Stages of the upgrade journey, with emphasis on the Deployment and Implementation stage

This article is part of Deployment and Implementation stage of your upgrade journey, and shares insights for running an effective pilot. Before proceeding, confirm that you’ve completed the following activities:

Conduct a user pilot

By deploying new technologies, your organization can realize business value such as cost savings, security compliance, employee satisfaction, and operational efficiencies, but it can also affect your users’ productivity and organizational infrastructure (your network). Before enabling new technology across your organization, conduct a formal user pilot. Just like you’d paint a small patch of color on a wall before painting the whole room, you’d test a broad rollout on a smaller scale by conducting a pilot to validate technical and user readiness, identify and mitigate issues, and help ensure a successful organization-wide implementation.

To achieve the most realistic results, the pilot should involve actual users, mimic how they communicate and collaborate, and verify both technical and user experiences. Whether your organization is considering running Skype for Business and Teams side by side, upgrading to Teams in the future, or deploying new functionality such a calling or conferencing, a pilot can help identify the right path forward for your organization. Sometimes considered Phase 1 of a rollout, the ideal pilot leverages the preparation you’ve already started and implements your defined plan with a targeted group of users.


Decision point
  • How will you use a pilot to inform project direction?

Next step
  • Use the guidance below to design and execute your formal pilot.

Tip

Use the sample pilot resources to help design your communications, test plan, and feedback survey.

1. Outline pilot logistics

A successful pilot has defined start and end dates, and clearly defined goals for measuring success. These goals should align with the scope of your broader project, as you documented when you defined your project scope, and will be used to inform your path forward after your pilot is over. You should also ensure that you’ve included the right stakeholders for the duration of the project. You’ll want to be sure to allow enough time to run the pilot and assess its impact: we recommend a minimum of 30 days.

Start small, and add to your pilot as appropriate—whether by adding workloads or features, or additional users—making time to assess results and adjust your pilot as you iterate. You might even opt to run subsequent pilots as new Teams features are released per the roadmap.

2. Select your pilot participants and test scenarios

One of the most important tasks of pilot planning is thoughtful participant selection. Remember that Teams is optimized for teamwork, so be sure to select pilot participants not solely based on roles or personas but also based on their project and cross-team work. A great place to start is asking your stakeholders and department managers for real projects that you can validate in Teams. An example of a role-based project might be to use Teams with your sales organization to ensure that field reps can easily access the resources they need and share insights with other field members. An example of project-based work might be coordinating a product launch event with the marketing, training, public relations, and event planning teams. Whichever scenarios you select, the pilot should extend to key people in IT, training, and your helpdesk, so you can thoroughly validate the solution while fully optimizing project management resources.

Tip

When selecting your Teams pilot group participants, be sure to include top users of Skype for Business. Check with those users to understand how they use Skype for Business today, then build out a test plan to verify that Teams can meet their current needs.

3. Design your test plan and feedback survey

For a successful pilot experience, give your participants clearly defined tasks to complete along with a way for them to share their feedback. Group tasks together to offer real-world scenarios to your users, demonstrating relevancy to their daily activities. Let the use cases you defined in Assess organizational change readiness guide your test plan.

Your organization might choose to pilot all functionality at once, or use a gradual approach—for example, pilot collaboration first, then meetings, then chat and calling. Ensure that you have an open feedback channel to track progress and measure outcomes. Use a predefined survey as an easy way to capture and assess pilot results; the survey design should be based on the scenarios and features in your test plan.

4. Create your communications plan

It’s crucial to the success of your pilot that you educate pilot participants on what’s happening, when, and why, and what’s expected of them. To drive excitement and maximum participation, be sure to include user value messaging in addition to links to training and support where users can get additional information as they progress through the pilot. Here are a few sample resources to get you started with your pilot communications plan:

5. Conduct your pilot

With all the logistics in place, you’re now ready to begin your pilot. Conducting your pilot includes communicating with your users, monitoring your network and usage to ensure your network performance and call quality remain healthy, gathering feedback from participants, and reviewing helpdesk tickets for questions related to Teams.

Tips for pilot success

The following tips can help ensure the success of your pilot:

  • Before beginning your pilot, confirm that all pilot participants are enabled for the appropriate coexistence mode you want to validate.
  • Weekly, throughout your pilot, meet with your project stakeholders to review user feedback, usage data, network data, and helpdesk tickets to ensure your pilot is running smoothly. Make any adjustments as needed.

Suggested timeline

Here's a suggested timeline for a 30-day pilot:

  • One week before the pilot kickoff: Send initial communication to pilot users.
  • Day 1: Send kickoff communication to pilot users.
  • Day 7: Hold the first weekly project team checkpoint meeting.
  • Day 14: Send mid-point communication to your pilot users, hold a weekly project team checkpoint meeting.
  • Day 21: Hold a weekly project team checkpoint meeting.
  • Day 30: Send final communication to your pilot users.
  • Days 31–45: Assess pilot results, and plan for next steps.

6. Assess learnings and evaluate your go-forward plan

After your pilot is complete, it’s time to gather all feedback surveys, final network stats, and support tickets for analysis against your goals and determine whether you’ll implement your go-forward plan. You might find that your organization is ready for a broad deployment, or you want to extend your pilot to more users, or you want to revisit the pilot at a later date after any concerns you’ve identified have been mitigated. Remember that your pilot is a great way to predict technical and user outcomes in a controlled environment; be thoughtful about jumping ahead too quickly.

If your results indicate:

Tip

Enlist your pilot participants as peer champions to help evangelize and onboard new users to Teams. Peer champions can easily relate to other users, sharing their own experiences and learnings, and offering support and guidance to their colleagues. Learn more about champions and how you might use them within your own rollout.