A recurrent problem in information-systems development (ISD) is that many design shortcomings are not detected during development, but first after the system has been delivered and implemented in its intended environment. Pilot implementations appear to promise a way to extend prototyping from the laboratory to the field, thereby allowing users to experience a system design under realistic conditions and developers to get feedback from realistic use while the design is still malleable. We characterize pilot implementation, contrast it with prototyping, propose a five-element model of pilot implementation, and provide three empirical illustrations of our model. We conclude that pilot implementation has much merit as an ISD technique when system performance is contingent on context. But we also warn developers that, despite their seductive conceptual simplicity, pilot implementations can be difficult to plan and conduct. It is sometimes assumed that pilot implementations are less complicated and risky than ordinary implementations. Pilot implementations are, however, neither prototyping nor small-scale versions of full-scale implementations; they are fundamentally different and have their own challenges, which will be enumerated and discussed in this article.
- pilot implementation
- pilot system
- information systems development
- socio-technical change