate the ROI of those two examples:

Success: The benefit of a successful project is £780,000, and the cost of finding out if that benefit is real is £20,000 giving an ROI of 3,800%.

Failure: you should use the Risk Reduction ROI. The risk is a failed £200,000 project, and the cost of reducing that risk by 90% is £20,000. Therefore, the Risk Reduction ROI is (£200k x 90%) – £20,000, divided by £20,000, giving a Risk Reduction ROI of 800%.

Either way, the ROI from a paid pilot is considerable.

We hope this blog has been useful in answering the question of why do you need to do a workforce management software pilot, but if you still have questions we suggest some related articles below.

What are the 10 biggest issues when implementing WFM software and how do you address them?
How does a SolvedBy.Ai proof of concept work?
How much does Workforce Management software cost?
How does Workforce Management software work?
What are the types of workforce management software?


Want to more about this topic or would like to speak to us regarding anything Workforce Management related? Just get in touch with us below and we'd be happy to help.

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