Pilot or not?

While doing some research for LugIron, a startup here in Austin where I serve in an advisory role, I found a slideshow discussing signs of successful community launches by Joe Cothrel, a VP of service at Lithium.

Now, what they mean by “community” is a larger than 5,000 person audience, enterprise-type (B2B or B2C focused communities), and containing primarily forums and blogs (followed by everything else.) So, it’s not quite the same as the wiki communities that I’ve studied and participated in. But, what’s interesting to me is that one of his Warning signs on page 8 is a quote from the enterprise:

“We want to do a pilot.”

Huh? Really? Wanting to do a pilot is a warning sign of eminent failure? I guess with blogs and forums, you would want full dedication to the efforts and the goals of the community. But with wiki communities, I think a pilot is a great idea. Pilot content, pilot collaborators, pilot wiki.

What do you think? Do wikis fold up easier than forums? Are pilots getting a bad name in corporate-sponsored communities? Is this a case of the vendor wanting full dedication in their sales engagements?


  • January 13, 2010 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    Is it borne from the fact that most social media projects start to show quantifiable success after a longer period of time, once people have invested?

    Perhaps pilots, in the enterprise, aren’t a good metric against which to judge a new community project? I’m guessing.

    Although I agree by proxy, I’d much rather build it, and force it to live a bit first rather than limit access or functionality in a pilot.

  • January 13, 2010 - 5:31 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re right with the idea that you wouldn’t want to limit activity, access, or functionality in a pilot, especially if you need to give it time to take off and thrive. Maybe wikis can use some of those same principles. ROI will come, if you have patience and keep working on the core content.

  • Lisa Dyer
    January 18, 2010 - 10:13 am | Permalink

    From my own experience directing or building various knowledge solutions, there are a couple of big reasons why I think pilots are important:

    1. Seed the site. Content is why people come to it so make sure you have at least some good content when you go live.

    2. Discover requirements and blockers you hadn’t thought about at first. Switching systems after go-live is a difficult proposition. You might want to discover significant problems in a controlled, smaller environment.

    I’ll emphasize that forums, as a component of knowledge solutions, need #2 but I’m not sure how important #1 is before go-live. Wikis, yes on both. And keep the pilot as short as possible.

    – lisa

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