By some accounts, the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program has been a spectacular success. Hundreds of thousands of buyers took advantage of the program and $3 billion was allocated for it.

But as this Washington Times article points out, the roll out of the program was less-than-stellar. The US Dept of Transportation had to triple its number of workers on the program, including working people around the clock seven days a week.

What can you learn from this? For starters, if you launch a new initiative that requires intense data collection, make sure you’ve tested all your systems. This program was introduced and rushed out very quickly, so I suspect testing was negligible.

In addition, you have to be sure you are able to scale your data collection needs should the response be much greater than expected. For example, I spoke with a past client of mine recently, and the day we were speaking happened to be the deadline for their abstract submissions. They typically get over 6,000 submissions. On that last day, they had already received over 2,000 submissions (in one day!) and the deadline wasn’t until midnight that day. The good news is, the system they had in place could handle that mad rush.

So don’t let your new initiatives become a “cash for clunkers” debacle. Make sure you’ve tested your systems and processes, and make sure you have scalability, should the response be much greater than you anticipated.