By Bobbi Steward
Published 2 months ago
Updated 2 months ago
Testing, testing….1, 2, 3. Is this thing on? For multifamily decision-makers who are ready to evaluate new tech and tools, pilot tests can be a valuable tool for making confident and informed software buying decisions.
Getting hands-on with new products and technologies before committing to a full-portfolio roll out is every multifamily tech buyers’ dream, but conducting a successful pilot test that actually produces meaningful results can be hard.
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the benefits of pilot programs and explore best practices for setting up the ideal pilot test to crush your technology performance goals. But first up, let’s talk definitions.
Pilot tests, sometimes also known as beta tests or pilot programs, allow multifamily technology buyers to implement a software or technology solution on a limited scale in a real-world setting. They offer an opportunity to measure the potential impact of the solution on performance before committing to a full implementation across your entire multifamily portfolio.
💡 Pro Tip: Pilot programs can be free or paid, typically involving live product testing for 90+ days on a handful of active properties in your portfolio. The purpose is usually to gather data on performance.
While trial periods also provide hands-on experience with software, they differ from pilot tests. Trial periods may not always involve live data, and the product version available during trials may have a reduced feature set, limiting the understanding of its performance within your existing tech stack.
Pilot tests help you measure the quantifiable impact of the product on performance, without the commitment of a full portfolio implementation. They’re a chance to go hands-on and put new software to the test in a real-world setting.
While pilot tests can be pretty straightforward, careful preparation and thoughtful setup can significantly impact the end result. The key to running a successful pilot test is to establish clear objectives and measures of success in advance. Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up a successful pilot test.
Alone, you may go fast, but together you’ll go farther.
When kicking off a successful pilot test, gather a team of enthusiastic subject matter experts to join you on this software journey. You'll need their valuable insights, user feedback, and expertise to make the most out of the pilot test. Together, you'll navigate the implementation and setup, and be able to conquer any challenges that come your way.
Before kicking off the test, establish clear objectives for your pilot test. What specific goals do you want to achieve? Whether it's streamlining operations, boosting resident satisfaction, or increasing revenue, make sure your objectives align with your overall multifamily business strategy. Document your goals and be sure to refer back to them along the way.
Defining pilot test key performance indicators (KPIs) is crucial for measuring the success and impact of your pilot test. KPIs provide a clear framework to assess the software's performance and determine whether it aligns with your objectives.
Here are some steps to help you define pilot test KPIs effectively:
1. Start with Clear Objectives
Refer back to the objectives you established before the pilot test. What specific goals do you want to achieve? For example, if your objective is to streamline operations, relevant KPIs could include reducing maintenance response times or improving leasing conversion rates. Make sure your KPIs directly align with your objectives.
2. Identify Measurable Metrics
Determine the metrics that will allow you to measure progress and success. These metrics should be quantifiable and directly related to the objectives. For instance, if one of your objectives is to boost resident satisfaction, you might track customer satisfaction ratings or the number of positive online reviews received during the pilot test.
3. Set Realistic Targets
Based on your own internal historical data, or available industry benchmarks, set realistic targets for each KPI. These targets should challenge the software to perform well while remaining achievable within the pilot test's scope. If you’re testing a brand new category and don’t have any internal metrics available to use as a reference point, you should ask the vendor for data comparisons from their current customers as a starting point.
4. Establish Data Collection Methods
Define how you will collect and track the data required for each KPI. This may involve leveraging the software's built-in analytics, integrating with your existing systems, or manually recording data. Ensure you have the necessary tools and processes in place to gather accurate and reliable data throughout the pilot test.
5. Determine Frequency and Reporting
Decide on the frequency of data collection and reporting for each KPI. Regular updates will allow you to monitor progress and make timely adjustments if needed. Consider whether real-time reporting, weekly updates, or monthly summaries best suit your evaluation process.
6. Document and Communicate
Document your defined KPIs, including the metrics, targets, data collection methods, and reporting frequency. Share this information with your pilot test team, stakeholders, and tech vendor to ensure everyone is aligned on the evaluation criteria and expectations.
7. Monitor, Analyze, and Adjust
Consistently monitor the performance of the technology and track the KPIs throughout the pilot test period. Analyze the data collected and compare it against your targets to assess the tool’s effectiveness. If necessary, make adjustments to your strategy, workflows, or objectives based on the insights gained from the pilot test.
By defining clear and measurable KPIs for your pilot test, you'll have a solid foundation for evaluating the software's performance and determining its suitability for wider implementation. Remember to remain flexible and open to adjusting your KPIs if you discover new insights or priorities during the pilot test process.
Successful testers always create the perfect testing environment to simulate real-life scenarios and use real workflows when testing a new tool. Choosing locations to use as your test group is just as important as measuring the performance of your test.
Be sure to take time to customize the software settings, input relevant portfolio data, and mimic your usual, standard workflows. This will help you assess how the software performs within your unique multifamily ecosystem.
For marketing or operational technologies at the property level, the most successful pilots are conducted on owned communities or in partnership with innovative asset managers or ownership groups.
💡 Pro Tip: Avoid selecting pilot properties that are in lease-up, new to your portfolio, or potentially going through dispo, as these scenarios could interrupt data collection.
As a best practice, choose a set of pilot properties with community counterparts in the same geographic area. Assign one property to the pilot group and leave another unchanged as the control group.
For example, if you have two communities in Uptown Dallas, select one for the pilot and one as the control. This allows you to measure the impact of the new technology by comparing the performance changes between the two properties experiencing the same market conditions.
Now that you’ve structured your pilot test and have defined your protocols, your test is ready to go-live. But the work doesn’t stop there. Once your test is live, you and your team have a different set of priorities - evaluation and collaboration.
Once your pilot properties are live, let your team and residents experience the software's features, functionality, and user-friendliness. Involve relevant team members and end-users who will work with the tool daily. Encourage feedback, monitor its performance in various tasks like leasing and maintenance requests, and push its limits. Identify any pain points or areas for improvement, and gather feedback from team members and end-users to ensure the solution aligns with their workflows. This will provide valuable insights for fine-tuning and optimizing the software.
Maintaining open lines of communication with the software vendor throughout the pilot test is key. Share your findings, seek their expertise, and collaborate on solutions. A strong partnership with the vendor will ensure a smooth test period and help address any challenges or technical glitches that arise. Before you kick off your pilot, make sure you know who your vendor point of contact is, and keep them updated on progress.
Once the pilot test is complete, gather your team for a thorough debriefing. Evaluate the software's performance against your objectives, analyze the test data, and consider the feedback received.
Did the software meet your expectations?
Did it deliver the desired results?
Do you feel confident in your data measurement?
Use this evaluation to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the technology roll out or explore other options.
You've just unlocked the power of the pilot test to help you better navigate the tech evaluation journey. Be confident in your ability to assess a potential new tool’s impact on your portfolio performance, and go forth and conquer the multifamily tech landscape.
Happy software testing!
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