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Reaching the Decisive Moment

Transforming an RFID pilot project into a real-world deployment demands vision, attention to detail and a determination to meet unexpected challenges.
By John Edwards
Dec 13, 2013

"The decisive moment," a term coined by the pioneer photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, refers to the point at which all the fleeting elements necessary to create an awesome image converge in the camera's viewfinder, signaling the photographer that now is the time to press the shutter button.

Organizations that have deployed RFID pilots face their own decisive moment. It occurs weeks or months after the trial winds down, when precise planning, hard-won experience, test data analysis and business insight all merge inside the project leader's head, telling him or her that now is the time to roll out the system.

Illustration: iStockphoto
It all sounds so simple—but decisive moments aren't all that easy to spot. Cartier-Bresson, who shot stunning photographs worldwide for more than half a century, admitted that it took a great deal of experience to know exactly when to push the shutter button.

RFID project leaders face a greater challenge in determining when to push a pilot into final deployment. "You always wonder, 'Is this a good time? Is this not a good time?'" says Philomena Sousa, oncology systems manager and process specialist at Toronto's Odette Cancer Center, who worked on the team that created an RFID-based patient arrival and tracking module. There's always a feeling, she says, that there's another improvement to be made, another issue to consider.

Rolling out a pilot isn't simple, and specific issues vary among companies. Yet, there are common situations and challenges that nearly every RFID project leader will face as a system is being prepared for full operation. Project leaders who address these issues can feel more confident that they'll have a successful launch and the solution will deliver benefits for the long term.

Start With a Plan
The key to a successful rollout begins with meticulous planning at the pilot stage. In RFID Journal's story Eight Common Deployment Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them, RFID experts cite the importance of selecting an experienced systems integrator, choosing the right RFID technology, assigning responsibility to one senior executive, thinking strategically and handling the integration of RFID data with back-end systems.

"I'm a big believer in pilots, but I also believe that there's a lot of work to be done before the pilot," says Steve Halliday, president of High Tech Aid, an RFID consulting firm based in Gibsonia, Pa. "I know some companies would rather just throw together a pilot and then work on solving the issues that come up when it's time to deploy, but that doesn't work for me in my company," he says. "We like to try and identify as many of the issues before we start as we can."

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