Avoiding Pilot Purgatory
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Mar 24, 2021 Datagration™

Avoiding Pilot Purgatory

Technologies like cloud computing and software-as-a-service aren't new.

They have been around for long enough that most modern tech developers consider them a given. But is that the case for the next oil and gas client you are going to talk with? Consider the back-office giant SAP. This company literally invented the ERP platform and still has 21% of this market among large companies. But SAP is late to the cloud, and many of their biggest clients are still in a hybrid architecture, one foot in the cloud and one foot firmly planted in their proprietary data centers.

You can appeal to social media and gaming's familiar experiences to address your client's comfort level on new platform technology. But who is going to write the check for the significant shift to emerging tech platforms? While the C-Suite demographic in oil & gas is changing, most of the old dinosaurs have already taken their pensions, bought a bass boat, and gone fishing. You are still unlikely to see the COO playing Fortnite or Call of Duty during his breaks from meetings in the executive office building, the CIO may be, and indeed the young petroleum engineer, but not the COO.

So, a platform developer is caught between the inevitability of these modern digital technologies and the lagging tail of the industry you are trying to sell. How do you sell and deploy a platform to a company that really needs your solutions but is not quite there when it comes to recognizing the value? 

All you have to do is put the amazing tech in the background and talk about the client's business challenges. When you have found that common ground, create a pilot or proof-of-value, and show how your platform can solve their problem in 60 days-or-less. Any longer than this and your client may have lost interest (executive attention deficit syndrome).  

If you have avoided the messy discussion about your technology that he has never heard of. You have bypassed his tech discomfort and moved right along to a focus that has caught his attention. The tech discussion will happen later on with his experts, but to get your foot in the door, drop the cool tech stuff and talk regular business.    

When you get your foot in the door. Have agreed to the pilot, invested a lot of your own resources to make sure the pilot goes well; the next big challenge is the 'where do we go from here' question. In truth, it doesn't matter where the first pilot goes; as long as it is successful, the decision-maker cares about the results, doesn't get distracted, and it is done on time and on budget. The vendor is probably pretty confident that they can get to this point. Then the significant challenge is to keep the momentum going.

The key will be Implementation training, not just skills training. Every tech vendor does skills training pretty well. But the challenge is how to change mindsets from past best practices, make the data transition smooth, and develop a knowledge management solution on your platform. You can't let the decision-maker, who has the critical role of champion, get delegated to a tech person after the pilot. The champion for process change can let people experiment and even fail (without getting fired). The champion can reset expectations and incentives to make it easier to adopt your solution and grow it into an enterprise scale. The champion can deal with the laggards who are invested in the way things are done now. As an external solution provider, you can't take these people on as they have a considerable influence and can stage a guerilla war in the background and make sure your pilots fail.   

Your platform can enable better collaboration and automation of routine work processes, but only if the client's culture is ready for that. The champion plays a critical role in allowing this kind of change, even if they are clueless about the details of your technology. The legacy challenge of the power of an existing silo's knowledge can't be underestimated. Right now, employees have to come to the old expert to get an answer. That is a power base that will not be given up easily. Collaboration can be an unnatural act for this company, but no one will tell you that. Only by finding the champion will you unlock the door and begin the real discussions that matter most.

Published by Datagration™ March 24, 2021
Datagration™