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Running a Conference Room Pilot 07/10/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in CRM, ERP.
Tags: , , , , ,

Whenever you are installing a large software system, whether it is CRM or ERP, or any other system, if you are part of a plan to integrate the system, you will need a pilot. The conference room pilot is a time to practice what you will do after go-live. It should be a safe environment to explore options and ask questions. It should be a time to document user processes. The conference room pilot needs to give everyone the confidence that the project will succeed.

My current project includes 2 conference room pilots plus a dry run for each business unit going live with the system. Each pilot is scheduled for a full week, 8 hours per day. The first pilot could have been better. Everyone realized that they were behind in their plans and were not ready. The second pilot went much better. People realized that they needed to work harder, study more and practice every day. They had been motivated by the first pilot to figure out what they needed for success.

The first thing to consider in running a conference room pilot is where to conduct it. As the name implies, you will need a large room. People from different areas will be coming in and out of the pilot, plus a core group who will always be there. You should expect one or more consultants from the software vendor, your implementer, or other companies included in the project. The room needs to be able to accommodate the full compliment of people plus room for storing their things, putting snacks on a table, etc.

Of course you will need the right technology in the room. I suggest having at least 4 computers wired into your network available for general use. Make sure there are enough cables and outlets or wireless for others to use a laptop. Have a projector so everyone can watch what is going on.

If you expect some people to be in the room all day, it might be nice to provide drinks or snacks to help them make it through. Mints or gum can help them stay away during that occasional drowsy period (although most of the day should be very exciting).

I created a general schedule for the first pilot. This included the discipline area and the general tasks to be completed. The schedule was set at four hour intervals or two main sections of the day. This allowed the users to show us what they knew, but allowed plenty of time to ask questions, experiment, and figure out how to run the system.

The schedule for the second pilot contained much more detail. I scheduled events to each hour, expecting people to know what they were doing and how to do it. Each person who needed to run the computer connected to the projector knew exactly when to be in the room and how they needed to prepare.

I also created data in advance so that each step would have the necessary background already in the database. For example, to manufacture a product, they need inventory to consume. I created the inventory in advance. To receive something into the system, they needed to already have a purchase order approved. I created and approved numerous types of POs into the system.

Everybody brought their document business procedures to the room. When it was their turn to ‘drive’ they followed the documented procedures creating each item on the list. We had the vendor’s consultants as well, and there was plenty of time for questions. Predictably, we had some people who needed more help than expected. Those sessions would run over, and delay the entire schedule.

To better accommodate those people, we had a second room setup. That room was just as large as the main room, with computers and a projector as well. We had groups of people meet in that room to go over issues and solve problems. Because we had more than one consultant from the vendor, we could easily split up into functional groups and get the full value of their time.

The write-up from the second pilot included the steps we still need to take for success. We have several groups who will meet more often to practice with the software. Some of them may do ‘mini-pilots’ in the same room already setup. We know that security is still an issue, but hope to practice with that during our dry-run.

Some companies will try to run parallel systems. With the changing technologies, that is becoming less valuable. It is very difficult to compare diverse systems, so people end up spending too much time chasing down issues that are not problems.

With a little preparation the conference room pilots can be very valuable. If people know what to expect and how to prepare, they will be able to show that they are ready for go-live. Seeing their people use the system in a realistic setting will allow the core team to have confidence in their people. This is the environment that will keep the company on the road to a successful system implementation.

We all know that it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.



1. Pat - 07/13/2009

Very informative article. You definitely address the need for everyone in a collaborative environment to be prepared ahead of time. It’s good information that is seldom addressed. We offer a page for video conference room design, to address IT user’s needs in a video conferencing environment, view it here: http://www.nefsis.com/Best-Video-Conferencing-Software/video-conference-room-design.html

Thanks for the post, interesting and informative.

2. hotel software - 02/06/2010

hotel software…

NFS\’s scheduling software is based on browser technology…

3. Marcin - 06/26/2012

Nice explanation of what really stands behind CRP. Thanks.

TBoehm30 - 06/26/2012
4. Joe - 12/10/2012

I am performing an IV&V on an ERP implementation… implementer’s definition of CRP differs from commonly accepted expectation… I am looking for an authoritative source / reference on the defininition of a CRP to support my findings. Are you aware of a reference that contains the CRP definition and can be pointed to as authoritative. Thanks

TBoehm30 - 12/10/2012

My definition comes from general research and regular experience. I do, however, like the definition presented on Wikipedia.Org:
“The purpose of the conference room pilot is to validate a software application against the business processes of end-users of the software, by allowing end-users to use the software to carry out typical or key business processes using the new software.”
You will also find references there.

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